Present an argument on how that work helps us better understand the good, the true, and the beautiful The essay that I choose is “Dream of the Rood” which I have attached the documents. For your second essay in this class, you will spend some time refle

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Present an argument on how that work helps us better understand the good, the true, and the beautiful

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Present an argument on how that work helps us better understand the good, the true, and the beautiful The essay that I choose is “Dream of the Rood” which I have attached the documents. For your second essay in this class, you will spend some time refle
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The essay that I choose is “Dream of the Rood” which I have attached the documents.

For your second essay in this class, you will spend some time reflecting on one of the literary works assigned in the class from a Christian perspective.

Steps in the Process

  • Choose a work assigned in this course that appeals to you from an emotional or aesthetic perspective.
  • Read the work several times (maybe read parts of it aloud) making note of the features that seem particularly beautiful, inspiring, emotional, meaningful, or true. Consider the following questions:

    How does the work help us better value goodness?
    How does the work help us better understand Truth?
    How does the work help us better recognize and appreciate beauty?

  • Focus your thoughts into an argument about how the work of literature helps us better understand aspects of the Christian faith.
  • Compose a thesis-driven, organized essay presenting your argument and using textual support for your points.


Although your essay will be thesis-driven, it is not a literary analysis. Do not simply pick a theme or a literary device and make an argument about that aspect of the work.

It will almost certainly be easier to do this assignment well if you choose a shorter piece of literature or a small section of a long work, rather than, for instance, the entirety of Julius Caesar.

You should not do any significant research on the literary work, since the assignment is on your own reflections about it.

Style and Length

Your essay should be written in correct MLA format, and it should be between 1000-1500 words long.

The Dream of the Rood

An Old English Poem, Author and Date Unknown

Translated by E.T. Donaldson

Listen, I will speak of the best of dreams, of what I dreamed at midnight when men and their voices

were at rest. It seemed to me that I saw a most rare tree reach high aloft, wound in light, brightest of

beams. All that beacon was covered with gold; gems stood fair where it met the ground, five were above

about the crosspiece. Many hosts of angels gazed on it, fair in the form created for them. This was surely

no felon’s gallows, but holy spirits beheld it there, men upon earth, and all this glorious creation.

Wonderful was the triumph-tree, and I stained with sins, wounded with wrongdoings. I saw the tree of

glory shine splendidly, adorned with garments, decked with

gold: jewels had worthily covered the Lord’s tree. Yet through

that gold I might perceive ancient agony of wretches, for now

it began to bleed on the right side. I was all afflicted with

sorrows, I was afraid for that fair sight. I saw that bright beacon

change in clothing and color: now it was wet with moisture,

drenched with flowing of blood, now adorned with treasure.

Yet I, lying there a long while troubled, beheld the Saviour’s

tree until I heard it give voice: the best of trees began to speak


“It was long ago — I remember it still — that I was hewn down

at the wood’s edge, taken from my stump. Strong foes seized

me there, hewed me to the shape they wished to see,

commanded me to lift their criminals. Men carried me on their

shoulders, then set me on a hill; foes enough fastened me

there. Then I saw the Lord of mankind hasten with stout heart,

for he would climb upon me. I dared not bow or break against

God’s word when I saw earth’s surface tremble. I might have felled all foes, but I stood fast. Then the

young Hero stripped himself — that was God Almighty — strong and stouthearted. He climbed on the

high gallows, bold in the sight of many, when he would free mankind. I trembled when the Warrior

embraced me, yet I dared not bow to earth, fall to the ground’s surface; but I must stand fast. I was

raised up, a cross; I lifted up the Mighty King. Lord of the Heavens: I dared not bend. They pierced me

with dark nails: the wounds are seen on me, open gashes of hatred. Nor did I dare harm any of them.

