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The Dream of the Rood:
Note and Outline

Return to my translation of The Dream of the Rood or jump to a DrR Bibliography page.

Note

A notable feature of the poem is the close identification of Christ, Cross, and Dreamer. The Dreamer’s comment (126b-29a) seems un-Christian at first glance, over-competitive, yet it is perhaps not far from St. Paul’s attitudes in Gal. 6:14 (“glory in the Cross”) and 2 Cor. 11:21 (“boasting”). The poem as a whole embodies a typical meditative scheme—Memory, Understanding, Will—and is rich in descriptive and rhetorical artistry as well as spiritual and theological expression. The wedding of form and content seems to me superb.

Outline

  1. Introduction of the Dream: Memory
    1. Address (1-3)
    2. Description of the Cross (4-26)
  2. Speech by the Cross to the Dreamer: Understanding
    1. History
      1. Crucifixion (27-56)
      2. Christ’s deposition and burial (57-69)
      3. Deposition and rediscovery of the Cross (70-77)
    2. Present and future
      1. Cross’s meaning to men (78-94)
      2. Exhortation (95-121)
        1. Dreamer is to proclaim the Cross
        2. A Cross-centered creed
  3. Dreamer’s colloquy: Will
    1. His devotion to the Cross (122-31a)
    2. His present plight (few friends) and future hopes (131b-46)
    3. Harrowing of Hell and Ascension: parallel to (and, indeed, the promise of) the Dreamer’s own hopes for "translation" (147-56)

For another, similar, structural outline, see Alvin Lee’s “Toward a Critique of The Dream of the Rood” in Nicholson and Frese, eds., Anglo-Saxon Poetry: Essays in Appreciation [1975].