Sunday, April 29, 2018

Ethics and the Digital Archive

Autograph Album 1874 belonging to Amy Scheeline
Stanford Ordinary People Extraordinary Stories (SOPES) is a new project I'm running within Stanford Text Technologies. It contributes more broadly to ongoing work on Digital Archives that seeks to uncover patterns detectable through machine learning (the NEH-funded 'Global Currents') or visualization (the Hewlett-Packard funded 'CyberText Technologies'). SOPES takes this work back to the level of the recovery of individuals' lives through traces they left in their own written records: autograph albums, postcards, photograph albums, letter collections, receipts, and other ephemera.

Within Amy Scheeline's autograph album that I bought at an antique shop in San Juan Bautista was a tiny envelope full of bits and pieces--remnants of her short life, it turns out. She died just a short while after receiving this autograph album as a present on her seventh birthday in 1884 from her 'loving Mamma'.


This envelope included sewing samples, a letter that Amy sent to her grandparents, a photograph, and Amy's death notice.


It turns out that this otherwise unknown person's life was, perhaps unsurprisingly, rich and fascinating. Amy's grandparents were Oppenheimers; the whole family was involved in mercantile enterprise related to the railroad expansion of the US West in the 1870s and '80s. Her uncle proclaimed himself the King of Mexico, and Amy herself was the first Jewish person to die in Spokane Falls, Washington. My student, Liz Fischer, who's from Spokane, sent me photographs and rubbings of Amy's grave. I feel as if I have the evidence of this child's whole earthly existence in my reach.

There's not much that would cause scandal or embarrassment to Amy and her family in these traces of her life. This material can be digitized and analyzed as a wonderful piece of socio-historical evidence. We could network her relationships; think about the family's immigration from Germany, and their subsequent impact on the western United States; evaluate the lives of well-off merchants in this period. I have few ethical qualms about the usefulness of this information being in the public domain.

Other ephemera, though, have made me wonder about the implications of SOPES and similar efforts to make available the lives of others through the digital realm. In one set of letters, datable to 1937-1945, which I bought for $39 in December 2016, a divorced woman's desperate efforts to keep herself afloat financially resulted--as the letters illustrate--in a life of frequent dalliances with men who might have been able to help her. She evidently had an affair with a man know to be a British spy; she struck up relationships with soldiers on their way to fight; she had a fraught relationship with her ex-husband; and she suffered from not knowing where her Austrian and Dutch Jewish family members were during the earlier 1940s. She went on to marry a much older man, whose life was so notable that he has a blue plaque at their marital home in Putney. Should all of these epistolary pieces of her life be made available now? None of those 100+ letters in my possession was intended for publication.

Last week, I picked up this small set of documents on EBay for about $50. 


They include passports (now invalidated), birth certificates, marriage certificates, photographs, and honorable armed-forces discharge papers of a couple, both previously married. I cannot trace their children through cursory research. Should these materials, presumably acquired through a house clearance, be digitized and investigated? What are the dangers of this kind of documentation being in the public domain? Are there any dangers? The ethical implications of digitizing and making public family archives, small collections of ephemera, and, effectively, other people's lives are many. To whom does a researcher owe responsibility? How does one reflect the lives of those who were not likely to be among the literate, or among the documented? What about those who could not afford photographs, stationery, and the physical relic of being on record? Where do the morals in book historical, social and intellectual scholarship like this lie?




Saturday, April 14, 2018

Celebrating Parker on the Web

Celebrating Parker 2.0 Participants
Stanford Text Technologies' fourth Collegium focused on a celebration of Parker on the Web 2.0 (Parker Library on the Web), which was launched as an Open Access resource in January 2018. Hosted at CESTA by Benjamin Albritton, Georgia Henley (the main, and brilliant, organizer), and me, we had twenty-five speakers here at Stanford for three days, from March 25th to 28th, culminating in a Mirador workshop led by Ben. Our format was unusual; months in advance, we gave our participants a manuscript from Parker's collection at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge to work on, and each session paired up colleagues to see what, if any, connections could be made between the assigned manuscripts. Everyone was encouraged to tweet as #Parker2, so that our conversation can be discovered alongside tweets from the Parker Library's own #Parker2 conference held earlier in March.

