Friday, February 7, 2014

Cadmon's Hymn: prelude to the Beatles

Cædmon's Hymn is a short Old English  poem originally composed by Cædmon, in honour of God the Creator. It survives in a Latin. Bede wrote about the poet and his work in the fourth book of his Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum 

Bede told the story of Cædmon who was an illiterate cow-herd who miraculously was able to recite a Christian song of creation in Old English verse. This miracle happened after Cædmon left a feast when they were passing a harp around for all to sing a song. He left the hall after feeling ashamed that he could not contribute a song. Later in a dream he said a man appeared to him and asked him to sing a song. Cædmon responded that he could not sing, yet the man told him that he could and asked him to “Sing to me the beginning of all things.” Cædmon was then able to sing verses and words that he had not heard of before. Cædmon then reported his experience first to a steward then to Hild the abbess. She invited scholars to evaluate Cædmon’s gift, and he was sent home to turn more divine doctrine into song. The abbess was so impressed with the success of his gift that she encouraged him to become a monk. He learned the history of the Christian church and created more music like the story of Genesis and many biblical stories which impressed his teachers. Bede says that Cædmon in his creation of his songs wanted to turn man from love of sin to a love of good deeds. Cædmon is said to have died peacefully in his sleep after asking for the Eucharist and making sure he was at peace with his fellow men.

 Now let me praise the keeper of Heaven's kingdom,
The might of the Creator, and his thought,
The work of the Father of glory, how each of wonders
The Eternal Lord established in the beginning.
He first created for the sons of men
Heaven as a roof, the holy Creator,
Then Middle-earth the keeper of mankind,
The Eternal Lord, afterwards made,
The earth for men, the Almighty Lord.

 Cædmon's Hymn is the oldest recorded  Old English poem

adapted from Wikkipedia

graphic: Caedmons Cross At Whitby – Caedmon Was The First Poet In England

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