BEDE'S STORY OF CAEDMON

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*Old English version of Bede's Hist. Eccl. account of Cædmon & Cædmon's Hymn
*Original Latin version of Bede's Hist. Eccl. account of Cædmon & Cædmon's Hymn

*Appendix I: Alternate Versions of Cædmon's Hymn
*Appendix II: Notes on MSS.
*Appendix III: Online audio recordings


from the Old English translation of Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum,
book IV chapter xxiv


In ðeosse abbudissan mynstre wæs sum broðor syndriglice mid godcundre gife gemæred ond geweorðad, forþon he gewunade gerisenlice leoð wyrcan, þa ðe to æfestnisse ond to arfæstnisse belumpon , swa ðætte swa hwæt swa he of godcundum stafum þurh boceras geleornode, þæt he æfter medmiclum fæce in scopgereorde mid þa mæstan swetnisse ond inbryrdnisse geglængde ond in Engliscgereorde wel geworht forþ brohte. Ond for his leoþsongum monigra mona mod oft to worulde forhogdnisse ond to geþeodnisse þæs heofonlice lifes onbærnde wæron. Ond eac swelce monige oðre æfter him in Ongelþeode ongunnon æfeste leoð wyrcan, ac nænig hwæðre him þæt gelice don ne meahte forþon he nalæs from monnum ne þurh mon gelæred wæs þæt he þone leoðcræft leornade, ac he wæs godcundlice gefultumod ond þurh Godes gife þone songcræft onfeng. Ond he forþon næfre noht leasunge ne idles leoþes wyrcan ne meahte, ac efne þa an þa ðe to æfæstnisse belumpon, ond his þa æfæstan tungan gedeofanade singan. Wæs he se mon in weoruldhade geseted oð þa tide þe he wæs gelyfdre ylde, ond næfre nænig leoð geleornade. Ond he forþon oft in gebeorscipe, þonne þær wæs blisse intinga gedemed, þæt heo ealle sceoldon þurh endebyrdnesse be hearpan singan, þonne he geseah þa hearpan him nealecan þonne aras he for scome from þæm symble ond ham eode to his huse. Þa he ða þæt ða sumre tide dyde, þæt he forlet þæt hus þæs gebeorscipe ond ut wæs gongende to neata scipene, þara heord him wæs þære neahte beboden. Þa he ða þær in gelimplice tide his leomu on reste gesette ond onslepte, þa stod him sum mon æt þurh swefn ond hine halette ond grette ond hine be his noman nemnde: 'Cedmon, sing me hwæthwugu.' Þa ondswarede he ond cwæð: 'Ne con ic noht singan ond ic forþon of þeossum gebeorscipe uteode ond hider gewat, forþon ic naht singan ne cuðe.' Eft he cwæð, se ðe wið hine sprecende wæs: 'Hwæðre þu meaht singan.' Þa cwæð he: 'Hwæt sceal ic singan?' Cwæð he: 'Sing me frumsceaft.' Þa he ða þas andsware onfeng, þa ongon he sona singan in herenesse Godes Scyppends þa fers ond þa word þe he næfre gehyrde, þara endebyrdnisse þis is:

In this abbess's monastery was a certain brother particularly glorified and honoured with a divine gift, in that he fittingly was accustomed to make songs, which pertained to religion and virtue, so that whatever thus he he learned of divine letters from scholars, those things he after a moderate space of time he brought forth, in poetic language adorned with the greatest sweetness and inspiration and well-made in the English language. And by his poem-songs the spirits of many men were kindled to distain of the world and to service of a heavenly life. And likewise, many others after him among the English people endeavoured to compose pious songs, but none however in like manner to him could do so because he had learned not at all from men nor through man that he songcraft learned, but he was divinely aided and through God's gift received the art of poetry. And he therefore he never could make any sort of lying or idle songs, but just those alone which pertained to piety, and those which were fitting for his pious tongue to sing. The man was established in worldly life until the time when he was of advanced age, and he had never learned any songs. And consequently, often at a drinking gathering, when there was deemed to be occasion of joy, that they all must in turn sing with a harp, when he saw the harp nearing him, he then arose for shame from that feast and went home to his house. Then he did this on a certain occasion, that he left the banquet-hall and he was going out to the animal stables, which herd had been assigned to him that night. When he there at a suitable time set his limbs at rest and fell asleep, then some man stood by him in his dream and hailed and greeted him and addressed him by his name: 'Caedmon, sing me something.' Then he answered and said: 'I do not know how to sing and for that reason I went out from this feast and went hither, because I did not know how to sing at all.' Again he said, he who was speaking with him: 'Nevertheless, you must sing.' Then he said: 'What must I sing?' Said he: 'Sing to me of the first Creation.' When he received this answer, then he began immediately to sing in praise of God the Creator verses and words which he had never heard, whose order is this:

(West Saxon rendition of the Cædmon's Song, taken mainly from MS. T1)
[click here for other recensions(='versions') of Cædmon's hymn]

Nu we sculon herigean     heofonrices weard,

 

Now we must praise     the Protector of the heavenly kingdom,
meotodes meahte     ond his modgeþanc,

 

the might of the Measurer     and His mind's purpose,
weorc wuldorfæder,     swa he wundra gehwæs,

 

the work of the Father of Glory,     as He for each of the wonders,
ece drihten,     or onstealde.

 

the eternal Lord,      established a beginning.
He ærest sceop      eorðan bearnum

5

He shaped first    for the sons of the Earth
heofon to hrofe,     halig scyppend;

 

heaven as a roof,     the Holy Maker;
þa middangeard     moncynnes weard,

 

then the Middle-World,     mankind's Guardian,
ece drihten,     æfter teode

 

the eternal Lord,      made afterwards,
firum foldan,     frea ælmihtig.

 

solid ground for men,     the almighty Lord.

