Honors 104: Short Essay
The Dream of the Rood is one of the finest poems in the English language. In a dream the unknown poet beholds a beautiful tree (the rood), which eventually is cut down and constructed to be the cross that Christ was killed on. The rood tells him it’s own story. Forced to be the instrument of the saviour’s death, it describes how it suffered the nail wounds, spear shafts, and insults along with Christ to fulfill God’s will. What was once broken down and humiliated, became reborn and is now the majestic symbol of mankind’s redemption. Sound familiar? That’s right, it’s almost just like the killing and resurrection of Jesus. The tree describes the event almost as if they were companions in battle, and with the way the rood vividly describes his own experiences and the killing/ resurrection of itself, one could easily identify the similarities between the story of Christ and the story of the rood.
When you hear about the execution of Christ, you often hear about how they humiliated and brutally murdered him, and the cross is just used at the instrument of his death. However, in The Dream of the Rood, the rood describes the event as an act of torture, murder, and embarrassment of itself, along with Jesus. The rood explains the entire story from his perspective, including his transition from a tree to a cross: “… I was cut down at the edge of the forest, torn up from my trunk. There powerful enemies took me” (Line 29-30). He then goes on to describe the torture they endured. “They drove dark nails into me; the dints of those wounds can still be seen, open marks of malice…”( Lines 46-47). This is a primary example of the similarities between Jesus and the rood. They both had nails driven into them. When he describes his encounters it puts more emphasis on the idea that Jesus wasn’t the only one who suffered that day. The rood then goes on to say “… I did not dare maul any of them in return” (Line 47). Just like Jesus, the rood apparently the power to fight back, but did not. It didn’t resort to violence, or even defend itself. The rood didn’t lower itself to the level of his attackers. This shows the connection that Jesus and the rood shared during that experience. Regardless of having to go through endless amounts of torture, they still maintained their selfless values and didn’t act in violence.
The rood was broken down and made “… the most cruel punishment, most hated by men…”(Lines 87-88). Like Jesus, the rood came back to life and emerged something new. It became a symbol. He became “… the tree of glory Almighty God suffered upon for mankind’s so many sins…”(Lines 97-99). People used to mock the rood, now they pray to it for forgiveness, to be cleansed of sin. This quote is a perfect example of how Jesus and the rood/ cross go hand and hand with each other. They were both hated and mocked at one point. Now they are look at as a symbol of hope and salvation. Even after being humiliated and murdered they still offer unconditional love and forgiveness to anyone who seeks it.
The story of The Dream of the Rood, and the death of Christ are almost identical. The image of a broken down or crucified savior always seems weaks.The poet crafted this story to show that Christ’s death on the cross wasn’t a sign of weakness, but on the contrary it was the strongest act ever achieved.