The Dream of the Rood: Apotheosis of Anglo-Saxon Paradox

The Dream of the Rood: Apotheosis of Anglo-Saxon Paradox

Graybill, Robert V.

Essays in Medieval Studies, vol. 1 (1984)


Although many critics of medieval literature insist that the Anglo-Saxons were great shambling oafs with no understanding of the Platonic world of the spirit, an examination of “The Dream of the Rood” indicates a double-sided weltanschauung worthy of the most subtle and sophisticated. The rood is both a physical entity and a spiritual symbol, but these are not separated in the poem. Despite the fact that later Christianity divided and dichotomized the from the spirit, “The Dream of the Rood” unites the physical and the spiritual (or meta-physical) in such a way that the uniting, the resolution of the paradox, is determined through deep religious faith. The paradox of physicality and spirituality in the poem can be explained and wholeness in Christian faith can emerge in the individual worshiper only after the miracle of God’s grace is taken into account. Grace alone restores the totality, the wholeness, of life-death existence.

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