[click here for links to online audio recording of Cædmon's hymn read in Old English]

Þa aras he from þæm slæpe, ond eal þa þe he slæpende song, fæste in gemynde hæfde, ond þæm wordum sona monig word in þæt ilce gemet Gode wyrðes songes togeþeodde. Þa com he on morgenne to þæm tungerefan, þe his ealdormon wæs. Sægde him hwylc gife he onfeng, ond he hine sona to þære abbudissan gelædde ond hire þæt cyðde ond sægde. Þa heht heo gesomnian ealle þa gelæredestan men ond þa leorneras, ond him ondweardum het secgan t swefn ond t leo singan, t ealra heora dome gecoren wære, hwæt oððe hwonon þæt cumen wære. Þa wæs him eallum gesegen swa swa hit wæs, þæt him wære from Drihtne sylfum heofonlic gifu forgifen. Þa rehton heo him ond sægdon sum halig spell ond godcundre lare word; bubudon him þa, gif he meahte, þæt he in swinsunge leoþsonges þæt gehwyrfde. Þa he ða hæfde þa wisan onfongne, þa eode he ham to his huse, ond cwom eft on morgenne, ond þy betstan leoðe geglenged him asong ond ageaf þæt him beboden wæs.

 

Then he arose from that sleep, and all of those (songs) which he sang while sleeping he had fast in his memory, and he soon added in the same manner to those words many words of songs worthy of God. Then in the morning he came to the town-reeve, who was his alderman. He said to him which gift did he bring, and he directly lead him to the abbess and made it known and declared to her. Then she ordered all of the most learnèd men and scholars to assemble, and to those who were present commanded him to tell of that dream and sing that song, so that it might be determined by the judgement of all of them: what it was and whence it had come. Then it was seen by all even as it was, that to him from God himself a heavenly gift had been given. Then they spoke to him and told some holy story and divine words of knowledge; they bade him then, if he could, that he turn it into poetical rhythm. Then, when he had undertaken it in this manner, then he went home to his house, and came again in the morning, and with the best adorned song he sang and rendered what he was bid (to recite).

a ongan seo abbudisse clyppan ond lufigean a Godes gife in æm men; ond heo hine a monade ond lærde t he woruldhad anforlete ond munuchad onfenge, ond he t wel afode. Ond heo hine in t mynster onfeng mid his godum ond hine geeodde to gesomnunge ara Godes eowa; ond heht hine læran t getl s halgan stæres ond spelles. Ond he eal a he in gehærnesse geleornian meahte mid hine gemyndgade, ond swa swa clæne neten eodorcende in t sweteste leo gehwerfde. Ond his song ond his leo wæron swa wynsumu to gehæranne tte a seolfan his lareowas t his mue wreoton ond leornodon. Song he ærest be middangeardes gesceape ond bi fruman moncynnes ond eal t stær genesis (t is seo æreste Moyses booc), ond eft bi utgonge Israhela folces of gypta londe ond bi ingonge s gehatlandes, ond bi orum monegum spellum s halgan gewrites canones boca, ond bi Cristes menniscnesse ond bi his rowunge ond bi his upastignesse in heofonas, ond bi s Halgan Gastes cyme ond ara apostola lare, ond eft bi æm dge s toweardan domes ond bi fyrhtu s tintreglican wiites, ond bi swetnesse s heofonlecan rices he monig leo geworhte. Ond swelce eac oer monig be æm godcundan fremsumnessum ond domum he geworhte. In eallum æm he geornlice gemde t he men atuge from synna lufan ond mandæda, ond to lufan ond to geornfulnesse awehte godra dæda, for on he ws se mon swie æfest ond regollecum eodscipum eamodlice undereoded. Ond wi æm a e in ore wisan don woldon he ws mid welme micelre ellenwodnisse onbrned, ond he for on fgre nde his lif betænde ond geendade.

For on a ære tide nealæcte his gewitenesse ond forfore, a ws he feowertænum dagum ær t he ws lichomlicre untrymnesse rycced ond hefgad, hwre to on gemetlice t he ealle a tid meahte ge sprecan ge gongan. Ws ær in neaweste untrumra monna hus, in æm heora eaw ws t heo a untruman ond a e t forfore wæron in lædan sceoldon ond him ær tsomne egnian. a bd he his egn on æfenne ære neahte e he of worulde gongende ws t he in æm huse him stowe gegearwode, t he gerestan meahte. a wundrode se egn for hwon he s bæde, for on him uhte t his forfor swa neah ne wære; dyde hwre swa swa he cw ond bibead. Ond mid æ he a ær on reste eode ond he gefeonde mode sumu ing mid him sprecende tgdere ond gleowiende ws e ær ær inne wæron, a ws ofer midde neaht t he frgn hwer heo ænig husl inne hfdon. a ondswarodon heo ond cwædon: "Hwylc earf is e huslesæ Ne inre forfore swa neah is, nu u us rotlice ond us gldlice to us sprecende eart." Cw he eft: "Bera me husl to." a he hit a on honda hfde, a frgn he hwer heo ealle smolt mod ond, buton eallum incan, blie to him hfdon. a ondswaredon hæ ealle ond cwædon t heo nænigne incan to him wiston, ac heo ealle him swie bliemode wæron; ond heo wrixendlice hine bædon t he him eallum blie wære. a ondswarade he ond cw: "Mine broor, mine a leofan, ic eom swie bliemod to eow ond to eallum Godes monnum." Ond he swa ws hine getrymmende mid æ heofonlecan wegneste ond him ores lifes ingong gegearwode. a gæt he frgn hu neah ære tide wære tte a broor arisan scolden ond Godes lof ræran ond heora uhtsong singan. a ondswaredon heo: "Nis hit feor to on." Cw he: "Teala: wuton we wel ære tide bidan." Ond a him gebd ond hine gesegnode mid Cristes rodetacne ond his heafod onhylde to am bolstre ond medmicel fc onslepte, ond swa mid stilnesse his lif geendade.

