A Festschrift for Shoichi Watanabe on his 80 th Birthday
YUKI SHIMONAGA The Structure and the Thematic Unity of The Dream of the Rood 183
YUKI SHIMONAGA The Structure and the Thematic Unity of The Dream of the Rood The thematic unity of The Dream of the Rood has long been disputed by many critics, but no decisive view of it has yet been presented. Dazzled probably by the title conventionally attached to the poem, some of the earlier critics thought too highly of the Cross’s speech on the crucifixion as being the main part, which often led them to conclude that nearly half of the poem was an inferior extension of the ‘original’ poem. In recent years, however, attempts have been made to discover the poet’s intentions hidden behind the poetic structure, and therefore the so-far neglected part of the poem is now being widely discussed. Such re-evaluations of the marginalised sections have also contributed to the recent discoveries of the poem’s exquisite design. It is most probable that the speech of the Cross is the oldest part of the whole poem,1 but if we examine the text of the Vercelli Book closely, it is not likely to be the absolute thematic centre. It does not mean, however, that the ‘extended’ part of the poem has brought in an imbalance and spoiled the over-all quality as a work of art, for the 1 In this particular point I disagree with Lee, who argues that “the Vercelli text preserves what is essentially the ‘original’ poem, of which excerpts are to be found in abbreviated form in the mid-eighth century Ruthwell Cross inscription” (Lee 1972:...
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