Dream-Theory in the Dream of the Rood and the Wanderer

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Dream-Theory in The Dream of the Rood and The Wanderer Author(s): Andrew Galloway Source: The Review of English Studies, New Series, Vol. 45, No. 180 (Nov., 1994), pp. 475-485 Published by: Oxford University Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/517806 . Accessed: 03/03/2011 09:19Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp. JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use. Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at . http://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=oup. . Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed page of such transmission. JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.

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DREAM-THEORY IN THE DREAM OF THE ROOD AND THE WANDERERBy ANDREW GALLOWAY

in as poetryis usuallybracketed a sterilepursuit,highlyspeculative its and pale in its literarysignificance.If too much dreamhypotheses theory is known in the late Middle Ages to make such speculation easily profitable,too little is known in the early period to make it conclusive.ConstanceB. Hieatt remarks the presenceof Latinate of behindOld Englishpoetrythat 'it would be impossible dream-theory to establish exactly which aspects of these traditionswere likely to have been knownby an Old Englishpoet, but there is no doubt that some of them were'.1In fact, althoughHieatt notes that Macrobius was early enough to be potentiallya source for poets' ideas about dreams,and RobertBurlinhas suggestedthat Macrobius' categories would be especially relevant to The Dream of the Rood, it is is clear that Macrobius' increasingly dream-theory less knownto the (andindeedthe later)MiddleAges thanhasoftenbeen assumed; early the only evidenceof significantattentionto his dream-theory comes from the eleventh and twelfth centuries, and it is evident that one must look elsewherefor sourcesof Anglo-Saxon dream-theory.2 Simple application of Latinate dream-theoryto the vernacular materialsis in any case a manifestly inadequatetreatment of the of views of the mind and poetry;the best considerations Anglo-Saxon its characteristicshave stressed the importance of 'vernacular'including poetic-as well as the 'classical'or Latinate sources and traditions.3Though they have never been treated in this context1 C. B. Hieatt, 'Dream Frame and Verbal Echo in the Dream of the Rood', Neuphilologische Mitteilungen, 72 (1971), 252. 2 Ibid. 252; R. B. Burlin, 'The Ruthwell Cross, The Dream of the Rood and the Vita Contemplativa', SP 65 (1968), 36-7. On the history of Macrobius' influence, see A. Peden, 'Macrobius and Mediaeval Dream Literature', ME 54 (1985), 59-73, esp. 61-4; and W. Wetherbee, 'Macrobius', forthcoming in Sources of Anglo-Saxon Literary Culture (Binghamton). The only certain reference noted by Wetherbee to Macrobius' Commentary in extant Anglo-Saxon materials is in Byrhtferth'sManual, a comment that (citing 'Cicero') is concerned with the control of the sun over the other planets (Commentary I. xx. 3-4; Byrhtferth'sManual, ed. S. J. Crawford, EETS 177 (London, 1929), 16). This statement could well have arrived as an excerpt along with other astronomical and computational materials. 3 See esp. M. R. Godden, 'Anglo-Saxons on the Mind', in M. Lapidge and H. Gneuss (edd.), Literature and Learning in Anglo-Saxon England: Studies Presented to Peter Clemoes on the RESNew Series, Vol. XLV, No. 180(1994) Press1994 ? Oxford University

