The Dream of the Rood c. Eighth Century
Old English poem.
The Dream of the Rood has been heralded by scholars as the finest expression of the Crucifixion theme in Old English poetry. Though it focuses on a motif common in Old English poetry, The Dream of the Rood is unique in describing it from the viewpoint of the Cross and within the context of a dream vision. The poem thus becomes a philosophical one, and, as John V. Fleming has asserted, "the vehicle of an ascetical-theological doctrine which sketches in a brilliantly imaginative way the aspirations of the monastic cadre of Anglo-Saxon society." Although it is only 156 lines long, its depth and complexity have made The Dream of the Rood a popular topic of critical study in the twentieth century. Plot and Major Characters
Characteristic of Old English poetry, The Dream of the Rood is divided into three parts: the Dreamer's initial reaction to his vision of the Cross, the monologue of the Rood describing the Crucifixion, and the Dreamer's conversion and resolution to seek the salvation of the Cross. The poem opens with the vision of the Dreamer, which establishes the framework for the rest of the poem. He sees the Cross being raised up, covered in gold and jewels, yet he notices a stain of blood on its side. The Rood begins to speak and recounts its experience as an instrument in the Crucifixion of Christ. The Cross recalls how it was cut down in the forest and taken by its enemies to support criminals, then details its emotions as it realizes it is to be the tree on which Christ will be crucified. The Rood and Christ become one in the portrayal of the Passion—they are both pierced with nails, mocked and tortured, and finally killed and buried; soon after, like Christ, the Cross is resurrected, then adorned with gold and silver. The Cross announces that because of its suffering and obedience, it will be honored above all other trees; it then commands the Dreamer to tell others what he has seen and heard. In...
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