Ond swa ws geworden tte swa swa he hluttre mode ond bilwitre ond smyltre wilsumnesse Drihtne eode, t he eac swylce swa smylte deae middangeard ws forlætende ond to his gesihe becwom. Ond seo tunge e swa monig halwende word in s Scyppendes lof gesette, he a swelce eac a ætmstan word in his herenisse, hine seolfne segniende ond his gast in his honda bebeodende, betynde. Eac swelce t is gesegen t he wære gewis his seolfes forfore of æm þe we nu secgan hærdon.

Then the abbess began to embrace and love the gift of God in that man, and she exhorted and adviced him that he should abandon the worldly life and accept monkhood, and he readily agreed to this. And she accepted him into the monastery, with his goods, and united him into the community of God's servants, and ordered that he be taught the (entire) series of holy stories and narratives. And he was able to learn all that he heard, and, keeping it all in mind, just as a clean animal chewing cud, turned (it) into the sweetest song. And his songs and his poems were so beautiful to hear, that his teachers themselves wrote and learned at his mouth. He sang first about the creation of the world and about the origin of mankind and all of the history of Genesis--that is the first book of Moses--, and afterwards about the exodus of the Israeli people from the land of Egypt and their entry into the promised land; and about many other stories of the holy writ of the books of the canon; and about Christ's incarnation, and about his suffering and about his ascension into the heavens; and about the coming of the Holy Ghost, and of the lore of the apostles; and after about the day of impending judgement, and about the terror of the torturing punishment, and about the sweetness of the heavenly kingdom, he wrought many songs. And so also many others he made about divine mercy and judgement. In all of them he eagerly sought to pull men away from love of sin and criminal deeds, and to love and to zealously awake to (the doing) of good deeds. For he was a very devout man, and humbly subjected himself to regular service. And against those who wished to do otherwise, he burned with surging of great ardour. And he for this reason with a beautiful end he closed and ended his life.

For when the time of his departure and going-forth neared, he was for fourteen days before (his death), that he was afflicted and encumbered by bodily weakness, yet so moderately that he all the time could both speak and move about. There was in the neighbourhood a house for sick men, in which it was the custom to carry in those who were ill and those who were near to death, and minister there to them together. He bade that his servant--in the evening when (the time) of his leaving the world was nearing--that he prepare for him a place in that house, that he might rest (there). Then the servant wondered why he bade thus, because he thought that his end was not so near, but nevertheless did as he said and commanded. And when he went there to rest, and he in a happy mood was jesting and speaking about various things with those who were gathered together with him, those who were in (the sickhouse) before (him); when it was past midnight he asked, if they had any housel within. Then they answered and said: 'What need of the housel? Your passing is not so near, when now you are this cheerfully and this pleasantly speaking to us.' He said again: 'Bring to me the housel.' When he had it in his hand, he asked whether they had peaceful minds and happily beared him no ill-will. Then they all answered, and said that they knew no ill-will towards him, but they all were very happily disposed towards him. And they in turn asked him if he was happy with all of them. Then he answered and said: 'My brothers, my beloved ones, I am very blithe of mind towards you and all men of God'.' And he was thus strengthening himself with heavenly provisions, and he prepared himself for entry into the other(/next) life. Then yet he asked how near the time was to when the brothers must arise, and offer up praise to God and sing their matins. They answered, 'It is not long til then.' He said: 'Good, let us fully wait that time.' He then prayed and blessed himself with the sign of Christ's Rood, and inclined his head to the bolster, and in a small space of time, he fell asleep -- and thus ended his life in stillness.

And so it came to pass that as he served God with pure spirit and with mild and serene devoutness, that he likewise left this middle-earth by a serene death, and he arrived in His sight. And the tongue which had set so many healing words in praise of the Maker, so likewise (uttering) its last words to praise Him--as he crossed himself and offered up his spirit into His hands--ceased. Also likewise it is aid that he was certain of his own passing, of which we have now heard said.



from the original Latin of Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum, book IV chapter xxiv

[Latin text from F.W. Garforth's Bede's Historia Ecclesiastica: a selection. London: Bell, 1967]
[modern English translation of Latin taken from L.C. Jane]


In huius monasterio abbatissae fuit frater quidam divina gratia specialiter insignis quia carmina religioni et pietati apta facere solebat; ita ut quicquid ex divinis litteris per interpretes disceret hoc ipse post pusillum verbis poeticis maxima suavitate et compunctione compositis in sua, id est Anglorum, lingua proferret. Cuius carminibus multorum saepe animi ad contemptum saeculi et appetitum sunt vitae caelestis accensi. Et quidem et alii post illum in gente Anglorum religiosa poemata facere tentabant, sed nullus eum aequiparare potuit. Namque ipse non ab hominibus neque per hominem institutus canendi artem didicit; sed divinitus adiutus gratis canendi donum accepit. Unde nihil umquam frivoli et supervacui poematis facere potuit, sed ea tantummodo quae ad religionem pertinent religiosam eius linguam decebant. Siquidem in habitu saeculari usque ad tempora provectioris aetatis constitutus nil carminum aliquando didicerat. Unde nonnumquam in convivio, cum esset laetitae causa decretum ut omnes per ordinem cantare deberent, ille ubi appropinquare sibi citharam cernebat surgebat a media cena et egressus ad suam domum repedabat.
Quod dum tempore quodam faceret et relicta domo convivii egressus esset ad stabula iumentorum, quorum ei custodia nocte illa erat delegata, ibique hora competenti membra dedisset sopori, adstitit ei quidam per somnium eumque salutans ac suo appellans nomine: 'Caedmon', inquit, 'canta mihi aliquid'. At ille respondens, 'Nescio', inquit, 'cantare; nam et ideo de convivio egressus huc secessi, quia cantare non poteram'. Rursus ille qui cum eo loquebatur, 'Attamen', ait, 'mihi cantare habes'. 'Quid', inquit, 'debeo cantare?' At ille, 'Canta', inquit, 'principium creaturarum'. Quo accepto responso statim ipse coepit cantare in laudem Dei conditoris versus quos numquam audierat, quorum iste est sensus:

