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Elene which is his last signed poem; and it is certainly very much against my opinion that the Elene preceded the Dream of the Rood that Cynewulf, having fixed himself down in the Elene to the short-epic line, should break loose from it, and use in the Dream that solemn but various, dignified but rushing long-epic line which is found in the Genesis, Exodus and Judith, in the earlier German poems, such as Muspilli and the Hildbrand Lay, and in Icelandic lays, such as those of Atli and Harbard. I might say that Cynewulf was acquainted with the line; that he uses it now and then in the Christ and in Guthlac, and that there is no reason why he should not use it again, at the close of his life, if he liked it, and for a special purpose, especially as the use of it continued after his death in England, Germany, and Iceland, along with that of the short-epic line; but I must confess that the more I have read the Dream of the Rood the more I have been impressed with the feeling — arising from the archaic sentiment as well as from the long-lined inetre of the dream-part of the poem that this portion at least is older than Cynewulf and does belong to the Caedmonian School. But I have been equally impressed with the extreme unlikeness of the closing part of the poem to the dream-part, and its extreme likeness to the work of Cynewulf and to the way in which he thought and felt. The introduction also is in Cynewulf's veritable manner, and both the introduction and the close are written in the short-epic line. The narration of the dream itself is with one exception in the long line, and stands between the short-lined beginning and end like the ancient centre and keep of a mediæval castle, now turned into a country house and flanked by two wings built in the Tudor period. The conjecture then has occurred to me that there was an older poem describing the crucifixion of Jesus which may possibly have been written by Caedmon or one of his school, and which Cynewulf took up and worked at in his own fashion, adding to it where and how he pleased, and changing its mode of presentation — making it, for instance, into a dream, and adding the personification of the Tree. Not only are the introduction and the conclusion in his own metre, but also the description which the Tree gives of itself as living once on the edge of the wood before its enemies cut it down. The conjecture may be thought too bold, but it accounts for the double metre of the poem; it does away with the strongest argument against Cynewulf's authorship;
1 In England, if Genesis B was written, as they say, in or about Ælfred's time.
it gets rid of the difficulty of the want of unity of feeling which exists between the dream and the rest on the supposition of both being by the same writer; and it leaves to Cynewulf a number of passages which are steeped in his peculiar personality, and which it would be extremely hazardous to allot to any one else but himself. It is true he has not signed the poem, and it is said that, as he had imitators, he would have signed it if he had written it, and that he has signed four poems. But a man is not bound always to sign his poems, even though it be his custom. We do not know that he signed the Guthlac, but we believe he wrote it. The question of the quasi-signature of the Riddles in the supposed charade of Riddle I. is still doubtful, but we allot to him the greater part of the Riddles. The Phoenix which every one gives to him is not signed; and if this Dream was written, as I think, quite at the close of his life, it is not improbable that he saw no need to sign it, or never thought of signing it. I cannot see that his not signing it is any convincing evidence that it is not his, if the probabilities of his authorship are great.
And they are great. The introduction is, with the exception of a few lines which I refer to the older poem, entirely in his manner. The personal cry, “I, stained with sins, wounded with my guilt,” is almost a quotation from his phrases in the Elene and Juliana. Then the impersonation of the Tree, the account of its life in the wood, is exceedingly like the beginning and the manner of some of the Riddles; and the vivid fashion in which it is conceived as sorrowing and trembling, as full of hate and love, as wounded like a warrior with shafts, recalls the work and belongs to the imagination of him who conceived the personality of the Sword and the Bow and the Loom. Moreover, the personal, subjective element which is found in his signed poems and which no other Anglo-Saxon poet possesses, is greater in the latter part of this poem than it is in any of his signed works. It is also of the same kind as it is in the Christ, the Juliana, and the Elene, and sounds a similar note. There are als sim ties of expression, but these have not much value, for there are also differences of expression. Lastly, the worship paid in the poem to the Cross
1 A re-making of this kind is quite in accordance, I think, with Anglo-Saxon custom. The Azarias in the Exeter Book is an instance, I believe, of the same thing. It is a portion of the Daniel taken out, and worked up afterwards by another poet. Nor did the custom die. Chaucer and Shakspere practised it. It is in fact common to all ages of poetry, except perhaps to a time like our own, when the plagiarism-hunters have spoiled this interesting and pleasant practice.