The manuscripts described and analysed by our participants ranged in date from the sixth-century St Augustine's Gospels (MS 286, presented by Mateusz Fafinski) to the fifteenth-century Troilus and Criseyde (MS 61, presented by Sian Echard). We worked with Latin, English, Welsh, and French texts, focusing on materiality--paper, membrane, ink, bindings--and scribal practices, artistic signification, communities of readers, textual transmission, medieval pedagogy and pastoral care, the act of collecting, and modes of display and reception. Major themes emerged over the three days, though discussion of these didn't always elicit intellectual consensus. Some of these were highlighted on our whiteboard (including the semi-visible 'role of conservation', 'technology-in-practice', and 'making'):


Many speakers noted the elitism and connoisseurship of book collecting and manuscript studies-- unfortunate modes of scholarship and commodification that result in a fixation on the 'lollipops' in the repository, the de luxe volumes and canonical, known-author texts. We had some of these on our list, too (Matthew Paris in MS 16 and 26, presented by Joey McMullen and Cat Jarman, respectively; MS 4, the Dover Bible, presented by Catherine Karkov; and MS 98, a scroll, presented by Anne McLaughlin), but the majority of manuscripts that colleagues talked about were the utiliarian, the everyday, as if such a category could really exist for these extraordinary survivors of the past.

A variety of Ss from Parker on the Web manuscripts, dated from c.1060 to 1220, and extracted using machine learning techniques (Stanford Global Currents)

Calls were made by Orietta Da Rold to "set the data free", or, as Alexandra Bolintineanu pointed out, for the Parker resource to be used to help expand the possibilities of scholarly investigation into medieval manuscript production that include a deeper understanding of the role of digital data in mediating these materials. Standardisation of repositories' metadata seems a major desideratum going forward, as does some effort to standardise the ways scholars describe features of manuscripts (especially script, as Peter Stokes demonstrated). As Erica Weaver suggested in her analysis of MS 422, 'deeply felt textual experiences' are as evident in our early literary materials as they are now, and whether in the flesh or on the screen, these manuscripts are as fascinating, moving, and compelling now as they surely were a millennium and more ago.

Thanks to Matthew Parker! Thanks to Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, Stanford University Libraries, and Cambridge University Library, and to all the teams, who have worked to collect, preserve, digitise and display these fabulous manuscripts. Thank you to Vice-Provost and Librarian, Mike Keller. Much gratitude to Georgia Henley, CESTA's Rani Sharma, Celena Allen, Amanda Bergado; Jon Quick, Peyton Lepp, Jeanie Abbott, and Max Ashton.

Participants and Topics

Andrew Prescott, “Form”; Suzanne Paul, “Function”; Orietta Da Rold (210) and Cat Jarman (26); Elizabeth Boyle (153) and Alexandra Bolintineanu (162); Benjamin Albritton (260) and Anya Adair (383); Catherine Karkov (23 and 4); Lindy Brady (144) and Carla María Thomas (402); Katie Lowe (178) and John Gallagher (320); Peter Stokes (367) and Erica Weaver (422); Sharon Rowley (41) and Mateusz Fafinski (286); Elaine Treharne (201) and Joey McMullen (16); David Johnson (322) and Abigail Robertson (161); Anne McLaughlin (98) and Siân Echard (61); Julia Crick, “Reflections”.






Thursday, March 8, 2018

Time and the Embodied Text

In 1997, the artist Eduardo Kac tested out a form of cyborgian art in his project, 'Time Capsule' (Time Capsule Record), which involved the self-injection of a microchip, allowing viewers around the world to 'read' his body.

