“The Dream of the Rood” uses stoicism to promise reward for suffering where Christ and the cross are linked, yet paralleled with the dreamer in that he joins in the comitatus of Christ through the cross therefor gaining redemption and eternal life and home in heaven. Christ himself though does not serve the same role as he does in biblical texts, here he is brave and stoic, like a great warrior.
“The Dream of the Rood” presents us with the warrior who is Jesus. This Jesus is not the more passive character that modern religion embraces, but behaves as an Anglo-Saxon warrior as he boldly runs to the cross for personal honor. Whereas his ascension is described as “he sent forth his spirit” (49) rather than “gave up his spirit” in the Bible, so here we see Jesus not as a passive participant, but a warrior fully embracing, and challenging death.
These lines describe Christ as a warrior. Rather than an abused but unbroken martyr who is doomed to suffer for the sins of humanity, Christ is a “young man” (39) “strong and courageous” (40) “brave in the sight of many” (41). He approaches his death like it is a glorious battle, and the Cross stands with him, resolute, though it must kill its lord “not daring to act against the Lord’s word” (35). Christ is not initially depicted as a lord himself, but is submitting himself to the Father. The poem seems to suggest that it is only after Christ’s heroic battle and death that he is rewarded by his lord, the Father, and is made lordly himself. Christ, for his faithful service to his lord father, is rewarded with a seat at his father’s right hand after his death.
The Cross is rewarded by his lord, Christ. The Cross, for bearing the weight of his lord and letting him be killed despite being able to resist, is rewarded by being “adorned with gold and silver” (77). The cross, as is granted by his lord Christ the power to act as a lord itself. It uses this power to appear, adorned in precious metals and gems to the Dreamer and tell him the story of how he held his lord aloft out of loyalty and faith and was rewarded by being given these glorious gifts in reciprocation.
The cross, once plain wood, is now “exalted over all forest-tress” (91) and risen to the status of a lord. The Dreamer is seeing for himself the validity of Christ’s claims of rewarding his faithful servants. So the Cross, it seems, is now further gift-giving and reciprocating by telling the Dreamer that he has been given a gift by...