Origins and History of The Dream of the Rood:
The poem was first discovered on the Ruthwell Cross, a large stone carving dating to the early eighth century. Eighteen verses of The Dream of the Rood were carved into the cross in runic lettering. This was all that was known of the work to scholars until the complete poem was discovered, in 1822, in the 10th-century Vercelli Book in northern Italy.
Content of the Poem:
In The Dream of the Rood, an unknown poet dreams that he encounters a beautiful tree. It is the "rood," or cross, on which Jesus Christ was crucified. It is gloriously decorated with gold and gems, but the poet can discern ancient wounds. The rood tells the poet how it had been forced to be the instrument of Christ's death, describing how it, too, experienced the nails and spear thrusts along with the savior.
Historical Significance of the Dream of the Rood:
The poem has been the subject of literary and historical study for generations and has been interpreted in a variety of ways. Profound and moving of itself, The Dream of the Rood also provides a valuable window into early Christian England.
Read the Dream of the Rood Online:
Also of Interest:
The Dream of the Rood and the Image of Christ in the Early Middle Ages
Well-referenced, scholarly article by Jeannette C Brock.