Images of Eduardo Kac's self-implantation from 'Time Capsule'
This artistic performance, more than twenty years ago, is perhaps a watershed moment, when it became possible to incorporealize digital technology outside the lab. Now, such body modification comes in many forms: from boundary-pushing piercings and subdermal implantation to voluntary biohacking (practised by Grinders) and the transhumanist movement. Some of this body transformation is aesthetic, some ritual or religious, some--as with Kac--artistic. The body can be 'read' in terms of its data output, with internal chips linked to computer networks thousands of miles away. Such experimentation is lauded (See Professor Kevin Warwick's work) and at the forefront of (neuro-)engineering research; or modified bodies can find themselves at the center of legal cases between employer and employee (Cloutier v Costco).

Starry subdermal implants
Motivation for body modification might be the individual pursuit of self-expression, or a collective impulse--to identify as part of a community. A body modifier may deliberately reject society's insistence on bodily perfection; conversely, some of the most curious body transformation attempts to reflect impossible conceptions of beauty (Valeria Lukyanova, 'Russian Barbie'). Efforts to mark the body as one's own canvas, writing a text of oneself in effect, is as old as the British Museum's Egyptian mummy recently identified as having of one of the earliest known figural tattoos (Gebelein Man); or it can be as socially and cultural significant as the lip plates of the Mursi tribe (Afritorial on the Mursi). For longer than recorded time, then, the embodied text has been a means of self-identification, or noting a communal belonging, a resistance, a compliance. Yet all such efforts are transitory (despite the grandiose objectives of Ray Kurzweil and his followers [Immortal by 2045]), for each of us is, and should remain, ephemeral and time-bound.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Training in Palaeography and Manuscript Studies: Some Online Resources


 
Salisbury Cathedral Archive, Press IV, Indulgence, c. 1233-40


1) Digitization


2) Free Courses
Digging Deeper Online Courses:
Elaine Treharne, Benjamin Albritton, Orietta Da Rold, Suzanne Paul, with Kenneth Lidga, Jonathan Quick and Colin Reeves-Fortney (2015), ‘Digging Deeper I and II’, https://online.stanford.edu/course/digging-deeper-making-manuscripts and https://lagunita.stanford.edu/courses/English/diggingdeeper2/Spring2015/about

Harvard History of the Book

Inscribe:

National Archives, UK Palaeography Course, http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/palaeography/

The Newberry Library, University of Toronto, St Louis University Center for Digital Humanities, and ITER, https://paleography.library.utoronto.ca/



3) Major Projects

CLAMM, Graphem, and projects on classification of handwriting,
http://clamm.irht.cnrs.fr/

Dave Postles’ Palaegraphy Course, http://paleo.anglo-norman.org/medfram.html

Denis Muzerelle’s Codicological Terminology, http://vocabulaire.irht.cnrs.fr/pages/vocab2.htm

Dianne Tillotson, ‘Medieval Writing’, http://medievalwriting.50megs.com/whyread/reading.htm

DigiPal, by Peter Stokes, with Stewart Brookes, et al, DigiPal: Digital Resource and Database of Palaeography, Manuscript Studies and Diplomatic, www.digipal.eu

Dorothy Porter’s Manuscript Videos, Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies: https://repository.upenn.edu/sims_video/

Hill Museum and Manuscript Library, Resources and Tools, https://www.vhmml.org/, especially https://www.vhmml.org//school and https://www.vhmml.org/folio

Interactive Album of Mediaeval Palaeography, Universités Lyon, http://ciham.ish-lyon.cnrs.fr/paleographie/index.php?l=en

4) Organizations for Manuscript Studies
Association for Manuscripts and Archives in Research Collections, http://www.amarc.org.uk/index.htm

Comité international de paléographie latine, http://www.palaeographia.org/cipl/cipl.htm

5) Pay-for Online Training Courses
Ductus, Evellum, http://evellum.com/

6) Training Courses for paying and selected participants
Institute for Advanced Studies Summer Courses (payment required)


7) Websites about Online Resources






Thanks to fellow Tweeters, Georgia Heney, Felicia J. Steele, Matthew Holford, Carin Ruff, and Sara Charles. This list does not pretend to be complete; it’s a fast gathering of what’s around at the moment. I’d be glad to update or add other links. See, for more complete information about online resources, ‘Websites’ at section 7.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

