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The Cross speaks

“Many years have gone—yet still I have it in remembrance—since I was felled upon a forest’s edge and wakened from my slumbers. Strange foes seized hold upon me and wrought me to a pageant and bade me lift aloft their wretched men. Men bore me on their shoulders, till that they set me on a hill; enough of foes, forsooth, fastened me there. Then I beheld the Lord of men hasting with mighty, steadfast heart, for He would fain ascend upon me. Yet might I not bow down nor break, against the word of God, what time I saw the compass of the earth tremble and shake. All those foes might I lay low; yet firm I stood.

“The Hero young—He was Almighty God—did off His raiment, steadfast, stout of heart With valour, in the sight of many men, He mounted up upon the lofty gallows, when He would fain redeem mankind. I trembled when the Hero clasped me. Yet dared I not incline unto the ground, nor fall upon the face of earth, but I must needs stand firm. As a cross was I lifted up; I bore aloft the righteous King, the Lord of heaven; I dared not bow me down.

“They pierced me through with darksome nails; on me the scars are manifest, the open, woeful wounds. Yet dared I not work harm to any one of them. They mocked us both together. All bedewed with blood was I, gushing from the Hero’s side, when He had yielded up His spirit. Many a dire affliction I bode upon that mount; beheld the Lord of hosts stretched out grievously. Darkness had compassed about with clouds the body of the wielding God, that lustrous radiance. Wan under heaven shadows went forth. And all creation wept, wailing the slaughter of its King. Christ was on the cross.

“Yet souls hasted from afar unto the Prince; I beheld it all. Sorely was I smit with sorrow, yet in lowliness, with enduring heart, I yielded to the hands of men. Then they took Almighty God and lifted Him from off His woeful torment; those war-wolves left me standing, overspread with blood; all wounded was I with their darts. There they laid Him down, weary of limb, and at His body’s head they stood and gazed upon the Lord of heaven. And for a little time He rested there, feeble after His great strife. These men began, in the sight of His slayers, to dig a sepulchre; out of the gleaming rock they carved it. And there they laid the God of victory. In the even-tide with woeful hearts they sang a dirge. Full soon must they depart again, soul-weary, from their mighty Prince. So with a little band He rested there.

“Yet weeping unto God we kept our station for a time. Then the Hero … ascended up. Cold was His earthly frame, the winsome dwelling of the soul. And men began to hew us down unto the earth. That was a fearsome fate. In. a deep trench they covered us; but there the friends and thanes of God found me. … With silver and with gold they decked me. Now mayest thou know, beloved man, what deeds of evil I have suffered, what grievous woes. Now bliss is come, so that men revere me far and wide throughout the earth, and all the great Creation prayeth to this beacon. On me the Son of God suffered a little time; wherefore in glory now I tower up beneath the sky; and I may bring healing unto every one of those that have regard for me. – from Dream of the Rood (c. 700-900 AD)