They mocked us both together. I was all wet with blood, drenched from the side of that Man after he

had sent forth his spirit. I had endured many bitter happenings on that hill. I saw the God of Hosts

cruelly racked. The shades of night had covered the Ruler’s body with their mists, the bright splendor.

Shadow came forth, dark beneath the clouds. All creation wept, bewailed the King’s fall; Christ was on


“Yet from afar some came hastening to the Lord. All that I beheld. I was sore afflicted with griefs, yet I

bowed to the men’s hands, meekly, eagerly. Then they took Almighy God, lifted him up from his heavy

torment. The warriors left me standing, covered with blood. I was all wounded with arrows. They laid

him down weary of limb, stood at the body’s head, looked there upon Heaven’s Lord; and he rested

there a while, tired after the great struggle. Then warriors began to build him an earth-house in the sight

of his slayer, carved it out of bright stone; they set there the Wielder of Triumphs. Then they began to

sing him a song of sorrow, desolate in the evening. Then they wished to turn back, weary, from the great

Prince; he remained with small company. Yet we stood in our places a good while, weeping. The voice of

the warriors departed. The body grew cold, fair house of the spirit. Then some began to fell us to earth –

– that was a fearful fate! Some buried us in a deep pit. Yet thanes of the Lord, friends, learned of me

there. . . . decked me in gold and silver.

“Now you might understand, my beloved man, that I had endured the work of evildoers, grievous

sorrows. Now the time has come that men far and wide upon earth honor me — and all this glorious

creation — and pray to this beacon. On me God’s Son suffered awhile; therefore, I tower now glorious

under the heavens, and I may heal every one of those who hold me in awe. Of old I became the hardest

of torments, most loathed by men, before I opened the right road of life to those who have voices.

Behold, the Lord of Glory honored me over all the trees of the wood, the Ruler of Heaven, just as also he

honored his mother Mary, Almighty God for all men’s sake, over all woman’s kind.

“Now I command you, my beloved man, that you tell men of this vision. Disclose with your words that it

is of the tree of glory on which Almighty God suffered for mankind’s many sins and the deeds Adam did

of old. He tasted death there; yet the Lord arose again to help mankind in his great might. Then he

climbed to the heavens. He will come again hither on this earth to seek mankind on Doomsday, the Lord

himself, Almighty God, and his angels with him, for then he will judge, he who has power to judge, each

one just as in this brief life he has deserved. Nor may any one be unafraid of the word the Ruler will

speak. Before his host 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 think of little to begin to say to Christ. There

need none be afraid who bears on his breast the best of tokens, but through the Cross shall the kingdom

be sought by each soul on this earthly journey that thinks to dwell with the Lord.”

Then I prayed to the tree, blithe-hearted, confident, there where I was alone with small company. My

heart’s thoughts were urged on the way hence. I endured many times of longing. Now is there hope of

life for me, that I am permitted to seek the tree of triumph, more often than other men honor it well,

alone. For it my heart’s desire is great, and my hope of protection is directed to the Cross. I do not

possess many powerful friends of earth, but they have gone hence from the delights of the world,

sought for themselves the King of Glory. They live now in the heavens with the High Father, dwell in

glory. And every day I look forward to when the Lord’s Cross that I beheld here on earth will fetch me

from this short life and bring me then where joy is great, delight in the heavens, where the Lord’s fold

are seated at the feast, where bliss is eternal. And then may it place me where thenceforth I may dwell

in glory, fully enjoy bliss with the saints. May the Lord be my friend, who once here of earth suffered on

the gallows-tree for man’s sins: he freed us and granted us life, a heavenly home. Hope was renewed,

with joys and with bliss, to those who endure fire. The Son was victorious in that foray, mighty and

successful. Then he came with his multitude, a host of spirits, into God’s kingdom, the Almighty Ruler;

and the angels and all the saints who dwelt then in glory rejoiced when their Ruler, Almighty God, came

where his home was.