The Dream of the Rood


Lindau Gospelbook Cover

The Dream of the Rood

The Dream of the Rood, or A Vision of the Cross as it is sometimes more appropriately titled, is justly one of the most critically acclaimed poems in English. It survives in the Vercelli Book, folios 104 verso to 106 recto. Parts of the text are among the oldest surviving poetic expressions in the vernacular. Carved in runes into the shaft of the early eighth-century Northumbrian Ruthwell Cross are lines of poetry that, in the tenth century, reappear in The Dream of the Rood. The lines on the Ruthwell Cross form the marginal text to elaborate carved depictions of the Tree of Life. They correspond to lines 39-42, 44-5, 48-9, 56-9, and 62-4 of the unique Vercelli Book text (for the texts arranged en-face, and a good discussion of the artistic scheme of the Ruthwell Cross, see Swanton, ed., The Dream of the Rood).

            The Dream of the Rood is riddlic (see also the Exeter Book Riddle on the Cross), penitential, eschatalogical (that is, concerned with death, judgement, and the afterlife), and evangelical. It is the first Dream-Vision poem in English. The poet speaks in the first person to relate the vision creating a sense of immediacy and urgency in the narration. The precise nature of this vision is only gradually revealed, as in a riddle. When it is made known that syllicre treow (‘a better tree’), this beam ‘wood’, refers to the Saviour’s tree, the immediacy of the text is increased by the startling poetic device of prosopopeia through which the inanimate object is brought to life and given a voice of its own. The Cross is Christ’s retainer, serving its lord as a Germanic comitatus member would serve; but it is also Christ’s bana ‘slayer’, a role that goes against all that the heroic code advocates. The reader or listener of the poem observes the Cross with the poet through a rich visual depiction: the Cross is mutable, covered in gems, then covered in blood. This duality represents the central paradox of the Cross. The audience is made to participate in the Crucifixion and its aftermath, seeing the events through the eyes of the witness Cross. In this way, the revelations bring about repentance in the audience for the sins committed that compelled Christ to become mortal and redeem mankind. Christ’s mortality, the issue of his divine humanity, was the focus of considerable theological controversy in the earlier medieval period. The poet deftly retains complete orthodoxy by inscribing the sufferings of Christ onto the Cross: the Cross speaks of its pain, its torment, not of that belonging to Christ himself. At the same time, Christ is a divine being, and an heroic Germanic lord, one who dies to save his troop. He voluntarily ascends the Cross, indeed, ‘embraces’ the instrument of his death. Neither does the Cross talk of Christ’s death: Christ rests, ‘weary after the battle’. The victory of resurrection complete, the Cross continues with its biography—its discovery by Helena, Constantine’s mother, and how it is now a symbol of Christ’s salvation and Judgement, a token of faith and, as in the case of the Ruthwell Cross, an object of devotion. This leads into the final homiletic section of the poem in which the poet himself, initially impelled to contrition, then to a revitalised faith, determines to seek the heavenly home.

            Within the structural framework of the text, phrasal parallels draw together the three central characters in the work: the poet, the Cross, and Christ. These verbal links emphasise God’s desire for mankind to be united with him and his Church and repatriated in heaven by following lifes weg (‘the way of life’, line 88b). This poem is a unique reading of the central event in salvation history—the Crucifixion—and is not confined to present or past or future; it is a timeless text that continues to move readers more than a thousand years after its creation. 

 

 
London, British Library, Arundel 60, f. 52v, s. xi

 

The Dream of the Rood


Hwæt, Ic swefna cyst     secgan wylle
hwæt me gemætte     to midre nihte,
syðþan reordberend     reste wunedon.

