The Dream of the Rood

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Every year at this time I am reminded of this poem that I had the pleasure of studying a couple different times in literature classes. The Dream of the Rood is one of the earliest known Christian poems from the Middle Ages. The author is unknown, and it has been translated numerous times since its discovery and appeared in a 10th century manuscript that was found in northern Italy. What I find especially intriguing and inspiring about this poem is it was written from the point of view of the tree that was chosen to be the cross used for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. While there are many translations, the one from translated by Alfred David (2000) is my favorite, because of the rich language and descriptors he uses to describe this story. However, a couple of sections (lines 79-82, and line 126), I prefer to reflect differently than David’s translation, taking from Dr. Aaron K. Hostetter’s later translation. Hostetter replaces worship of the cross with merely a somber symbolism that allows the cross to be the vehicle Christ used to gift us with our salvation. So if those sections that are bolded make you uncomfortable, like they did myself, click on over to Hostetter’s page to read his translation. By and large, both translations of this ancient Anglo-Saxon poem are beautiful in their own ways, and take the story of Christ’s sacrifice for humanity to a whole new understanding. Therefore I give you, The Dream of the Rood:

The Dream of the Rood

Attend to what I intend to tell you

a marvelous dream that moved me at night

when human voices are veiled in sleep. (1-3)

 

In my dream I espied the most splendid tree.

looming aloft with light all around,

the most brilliant beam. That bright tree was

covered with gold; gemstones gleamed

fairly fashioned down to its foot, yet another five were standing

high up on the crossbeam – the Lord’s angel beheld them –

cast by eternal decree. Clearly this was no criminal’s gallows,

but holy spirits were beholding it there,

men on this earth, all that mighty creation. (4-12)

 

That tree was triumphant and I tarnished by sin,

begrimed with evil. I beheld Glory’s trunk

garnished with grandeur, gleaming in bliss,

all plated with gold; precious gemstones

had gloriously graced the Lord God’s tree.

Yet I could see signs of ancient strife:

beneath that gold it had begun

bleeding on the right side. I was all bereft with sorrows;

that splendid sight made me afraid. I beheld the sign rapidly

changing clothing and colors. Now it was covered with moisture,

drenched with streaming blood, bow decked in treasure. (13-23)

 

Yet I, lying there for a long time,

sorrowfully beheld the tree of our Savior

until I could hear it call out to me,

the best of all wood began speaking words: (24-27)

 

“That was years ago – I remember –

that I was cut down at the edge of the forest

torn up from my trunk. There powerful enemies took me,

put me up to make a circus-play to lift up and parade their criminals.

Soldiers bore me on their shoulders till they set me up on a mountain;

more than enough foes made me stand fast. I saw the lord of mankind

coming with great haste so that he might climb up on me. (28-34)

 

Then I did not dare act against the Lord’s word

bow down or fall to pieces when I felt the surface

of the earth trembling. Although I might

have destroyed the foes, I stood in place. (35-38)

 

This this young man stripped himself – that was God Almighty –

strong and courageous; he climbed up on the high gallows,

brave in the sight of many, as he set out to redeem mankind.

I trembled when the man embraced me; I dared not bow down to earth,

stoop to the surface of the ground, but I had to stand fast.

I was reared a rood; I raised up a mighty king.

The heavens’ lord; I dared not bow in homage. (39-45)

 

They drove dark nails into me; the dints of those wounds can still be seen,

open marks of malice; but I didn’t not dare maul any of them in return.

They mocked both of us. I was moistened all over with blood,

shed from the man’s side after he had sent up his spirit. (46-49)

 

Oh that mountain I have endured many

cruel happenings. I saw the God of hosts

direly stretched out. Shades of darkness had clouded over the corpse of the Lord,

the shining radiance; shadows went forth

dark under clouds. All creation wept,

mourning the king’s fall: Christ was on the cross. (50-55)

 

“Yet from afar fervent men came

to that sovereign. I saw all that.

I was badly burdened with grief yet bowed down to their hands,

submissive with most resolved. There they took up almighty God,

lifted him from that cruel torment. Then the warriors left me there

standing, blood all over me, pierced everywhere with arrows.

