The People &
Language of Early Scotland
From the Kingdom of Bernicia the Angles threatened to conquer the whole
of Scotland until their fortunes waned with heavy defeats against Picts
and Vikings. They left us the language which became Old Scots - the language
of Burns. They also left us the magnificent Ruthwell Cross and one of
the earliest poems in the Anglian language, called 'The Dream of the Rood'.
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of the Ruthwell Cross.
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'The Dream of the Rood' is one of the earliest English language poems remaining, although it bears
more resemblance to Old Scots (the linguistic legacy of the
Angles in Scotland). Parts of the poem are inscribed on the Ruthwell
Cross in germanic runes and a longer version exists in manuscript
form. The poem describes the crucifixion of Christ from the point
of view of the cross, which tells the story of its own suffering
whilst holding up the suffering of Jesus. The Dark Age cult of
the Holy Cross was popular in the British Isles and probably influenced
the poem's composition. Below is the section of the poem which
is carved on the Ruthwell Cross.
The Ruthwell Cross crucifixion poem
almighty stripped himself,
when he wished to climb the cross
bold before all men.
to bow I dared not,
but had to stand firm
I held high the great King,
heaven's Lord. I dared not bend.
Men mocked us both together.
I was slick with blood
sprung from the man's side.
Christ was on the cross.
But then quick ones came from afar,
nobles, all together. I beheld it all.
I was hard hit with grief; I bowed to warriors' hands.
Wounded with spears,
they laid him, limb-weary.
At his body's head they stood.
There they looked to heaven's Lord.