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St. Caedmon (fl. 658-680)

Caedmon's Hymn

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.

           Caedmon is one of only two Anglo-Saxon poets whose names are known. According to Bede, writing in the 7th century, Caedmon was a cow-herd at a Yorkshire monastery, who was unable to sing in public until he miraculously found himself able to sing the Creation, a poem of nine lines. Saint Hilda, the abbess of Whitby Abbey, encouraged his new calling and asked him to join the monastery. It appears in the margins of some copies of Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People, and is the oldest surviving text in English. Although many verses have been attributed to Caedmon, the original nine lines of alliterative Old English poetry are the only verses which can reliably be ascribed to him.


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