from the Old English 'The Dream of the Rood'.

Inanimate things speak in Old English poetry, often in ways that are ambigious and thought provoking.

in this case, the Cross manages to convey the painful ambiguity of its response. It wants to crush the enemies of Christ. it wants to bend and break. Instead it does its duty, stands fast and allows the eager hero to mount his gallows.

The poem begins with a speaker anouncing that he will tell us ‘The dream of dreams!’. He tells us how he dreamt about the Rood, the Cross on which Christ was crucified. He describes how the Cross appears, and his descripiton acts as a fame or at least an introduction before the Cross itself begins to speak. The passage I’m reading contains the last four lines of the intial dream description and then the opening portion of the Rood’s story of itself.

This is Michael Alexander’s translation from ‘The Earliest English Poems’ published by Penguin Classics, which has recently been reissued as ‘The First Poems in English’. You can hear the whole poem read in Old English by Micheal Drout at http://mdrout.webspace.wheatoncollege.edu/category/dream-of-the-rood/

P.S

The modern title is ambigious. The Poem is not the dream belonging to the Rood, it’s the dream about the Rood.

Old English, From 'The Battle of Maldon' Byrhtnoth's reply to the Viking Messenger.

This is a short extract in Old English taken from ‘The Battle Of Maldon’ an Old English poem written sometime after the battle, which occurred in August 991.

The modern statue of Byrhtnoth, looking down towards the site of the battle

The modern statue of Byrhtnoth, looking down towards the site of the battle

 An English force, lead by Ealdorman Byrhtnoth, trapped a Viking army on an Island in the river Pant, now the Blackwater in Essex. The island was, and still is, separated from the mainland by a causeway covered by the tide. 

Prior to this extract, the Vikings have sent a messenger to Byrthnoth.  If he agrees to pay them off they will sail away. This is his reply.

I’ve attempted the reading in Old English because the poem loses so much even in the best of translations: Byrhtnoth’s bitter joke about Heriot is not the only part that needs footnotes, so this is a very simple gloss.

Byrhtnoth spoke, raised his shield, brandished the slender ash spear, angry and resolute, gave back his answer: ‘Do you hear seaman, what this folk say? They will give you bitter point and trusted sword for tribute, a heriot that will be of little use to you in battle. Go back and tell a more unpleasant tale. Here stands an Earl, undisgraced, with his troop, who will defend this land, my lord Aethelred’s land, folk and fold. Heathens will fall in battle! I think it too shameful that you should go to your ships with our treasure without a fight; to have come so far into our country unopposed. You shall not so easily gain treasure; first point and edge, grim battle play, will decide between us before we will give you any tribute’.