TheDream of the Rood

The Dream of the Rood is one of the earliest poems in Old English poetry, as well as being one of the

earliest examples of Old English literature. The longest surviving copy exists in the tenth century Vercelli

book, an anthology of Old English poetry bound into a codex and which is housed in the Basilica of

Sant’Andrea, in Vercelli, Italy. The manuscript itself contains over twenty homilies, which are

interspersed with six poems. The book itself is in fact a florilegium¸copied by a scribe onto manuscript

at the end of the tenth century, who appears to have copied the works therein from a miscellany of

sources. The scribe appears to have remained true to his source material and neither embellished nor

changed the works with latter emendations, staying true to the structure, punctuation and dialect of his

sources. The works which have been transcribed in the book are diverse in nature, not following a

specific theme or sequence, and appear to have been selected for private reading and reflection. It is

believed that the surviving copy of this poem is not a tenth century work, but possibly dates from the

eighth century, or earlier still.

The Dream of the Rood, in the Vercelli book.

This suggestion that The Dream of the Rood is earlier than tenth century is based in part upon the fact

that various extracts have been found to be inscribed on the Ruthwell Cross, which in itself dates

approximately from the eighth century. The cross itself would have been approximately eighteen foot in

height, and possibly was used in order to convert its visitors to Christianity. It is carved with scenes

taken from the life of Jesus, including the Annunciation and the healing of the blind, together with runes

carved on the sides of the cross. During the Reformation in the sixteenth century, the cross itself was

torn down and badly damaged, and it was not until many years later that the broken cross was

eventually reconstructed.

The author of The Dream of the Rood remains unknown; however, owing to the presence of runic

extracts and the dating of the cross to the eighth century suggest that the poem was reasonably well

known and may have been in circulation amongst religious communities. Due to this likely proliferation

of the poem, it might well be earlier in date still than the proposed eighth century date ascribed to

it. Scholars have tentatively suggested two known Anglo-Saxon poets as possible authors: Caedmon and


The Ruthwell Cross.

The scholar Daniel H. Haigh has proposed that the poem is by the hand of Caedmon. Haigh’s suggestion

is that the Cross itself was erected in the mid seventh century, in c. 665, basing his suggestion upon

references made by Bede in the Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum (Ecclesiastical History of the

English People) in relation to Caedmon and his poetic talent. The little that is known of Caedmon is in

fact directly attributed to Bede, informing his readers that Caedmon underwent a transformation

following an inspired dream in which he went from being an illiterate herdsman to a great poet, singing

hymns and composing poems glorifying God.

Þa he ða þær in gelimplice tide his leomu on reste gesette ond onslepte, þa stod him sum mon æt þurh

swefn ond hine halette ond grette ond hine be his noman nemnde: ‘Cedmon, sing me hwæthwugu.’ Þa

ondswarede he ond cwæð: ‘Ne con ic noht singan ond ic forþon of þeossum gebeorscipe uteode ond

hider gewat, forþon ic naht singan ne cuðe.’ Eft he cwæð, se ðe wið hine sprecende wæs: ‘Hwæðreþu

meaht singan.’ Þa cwæð he: ‘Hwæt sceal ic singan?’ Cwæð he: ‘Sing me frumsceaft.’ Þa he ða þas

andsware onfeng, þa ongon he sona singan in herenesse Godes Scyppends þa fers ond þa word þe he

næfre gehyrde…

Þa aras he from þæm slæpe, ond eal þa þe he slæpende song, fæste in gemynde hæfde, ond þæm

wordum sona monig word in þæt ilce gemet Gode wyrðes songes togeþeodde. Þa com he on morgenne

to þæm tungerefan, þe his ealdormon wæs. Sægde him hwylc gife he onfeng, ond he hine sona to þære

abbudissan gelædde ond hire þæt cyðde ond sægde. Þa heht heo gesomnian ealle þa gelæredestan men

ond þa leorneras, ond him ondweardum het secgan þæt swefn ond þæt leoð singan, þæt ealra heora

dome gecoren wære, hwæt oððe hwonon þæt cumen wære.