There was in this abbess's monastery a certain brother, particularly remarkable for the grace of God, who was wont to make pious and religious verses, so that whatever was interpreted to him out of Scripture, he soon after put the same into poetical expressions of much sweetness and humility, in English, which was his native language. By his verses the minds of many were often excited to despise the world, and to aspire to heaven. Others after him attempted, in the English nation, to compose religious poems, but none could ever compare with him, for he did not learn the art of poetry from men, but from God; for which reason he never could compose any trivial or vain poem, but only those which relate to religion suited his religious tongue; for having lived in a secular habit till he was well advanced in years, he had never learned anything of versifying; for which reason being sometimes at entertainments, when it was agreed for the sake of mirth that all present should sing in their turns, when he saw the instrument come towards him, he rose up from table and returned home.
Having done so at a certain time, and gone out of the house where the entertainment was, to the stable, where he had to take care of the horses that night, he there composed himself to rest at the proper time; a person appeared to him in his sleep, and saluting him by his name, said, "Caedmon, sing some song to me." He answered, "I cannot sing; for that was the reason why I left the entertainment, and retired to this place because I could not sing." The other who talked to him, replied, "However, you shall sing." "What shall I sing?" rejoined he. "Sing the beginning of created beings," said the other. Hereupon he presently began to sing verses to the praise of God, which he had never heard, the purport whereof was thus :
(Bede's Latin paraphrase of Cædmon's Hymn)
[click here for other recensions(='versions') of Cædmon's hymn]

Nunc laudare debemus     auctorem regni caelestis

Now we ought to praise     the maker of the heavenly kingdom
potentiam Creatoris,     et consilium illius

the power of the Creator,    and his intention
facta Patris gloriae:     quomodo ille,

the deeds of the Father of glory:     how he,
cum sit aeternus Deus     omnium miraculorum auctor exstitit;

since he is the eternal Lord     of all miracles has been the author;
qui primo     filiis hominum
5
who first    for the sons of men
caelum pro culmine tecti

heaven for a roof above
dehinc terram     custos humani generis

next, the earth,     the keeper of the human-race
omnipotens     creavit.

the all-powerful      created.

Hic est sensus, non autem ordo ipse verborum quae dormiens ille canebat; neque enim possunt carmina, quamvis optime composita, ex alia in aliam linguam ad verbum sine detrimento sui decoris ac dignitatis transferri. Exsurgens autem a somno cuncta quae dormiens cantaverat memoriter retinuit et eis mox plura in eundem modum verba Deo digni carminis adiunxit.

Veniensque mane ad vilicum qui sibi praeerat quid doni percepisset indicavit atque ad abbatissam perductus iussus est multis doctioribus viris praesentibus indicare somnium et dicere carmen, ut universorum iudicio quid vel unde esset quod referebat probaretur. Visumque est omnibus caelestem ei a Domino concessam esse gratiam. Exponebantque ille quendam sacrae historiae sive doctrinae sermonem praecipientes eum, si posset, hunc in modulationem carminis transferre. At ille suscepto negotio abiit et mane rediens optimo carmine quod iubebatur compositum reddidit. Unde mox abbatissa amplexata gratiam Dei in viro saecularem illum habitum relinquere et monachicum suscipere propositum docuit, susceptumque in monasterium cum omnibus suis fratrum cohorti associavit iussitque illum seriem sacrae historiae doceri. At ipse cuncta quae audiendo discere poterat rememorando secum et quasi mundum animal ruminando in carmen dulcissimum convertebat, suaviusque resonando doctores suos vicissim auditores sui faciebat. Canebat autem de creatione mundi et origine humani generis et tota Genesis historia de egressu Israel ex Aegypto et ingressu in terram repomissionis, de aliis plurimis sacrae Scripturae historiis, de incarnatione dominica, passione, resurrectione et ascensione in caelum, de Spiritus Sancti adventu et apostolorum doctrina. Item de terrore futuri iudicii et horrore poenae gehennalis ac dulcedine regni caelestis multa carmina faciebat; sed et alia perplura de beneficiis et iudiciis divinis, in quibus cunctis homines ab amore scelerum abstrahere, ad dilectionem vero et sollertiam bonae actionis excitare curabat. Erat enim vir multum religiosus et regularibus disciplinis humiliter subditus, adversum vero illos qui aliter facere volebant zelo magni fervoris accensus; unde et pulchro vitam suam fine conclusit.

Nam proprinquante hora sui decessus quattuordecim diebus praeveniente corporea infirmitate pressus est, adeo tamen moderate ut et loqui toto eo tempore posset et ingredi. Erat autem in proximo casa, in qua infirmiores et qui prope morituri esse videbantur induci solebant. Rogavit ergo ministrum suum vespere incumbente nocte qua de saeculo erat exiturus ut in ea sibi locum quiescendi praepararet; qui miratus cur hoc rogaret, qui nequaquam adhuc moriturus esse videbatur, fecit tamen quod dixerat. Cumque ibidem positi vicissim aliqua gaudente animo, una cum eis qui ibidem ante inerant, loquerentur ac iocarentur et iam mediae noctis tempus esset transcensum, interrogavit si eucharistiam intus haberent. Respondebant, 'Quid opus est eucharistia? neque enim mori adhuc habes qui tam hilariter nobiscum velut sospes loqueris'. Rursus ille: 'Et tamen', ait, 'afferte mihi eucharistiam'. Qua accepta in manu interrogavit si omnes placidum erga se animum et sine querela controversiae ac rancoris haberent. Respondebant omnes placidissimam se mentem ad illum et ab omni ira remotam habere. Qui confestim respondit: 'Placidam ego mentem, filioli, erga omnes Dei famulos gero'. Sincque se caelesti muniens viatico vitae alterius ingressui paravit; et interrogavit quam prope esset hora qua fratres ad dicendas Domino laudes nocturnas excitari deberent. Respondebant, 'Non longe est'. At ille: 'Bene, ergo exspectemus horam illam'. Et signans se signo sanctae crucis reclinavit caput ad cervical modicumque obdormiens ita cum silentio vitam finivit.