They laid him there, limb-wearied; they stood at the head of his lifeless

body. There they beheld the lord of heaven, and he rested there for a while,

spent after that great struggle. (56-64)

 

Then they set about to construct a sepulcher

warriors in the slayer’s sight. Out of bright stone they carved it;

they laid the lord of victories into it. They began singing a lay of sorrow,

warriors sad as night was falling, when they wished to journey back

wearily far from that famous lord; he rested there with few followers. (65-69)

 

We, grieving there for a good while,

stood still in place; the soldier’s voices

faded away. Finally men brought axes

to fell us to earth. That was a frightful destiny!

They buried us in a deep pit. But thanes of the Lord,

friends learned about me

adorned me with gold and silver. (70-76)

 

“Now, man so dear to me, you may understand

that I have gone through grievous sufferings,

terrible sorrows. Now the time has come

so that far and wide men worship me

everywhere on earth, and all creation,

pray to this sign. On me the son of God

suffered a time; therefore I now tower

in glory under heaven, and I may heal

any one of those in awe of me.

Long ago I became the most cruel punishment,

most hated by men, until I made open

the right way of life to language-bearers.

So the lord of glory, guardian of Heaven,

exalted me then over all forest-trees,

as Almighty God before all humankind

exalted over all the race of women

His own mother, Mary herself. (77-93)

 

“Now I command you, my man so dear,

to tell others the events you have seen;

find words to tell it was the tree of glory

Almighty God suffered upon

for mankind’s so many sins

and for that ancient offense of Adam.

There he tasted death; yet the Redeemer arose

with his great might to help mankind.

Then he rose to Heaven. He will come again

to this middle-earth to seek out mankind on Judgement Day, the Redeemer himself,

God Almighty and his angels with him,

so that He will judge, He who has power of the Judgement,

all humanity as to the merits each

has brought about in this brief life. (94-107)

 

Nor may anyone be unafraid

of the last question the Lord will ask.

Before the multitude he will demand

where a soul might be who in the Savior’s name

would suffer the death He suffered on that tree.

But they shall fear and few shall think what to contrive to say to Christ.

But no one there need be afraid

who bears the best sign on his breast.

And on this earth each soul that longs

to exist with its savior forevermore

must seek His kingdom through that cross.” (108-118)

 

Then compelled by joy, I prayed to that tree

with ardent zeal, where I was alone

with few followers. Then my heart felt

an urge to set forth; I have suffered

much longing since. Now I live in hope,

venturing after that victory-tree,

alone more often than all other men,

to worship it well. The will to do so

is much in my heart; my protection

depends on the rood. I possess

but few friends on this earth. But forth from here

they have set out from worldly joys to seek the King of Glory.

They dwell in Heaven now with the High-father

living in glory, and I look forward

constantly toward that time the Lord’s rood

which I beheld before here on this earth

shall fetch me away from this fleeting life

and bring me then where bliss is eternal

to joy in Paradise where the Lord’s people

are joined at that feast where joy lasts forever

and seat me there where evermore

I shall dwell in glory, together with the saints

share in their delights. May the Lord be my friend,

who on earth long ago on the gallows-tree

suffered agony for the sins of men: (119-143)

 

He redeemed us and gave us life,

a home in Heaven. Hope was made new

and blossomed with bliss to those burning in fire.

The Son was victorious in venturing forth,

mighty and triumphant when he returned with many,

a company of souls to the Kingdom of God,

the Almighty Ruler, to the joy of angels,

and all those holy ones come to Heaven before

to live in glory, when their Lord returned,

the Eternal King to His own country. (144-153)

 

“The Dream of the Rood.” The Norton Anthology English Literature, 9th Edition, Vol. I, edited by Stephen Greenblatt, W.W. Norton & Company, New York, 2012, pp. 32-36.

 

 

Movie Review: Winter’s Bone

 

winters-bone

Winter’s Bone to Pick

One thing that instantly stood out about Winter’s Bone was the preconceived notion that every Ozarks town is the same: backwoods. When Missouri comes up in the news or in conversation, many people jump to the same conclusion that the people of Missouri are just that as well: backwoods. While the Missouri Ozarks will always be home, it is one perception I would like to break. Agreeably, there are still backwoods towns in Missouri, but by and large all of the Ozarks is not like this. There are many perceptions in this movie that the producers got wrong. On the other hand, there are some perceptions they got right.