The first page of Bede’s Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum.

When he there at a suitable time set his limbs at rest and fell asleep, then some man stood by him in his

dream and hailed and greeted him and addressed him by his name: ‘Caedmon, sing me something.’

Then he answered and said: ‘I do not know how to sing and for that reason I went out from this feast

and went hither, because I did not know how to sing at all.’ Again he said, he who was speaking with

him: ‘Nevertheless, you must sing.’ Then he said: ‘What must I sing?’ Said he: ‘Sing to me of the first

Creation.’ When he received this answer, then he began immediately to sing in praise of God the Creator

verses and words which he had never heard…

Then he arose from that sleep, and all of those (songs) which he sang while sleeping he had fast in his

memory, and he soon added in the same manner to those words many words of songs worthy of God.

Then in the morning he came to the town-reeve, who was his alderman. He said to him which gift did he

bring, and he directly lead him to the abbess and made it known and declared to her. Then she ordered

all of the most learned men and scholars to assemble, and to those who were present commanded him

to tell of that dream and sing that song, so that it might be determined by the judgement of all of them:

what it was and whence it had come. Then it was seen by all even as it was, that to him from God

himself a heavenly gift had been given.

The 6th century Crux Vaticana, believed to house relics of the True Cross.

Haigh’s attribution to the work as being that of Caedmon is based upon the high standard of the poetry,

stating that Caedmon was the only English Christian poet of note prior to Bede. He infers that the dating

of the poem’s composition can be roughly aligned with the lifetime of that of Caedmon, and therefore,,+Justinian+II,+6+century

he must be the author of the work. This idea has been backed up by the runic scholar, George Stephens,

who claims there to be a runic inscription on the cross reading “Caedmon made me”. Stephens echoes

Haigh’s theory of attribution of the poem to Caedmon, owing to lack of evidence of any other known

poets during this period of history. Despite these brave suggestions, and apparent runic evidence, most

scholars tend to disagree with Haigh and Stephens’ theories. Furthermore, many question the

attribution of the runic inscription proposed by Stephens as being to Caedmon.

The other candidate for the authorship of the poem proposed is that of Cynewulf, who lived

approximately a century after Caedmon, in the late eighth century. Of Cynewulf’s life, nothing is known

other than what can be derived from his poetry. Two of his signed poems were found in the Vercelli

book and scholars believe that owing to the presence of the two other poems that the scribe was using

a common source, therefore all six poems in the book are actually his. It has also been suggested that

there are marked similarities between the poem Elene, signed by Cynewulf, and The Dream of the

Rood. Elene tells in part the story of St. Helena and her finding of the True Cross. The poem

intersperses history and historical personalities, the most notable being Helena and her son, the

emperor Constantine, with a tale of Judas. The poem tells of Judas’ alleged conversion to Christianity,

and the ensuing conflict with Satan as a result. Elene could be tentatively proposed as being an early

form of allegory, with Helena representative of the Church, and Judas to be that of man, and the human

condition. Both poems share do share similar themes such as a principal subject of both works being

the Cross (or “rood”, literally meaning “tree”), and its suffering alongside Christ.

The Vercelli book, complete with Saxon homilies and poems.

Sandra McEntire has discussed the importance placed in the devotion of the cross that arose from the

fourth century onwards. McEntire states that the cross itself became a popular image to worship from

the third century, and this devotion became more ardent from the fifth century onwards. This

veneration begun in earnest in the wake of the supposed discovery of the true Cross. Liturgies were

written to the devotion that was to be bestowed upon the Cross by Christians. In addition, grand ornate

reliquaries were designed to house pieces of wood purporting to be from the Cross itself. In Christian

worship, the Sign of the Cross began to become an intrinsic part of Christian ritual and doctrine by

priests and worshipers alike. This sign was initially made by Christians upon their foreheads. However,

this later extended to protect their whole body, and with prayers made, arms extended echoing the

Crucifixion. The very shape of the cross was/is imbued with significant allegorical and cosmological

meanings, as well as being recognised as a symbol for salvation.