Sicque factum est ut ita quomodo simplici ac pura mente tranquillaque devotione Domino servierat, ita etiam tranquilla morte mundum relinquens ad eius visonem veniret illaque lingua quae tot salutaria verba in laudem conditoris composuerat ultima quoque verba in laudem ipsius, signando sese et spiritum suum in manus eius commendando, clauderet; qui etiam praescius sui obitus exstitisse, ex his quae narravimus, videtur.



This is the sense, but not the words in order as he sang them in his sleep; for verses, though never so well composed, cannot be literally translated out of one language into another, without losing much of their beauty and loftiness. Awaking from his sleep, he remembered all that he had sung in his dream, and soon added much more to the same effect in verse worthy of the Deity.

In the morning he came to the steward, his superior, and having acquainted him with the gift he had received, was conducted to the abbess, by whom he was ordered, in the presence of many learned men, to tell his dream, and repeat the verses, that they might all give their judgment what it was, and whence his verse proceeded. They all concluded, that heavenly grace had been conferred on him by our Lord. They expounded to him a passage in holy writ, either historical, or doctrinal, ordering him, if he could, to put the same into verse. Having undertaken it, he went away, and returning the next morning, gave it to them composed in most excellent verse; whereupon the abbess, embracing the grace of God in the man, instructed him to quit the secular habit, and take upon him the monastic life; which being accordingly done, she associated him to the rest of the brethren in her monastery, and ordered that he should be taught the whole series of sacred history. Thus Caedmon--keeping in mind all he heard, and as it were chewing the cud, converted the same into most harmonious verse; and sweetly repeating the same, made his masters in their turn his hearers. He sang the creation of the world, the origin of man, and all the history of Genesis : and made many verses on the departure of the children of Israel out of Egypt, and their entering into the land of promise, with many other histories from holy writ; the incarnation, passion, resurrection of our Lord, and his ascension into heaven; the coming of the Holy Ghost, and the preaching of the apostles ; also the terror of future judgment, the horror of the pains of hell, and the delights of heaven; besides many more about the Divine benefits and judgments, by which he endeavoured to turn away all men from the love of vice, and to excite in them the love of, and application to, good actions; for he was a very religious man, humbly submissive to regular discipline, but full of zeal against those who behaved themselves otherwise; for which reason he ended his life happily.

For when the time of his departure drew near, he laboured for the space of fourteen days under a bodily infirmity which seemed to prepare the way, yet so moderate that he could talk and walk the whole time. In his neighbourhood was the house to which those that were sick, and like shortly to die, were carried. He desired the person that attended him, in the evening, as the night came on in which he was to depart this life, to make ready a place there for him to take his rest. This person, wondering why he should desire it, because there was as yet no sign of his dying soon, did what he had ordered. He accordingly went there, and conversing pleasantly in a joyful manner with the rest that were in the house before, when it was past midnight, he asked them, whether they had the Eucharist there? They answered, "What need of the Eucharist? for you are not likely to die, since you talk so merrily with us, as if you were in perfect health." " However," said he, "bring me the Eucharist." Having received the same into his hand, he asked, whether they were all in charity with him, and without any enmity or rancour? They answered, that they were all in perfect charity, and free from anger; and in their turn asked him, whether he was in the same mind towards them? He answered, "I am in charity, my children, with all the servants of God." Then strengthening himself with the heavenly viaticum, he prepared for the entrance into another life, and asked, how near the time was when the brothers were to be awakened to sing the nocturnal praises of our Lord? They answered, "It is not far off." Then he said, "Well, let us wait that hour; " and signing himself with the sign of the cross, he laid his head on the pillow, and falling into a slumber, ended his life so in silence.

Thus it came to pass, that as he had served God with a simple and pure mind, and undisturbed devotion, so he now departed to his presence, leaving the world by a quiet death; and that tongue, which had composed so many holy words in praise of the Creator, uttered its last words whilst he was in the act of signing himself with the cross, and recommending himself into his hands, and by what has been here said, he seems to have had foreknowledge of his death.





Appendix I: Various versions of 'Cædmon's Song':
I offer here each of the main 'recensions' of Cædmon's Hymn, with translation and brief notes. I also include, for stemma *AE (West Saxon eorðan-recension, main group) & *Z (West Saxon ylda-recension), under subheadings, (mostly) diplomatic readings of some particularly interesting variants - but it is only a selection: not all MS. versions are printed here individually (though the notes to the main recensions note differences between MSS. readings). The 'diplomatic' texts of individual MS. readings are not provided with hyper-linked notes (as this would only duplicate the notes of the recension texts), but the interesting divergent transformations of verses are underlined, both in the Old English & in the translation.

Quick Links - Cædmon's Song recensions:

*Bede's Latin paraphrase of Cædmon's Hymn
*Northumbrian aelda [ML]
*Northumbrian eordu [*Y]
*Wessex eorðan [*AE]
*Wessex eorðe [*AE2]
*Wessex ylda [*Z]


A. Bede's Latin paraphrase of Cædmon's Hymn
Nunc laudare debemus     auctorem regni caelestis

Now we ought to praise     the maker of the heavenly kingdom
potentiam Creatoris,     et consilium illius

the power of the Creator,    and his intention
facta Patris gloriae:     quomodo ille,

the deeds of the Father of glory:     how he,
cum sit aeternus Deus     omnium miraculorum auctor exstitit;

since he is the eternal Lord     of all miracles has been the author;
qui primo     filiis hominum
5
who first    for the sons of men
caelum pro culmine tecti

heaven for a roof above
dehinc terram     custos humani generis

next, the earth,     the keeper of the human-race
omnipotens     creavit.

the all-powerful      created.


