THE OLD POETIC

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TRANSLATIONS OF OLD ENGLISH POETRY

By Rupert Granville Glover  |  M.A. (Hons), LL.B. Hons (Cantuar)

 

The Poems

The Dream of the Rood

Listen. I will relate what a marvellous dream

I dreamed in the middle of the night while

chattering people rested. I seemed to see

a wonderful tree borne aloft, most radiant,

enveloped in light. The whole vision was

covered with gold. Precious stones gleamed

in beauty on the ground below, and there were

five more, up on the arm—span of the tree.

A host of angels, beautiful from eternity,

stood guard; certainly it was no vile gallows,

for people on earth, holy spirits, and

the whole of sublime creation gazed upon it.

Wonderful was the wood of victory, and I, shamed

with sins, was crippled in the midst of my iniquities.


I saw the tree of gold shine joyfully,

gloriously dressed, trimmed with gold;

now precious stones covered the Lord's tree splendidly.

Nevertheless, through_that gold I could see

wretched inflictions of former agony,

how it had first begun to bleed down the right

side. I was overcome with sorrow. I became

afraid of the beautiful vision. I saw

the shining symbol change fashions and colours:

now it was adorned with treasure, now

it was made wet with moisture, thoroughly

soaked with flowing blood.

                                            I lay there sorrowful

for a long time, yet still I beheld the Saviour's tree,

until I heard it speak. The noblest piece of wood

began to speak words.


                                     "It was very long ago -

I still remember it - when I was cut down,

removed from my roots at the edge of the forest.

Powerful and wicked men took me away then,

made me a spectacle, ordered me to hold up

their criminals. I was carried on the shoulders

of men to be set on a high hill where many

enemies made me fast. It was then that

I saw the Lord of men hastening bravely,

for he wished to ascend on me. I did not

dare bend or break against the Lord's word

when I saw the surface of the earth tremble.

I could have struck down all the evil men,

but I stood fast. The young hero prepared himself,

strong and resolute. He was God Almighty.

He went up on the high gallows, brave

in the sight of many, when He wished to redeem

mankind. I trembled when the hero embraced me,

but I dared not stoop to the ground, fall

to the surface of the earth. I had to stand fast.

I was set up as a cross. I held up a powerful king,

the Lord of the heavens, and I dared not bow.

They pierced me with dark nails; the wounds

are visible on me, gaping malicious wounds.

I did not dare injure any of them. They mocked

the two of us together. I was all bedewed

with the blood which flowed from the man's side

after he had given forth his spirit.

I have endured many bitter experiences on that hill.

I saw the God of Hosts cruelly stretched out.

Storm clouds made a shroud for the dead body

of the Ruler, the Bright Radiance; darkness

swept forth, black over the earth. All creation

wept, lamented the fall of the King.

Christ was on the cross.

Nevertheless men quickly came to the Prince

from afar. I beheld it all. I was greatly troubled

with sorrow, but most obedient. I submitted to

the hands of the men. They then took Almighty God,

lifted Him down from the grievous torment.

Then the retainers left me standing spattered

with wetness. I had been badly wounded

by the nails. They laid him down then,

weary of limb, took their stand at his head

and kept a watch over the Lord of heaven;

and for a time he rested there, exhausted

after the great ordeal.


                                    Then they made him

a tomb, the men, in the sight of his murderers,

hewed it out of shining stone; therein they laid

the Lord of victories, raised a dirge for him,

sorrowful in the evening gloom. Then, exhausted,

they decided to leave the illustrious Lord and

return home; he rested there with scant company.


Nevertheless, we three stood there for a good while,

weeping, after the voices of the warriors had gone up.

The body grew chill, the fair house of the soul.

Then we were all felled to the ground.

That was a terrifying experience.

We were buried in a deep pit. However

the retainers of the Lord, his friends, heard

of me there, and they dressed me in gold and silver.


Now you can understand, my dear friend,

how I have endured grievous sorrows,

the deeds of wicked men. The time

has now come for men to adore me throughout

the world and all this sublime creation

far and wide, and pray to this symbol.

For a time the Son of God suffered on me;

therefore I now tower glorious beneath the heavens

and I can save all who stand in awe of me.

Once I had been the bitterest torment,

most hateful to men, until I opened up for them

the true path of life. The Prince of Glory,

the Guardian of the Kingdom of Heaven,

honoured me over the trees of the forest,

just as Almighty God honoured his mother,

Mary herself, above all womanhood

in the sight of all people.


Now I command you, my dear friend,

to relate this vision to men; reveal in words

that it is the tree of glory on which

Almighty God suffered for Adam's deeds

done of old, and for mankind's many sins.

He tasted death there; but, a lord,

he rose again in his great might

to succour men. He ascended into heaven.

But Almighty God, the Lord himself, with

his angels, will come again into this world

to visit mankind on judgement day.

For then He, whose power is judgement,

will judge each one as he has

deserved in this transitory life.

And at that time no one can be unafraid

of any word the Lord may speak; for

He will ask before the multitude where

is the man who chose, in God's name,

to taste painful death, just as He once did

upon the cross. Then men will be afraid, and

few will be able to think about how to answer to Christ.

But no one who has previously carried the best

of symbols in his heart need be greatly

frightened then, for by means of the cross

shall each soul who wishes to dwell

with the Ruler seek the kingdom from

the path of this earth."


                                    I prayed then to the cross,

fervently and with a joyful heart, in this world

where I was alone, with scant company;

my spirit was keen on a journey forth,

had endured all of the many times of longing.

My joy in my present life, alone as I am,

is to be able to turn to the cross of victory

more often than any other man, and truly adore it.

The great intention of my heart is directed towards

fulfilling that, and I look to the cross for protection.

For I have not many powerful friends on earth:

they have departed from here, from the joys of the world,

have sought for themselves the King of Glory, and

they now live in heaven with the Father, and

dwell in glory; and I dream every day of the time

when the Lord's cross, which I had seen here

on earth, will fetch me in the course of this

transitory life, and bring me then where

there is great joy, delight in heaven;

where the people of God are seated banqueting,

where there: is bliss everlasting. And then He will

place me where I may dwell in glory ever after,

and partake of joy freely with the saints.


May the Lord, who formerly suffered here on earth

on the gallows tree for the sins of mankind, be

a friend to me; He redeemed us and gave us back

life, a heavenly home. Hope was renewed

with blessings and with happiness for those

who suffered burning. The Son was triumphant

in that harrowing, powerful and successful,

when the Lord Almighty led a multitude,

a host of spirits, into the Kingdom of God,

to the great happiness of the angels, and

all the saints who had always dwelt in glory

in heaven, when their Lord, God Almighty,

came where his home was.