BEHOLD I shall tell of a most marvelous dream---what I dreamed at midnight, when men and their voices were at rest. It seemed to me that I saw a tree, more wonderful than any other, reach high aloft, bathed in light, brightest of wood. All that beacon was covered with gold. Four gems were set where it met the earth, and five more stood on it high about the crosspiece. There looked upon it many host of angels, fair in the form God gave them of old.
This was surely no felon’s gallows, for holy spirits beheld it, men upon earth, and all this glorious creation. Wonderful was the triumphant tree, and I stained with sin, wounded with wrongdoing. I saw the tree of wonder, adorned with clothes, shine brilliantly, decked with gold; splendidly had jewels covered the Lord’s tree. But through that gold I might see wretches’ ancient agony, for now it began to bleed upon the right side. I was sadly troubled, afraid of that fair sight. I saw that beacon, changeable, alter in clothes and in color: now was it wet with moisture, drenched with blood’s flowing, now adorned with treasure. But I lay there a long while looking upon the Saviour’s tree, troubled in mind, until I heard it give voice; the noblest of trees began to speak.
“It was long ago---still I remember it---that I was hewn down at the wood’s edge, taken from my stump. Fierce foes seized me, shaped me into the spectacle that they wished, bade me lift their felons. Men carried me on their shoulders to a hill where they set me down; foes enough fasted me there. Then I saw the Master of Mankind listen with all His heart because He wished to climb upon me. I did not dare against God’s word bow or break, though I saw earth’s surface tremble. All foeman I might have felled, but I stood fast. The young Hero stripped Himself---He who was God almighty---strong and stouthearted. He climbed upon the high gallows, valiant, in the sight of many, for He would redeem mankind. I shook when the Warrior embraced me, yet I dared not bow to earth, fall to the ground’s surface: I must stand fast. A cross was I raised; I lifted up the Might King, Lord of the Heavens; I dared not bend. They pierced me with dark nails---on me are the wounds seen, open hateful gashes. Nor did I dare do harm to any of them. They mocked us both together. I was all wet with blood shed from the sides of that Man by the time that He had sent forth His spirit. Many bitter things I had endured on the hill. I saw the God of Hosts cruelly racked. Darkness had covered with its mists the Ruler’s body, the bright splendor. Shadow came forth, dark under the clouds. All creation wept, bewailed, the King’s fall: Christ was on Cross.Then blithe-hearted, confident, I prayed to the Cross, there where I was alone, without company. My heart was drawn away from earth’s paths. Often I endured weariness of spirit. Now is there hope of life, that I may seek the tree of triumph, honour it more often than other men, since I am alone. Great is the desire of my heart of the Cross, and my hope of protection rest in it. I have not many powerful friends on earth, for they have gone from the joys of the world, sought for themselves the King of Glory; now they live in Heaven with High Father, dwell in glory. And every day I expect the time when the Lord’s Cross that I beheld here on earth shall fetch me in this transitory life and bring me where bliss is great, joy in Heaven, where the Lord’s folk are set at the feast, where bliss is eternal. And may it place me where I may thereafter dwell in glory, enjoy with the saints their delight. May the Lord be my friend, who here on earth suffered for man’s sins on the gallows tree. He redeemed us and granted us life, a heavenly home. Hope was restored, with glory and bliss, to those who suffered in fire . The Son was victorious in that foray, mighty and successful. Then He came with many, a host of spirits, into God’s kingdom, the All-Powerful Ruler, and the angels and all the saints who then dwelt in Heaven rejoiced when their Ruler, Almighty God, came where His home was.
“Yet from afar, ready and willing, there came some to the Lord . I saw all this. Sore was I troubled, yet I bent to the hands of the men, with all my heart humble. They took Almighty God, lifted Him from His great torment. The warriors let me stand, stained with blood. I was all wounded with arrows. They laid Him down, limb-weary, stood at His body’s head, gazed upon Heaven’s Lord; and He rested Him there a while, exhausted after the great struggle. In the sight of His slayer warriors began to build Him an earth-home, carved it out of bright stone, set therein the Wielder of Triumphs. Then they began to sing for Him a song of lament, sad in the evening. Then would they depart, tired, from the great Lord. He rested with small host; yet we stood in our places a good while, weeping. The song of the men rose up. The body grew cold, the spirit’s fair dwelling. Then they began to fell us to the earth---that was a fearful fate. They buried us in a deep pit. Yet thanes of the Lord, friends, hear of me there . . . decked me with gold and silver.
“Thou might now understand, man beloved of me, that I had endured suffering of evils, of grievous sorrows. Now is the happy time come that far and wide men upon earth adore me, and all this glorious creation prays to this beacon. On me the Son of God suffered for awhile; therefore now I tower glorious under the heavens, and I may heal every one of those that hold me in awe. Once I was made the hardest of torments, most loathsome to men, before I made open the true road to life for all who have voices. Lo, the Lord of Glory honoured me above all the trees of the wood, the Ruler of Heaven, just as his Mother also, Mary herself, Almighty God for the sake of all men honoured above all woman’s kind.
“Now I bid thee, man beloved of me, that thou tell this vision to men. Reveal with thy words that it is the tree of glory on which Almighty God suffered for mankind’s many sins and for the deeds done by Adam long ago. Death He tasted there; yet the Lord rose again in His great might to help mankind. Then He ascended into Heaven; but He will come again hither to seek mankind on doomsday, the Lord Himself. Almighty God, and His angels with Him, that at that time He who has the power to judge may judge each one as in this transitory life he deserves. Nor may any be unafraid of the word that the Ruler will speak. Before His multitude He will ask where the man is who in the name of the Lord would taste bitter death as He did on the Cross. But then they will be afraid and will little know what they may begin to answer to Christ. Yet there need not any be afraid who bears on his breast the best of beacons. For through the Cross shall every soul who thinks to dwell with the Lord seek His kingdom in his earthly journey.
~ The Dream of the Rood, 7th (?) century, Anglo-Saxon