Texts: Caedmon's Hymn

Image from heorot.dk

Text of Caedmon's Hymn in English, OE, Latin
Hypertext Old English-English edition, Stuart Lee

Daniel O'Donnell, Caedmon's Hymn: A Multimedia Study


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Caedmon's Hymn is a poem found in the margins of Latin manuscripts of Bede's Historia Ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum (Ecclesiastical History of the English People). Bede wrote the HE in 735 A.D. An account of the hymn appears in Book 4 of Bede's HE, just after a hymn to Queen Aethelthryth. Aethelthryth (a.k.a. Audrey) was friends with Hild, Abbess of the double monastery (men and women) at Whitby. She told Caedmon what to sing, and Caedmon turned it into Old English poetry. A poet was not someone who invented ideas, but someone who shaped language. The poem begins, "Nu sculon herigean heofenrices Weard."

The standard edition is found in Krapp & Dobbie, Anglo-Saxon Poetic Records (Columbia University Press, 1936), volume 6.

Caedmon's Hymn is longer than it looks. Entire books have been written on it. Much of the vocabulary and imagery would have been familiar to Anglo-Saxon pagans. Caedmon used that vocabulary to translate characteristics of divinity and nature that Hild recounted to him from the Bible, at that time written in Latin. Similar creation songs were sung in Old Saxon, Old High German, Old Norse, and other non-Latin languages of northern Europe. We hear of one in the opening scenes of Beowulf.