    Þuhte me þæt Ic gesawe    syllicre treow

on lyft lædan,     leohte bewunden,
bearma beorhtost.     Eall þæt beacen wæs
begoten mid golde;     gimmas stodon
fægere æt foldan sceatum,     swylce þær fife wæron
uppe on þam eaxlegespanne.     Beheoldon þær engel Dryhtnes ealle
fægere þurh forðgesceaft.     Ne wæs ðær huru fracodes gealga;
ac hine þær beheoldon    halige gastas,
men ofer moldan     ond eall þeos mære gesceaft.
Syllic wæs se sigebeam     ond Ic synnum fah,
forwunded mid wommum.     Geseah Ic wuldres treow
wædum geweorðode,     wynnum scinan,
gegyred mid golde;     gimmas hæfdon
bewrigene weorðlice     wealdes treow.
    Hwæðre, Ic þurh þæt gold     ongytan meahte
earmra ærgewin,     þæt hit ærest ongan
swætan on þa swiðran healfe.     Eall Ic wæs mid sorgum gedrefed.
Forht Ic wæs for þære fægran gesyhðe;     geseah Ic þæt fuse beacen
wendan wædum ond bleom:     hwilum hit wæs mid wætan bestemed,
beswyled mid swates gange;     hwilum mid since gegyrwed.
Hwæðre, Ic þær licgende     lange hwile,
beheold hreowcearig     Hælendes treow,
oððæt Ic gehyrde     þæt hit hleoðrode;
ongan þa word sprecan     wudu selesta:
     ‘Þæt wæs geara iu,     Ic þæt gyta geman,
þæt Ic wæs aheawen     holtes on ende,
astyred of stefne minum.     Genaman me ðær strange feondas,
geworhton him þær to wæfersyne,     heton me heora wergas hebban.
Bæron me ðær beornas on eaxlum,     oððæt hie me on beorg asetton,
gefæstnodon me þær feondas genoge.     Geseah Ic þa Frean mancynnes
efstan elne mycle     þæt he me wolde on gestigan.
Þær Ic þa ne dorste     ofer Dryhtnes word
bugan oððe berstan,     þa Ic bifian geseah
eorðan sceatas.     Ealle Ic mihte
feondas gefyllan;     hwæðre Ic fæste stod.
Ongyrede hine þa geong hæleð—     þæt wæs God ælmihtig–
strang ond stiðmod;     gestah he on gealgan heanne,
modig on manigra gesyhðe,     þa he wolde mancyn lysan.
Bifode Ic þa me se beorn ymbclypte;     ne dorste Ic hwæðre bugan to eorðan,
feallan to foldan sceatum,     ac Ic sceolde fæste standan.
Rod wæs Ic aræred.     Ahof Ic ricne Cyning,
heofona Hlaford;     hyldan me ne dorste.
Þurhdrifan hi me mid deorcan næglum;     on me syndon þa dolg gesiene,
opene inwidhlemmas;     ne dorste Ic hira nænigum sceððan.
Bysmeredon hie unc butu ætgædere.     Eall Ic wæs mid blode bestemed
begoten of þæs guman sidan     siððan he hæfde his gast onsended.
    Feala Ic on þam beorge     gebiden hæbbe
wraðra wyrda.     Geseah Ic weruda God
þearle þenian.     Þystro hæfdon
bewrigen mid wolcnum     Wealdendes hræw,
scirne sciman.     Sceadu forð eode,
wann under wolcnum.     Weop eal gesceaft,
cwiðdon Cyninges fyll.     Crist wæs on rode.
    Hwæðere þær fuse     feorran cwoman
to þam æðelinge;     Ic þæt eall beheold.
Sare Ic wæs mid sorgum gedrefed;     hnag Ic hwæðre þam secgum to handa,
eaðmod elne mycle.     Genamon hie þær ælmihtigne God,
ahofon hine of ðam hefian wite.     Forleton me þa hilderincas,
standan steame bedrifenne;     eall Ic wæs mid strælum forwundod.
Aledon hie ðær limwerigne,     gestodon him æt his lices heafdum,
beheoldon hie ðær heofenes Dryhten,     ond he hine ðær hwile reste,
meðe æfter ðam miclan gewinne.     Ongunnon him þa moldern wyrcan,
beornas on banan gesyhðe;     curfon hie ðæt of beorhtan stane,
gesetton hie ðæron sigora Wealdend.     Ongunnon him þa sorhleoð galan
earme on þa æfentide;     þa hie woldon eft siðian
meðe fram þam mæran þeodne.     Reste he ðær mæte weorode.
     Hwæðere we ðær reotende     gode hwile