The poem itself is unusual on numerous levels, although centred around the theme of the Passion of

Christ, does not appear to have been influenced by either hymns or by the Gospels of the New

Testament. The influences behind the composition of the poem remain obscure and cannot be pinned

down to a specific text, Biblical or otherwise. It does seem to tie in with the Anglo Saxon belief to the

person of Christ and the symbolic significance attributed to the cross at the time. Paradoxes are evident

in the work. The rood/cross appears to be both triumphant yet suffering – mirroring the Christian

message behind the Crucifixion, with the imagery of blood seeping from the resplendent, bejeweled

cross in the prelude to the poem.

Syllic wæs se sigebēam, ond ic synnum fāh,

forwunded mid wommum. Geseah ic wuldres trēow,

wædum geweorðod wynnum scīnan,

gegyred mid golde; gimmas hæfdon

bewrigen weorðlīce wealdendes trēow.

Hwæðre ic þurh þæt gold ongytan meahte

earmra ærgewin, þæt hit ærest ongan

swætan on þā swīðran healfe.

Sublime, the tree was, and I was foul with sin,

wounded and filthy. I saw the wondrous tree

become more beautiful, bound with streamers,

wound with gold; gems gathered nobly covering the King’s tree.

But through the gold I could glimpse,

though buried by sinfulness,

that it began to bleed on its right side.

The poem conveys the popular idea of a dual co-existence of paradoxical natures in Christ, man yet

divine son of God, and through suffering bring about victory and redemption. At the time of writing the

poem, these conflicting elements had caused a significant rupture in the forming of the Christian

church. This state of affairs was due in part to the doctrine of docetism. Docetism has long been

believed to have been integral to the teachings of the early Christian belief system of a number of the

Gnostic schools. Part of the doctrine of these various schools was to refute the suggestion that God, in

the form of Christ, had taken human form and been allowed to suffer and die on the cross. This was tied

in with the belief that the human body is composed of matter, and therefore evil. However the spirit is

considered eternal making the body of Christ that suffered and died on the cross nothing more than

mere illusion. A number of the apocryphal Gospels contained such docetic ideas and thought; these

included The Gospel of Philip, The Acts of John, and The Gospel of Judas.

This ideology extended further into the Docetists allegedly refusing to participate in the sacrament of

the Eucharist, where the bread and wine represented the body and blood of Christ. Docetism was

deemed heretical by the Early Church, eventually to peter out in Christian teachings. The interpretation

of the significance of the Crucifixion was wholly dependent upon the stress in which the early Christians

placed upon the actual event. The question of stress arose from whether it was to be seen as suffering

or triumph, and if this event was due to an act Christ as God, or Christ as a man. Differing schools of

thought veered from one philosophical doctrine to the other, in the belief that it was impossible to

reconcile the two ideas into any form of unity.

The Third Ecumenical Council at Ephesus in 431.

Among the widespread Christian schools of thought in the fifth and sixth centuries were the Nestorians,

headed up by the bishop Nestorius. His teachings including the revoking of the title bestowed upon the

Virgin Mary of Θεοτόκος or Theotokos (‘Bearer of God’). This repudiation of her title implied that

Nestorius and his followers did not believe in the divinity of Christ. Nestorius himself was initially

labelled a heretic by Eusebius, bishop of Dorylaeum, and later by the Patriarch, Cyril of Alexandria. As a

result, Nestorius was excommunicated by the Pope, Celestine of Rome, and officially denounced as a

heretic in 431 at the Council of Ephesus. This was met with objections from the Eastern Church, led by

John I of Antioch. Nonetheless, Nestorius was sent into exile to a monastery in the Great Oasis of Hibis,

where he was to die several years afterwards. For many centuries the belief that Nestorius was guilty

of heresy for his beliefs was held by many orthodox Christians. The exception to this being the Assyrian

Church of the East, where he is honoured as a saint.