Ree Dolly portrayed by Jennifer Lawrence is a teenager who takes on many of the responsibilities for her family when her father goes missing during his latest meth venture. If one has lived in Missouri, particularly the Southwest region, for very long, you discover the penchant for meth-making. Missouri has become known as the meth capital of the nation due in part to the overabundance of methamphetamines. Winter’s Bone does convey the drug culture that runs rampant through the Ozarks: the continual cycle of drug production, getting caught, going to jail, getting out, and starting all over again.

While Ree walks all over the countryside searching for her father, some details stand out. Forsyth in Taney County was where this was filmed and doubles as the setting for the film. Yes, this area is extremely mountainous and densely populated by forest, the absence of fast food restaurants and Walmart is somewhat alarming. Even when living in a rural area in Missouri, one can usually find one or both venues within a ten-minute drive. Hunting is a popular pastime for Ozarks’ residents, and a good majority still stock their freezers with meat for the winter, but who doesn’t love a good old McDonald’s cheeseburger and fries on occasion? Winter’s Bone gives the idea that unless one hunts for their food, they will starve to death. That has not been a way of life in the Ozarks for several decades.

Although certain regions in the Ozarks can come across as über religious, the town in Winter’s Bone tends to be a little on the extreme side, such as the continual presence of Gospel/Bluegrass music, adding to the backwoods perception. Where is the mention of sport’s teams (Cardinals, Chiefs, etc.) or Bass Pro? Anyone who has resided in this area knows that despite the love of firearms and Jesus, Sports is greatly celebrated in the Ozarks.

Friends and neighbors take care of each other in Winter’s Bone, which is something that is a common practice in the Ozarks. Ree’s neighbor brings by a food box filled with deer meat, potatoes, and other staples that could be used to make a hearty meal. This is a common courtesy that Ozarkians will do when they see a neighbor going through a difficult time.

Car graveyards is something that one will find anywhere throughout the Ozarks. On one of Ree’s outings to find her father, she walks through a field/yard of a guy who knows him, and it is filled with abandoned pickup trucks, cars, and a few school buses. Certainly not a crucial detail, but one that decidedly pegged the lives of many Ozarkians. In another scene, there are piles of old tires accumulating in a yard, which is another common sight in the Ozarks. Not so much hoarding, but certainly an accumulation of junk is a something that can be seen driving down any Ozarks rural road.

The language and phrases used in Winter’s Bone is surprisingly spot on for Ozarks vernacular. My family is not backwoods by any means, but they are definitely country to the core, and that shines through in their language. As an English major, and an avid reader and writer, I have spent years attempting to neutralize my accent so as not to sound like I am from a specific region. However, when spending any length of time in my family’s company, I easily drop back into the country twang and phrases. Language is a powerful aspect of one’s life.

Emotions run high in the Ozarks. Ree’s love and devotion for her family is evident in how she protects them and takes on the role of head-of-the-household when her father is gone. However, anger and retribution are also common emotions in the lives of Ozarkians. Ree gets in a bind when she goes against the advice of her neighbors while searching for her father, or for someone who might know where he has gone. The neighbors jump her and beat her bloody as they prove their point, teaching her a lesson, basically forcing her to pay for the sins of her father. Once again, it is proven that blood is thicker than water when her uncle comes to her rescue, despite his own misgivings with her interference. Life in the Ozarks can be a double-edged sword. Family and neighbors will bend over backward for you, but if you cross them, or if they think you have, they will turn on you in an instant.

Winter’s Bone conveys some aspects of the author’s life, but the events that take place in the film should not be perceived as a common occurrence in every life of an Ozarkian. There is no denying that the film merely highlights a dark facet that can be found in many places throughout the Ozarks, despite the lack or accuracy of certain details. I highly recommend this movie to anyone who calls themselves an Ozarkian, but also to anyone interested in one aspect of Ozarks culture.

Sources: Granik, Debra, Director. Winter’s Bone. Performance by Jennifer Lawrence, Lionsgate, 2010.

Review: Be Frank With Me

Be Frank With MeBe Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I adore Frank! I was not sure how I would feel about this book, but I can honestly say I would read it all over again.