and the glorification of it is a constant element in two of his genuine poems. He speaks in the Christ of the Rood in much the same manner as he does here. He speaks in the Elene of the “ Tree of glory which he had always in mind” before he wrote of its discovery by Helena. We understand from the Elene that his change from remorse to spiritual happiness was bound up with the light-bringing office or appearance of the Cross. All these things are explained if we see in the Dream a personal statement of Cynewulf in which he deliberately refers to having seen long ago a Vision of the Cross, and the story of which he now tells on the verge of the grave. It is said that he would not have repeated in his last days so much of what he said in the Elene. Why should he not repeat himself in another form ? It is a common habit of the poets; it is a characteristic of old age; and recapitulation is, moreover, a mark of Cynewulf's work. To say that it is not natural or probable that an old man, as he waits for death, would tell over again the story of what happened long ago when first he knew his Saviour, is not true. It both probable and natural that he would enshrine at the last, by means of his special art, the most important moment of his life, and leave it as a legacy to his few friends of whom he speaks so tenderly. These are the reasons for my belief that the poem is by Cynewulf, and his last work.
“Lo," it begins —
Listen of all dreams I'll the dearest tell,
1 Too much must not, however, be made of this, for the English Christians of this time seem to have worshipped the Cross as much as the Spaniards; and I daresay the common worship was increased, as I think the Constantine and Helena story became a favourite, by the remembrance of Oswald's planting of the Cross in the sight of his warriors before the battle of Heavenfield. Lingard quotes the words which Alcuin puts into Oswald's mouth
Alcuin, De Pont. Ebor. Ceolfrid, leaving Wearmouth, "adorat crucem." “Tuam crucem adoramus,” prays Alcuin. Ealdhelm and others were accustomed to call themselves "crucicolae.” The Cross stood in their minds for Him who died thereon. Cynewulf's special worship for the Cross is not then remarkable -- yet it is. We do not find the same special direction of poetry anywhere else among the verse of the earlier English.
All enwreathed with light, wonderful, a Tree,
man the gallows.
Nathless could I through the gold come to understand
there; Made of me a mocking-stage, bade me lift their men outlawed.5 So the men on shoulders moved me till upon a mount they set me ; Many were the foemen who did fix me there —
Then I saw the Lord, Lord of Folk-kin He, Hastening march with mickle power since He would upmount on me.
“But I-I dared not, against my Lord's word, bow myself or burst asunder, though I saw all regions of earth trembling; I might have felled his foes, but I stood fast.”
1" Four jewels were at the edges of the earth."
2 This line and the following in the long metre – belong, I think, to the original poem which I conjecture Cynewulf was working on.
8“ The long-past battle of the sufferers," i.e. of the Tree and of Him it bore.
4 Here Cynewulf, as I think, having used with personal modifications the long lines of the ancient poem, takes up his own work for a time.
5 Waefer-syne = a scene, a spectacle, a theatre. The Cross is as it were a stage on which the punishment and guilt of the criminal is displayed. Grein translates, “ bade their slaves lift me up," but I think that the translation in the text is the most natural. It makes the Wood staté simply, and at first, the shameful uses to which it was put.
Then the Hero young, armed Himself for war and Almighty God
“A Rood was I upreared, rich the King I lifted up, Lord of all the heavens, yet I dared not fall. With dark nails they pierced me through, on me the dagger strokes are seen ; wounds they were of wickedness. Yet I dared not do them scathe; they reviled us both together. From head to foot was I drenched with blood, poured from this hero's side, when he had sent forth His Spirit. A host of wrathful weirds I bore upon that mount. I saw the Lord of peoples serve a cruel service: thick darkness had enwreathed with clouds the corse of the King. Shadow, wan under the welkin, pressed down the clear shining of the sun. All creation wept, mourned the fall of its King; Christ was on the Rood. I beheld it all; I was crushed with sorrow. Then they took Almighty God; from that heavy pain they lifted him; but the warriors left me there to stand streaming with blood. I was all wounded with shafts." Then he tells of the deposition, and how he watched it
So they laid him down, limb-wearied ; stood beside the head of his
lifeless corse. Then they looked upon him, him and he rested there for a little the Lord of Heaven,
time Sorely weary he, when the mickle Then before his Banes, in the strife was done!
sight of them, Did the men begin, here to make And they carved it there, of a a grave for him.
glittering stone, Laid him low in it, him the Lord Over him poor folk sang a lay of Victory !
of sorrow On that eventide.
There he rested with a little company. But we stood on the hill for a while, dropping blood, till men buried us deep, and that was a dreadful Weird. And now far and wide, when the servants of the Lord discovered me, men honour me. Now I bid thee, Man beloved of me, tell this dream to men.
1 This line is not longer than the original, and the pauses are pretty much the same. Short lines follow it, and then the long line is taken up again. I allot, as before, the long lines to the original poem on which Cynewulf worked, and the short lines to his own hand.