Emotion of the Rood

Having already read this poem was very helpful, since I already understood that it was about the Holy Cross. The narrator was actually being shown its journey from tree to cross through a dream vision. The poem is full of emotions, like pride as well as woe. The rood is proud to have been chosen to serve as a religious icon. It is even called the “victor-tree” early on in the story. The cross describes its grief for the pain that Christ had to endure, but it “needs stand firm” trying to be strong for Him when He was weak. After Christ’s death, the cross speaks of how “on me the Son of God suffered a little time; wherefore in glory now I tower up beneath the sky.” Though I had read this previously, I never really focused on just how prevalent the emotional aspects were because the last time I read it, I was translating it from Old English and focused instead on the linguistic aspects of the poem.

I found the lyrics to be fun to read, though they are still a little difficult to fully understand for me. What was most interesting for me was reading them chronologically and watching the language slowly evolve between the early 13th century lyrics like Sumer is icumen in to the 16th century lyric A god and yet a man. Each lyric became a little easier to read as it developed into the English we speak today. The inflections are very prominent in the earlier lyrics, though we can see how they start to fall away. Around the 13th century many inflections like -e/n, -e/th, and -es were commonly used. These are continually used until the -en starts to become just an -e and finally is dropped altogether around the 16th century. With the loss of these abundant inflections, the lyrics were easier to read and understand. Though the early lyrics were fun to figure out since reading them almost felt like solving a puzzle, trying to find the word hidden under all the inflections of Middle English.