B. early Northumbrian version of Cædmon's Song - aelda-recension [ M-L ]
      (taken mainly from MS. M)
Nu scylun hergan    hefaenricaes uard,

 

Now (we) must praise     the Protector of the heavenly kingdom,
metudæs maecti    end his modgidanc,

 

the might of the Measurer     and His mind's purpose,
uerc uuldurfadur,    sue he uundra gihuaes,

 

the work of the Father of Glory,     as He for each of the wonders,
eci dryctin,    or astelidæ.

 

the eternal Lord,      established a beginning.
He aerist scop    aelda barnum

5

He shaped first     for the sons of men,
heben til hrofe,    haleg scepen.

 

heaven as a roof,     the Holy Judge.
Tha middungeard    moncynnæs uard,

 

Then the Middle-World,     mankind's Guardian,
eci dryctin,    æfter tiadæ

 

the eternal Lord,      made afterwards,
firum foldu,    frea allmectig.

 

solid ground for men,     the almighty Lord.
Primo cantauit caedmon istud carmen

(10)

In the beginning Caedmon sang this poem


C. late Northumbrian version of Cædmon's Song - eordu-recension [ *Y ]
      (reconstructed - based on O'Donnell (1996b))
Nu wue sciulun herga    hefunricaes wueard,

 

Now we must praise     the Protector of the heavenly kingdom,
metudaes mechti      and his modgedanc,

 

the might of the Measurer     and His mind's purpose,
wuerc wuldurfadur,     suae he wundra gihuaes,

 

the work of the Father of Glory,     as He for each of the wonders,
eci drichtin,     or astalde.

 

the eternal Lord,      established a beginning.
he aerist scoop      eordu bearnum

5

He shaped first     for the sons of the Earth,
hefen to hrofe,      halig sceppend.

 

heaven as a roof,     the Holy Maker;
ða middumgeard      moncinnes weard,

 

then the Middle-World,     mankind's Guardian,
eci drichtin,      aefter tiade

 

the eternal Lord,      made afterwards,
firum on foldu,      frea allmechtig.

 

on solid ground for men,     the almighty Lord God.

 


D. West Saxon rendition of the Cædmon's Song - eorðan-recension [ *AE ](WS-eorðan main group)
      (taken mainly from MS. T1)
Nu we sculon herigean      heofonrices weard,

 

Now we must praise     the Protector of the heavenly kingdom,
meotodes meahte      and his modgeþanc,

 

the might of the Measurer     and His mind's purpose,
weorc wuldorfæder,      swa he wundra gehwæs,

 

the work of the Father of Glory,     as He for each of the wonders,
ece drihten,      or onstealde.

 

the eternal Lord,      established a beginning.
He ærest sceop      eorðan bearnum

5

He shaped first     for the sons of the Earth
heofon to hrofe,      halig scyppend;

 

heaven as a roof,     the Holy Maker;
þa middangeard      moncynnes weard,

 

then the Middle-World,     mankind's Guardian,
ece drihten,      æfter teode

 

the eternal Lord,      made afterwards,
firum foldan,      frea ælmihtig.

 

solid ground for men,     the almighty Lord.

    (Da.)MS. C
   Nu (Ne?) we sculon hergean      heofonrices weard,

 

   Now we must praise     the Protector of the heavenly kingdom,
   metodes mihte      ond his modgeþanc,

 

   the might of the Measurer     and His mind's purpose,
   weoroda wuldorfæder,      swa he wundra gehwæs,

 

   the hosts of the Father of Glory,     as He for each of the wonders,
   ece drihten,      or onstealde.

 

   the eternal Lord,      established a beginning.
   He ærest scop      eorðú bearnum

5

   He shaped first     for the sons of the Earth
   heofon to hrofe,      halig scypend;

 

   heaven as a roof,     the Holy Maker;
   þa middangeard      moncynnes weard,

 

   then the Middle-World,     mankind's Guardian,
   ece drihten,      æfter eode

 

   the eternal Lord,      went afterwards,
   fi[rum] foldan,      frea ælmihtig.

 

   to earth for men,     the almighty Lord.

    (Db.)MS. O
   Nu we sculan herian      heofonrices weard,

 

   Now we must praise     the Protector of the heavenly kingdom,
   metodes mihte      and his modgeþonc,

 

   the might of the Measurer     and His mind's purpose,
   wera wuldorfæder,      swa he wundra gehwæs,

 

   the heroes of the Father of Glory,     as He for each of the wonders,
   ece dryhten,      oórd onstealde.

 

   the eternal Lord,      established a beginning.
   He ærest gesceop      eorðan bearnum

5

   He shaped first     for the sons of the Earth
   heofon to hrofe,      halig scyppend;

 

   heaven as a roof,     the Holy Maker;
   ða middangeard      moncynnes weard,

 

   then the Middle-World,     mankind's Guardian,
   ece drihten,      æfter teode

 

   the eternal Lord,      made afterwards,
   firum foldan,      frea ælmihtig.

 

   solid ground for men,     the almighty Lord.

    (Dc.)MS. Ca
   Nu we sceolon herigean      heofonrices weard,

 

   Now we must praise     the Protector of the heavenly kingdom,
   meotodes meahte      and his modgeþanc,

 

   the might of the Measurer     and His mind's purpose,
   wera wuldorfæder,      swa he wuldres gehwæs,

 

   the heroes of the Father of Glory,     as He for each glory,
   ece drihten,      ord onstealde.