stodon on staðole,      syððan stefn up gewat
hilderinca.     Hræw colode,
fæger feorgbold.     Þa us man fyllan ongan
ealle to eorðan:     þæt wæs egeslic wyrd.
Bedealf us man on deopan seaþe;     hwæðre me þær Dryhtnes þegnas,
freondas gefrunon,
gyredon me     gold ond seolfre.
    Nu þu miht gehyran,     hæleð min se leofa,
þæt Ic bealuwara weorc     gebiden hæbbe,
sarra sorga.     Is nu sæl cumen
þæt me weorðiað     wide ond side
menn ofer moldan     ond eall þeos mære gesceaft;
gebiddaþ him to þyssum beacne.     On me Bearn Godes
þrowode hwile;     forþan Ic þrymfæst nu,
hlifige under heofenum,     ond Ic hælan mæg
æghwylcne anra     þara þe him bið egesa to me.
Iu Ic wæs geworden     wita heardost,
leodum laðost,     aerþan Ic him lifes weg
rihtne gerymde,     reordberendum.
Hwæt, me þa geweorðode     wuldres Ealdor
ofer holmwudu,     heofonrices Weard,
swylce swa he his modor eac,     Marian sylfe,
ælmihtig God,     for ealle menn
geweorðode     ofer eall wifa cynn.
    Nu Ic þe hate,     hæleð min se leofa,
þæt ðu þas gesyhðe     secge mannum:
onwreoh wordum     þæt hit is wuldres beam
se ðe ælmihtig God      on þrowode
for mancynnes      manegum synnum
ond Adomes          ealdegewyrhtum.
Deað he þær byrigde;     hwæðere eft Dryhten aras
mid his miclan mihte     mannum to helpe.
He ða on heofenas astag.     Hider eft fundaþ
on þysne middangeard     mancynn secan
on domdæge     Dryhten sylfa,
ælmihtig God,     ond his englas mid,
þæt he þonne wile deman,     se ah domes geweald,
anra gehwylcum     swa he him ærur her
on þyssum lænum     life geearnaþ.
Ne mæg þær ænig      unforht wesan
for þam worde      þe se Wealdend cwyð:
frineð he for þære mænige     hwær se man sie,
se ðe for Dryhtnes naman     deaðes wolde
biteres onbyrigan,     swa he ær on ðam beame dyde.
Ac hie þonne forhtiað     ond fea þencaþ
hwæt hie to Criste     cweðan onginnen.
Ne þearf ðær þonne ænig     unforht wesan
þe him ær in breostum bereð     beacna selest.
Ac ðurh ða rode sceal     rice gesecan
of eorðwege     æghwylc sawl
seo þe mid Wealdende     wunian þenceð.’
     Gebæd Ic me þa to þan beame     bliðe mode,
elne mycle,     þær Ic ana wæs
mæte werede.     Wæs modsefa
afysed on forðwege;     feala ealra gebad
langunghwila.     Is me nu lifes hyht
þæt Ic þone sigebeam     secan mote
ana oftor     þonne ealle men,
well weorþian.     Me is willa to ðam
mycel on mode,     ond min mundbyrd is
geriht to þære rode.     Nah Ic ricra feala
freonda on foldan;     ac hie forð heonan
gewiton of worulde dreamum,     sohton him wuldres Cyning;
lifiaþ nu on heofonum     mid Heahfædere,
wuniaþ on wuldre.     Ond Ic wene me
daga gehwylce     hwænne me Dryhtnes rod,
þe Ic her on eorðan     ær sceawode,
on þysson lænan      life gefetige
ond me þonne gebringe     þær is blis mycel,
dream on heofonum,     þær is Dryhtnes folc
geseted to symle,     þær is singal blis;
ond he þonne asette     þær Ic syþþan mot
wunian on wuldre     well mid þam halgum
dreames brucan.     Si me Dryhten freond,
se ðe her on eorþan     ær þrowode
on þam gealgtreowe     for guman synnum.
He us onlysde     ond us lif forgeaf,
heofonlicne ham.     Hiht wæs geniwad
mid bledum on mid blisse     þam þe þær bryne þolodan.
Se Sunu wæs sigorfæst     on þam siðfate,
mihtig ond spedig,      þa he mid manigeo com,
gasta weorode,     on Godes rice,
Anwealda ælmihtig,     englum to blisse
ond eallum ðam halgum     þam þe on heofonum ær,
wunedon on wuldre,     þa heora Wealdend cwom,
ælmihtig God,     þær his eðel wæs.