In the mid eighteenth century, a copy of a manuscript entitled the Bazaar of Heracleideswas

discovered. This copy, in Syriac, was apparently written by Nestorius towards the end of his life, in

which he repudiates the charges of heresy laid against him. The doctrine in the Bazaar suggests that

Nestorius affirmed his belief in the dual nature of Christ – “the same One is twofold”. Despite Nestorius

and his followers appearing to have acknowledged the two natures of Christ, they seemed to have

overemphasized his humanity over his divinity. This heresy led to a school of thought wherein the

followers were called the Monophysites; an antithesis to the teachings of Nestorius, which placing

emphasis upon the divinity of Christ over his human nature. This school of thought was also later

considered to be heretical in its teaching and refuted by the Church Fathers.

With so much debate and dispute between these (and other) schools of thought, the Christian Church in

Rome held the Council of Chalcedon in 449. At Chalcedon, the council decided that Jesus Christ had

indeed been one person but that he had two natures: the human and the divine. This definition was

confirmed by Pope Leo I in hisTome wherein he identified the characteristics and attributes of Christ

which made him human, but at the same time those which made him divine. Through this work, a

description for Christ’s life and nature were established, and is still recognised by most Christians as

orthodox to this day. However, it did not put a complete end to the dispute over the divinity of Christ,

and other so-called heresies arose over the centuries, provoking further dissent.

As touched upon in the previous article The Culdee, the Copts, and the Celtic Church, the British Isles

and Ireland were open to influences outside of the Church of Rome and her doctrines. Although

Christianity was prevalent in the Britain and Ireland during the Anglo-Saxon era, the isolation and

remoteness of the islands themselves did not mean that the ecclesiastics and clergy, relatively newly

converted to the Christian creed, did not question some of doctrine from Rome, despite not having the

philosophical heritage of say, Greece or Rome. It seems likely that, although not as many of the

teachings of those accused of heresy would have reached British shores that both through trade routes

with Spain, Egypt and beyond, that it was through the instructionagainst heresy that the early English

church fathers would have become further aware of their existence.

Such instruction would have been found in readily circulated works, such as those of Ambrose,

Augustine and Jerome and their reinforced stance against heresy. These attitudes are mirrored in the

works of Bede and his commentaries on the Gospels. These commentaries clearly draw their stance

from other works, and through their repudiation of heretics, it is clear that Bede was at least aware of

their existence if not their doctrines. It is uncertain how the unorthodox dogma would have been

greeted on British shores, whether with curiosity or with and might have given rise to the questioning of

teachings coming from Rome. The Anglo-Saxons were far from an uncultured, barbaric race and would

have had, at the very least, an understanding of the theological teachings of their new, widespread

Christian beliefs, yet would have had neither the fanatical zeal nor philosophical reason to dispute

doctrine. A synod was held in Hatfield in 679 to determine the doctrine and beliefs held by the seventh

century Anglo-Saxon church. The synod, led by Theodore, Archbishop of Canterbury, condemned

heretics and their teachings such as Nestorius, and affirmed belief in existing doctrine, including

Leo’s Tome. Therefore, by extension, it seems unlikely that the author of The Dream of the Rood would

not have been aware of the Christological debate taking place as to Christ’s divinity/humanity.