 

   the eternal Lord,      established a beginning.
   He æres[t] gescóp      eorðan bearnum

5

   He shaped first     for the sons of the Earth
   heofon to hrofe,      halig scyppend;

 

   heaven as a roof,     the Holy Maker;
   þa middangeard      moncynnes weard,

 

   then the Middle-World,     mankind's Guardian,
   ece drihten,      æfter teode

 

   the eternal Lord,      made afterwards,
   firum foldan,      frea ælmihtig.

 

   solid ground for men,     the almighty Lord.

    (Fd.)MS. B1
   Nu we herigan sculon      heofonrices weard,

 

   Now we must praise     the Protector of the heavenly kingdom,
   metodes mihte      and his modgeþanc,

 

   the might of the Measurer     and His mind's purpose,
   weorc wuldorgodes,      swa he wundra fela,

 

   the work of the God of Glory,     as He for many wonders,
   ece drihten,      ord astealde.

 

   the eternal Lord,      established a beginning.
   He ærest sceop      eorðan bearnum

5

   He shaped first     for the sons of the Earth
   heofon to hrofe,      halig scyppend;

 

   heaven as a roof,     the Holy Maker:--
   þe middangeard      manncynnes weard,

 

   Who the Middle-World,     mankind's Guardian,
   ece drihten,      æfter teode

 

   the eternal Lord,      made afterwards,
   fyrum foldan,      frea ælmihtig.

 

   solid ground for men,     the almighty Lord.

    (Fe.)MS. To
   Nu we sceolon herian      heofonrices weard,

 

   Now we must praise     the Protector of the heavenly kingdom,
   meotodes meahte      and his modgeþanc,

 

   the might of the Measurer     and His mind's purpose,
   weorc wulderfæder,      swa he wundra gehwæs,

 

   the work of the Father of Glory,     as He for each of the wonders,
   ece drihten,      ær astealde.

 

   the eternal Lord,      established before.
   He ærest sceop      eorðan bearnum

5

   He shaped first     for the sons of the Earth
   heofon to hrofe,      halig drihten;

 

   heaven as a roof,     Holy God;
   þa middangeard      moncynnes weard,

 

   then the Middle-World,     mankind's Guardian,
   ece drihten,      æfter teode

 

   the eternal Lord,      made afterwards,
   firum foldan,      frea ælmihtig.

 

   solid ground for men,     the almighty Lord.

E. West Saxon rendition of the Cædmon's Song - eorðe-recension [ *AE2 ] (WS-eorðan sub-group Hr-Ld1-CArms)
      (readings from various MSS.)
Nu sceolan herian      heofonrices weard,

 

Now (we) must praise     the Protector of the heavenly kingdom,
metudes mihte      and his modgeþanc,

 

the might of the Measurer     and His mind's purpose,
weorc wulder fæder,      swa he [....] wundra gehwylc,

 

the work of the Father of Glory,     as He each of the wonders,
ece drihten,      ord onstealde.

 

the eternal Lord,      established a beginning.
[þa] He [....] ærest sceop      eorðe bearnum

5

He shaped first     for the sons of the Earth
heofon to hrofe,      ...[halig scyppeod]....

 

heaven as a roof,      ......
þa middangeard      moncynnes weard,

 

then the Middle-World,     mankind's Guardian,
ece drihten,      æfter teode

 

the eternal Lord,     made afterwards,
fyrum on folden,      frea ælmihtig halig scyppeod

 

solid ground for men,     the almighty Lord, [the Holy Maker].

F. West Saxon rendition of the Cædmon's Song - ylda-recension [ *Z ]
      (taken mainly from MS. H)
Nu we sculon herian      heofonrices weard,

 

Now we must praise     the Protector of the heavenly kingdom,
metudes mihte      and his modgeþanc,

 

the might of the Measurer     and His mind's purpose,
wurc wuldorfæder,      swa he wundra gehwilc,

 

the work of the Father of Glory,     as He each of the wonders,
ece drihten,      ord astealde.

 

the eternal Lord,      established a beginning.
He ærest gescop      ylda bearnum

5

He shaped first     for the sons of men
heofon to hrofe,      halig scyppend;

 

heaven as a roof,     the Holy Maker;
middangearde      moncynnes weard,

 

with the Middle-World,     mankind's Guardian,
ece drihten,      æfter tida

 

the eternal Lord,      after periods of time,
firum on foldum,      frea ælmihtig.

 

in(/on) earths for men,     the almighty Lord.

    (Fa.)MS. W
   Nu we sculon herian heri     heofonrices weard,

 

   Now we must praise     the Protector of the heavenly kingdom,
   metoddes mihte      and his modgeþanc,

 

   the might of the Measurer     and His mind's purpose,
   weorc wuldorfæder,      swa he wundra gehwilc,

 

   the work of the Father of Glory,     as He each of the wonders,
   ece drihten,      word astealde.

 

   the eternal Lord,      established the Word.
   He ærest gescop      ylda bearnum

5

   He shaped first     for the sons of men
   heofon to rofe,      halig scippend;

 

   heaven as a roof,     the Holy Maker;
   middanear[de]      manncynnes weard,

 

   with the Middle-Region,     mankind's Guardian,
   ece drihten,      æfter tida

 

   the eternal Lord,      after periods of time,
   firum on foldum,      frea ealmihtig.

 

   in(/on) earths for men,     the almighty Lord.


