And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!
- And did those feet, William Blake

onsdag 19. januar 2011

Whitby Letters - Caedmon

Now let me praise the keeper of Heaven's kingdom,
the might of the Creator, and his thought
- Caedmon's Hymn

Caedmon was a stable boy at the monastery at Streoneshal - the Anglo-Saxon predecessor of Whitby Abbey - in the 7th century. He was unskilled in music and could therefore not contribute to any musical diversion at the monastery. According to Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People he was much ashamed of this and on one occasion he retreated to the stable. There he was inspired by God and could the following day recite the hymn we now call Caedmon's Hymn. Bede never met Caedmon in person since Caedmon died somewhere between 670 and 680, whereas Bede was born in modern-day Sunderland in 673. However, Bede must have encountered monks or nuns familiar with Caedmon and Caedmon's position as a historical person is therefore quite certain, or at least as certain as one can be in matters such as these.

Caedmon is still today honoured at Saint Mary's Church situated close to the abbey ruins.

Caedmon's Hymn

Nu scylun hergan hefaenricaes uard
metudæs maecti end his modgidanc
uerc uuldurfadur sue he uundra gihuaes
eci dryctin or astelidæ
he aerist scop aelda barnum
heben til hrofe haleg scepen.
tha middungeard moncynnæs uard
eci dryctin æfter tiadæ
firum foldu frea allmectig

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.

2 kommentarer:

  1. Hmm, I wonder if the version of Caedmon's Hymn you have here is... well, somewhat twisted. Where did you find it?

    In comparison, the one from "the murder weapon":

    Nu sculon herigean heofonrices Weard
    Meotodes meathe and his modgeþanc
    weorc Wuldur-Fæder swa he wundra gehwæs
    ece Drithen or onstealde
    He ærest sceop ielda bearnum
    heofon to hrofe halig Scyppend
    ða middangeard moncynnes Weard
    ece Drithen æfter teonde
    firum foldan Frea ælmihtig

    Anyway, always nice to read old Caedmon, and now that I have the Norton Anthology here next to me, I see that it actually mentions Whitby. Nice to be able to put some images to the place.

  2. I thought you might like it, that is partly why I dedicated an entire blogpost to the subject.

    As for my source I got it from the following website:

    Mind you, this is called the Northumbrian version, suggesting there might be other renditions, or it might simply be an ugly case of misspelling.