Tuesday, 24 March 2009

The Dream of the Rood.

Listen! The choicest of visions I wish to tell,
which came as a dream in middle-night,
after voice-bearers lay at rest.
It seemed that I saw a most wondrous tree
born aloft, wound round by light,
brightest of beams. All was that beacon
sprinkled with gold. Gems stood
fair at earth's corners; there likewise five
shone on the shoulder-span . All there beheld the Angel of God,
fair through predestiny. Indeed, that was no wicked one's gallows,
but holy souls beheld it there,
men over earth, and all this great creation.
Wondrous that victory-beam--and I stained with sins,
with wounds of disgrace. I saw glory's tree
honored with trappings, shining with joys,
decked with gold; gems had
wrapped that forest tree worthily round.
Yet through that gold I clearly perceived
old strife of wretches , when first it began
to bleed on its right side. With sorrows most troubled,
I feared that fair sight.
Karen Freeman, regular commentator on this blog, can be seen here organising sheep. This sort of levity however has no place after the beginning of the Ruthwell Crucifixion Poem, a medieval Northumbrian dialect piece now more commonly called the Dream of the Rood. I have an eternal fascination with Anglo Saxon and middle English dialects, but the peculiarities of the Northumbrian are a half closed book to me. Over the next couple of weeks, I thought it might make an interesting Lenten reflection if we look at the whole of the Dream, meditating on the socio linguistic background to it as well as the theology contained therein. We will use this modern translation, beginning tomorrow and continuing occasionally until Good Friday. As you may have gathered, this has been an unusually hectic weekend, so I will begin the meditation tomorrow morning when I wake up.

The top picture, if you are interested, was taken when I was in a traffic jam in Eccles on Friday, whilst going home from work. It is a carving on the side of the Roman Catholic Parish Church.