DETERMINING theory of dreams behind and within Old English the

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together, the dream-frameof The Dream of the Rood and the dream of longing for a lord in The Wanderer stress the conditions and the meanings of dreams very clearly; as two of the most dramatic presentations of dreams in Old English poetry, these works repay consideration both in terms of the intellectual traditions possibly underpinning the poems, and the formulaic and rhetorical resources that the two poems draw from Anglo-Saxon poetic traditions in general. The differences between the two poems show that any theoretical underpinnings and original elaborations of dream-theory in them must be various indeed. Rood begins with a brief description of the quiet of midnight, 'si4pan reord-berend reste wunodon', when the dreamer had his 'swefna cyst'. The kenning, 'reord-berend', is a standard one for 'living human beings', and in fact a nearly identical phrase describes a setting for Nebuchadnezzar's first revelatory dream in Daniel: hwaet hine gemaette, restewunode (122-3)4 But this kenning has a specific relevance in Rood, since it is only after these common speakers have been quieted that the dreamer can 'hear' the Rood 'speak these words' (26-7), relaying the account of the Crucifixion and the Rood's instructions to the dreamer in turn to 'tell this vision to all men'. The shift from a private mysticism to a public proselytizing mission has been frequently noted; but what unifies these states, and what defines his dream-vision, is the special voice that emerges when the quotidian human voices have been quieted.5 This comment in Rood, and more briefly in Daniel, of the silence from daily voices that such visions entail can be aligned with at least one relatively common early medieval discussion of dreams. Commentators on The Dream of the Rood have not noted as an analogue for this opening line one of Gregory the Great's several discussions in his Moralia in Job of the nature of dreams. The general idea presented by 'si lan reord-berend reste wunodon' parallels both Job 4: 13 and pa fraegn oa menigeo [enden reordberendOccasion of his Sixty-Fifth Birthday (Cambridge, 1985), 271-98; Godden refers only very briefly to concepts of dreams, p. 277. 4 Citing from The Dream of the Rood, ed. M. Swanton (Manchester, 1970); and Daniel and Azarias, ed. R. T. Farrell (London, 1974). 5 P. Szarmach compares the shift from private redemption to public exemplarity in both Rood and Alfric's prose Visio Fursei, while stressing the importance of including prose as well as poetic visiones when considering the literary backgrounds to Rood. Such a context, which exceeds the present essay, Szarmach promises someday to provide: 'AElfric,the Prose Vision, and the Dream of the Rood', in A. M. Simon Vandenbergen (ed.), Studies in Honour of Rene Derolez (Ghent, 1987), 592-602.

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33: 15, 'In horrore visionis nocturnae, quando solet sopor occupare homines', and 'Per somnium in visione nocturna, quando irruit sopor super homines et dormiunt in lectulo'.6 Gregory's explication of these passages is even more pertinent. For Gregory, the importance of night in bringing visions is specifically that this is when all daily voices are quiet; thus it is allegorically a time when the 'roar'of worldly concerns is quieted, as he states in his commentary on the first passage: 'Quisquis ea quae mundi sunt agere appetit quasi uigilat; quisquis uero internam quietem quaerens, huius mundi strepitum fugit, uelut obdormiscit.'7 In his commentary on the second passage Gregory again declares: 'Vox uidelicet Dei quasi per somnium auditur, quando tranquilla mente ab huius saeculi actione quiescitur et in ipso mentis silentio diuina praecepta pensantur.'8 I present only a sample of Gregory's elaborations of this theme; in both passages he expands greatly on this idea of God's voice emerging only when the daily 'tumult' is silenced (e.g. 'Aurem quippe cordis terrenarum cogitationum turba dum perstrepit, claudit, atque in secretarium mentis, quanto minus curarum tumultuantium sonus compescitur, tanto amplius uox praesidentis iudicis non auditur').9 This topos is present in varying degrees of elaboration and significance in Gregory, Rood, and Daniel; the 'source' of all three may lie in a universal commonplace, in a general topos, or in a specific link or series of links. Yet the relevance of Gregory's comments to Rood is considerable. It is often said that Rood reveals little about the initial circumstances of the dreamer, at least by comparison with the love-sick or sleepy or mournful state of later literary dreamers.10Some have noted that the dreamer's comment that he is 'synnum fag' is an6 'In the anxious visions of the night, when sleep customarily holds human beings'; 'Through dreams, in visions of the night, when deepest sleep falls upon men while they sleep in their beds'. All translations herein are mine. 7 'Each man desiring to achieve those things which pertain to the world is as if awake; but each man seeking inner quiet, fleeing the tumult of this world, is as if asleep' (Moralia in Job, ed. M. Adriaen (Turnholt, 1979), i. 255). 8 'The voice of God indeed is heard in dreams, when with a tranquil mind there is quiet from the action of this world, and in this silence of mind divine precepts are perceived' (Moralia, iii. 1172). 9 'The ear of the heart is closed while the turbulence of terrestrialthoughts resounds, and the less the sound of tumultuous cares is silenced in the secret inner part of the mind, the more the voice of the presiding judge is not heard' (Moralia, iii. 1173). An instance of the general tradition of this idea is presented in Eadmer's 12th-cent. Life of Anselm, when the saintly bishop is described as retreating into 'some question of Holy Scripture' whenever he is too greatly overwhelmed by the 'vani clamores', 'contentiones', and 'jurgia'of secular business. 'For unless he did this, he was immediately overcome with weariness; his spirits drooped, and he even ran the risk of serious illness' (The Life of St. Anselm, Archbishopof Canterbury, by Eadmer, ed. and trans. R. W. Southern (London, 1962), ii. 81, pp. 80-1). 10 e.g. Hieatt, 'Dream Frame and Verbal Echo', 253; J. Burrow, 'An Approach to the Dream of the Rood', Neophilologus, 43 (1959), 133.

