The following poem dates from Seventh Century Britain and is an example of the depth of the spirituality and theology of the British Church at the time of St. Hilda. More can be read on this subject at: http://orthodoxyinfo.org/English.htm
A DREAM OF THE CROSS
(Dream of the Rood)
Lo! I will tell the dearest of dreams That I dreamed in the midnight when mortal men Were sunk in slumber. Me-seemed I saw a wonderous Tree towering in air, most shining of crosses compassed with light. Brightly that beacon was gilded with gold; jewels adorned it fair at the foot, five on the shoulder-beam, blazing in splendour. Through all creation the angels of God beheld it shining-- no cross of shame! Holy spirits gazed on its gleaming, men upon earth and all this great
Wonderous that Tree, that Token of triumph, And I a transgressor soiled with my sins! I gazed on the Rood arrayed in glory, shining in beauty and gilded with gold, The Cross of the Saviour beset with gems. But through the gold-work outgleamed a token of the ancient evil of sinful men where the Rood on its right side once sweat blood. Saddened and rueful, smitten with terror at the wonderous vision, I saw the Cross swiftly varying vesture and hue, now wet and stained with the Blood outwelling, now fairly jewelled with gold and gems.
Then, as I lay there, long I gazed in rue and sadness on my Saviour's Tree, till I heard in dream how the Cross addressed me, of all woods worthiest, speaking these words: "Long years ago (well yet I remember) they hewed me down on the edge of the holt, severed my
trunk; strong foemen took me, for a spectacle wrought me, a gallows for rogues. High on their shoulders they bore me to hilltop, fastened me firmly, an army of foes!
Then I saw the King of all mankind In brave mood hasting to mount upon me. Refuse I dared not, nor bow nor break, though I felt earth's confines shudder in fear; all foes I might felt, yet still I stood fast."
Then the young Warrior, God, the All-Wielder, put off His raiment, steadfast and strong; with lordly mood in the sight of many He mounted the Cross to redeem mankind. When the Hero clasped me, I trembled in terror, but I dared not bow me nor bend to earth; I must needs stand fast. Upraised as the Rood I held the High King, the Lord of heaven. I dared not bow! With black nails driven those sinners pierced me; the
prints are clear, The open wounds. I dared injure none. They mocked us both. I was wet with blood from the Hero's side when He sent forth His spirit.
Many a bale I bore on that hill-side seeing the Lord in agony outstretched. Black darkness covered with clouds God's body, that radiant splendour. Shadow went forth wan under heaven; all creation wept bewailing the King's death. Christ was on the Cross.
Then many came quickly, faring from far, hurrying to the Prince. I beheld it all. Sorely smitten with sorrow, in meekness I bowed to the hands of men. From His heavy and bitter pain they lifted Almighty God. Those warriors left me Standing bespattered with blood; I was wounded with spears. Limb-weary they laid Him down; they stood at His head, looked on the Lord of
Heaven as He lay there at rest from His bitter ordeal all forspent. In sight of His slayers they made Him a sepulchre carved from the shining stone; Therein laid the Lord of triumph. At evening tide sadly they sang their dirges and wearily turned away from their lordly Prince; there He lay all still and alone.
There at our station a long time we stood sorrowfully weeping after the wailing of men had died away. The corpse grew cold, the fair life-dwelling. Down to earth men hacked and felled us, a grievous fate! They dug a pit and buried us deep. But there God's friends and followers found me and graced me with treasure of silver and gold.
Now may you learn, 0 man beloved, the bitter sorrows that I have borne, the work of caitiffs. But the time is come that men upon earth and through all
creation show me honour and bow to this sign. On me a while God's Son once suffered; now I tower under heaven in glory attired with healing for all that hold me in awe. Of old I was once the most woeful of tortures, most hateful to all men, till I opened for them the true Way of life. Lo! the Lord of Glory, the Warden of heaven, above all wood has glorified me as Almighty God has honoured His Mother, even Mary herself, Over all womankind in the eyes of men.
Now I give you bidding, 0 man beloved, reveal this Vision to the sons of men, and clearly tell of the Tree of Glory whereon God suffered for man's many sins and the evil that Adam once wrought of old.
Death He suffered, but our Saviour rose by virtue of His great might as a help to men. He ascended to heaven. But hither again He shall come unto earth
to seek mankind, the Lord Himself on the Day of Doom, Almighty God with His angel hosts. And then will He judge, Who has power of judgment, each man according as here on earth in this fleeting life he shall win reward.
Nor there may any be free from fear hearing the words which the Wielder shall utter. He shall ask before many: Where is the man who would taste bitter death as He did on the Tree? And all shall be fearful and few shall know what to say unto Christ. But none at His Coming shall need to fear if he bears in his breast this best of symbols; and every soul from the ways of earth through the Cross shall come to heavenly glory, who would dwell with God."
Then with ardent spirit and earnest zeal, companionless, lonely, I prayed to the Cross. My soul was fain of death. I had endured
many an hour of longing. It is my life's hope That I may turn to this Token of triumph, I above all men, and revere it well.
This is my heart's desire, and all my hope waits on the Cross. In this world now I have few powerful friends; they have fared hence way from these earthly gauds seeking the King of Glory, dwelling now with the High Father in heaven above, abiding in rapture. Each day I dream of the hour when the Cross of my Lord, whereof here on earth I once had vision, from this fleeting life may fetch me and bring me where is great gladness and heavenly bliss, where the people of God are planted and stablished for ever in joy everlasting. There may it lodge me where I may abide in glory knowing bliss with the saints.
May the Lord befriend me Who on earth of old once suffered on the Cross for the sins
of men. He redeemed us, endowed us with life and a heavenly home. Therein was hope renewed with blessing and bliss for those who endured the burning. In that great deed God's Son was triumphant, possessing power and strength! Almighty, Sole-Ruling He came to the kingdom of God bringing a host of souls to angelic bliss, to join the saints who abode in the splendour of glory, when the Lord, Almighty God, came again to His throne. (St. Caedmon or Cynewulf, circa 680)
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