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AngloSaxonLiterature CaedmonsHymn(c.

670)
CaedmonsHymn(composedaroundAD670)istheearliestextantpoem,secularor religious,wepossessinEnglish.Thestoryofthiscowherdturnedpoetistoldbythe VenerableBede(672/73735)inhisEcclesiasticalHistoryoftheEnglishPeople,(AD 632),whichremainsanimportantwitnesstotheeventsoftheAngloSaxonperiod. Instyle,theHymnconformstotheoraltraditionofOldEnglishpoeticcomposition, whichrequiresthateachhalfline(e.g.Nusculonherigean)alliterateswiththe other(i.e.heofonricesweard).Inmoderneditions,thedivisionbetweenhalflinesis indicatedbyseveralspaces,thoughmedievalscribes,duetothecostandeffort involvedinpreparingparchment(madeofanimalskin),tendedtowriteoutpoetry asifitwereprose(asinthems.facsimilebelow).Thissavedspaceandmoney. Youllalsonoticethatcapitalizationwaskepttoaminimum,aswithheofoninthe firstlinebelow(lastword).Otherwise,apartfromitsliterarycharacter,Caedmons Hymnisremarkableforthenumberofmanuscriptcopiesthatsurvivenolessthan twentyone.Thisnumbermaynotseemlikealot,butwhenyouconsiderthatmost poems(includingBeowulf)surviveinonlyonemanuscript,thenumberisgreat, indeed.Butwhysomany?BecausethepoemisrecordedinBedesEcclesiastical History,whichcirculatedwidelythroughoutandaftertheAngloSaxonperiod.

ms.CorpusChristiCollege279b(early11thcentury),fol.112v.

AngloSaxonLiterature Literal,InterLinearTranslationofCaedmonsHymn

Nusculonherigeanheofonricesweard, Nowshouldwepraise theguardianofthekingdomofheaven, meotodesmeahteandhismodgeanc, themightofthemeasurer andhismindplans, weorcwuldorfder,swahewundragehws, theworkofthegloryfather howhe,foreachwonder, ecedrihten,oronstealde.
theeternallord,establishedabeginning.

Herestsceopeoranbearnum hefirstcreated forthesonsofmen heofontohrofe,haligscyppend; heavenasaroof, holycreator; amiddangeardmoncynnesweard, thenmiddleearth mankindsguardian ecedrihten,fterteode theeternallordafterwardsmade firumfoldan,frealmihtig.
forthemenoftheearth lordalmighty

AppendixI:TheStoryofCaedmoninBookFour(Ch.29) of BedesEcclesiasticalHistory1

Therewasinthisabbesssmonastery[i.e.HildsmonasteryatWhitby/ Streanaeshalch]acertainbrother,particularlyremarkableforthegraceofGod,who waswonttomakepiousandreligiousverses,sothatwhateverwasinterpretedto himoutofScripture,hesoonafterwardputthesameintopoeticalexpressionsof muchsweetnessandhumility,inEnglish,whichwashisnativelanguage.Byhis versesthemindsofmanywereoftenexcitedtodespisetheworld,andtoaspireto heaven.Othersafterhimattempted,intheEnglishnation,tocomposereligious poems,butnonecouldevercomparewithhim,forhedidnotlearntheartofpoetry frommen,butfromGod;forwhichreasonhenevercouldcomposeanytrivialor vainpoem,butonlythosewhichrelatetoreligionsuitedhisreligioustongue;for havinglivedinasecularhabittillhewaswelladvancedinyears,hehadnever learnedanythingofversifying;forwhichreasonbeingsometimesatentertainments, whenitwasagreedforthesakeofmirththatallpresentshouldsingintheirturns, whenhesawtheinstrumentcometowardshim,heroseupfromtableandreturned home.
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Translation taken from http://www.csun.edu/~sk36711/WWW/Common%20Files/bede.htm

AngloSaxonLiterature
Havingdonesoatacertaintime,andgoneoutofthehousewheretheentertainment was,tothestable,wherehehadtotakecareofthehorsesthatnight,hethere composedhimselftorestatthepropertime;apersonappearedtohiminhissleep, andsalutinghimbyhisname,said,Caedmon,singsomesongtome.Heanswered, Icannotsing;forthatwasthereasonwhyIlefttheentertainment,andretiredto thisplacebecauseIcouldnotsing.Theotherwhotalkedtohim,replied,However, youshallsing.WhatshallIsing?rejoinedhe.Singthebeginningofcreated beings,saidtheother.Hereuponhepresentlybegantosingversestothepraiseof God,whichhehadneverheard,thepurportwhereofwasthus:
WearenowtopraisetheMakeroftheheavenlykingdom,thepoweroftheCreatorandhis counsel,thedeedsoftheFatherofglory.HowHe,beingtheeternalGod,becametheauthorof allmiracles,whofirst,asalmightypreserverofthehumanrace,createdheavenforthesonsof menastheroofofthehouse,andnexttheearth.

Thisisthesense,butnotthewordsinorderashesangtheminhissleep;forverses, thoughneversowellcomposed,cannotbeliterallytranslatedoutofonelanguage intoanother,withoutlosingmuchoftheirbeautyandloftiness.Awakingfromhis sleep,herememberedallthathehadsunginhisdream,andsoonaddedmuchmore tothesameeffectinverseworthyoftheDeity. Inthemorninghecametothesteward,hissuperior,andhavingacquaintedhimwith thegifthehadreceived,wasconductedtotheabbess,bywhomhewasordered,inthe presenceofmanylearnedmen,totellhisdream,andrepeattheverses,thatthey mightallgivetheirjudgmentwhatitwas,andwhencehisverseproceeded.Theyall concluded,thatheavenlygracehadbeenconferredonhimbyourLord.They expoundedtohimapassageinholywrit,eitherhistorical,ordoctrinal,orderinghim, ifhecould,toputthesameintoverse.Havingundertakenit,hewentaway,and returningthenextmorning,gaveittothemcomposedinmostexcellentverse; whereupontheabbess,embracingthegraceofGodintheman,instructedhimtoquit thesecularhabit,andtakeuponhimthemonasticlife;whichbeingaccordinglydone, sheassociatedhimtotherestofthebrethreninhermonastery,andorderedthathe shouldbetaughtthewholeseriesofsacredhistory.ThusCaedmon,keepinginmind allheheard,andasitwerechewingthecud,convertedthesameintomost harmoniousverse;andsweetlyrepeatingthesame,madehismastersintheirturnhis hearers.Hesangthecreationoftheworld,theoriginofman,andallthehistoryof Genesis:andmademanyversesonthedepartureofthechildrenofIsraeloutofEgypt, andtheirenteringintothelandofpromise,withmanyotherhistoriesfromholywrit; theincarnation,passion,resurrectionofourLord,andhisascensionintoheaven;the comingoftheHolyGhost,andthepreachingoftheapostles;alsotheterroroffuture judgment,thehorrorofthepainsofhell,andthedelightsofheaven;besidesmany moreabouttheDivinebenefitsandjudgments,bywhichheendeavouredtoturn awayallmenfromtheloveofvice,andtoexciteinthemtheloveof,andapplication to,goodactions;forhewasaveryreligiousman,humblysubmissivetoregular discipline,butfullofzealagainstthosewhobehavedthemselvesotherwise;forwhich reasonheendedhislifehappily.