Spoilers ahead:

Frank is a nine-almost-ten year old little red head son of famous recluse writer M.M. (Mimi) Banning. He would rather dress in a morning suit from the 1940s, complete with cuff-links, and top hat or fez. He is a richly intelligent boy, who is obsessed with entertainment facts of the golden age of Hollywood and radio. It did not take but a couple of chapters to realize that Frank must certainly be high-functioning autistic (Asperger’s), based on his speech, intelligence, and single-focused interests. When twenty-four year old Alice is hired by Mimi’s agent to be her personal assistant, she travels from New York to Los Angeles taking up residence with the writer and her son. Frank warms up to her, after a dire warning from Mimi not to touch Frank without his permission, and under no circumstances touch any of his things, or else meltdowns would occur. While Mimi is holed up in her office writing her latest overdue novel, Alice and Frank take on LA in a magnanimous way. The duo soon learn much about each other, their likes and dislikes, and their coping mechanisms. The more the story unfolded, the more I saw my autistic nephew in Frank. There are moments of hilarity, moments of tenderness, and moments of heartbreak. Each moment shaped the until Frank and Alice became such endearing characters that I will cherish having met.

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Review: A Man Called Ove

A Man Called OveA Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book so much! I was skeptical at first, when it started out reading as a narrative of a grumpy old man. However, it quickly became a humorous, touching story about a man who had lost everything and everyone he had loved in life. Ove soon discovered love can be found in the strangest of places: a bedraggled feral cat, new neighbors, helping those in need in various ways. At every turn, Ove’s desire to die was curtailed by the needs of his new “family” in hilarious ways. I laughed. I cried. I have to read the physical copy of this book because I loved the audiobook so much. I recommend this to everyone, regardless of your genre of choice. Go read it now!

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Review: Stars Over Sunset Boulevard

Stars Over Sunset BoulevardStars Over Sunset Boulevard by Susan Meissner

I selected this book based on my recent reading of “All the Stars in the Heavens” by Adriana Trigiani. Set in the same golden era of Hollywood as Trigiani’s book, Meissner delivers an equally captivating story of two friends who go through the trials of working the secretary pool at a studio during the filming of Gone With The Wind. This is a tale of tried and true friendships that go through the testing of love, financial hardships, war, etc. It shows us how the choices we make have repercussions years after the decision has been made. While there were some slow parts, I thoroughly enjoyed the story of Violet and Audrey’s friendship through the years.

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Review: The Bone Labyrinth

The Bone Labyrinth (Sigma Force, #11)The Bone Labyrinth by James Rollins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m a huge Rollins fan for his ability to take a snippet out of a news story and turn it into masterfully crafted novel. While I’m a fan of the Sigma Force characters, it was mainly Kowalski that earned a place in my heart for fictional characters due to his relationship with Bacco (sp?) the gorilla. Tough as nails Kowalski is brought into a case to become a sign language translator for Bacco, and as man and beast bond, it is a relationship that warms and encourages those who enjoy relationships between humans and animals. I choose to listen to the audiobook version of this since I have been trying to get around to it forever. However, the narrator, while great at enunciating accents and the individuality of the characters throughout the story, he otherwise possessed a rather monotone voice that honestly put me to sleep a few times. I probably won’t read another Rollins book via audiobook for this reason, and the fact that so many details get lost in the listening that would otherwise be the point of focus in the written word. Regardless, I enjoyed The Bone Labyrinth!

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Review: America’s First Daughter

America's First DaughterAmerica’s First Daughter by Stephanie Dray

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Jeffersonian era comes to life in this exhaustive fictional narrative told from the point of view of Martha “Patsy” Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson’s oldest daughter. You will learn firsthand accounts of the tension-filled times when Jefferson was running for his life trying to keep his family safe during the Revolution to the streets and ballrooms of Paris when he became a diplomat, to his lifelong love affair with Sally Hemings. Using actual letters that Jefferson, Patsy, and other family and friends wrote during their lives, Dray constructs a shocking narrative that unfolds from one page to the next. I had no idea how paramount of a figure Jefferson was after the birth of our nation and the role that his daughter played during that time. One of my favorite historical fiction novels I have ever had the pleasure of reading.

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