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important detail, implying that he is 'a representative of ordinary sinful humanity',11 or at the beginning of his 'spiritual progression' from compunction of penance to compunction of love,12 or at the threshold of forging an alignment between the Rood's wounded state and his own sins.13 The more important and basic detail, however, is the assertion that in the silence of night he is isolated from everyday 'voice-bearers', and this has received relatively little attention. The midnight setting may be powerfully and plausibly aligned with the monastic hour of nocturns;14yet as John Fleming observes, we cannot take the poem's points as 'uniquely monastic'.15 According to Gregorian dream-theory, this circumstance of night-time silence, however interpreted or achieved, is what makes a divine vision possible, making room for a divine voice that can in turn inspire the authoritative voices of worshippers and visionary poets. As the Rood goes on to tell the dreamer, in an ironic echo and contrast to the poem's opening statement, the Rood's present function is to show the right way of life to 'reordberend' (88-9)-those now authorized to spread his account. For both Gregory and Rood, out of night-time silence speech is reclaimed and redeemed. What the dreamer in Rood awakens to has sometimes been taken to mark his literal commitment to the monastic or 'contemplative' life, so life-transforming is it.16 But it is clear that what the dreamer awakens to is also a full realization of Gregory's redefinition of 'sleep' and 'waking': 'Quisquis ea quae mundi sunt agere appetit quasi uigilat; quisquis uero internam quietem quaerens, huius mundi strepitum fugit, uelut obdormiscit.' In this respect, the description of awakening in Rood is a crucial assertion of the narrator'snewfound application of Gregory's meanings of sleeping and waking, realized in the moment when the experience of the dream is assessed against the dreamer's waking condition and given living effect:

11 Hieatt, 'Dream Frame and Verbal Echo', 253. 12 E. R. Anderson, 'Liturgical Influence in The Dream of the Rood', Neophilologus, 73 (1989), 297. 13 J. Fleming, 'The Dream of the Rood and Anglo-Saxon Monasticism', Traditio, 22 (1966), 60, citing an unpub. paper by F. Patten. See also E. B. Irving, Jr., 'Crucifixion Witnessed, or Dramatic Interaction in The Dream of the Rood', in P. R. Brown, G. R. Crampton, F. C. Robinson (edd.), Modes of Interpretation in Old English Literature: Essays in Honour of Stanley B. Greenfield (Toronto, 1986), 103-4. 14 So Fleming, 'The Dream of the Rood', 70-1, and Anderson, 'Liturgical Influence', 295-6, 299. 15 Fleming, 'The Dream of the Rood', 60. 16 See Burlin, 'The Ruthwell Cross', and Fleming, 'The Dream of the Rood'.

DREAM-THEORY Gebaed ic me Oato Dam beame elne micle, laer ic ana waes maeteweorode; was modsefa on forlweg ... afysed blioe mode,

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(122-5) But the poem's narrator awakens to a sense of 'sleeping' and 'waking' that goes beyond even Gregory's comments, to an assertion of the social plenitude of the celestial realm that is waiting for those entering the silence of sleep and the more complete silence of death: Nag ic ricra fela Ac hie fort heonan freonda on foldan. sohton him wuldres Cyning; gewiton of weorolde dreamum, mid Heah-Fadere, libba4 nu on heofonum and ic wene me wunia) on wuldre; hwonne me Dryhtnes rod, daga gehwelce ar sceawode, pe ic her on eoroan on Pissum a1Tnan life gefecce, and me tonne gebringe is Iaer bliss micel, dream on heofonum, Paeris Dryhtnes folc geseted to symble ... (131-41) In lingering on the aftermath of the dream-on the 'awakening' that occurs in many senses-the narrator of The Dream of the Rood develops dream-theory through a narrative mode that is distinctly different from Gregory's comments but fully consonant with Old English poetic idioms. For scenes of awakening are dramatized moments of realization, reassessment, and sometimes action in several other Old English poems. Such a moment is elaborated twice in Daniel in the absence of any source in the Vulgate's descriptions of Nebuchadnezzar's dreams, even though the Old English poem shows little interest in the content of the two dreams Nebuchadnezzar experiences, even omitting the final eight dreams in the Vulgate Daniel: se aerwingal swaef, pa onwoc wulfheort, Nas him bli6e h...