quarta-feira, 3 de junho de 2009

The Dream of the Rood

Today I chanced to watch Michael Wood on Beowulf. I had already seen Beowulf in the cinema, liked and disliked it for several reasons, and read Seamus Heaney's beautiful translation of Beowulf. And to me it wasn’t just another BBC documentary by Michael Wood, I enjoyed it… it had scenes where an aged Julian Glover recites Beowulf around a camp fire and an interview with Seamus Heaney, near the end.

But what really caught my mind was an excerpt of the poem The Dream of the Rood, which I had never heard of, but is apparently one of the oldest and greatest works of Anglo-Saxon literature. It´s original manuscript is in the 10th century Vercelli Book, but the poem seems to be much older.

The poem takes form of a dream vision, the poet is the dreamer. He has the vision in the middle of the night... the poet's vision is a Christ's cross...
Listen! I will tell the best of dreams,
which I had at mid-night,
When all the world sleeps.
I dreamt I saw a wondrous tree
towering in the sky above me,
suffused with light,
the brightest of beams.
And then that most beautiful of trees
Spoke these words:
“Long ago it was –I still remembered—
I stood on the edge of the forest
when they came to cut me down.
Strong foes carried me away,
set me on a hill.
And then the young hero,
Christ, firm and unflinching,
striped himself, brave in the sight of all,
minded to save mankind.
And I trembled when the hero clasped me
and they pierced me with dark nails.
All creation wept, lamented
the King’s death.
Christ has became, by now, the Germanic hero, victorious even in his defeat. And the tree takes on the persona of a loyal member of the war band, “I could have killed them all”, the tree says … but the tree, out of loyalty to the Lord must became the instrument of his death. The Christian pallet created something uniquely English that could reconcile people to the new religion.

A real “blurring of theological boundaries” between the pagan and Christian, as Michael Wood puts it... I don’t know whose translation this was that was used in the documentary, but there´s another in here.

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