The Dream of the Rood


Listen, I will tell the best of visions
that I envisioned in the middle of the night,
when voice-bearers dwelled in rest.
    It seemed to me that I saw a more wonderful tree
lifted in the air, wound round with light,
the brightest of beams. That beacon was entirely
cased in gold; beautiful gems stood
at the corners of the earth, likewise there were five
upon the cross-beam. All those fair through creation
gazed on the angel of the lord there. There was certainly no gallows of the wicked;
but the holy spirits beheld it there,
men over the earth and all this glorious creation.
Wondrous was the victory-tree, and I stained with sin,
wounded with guilt. I saw the tree of glory,
honoured with garments, shining with joys,
covered with gold; gems had
covered magnificently the tree of the forest.
    Nevertheless, I was able to perceive through that gold
the ancient hostility of wretches, so that it first began
to bleed on the right side. I was all drenched with sorrows.
I was frightened by the beautiful vision; I saw that urgent beacon
change its covering and colours: sometimes it was soaked with wetness,
stained with the coursing of blood, sometimes with treasure adorned.
Yet I lay there a long while
beheld sorrowful the tree of the Saviour,
until I heard it utter a sound;
it began to speak words, the best of wood:
     ‘That was very long ago, I remember it still,
that I was cut down from the edge of the wood,
ripped up by my roots. They seized my there, strong enemies,
made me a spectacle for themselves there, commanded me to raise up their criminals.
Men carried me there on their shoulders, until they set me on a hill,[1]
enemies enough fastened me there. I saw then the Saviour of mankind
hasten with great zeal, as if he wanted to climb up on me.
There I did not dare, against the word of the Lord,
bow or break, when I saw the
corners of the earth tremble. I might have
felled all the enemies; even so, I stood fast.
He stripped himself then, young hero– that was God almighty–
strong and resolute; he ascended on the high gallows,
brave in the sight of many, when he wanted to ransom mankind.
I trembled when the warrior embraced me; even then I did not dare to bow to earth,
fall to the corners of the earth, but I had to stand fast.
I was reared a cross. I raised up the powerful King,
the Lord of heaven; I did not dare to bend.
They pierced me with dark nails; on me are the wounds visible,
the open wounds of malice; I did not dare to injure any of them.
They mocked us both together. I was all drenched with blood
begotten from that man’s side after he had sent forth his spirit.
    I have experienced on that hillside many
cruelties of fate. I saw the God of hosts
violently stretched out. Darkness had
covered with clouds the Ruler’s corpse,
the gleaming light. Shadows went forth
dark under the clouds. All creation wept,
lamented the King’s fall. Christ was on the cross.
    Yet there eager ones came from afar
to that noble one; I beheld all that.
I was all drenched with sorrow; nevertheless I bowed down to the hands of the men
humble, with great eagerness. There they took almighty God,
lifted him from that oppressive torment. The warriors forsook me then
standing covered with moisture; I was all wounded with arrows.
They laid the weary-limbed one down there, they stood at the head of his body,
they beheld the Lord of heaven there, and he himself rested there a while,
weary after the great battle. They began to fashion a tomb for him,
warriors in the sight of the slayer; they carved that from bright stone,
they set the Lord of victories in there. They began to sing the sorrow-song for him,
wretched in the evening-time; then they wanted to travel again,
weary from the glorious lord. He rested there with little company.[2]
    Nevertheless, weeping, we[3] stood there a good while
in a fixed position, after the voice departed up
of the warriors. The corpse grew cold,
the fair life-dwelling. Then men began to fell us
all to the ground: that was a terrible fate.
Men buried us in a deep pit; nevertheless the Lord’s thanes,
friends[4] discovered me there,
