What is the background of "The Dream of the Rood'' (Old English Religious Poetry)?

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“The Dream of the Rood” [author unknown] was written in the seventh or eighth century. The poem was originally written in Old English and has been translated by many different scholars.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the last word of the title “rood” means crucifix or cross.  Part of the poem was originally located on the Ruthwell Cross in Northumbria in the eighth century. This was an example of a dream poem which was popular in the Middle Ages.

Considered to be a masterpiece from the Old English language, the intent of the poem along with other literature was to entice Anglo-Saxon pagans to become Christians. There are two speakers: the unknown poet and the rood or cross.

By personifying the Cross and revolutionary appeals, the poem has been determined to be exceptional writing.  The poem was written in three parts: the image of the crucifix, its discourse, and the dreamer’s contemplations. 

Beginning of summary--

The nameless speaker has a wonderful dream in which he sees an amazing tree rising in the air surrounded by a light.  It was the tree of glory on which the son of God was crucified.  Vastly ornate, yet covered with the sins of man, the speaker was afraid as he stood in the presence of Christ.  

It seemed to me that I saw a very wondrous tree

lifted into the air, enveloped by light,

the brightest of trees. That beacon was all

covered with gold.


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