A piece of wood promises to reveal himself to us. (Yep – you got it. The speaker of this poem is a piece of wood.) He tells us he's made a long sea-journey in order to deliver a message to "you." "You" turns out to be a lady whose exiled lord (he lives far across the sea) is now begging her to reunite with him. The messenger assures the lady of the lord's continued love and reminds her of the vows the two spoke to one another during better times.
The messenger explains that a feud forced the lord to make a rough sea journey to a faraway land. Now he wants his lady to undertake an equally difficult journey to be with him. He asks her not to let anyone discourage her from her journey once she hears the voice of the cuckoo signaling the beginning of traveling season. The lord wants nothing more than to have his lady join him in presiding over a hall, distributing wealth to their subjects.
Despite the fact that the lord fell on hard times and must now live in exile, the messenger assures the lady that the lord is doing well now. He's got lots of money, and the land where he now lives is a pleasant one. In fact, the lord's got everything a girl could want: nice horses, expensive jewelry, a happening social life. The only thing that's missing from his treasure collection is the lady herself.
As a guarantee of the lord's decision to uphold his vows to his lady, the messenger voices five runes, or mysterious pictograms, to "declare an oath." These runes are meant to express the lord's decision to keep the pledge that he and his lady made during better times, the implication being that he expects his lady to do the same.