Friday, April 02, 2010

A Dream of the Rood

Listen:
I will disclose      the deepest vision
that came in a dream      at night’s centre
when all human voices      rested in sleep.
It seemed I beheld      the tree of the Mystery
rise in the heavens,      spinning out rays
of perfect light.      That beacon glowed
spattered with gold,      shining with jewels,
clear to earth’s corners:      five gems
defined the crossbeam.      All God’s angels were witness,
splendid throughout eternity.      This was no common gallows.
Many observed it:      both angelic hosts
and men on earth:      it ran through creation.
The victory wood was a marvel,      and I, stained with my sins,
cut with my shame,      saw the glory tree
robed in its honour,      radiating splendour,
decked with gold,      magnificently cased
in precious stones,      the axle of power.
Yet through that radiance      I could witness
the primal agony      when it first began
to bleed on its right side.      I was overwhelmed with sorrow,
afraid of this terrible vision.      I saw the moving beacon
change the nature of its raiment:      sometimes it was soaked through,
drenched with heavy blood,      sometimes it blazed with treasure…

I prayed to the tree,      glad in spirit,
strong in zeal,      though I was alone,
small in my solitude.      Then my soul
urged me forward;      I had to endure
my hour of longing. Now my life’s hope
is to seek out      that triumphant wood
as a lone pilgrim      so that all souls
may fully adore it.      This is my hope,
the strength of my heart:      my purpose comes
straight from the Cross.

(from A Dream of the Rood, (Anglo-Saxon) tr. Karl Young)

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