A mediaeval representation of Council of Chalcedon

Although the aspects of Christ’s suffering and triumph on the Cross were to be separated into two

separate aspects in the Middle Ages, The Dream of the Roodsuccessfully manages to weave the two

ideas into his poem. The Crucifixion was seen during the Mediaeval era as being one of suffering and

anguish by Christ on the cross, with the ultimate conclusion, his death on the cross. His triumph was to

come following the Harrowing of Hell, and in his resurrection from the dead on the third day. The words

of the poet depict a considerably different portrayal from the orthodox image of Christ. Christ is

portrayed as a warrior and hero, and the actual crucifixion as a conflict and salvation or redemption as

his victory. This imagery of Christ as a chivalrous knight was to largely die out until it returned in the

allegorical motifs adopted by the idea of courtly love; the knight battling to the death to save the lady he

loves and his lady-love representative of his church, and mankind. This allegorical motif is equally

apparent in the later Piers Plowman by William Langland.

Christ’s heroism is emphasised in The Dream of the Rood, by his acceptance of his quest. He approaches

the tree/cross with bravery and determination, strips, and then ascends it. This idea is consistent with

the motifs of the Crucifixion in the Early Church, it was only in Mediaeval imagery that Christ was

depicted as suffering under the cross despite the synoptic Gospels suggesting that the cross itself was in

fact carried for some of the journey by Simon of Cyrene. Again, the Mediaeval commentaries on the

Gospels and the subsequent Stations of the Cross in Catholic churches have shown the soldiers gambling

for Christ’s garments before he was crucified. The Early Church father, Ambrose, suggests the opposite

in his commentary on St. Luke, in that Christ removed his clothes willingly. Again, this theme is akin with

that of a warrior stripping himself in preparation for battle. This voluntary stripping and subsequent

ascension is played out in The Dream of the Rood. Christ’s death upon the cross is not detailed in the

poem, the poet simply tells of his presence there.

An illuminated version of Piers Plowman.

Ealle ic mihte

feondas gefyllan, hwæðre ic fæste stod.

Ongyrede hine þa geong hæleð, (þæt wæs god ælmihtig),

strang ond stiðmod. Gestah he on gealgan heanne,

modig on manigra gesyhðe, þa he wolde mancyn lysan.

Bifode ic þa me se beorn ymbclypte:

I was able to destroy

all the enemies, nevertheless, I stood firmly,

The young hero stripped himself the (that was God Almighty)

strong and resolute. He ascended onto the high gallows

brave in the sight of many, there, since he wished to release mankind

I trembled when the man embraced me. However, I dared not bow to the earth,

fall to the surface of the earth, but I had to stand fast:

I was raised as a cross.

Scholars have placed much emphasis upon the treatment of the cross, for its humility at having to bear

Christ upon it. The device used by the poet of making the Cross speak is unusual but not unique to the

poem. In the passage of one of the apocryphal Gospels, the Gospel of Peter, the Cross is said to possess

human attributes and one point does indeed speak. The gospel itself was rejected by the Early Church

fathers when compiling the books to be included in the Canon of the New Testament. A fragment of the

gospel was recovered in 1886 by Urbain Bouriant in Akhmim, where it had been buried with an Egyptian

monk, in a grave dating from the eighth or ninth century. Despite the work having been officially

excluded, it appears that the work was considered valuable and important enough to have been buried,

possibly with its owner, some five or six centuries after its proscription.

The partial remains of the Gospel of Peter, found in a 8th-9th century grave.

In conclusion, The Dream of the Rood, is clearly influenced by the writings of Cynewulf, if in fact he

wasn’t the actual author of the poem. However, as evidenced by runes on the Ruthwell Cross, the poem

may well have been also influenced by the earlier Biblical inspired works of Caedmon. The Dream of the

Rood is important in that it is not simply a poetic interpretation nor paraphrase of the Canonical Passion

stories presented in a style that would have been immediately recognisable to its contemporary readers.

The poem allows its present readers an insight into understanding the Christian doctrine of the early

English Church. In addition, despite its misgivings, it is still a richly textured work; full of beautiful yet

dramatic imagery, allegory, and devotion.

“The Dream of the Rood,” Echoes of the Gnosis blog, April 19, 2012 accessed 6/11/15.


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