adorned me with gold and silver.
    Now you might hear, my beloved hero,
that I have experienced the work of evil doers,
grievous sorrows. Now the time has come
that I will be honoured far and wide
by men over the earth and all this glorious creation;
they will pray to this beacon. On me the Son of God
suffered for a while; because of that I am glorious now,
towering under the heavens, and I am able to heal
each one of those who is in awe of me.
Formerly I was made the hardest of punishments,
most hateful to the people, before I opened for them,
for the voice-bearers, the true way of life.
Listen, the Lord of glory, the Guardian of the kingdom of heaven,
then honoured me over the forest trees,
just as he, almighty God, also honoured
his mother, Mary herself, for all men,
over all womankind.
    Now I urge you, my beloved man,
that you tell men about this vision:
reveal with words that it is the tree of glory
on which almighty God suffered
for mankind’s many sins
and Adam’s ancient deeds.
Death he tasted there; nevertheless, the Lord rose again
with his great might to help mankind.
He ascended into heaven. He will come again
to this earth to seek mankind
on doomsday, the Lord himself,
almighty God, and his angels with him,
so that he will then judge, he who has the power of judgement,
each one of them, for what they themselves have
earned here earlier in this transitory life.
Nor may any of them be unafraid there
because of the words which the Saviour will speak:
he will ask in front of the multitude where the person might be
who for the Lord’s name would
taste bitter death, just as he did before on that tree.
But then they will be fearful and little think
what they might begin to say to Christ. 
Then there will be no need for any of those to be very afraid
who bear before them in the breast the best of trees.
But by means of the rood each soul
who thinks to dwell with the Ruler
must seek the kingdom by the earthly way.’
    I prayed to the tree with a happy spirit then,
with great fortitude, there where I was alone
with little company. My spirit was
inspired with longing for the way forward; I experienced in all
many periods of longing. It is now my life’s hope
that I might seek the tree of victory
alone more often than all men,
to honour it well. My desire for that is
great in my mind, and my protection is
directed to the cross. I do not have many wealthy
friends on earth; but they have gone forward from here,
passed from the joys of this world, sought for themselves the King of glory;
they live now in heaven with the High Father,
they dwell in glory. And I myself hope
each day for when the Lord’s cross,
that I looked at here on earth,
will fetch me from this transitory life,
and then bring me where there is great bliss,
joy in heaven, where the Lord’s people
are set in feasting, where there is unceasing bliss;
and then will set me where I might afterwards
dwell in glory fully with the saints
to partake of joy. May the Lord be a friend to me,
he who here on earth suffered previously
on the gallows-tree for the sins of man.
He redeemed us, and gave us life,
a heavenly home. Hope was renewed
with dignity and with joy for those who suffered burning there.
The Son was victorious in that undertaking,[5]
powerful and successful, when he came with the multitudes,
a troop of souls, into God’s kingdom,
the one Ruler almighty, to the delight of angels
and all the saints who were in heaven before,
who dwelled in glory, when their Ruler came,
almighty God, to where his native land was.




[1] The hill is Golgotha or Calvary on which Christ was crucified. See John 19.17-42 for one of the accounts of Good Friday.
[2] Litotes, meaning ‘alone’.
[3] ‘we’ are the three crosses: that of Christ and those of the two thieves crucified with him.
[4] Helena, mother of Constantine, and Cyriac discovered the Cross in the fourth century.
[5] This ‘undertaking’ refers to the Harrowing of Hell when Christ rescued the souls who had been condemned to Hell following the centuries after the Fall of Man. This apocryphal event took place in the days between Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.