Background • Found in the late 10th century Vercilli Book. • Fifteen of its 156 lines can be recognized carved in a runic border around panels of the Ruthwell Cross. • The Ruthwell cross was erected in about the year 700 near the altar of the church at Ruthwell in Dumfriesshire. • In 1642 the cross was taken down and partially defaced. • In 1802, the minister Henry Duncan reconstructed the monument and in 1887 the monument was moved back into the church. • The relationship between the poem and the cross is unknown.
Outline of the Poem • I. Introduction of the Dream • II. Speech by the Cross to the Dreamer • III. Dreamer’s colloquy
Major Characteristics of the Poem • A dream vision • The poet depicts Christ as an aggressive warrior who boldly confronts and defeats sin • Warrior-like image of Christ portrays Jesus as preparing for combat rather than being lead to the cross • Christ as a confident hero • Christ’s triumphant victory over sin • Christ’s anguish is transferred to the cross. The cross, rather than Christ, feels the pain of the crucifixion • Christ’s burial is described as a monumental event befitting a warrior • Optimistic tone because of the victory won by Christ over sin.
Style and Structure • Contrasts from blood to gold, torture to glory • Form fits content • Fusion of human and divine aspects of the Crucifixion • Emotion