Appendix II: Details of MSS. containing Cædmon:

Key:
Ms. dates - see Ms. Terminology Page
MS/Ms. = manuscript
MSS/Mss. = manuscripts
f. .... = folio
p. ... = page


Language abbrevs.:
* OE
= Old English translation of Bede's Hist. Eccl. with Old English Caedmon's 'Hymn' appearing in main text
* Lat = Latin text of Bede's Hist. Eccl. in which no OE text for Caedmon's 'Hymn' appears
* Lat+OE-margin = Latin text of Bede's Hist. Eccl. with marginal Old English Caedmon's 'Hymn'
* Lat+OE-inter = Latin text of Bede's Hist. Eccl. with OE Caedmon's 'Hymn' written in alternating lines with the Latin paraphase (i.e., interlinear text)
* Lat+OE-main = Latin text of Bede's Hist. Eccl. with Old English Caedmon's 'Hymn' appearing in main text, in-between Bede's account and Bede's Latin paraphase of the 'Hymn




Northumbrian eordu-recension
Sigla
Ms. loc. & index
Ms. date
Ms. origin
Ms.
provenance

Caedmon's 'Hymn'
appears at/on
Language(s)
of Ms.

[see above under key]
misc. notes
Br
Brussels, Bibliothèque Royale, MS 8245-57
s. xv


f.62r2-v1
Lat.+OE-main
Latin text & OE text
 
in same hand
Di
Dijon, Bibliothèque Municipale, MS 574
s. xii


f.59v2
Lat.+OE-main
Latin text & OE text
 
in same hand
P1
Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, MS Lat. 5237
s. xv


f.72v
Lat.+OE-main
Latin text & OE text
 
in same hand

Northumbrian aeldu-recension
Sigla
Ms. loc. & index
Ms. date
Ms. origin
Ms.
provenance

Caedmon's 'Hymn'
appears at/on

Language(s)
of Ms.

misc. notes
L
St.-Petersburg (Leningrad),
Russian National Library Lat. Q.v.I.18
[Gneuss 846]
s. viii [O'Donnell]
731x746 [Gneuss]
Wearmouth-J.

f.107r
Lat+OE-margin
aka 'The Leningrad Bede'

Latin text & OE text apparently in same hand*  
but there is no absolute consensus

M
Cambridge, University Library Kk.5.16
[Gneuss 25]
s. viii [O'Donnell]
c. or after 737 [Gneuss]

Northumbria,
(Wearmouth-J.?)
prov. Aachen,
s. viiiex
f.128v
Lat+OE-margin
aka 'The Moore Bede'

Latin text & OE text apparently in same hand*

* = Dobbie says that the OE text appears to be added by the same hand as the main Latin text
= Kiernan says that 'the "Hymn" [in the Leningrad Bede] was added by a different scribe with similar but not identical handwriting. The distinguishing feature is the truncated descender on the letters f, p, r, and s, compared to the long descender on the letter g. In the main text, with exactly the same space between lines, the descender on these letters is invariably long and spiky..' (Kiernan 1990[2002]:122n16).


West-Saxon eorðan-recension (main group)
Sigla
Ms. loc. & index
Ms. date
Ms. origin
Ms.
provenance

Caedmon's 'Hymn'
appears at/on

Language(s)
of Ms.

misc. notes
B1
Cambridge, Corpus Christi College 41
[Gneuss 75]
s. xiex or xi/xii
prob.
Canterbury, St.Augustine's

p.322
OE

Ca
Cambridge, University Library Kk.3.18
[Gneuss 22]
s. xi1 [O'Donnell]
s. xi2 [Gneuss]
Worcester

f.72v
Lat+OE-margin

C
London, British Library Additional 43703
(=Nowell's transcript of the now destroyed Cotton Otho.B.xi)
[Gneuss 357]
s. xi1
1562(=date of transcription)
Winchester
prov.
Southwick, Augustinian canons
f.146r-v
OE
original largely lost in fire;
only fragments surviving;
text mainly reconstructed
from Laurence Nowell's transcription
O
Oxford, Corpus Christi College 279, pt.ii
[Gneuss 279]
s. xiin


f.112v
OE
text incomplete
T1
Oxford, Bodleian Library
Tanner 10(9830)
[Gneuss 668]
s. xiin or xi1

prov.
Thorney
p.195
(= f.100r)
OE
text incomplete
To
Tournai, Bibliothèque de la Ville 134
s. xii/xiii


f.78v
Lat+OE-main
Ms. was destroyed in
an air-raid on 17 May 1940


West-Saxon eorðan(eorðe)-recension: Hr-Ld1-CArms sub-group
Sigla
Ms. loc. & index
Ms. date
Ms. origin
Ms.
provenance

Caedmon's 'Hymn'
appears at/on

Language(s)
of Ms.

misc. notes
CArms
London, College of Arms, M.6
s. xii


f.84v
Lat+OE-inter
Latin text & OE text
 
in same hand
Hr
Hereford, Cathedral Library, P.5.i
s. xii


f.116v
Lat+OE-margin
Latin text & OE text
 
in same hand
Ld1
Oxford, Bodleian Library,
Laud Misc. 243
s. xii1


f.116v
Lat+OE-margin
Latin text & OE text
 
in same hand


West-Saxon ylda-recension
Sigla
Ms. loc. & index
Ms. date
Ms. origin
Ms.
provenance

Caedmon's 'Hymn'
appears at/on

Language(s)
of Ms.

misc. notes
Bd
Oxford, Bodleian Library 163(2016)
[Gneuss 555]
s. xiiin

prov.
Peterborough
f.152v
Lat+OE-margin

H
Oxford, Bodleian Hatton 43
[Gneuss 630]
s. xi2 [O'Donnell]
s. xiin [Gneuss]
Glastonbury??
prov.
Canterbury, Christ Church
(at least by s. xiiin)
f.129f
Lat+OE-margin
text of hymn added in 11th-c. hand
Ln
Oxford, Lincoln College, Lat. 31
s. xiimed


f.83r
Lat+OE-margin

Mg
Oxford, Magdalen College Lat. 105



f.99r
Lat+OE-margin

SanM
San Marino (California),
Huntington Library, HM 35300
s. xvmed


f.82r
Lat+OE-margin

Tr1
Cambridge, Trinity College, R.5.22
s. xiv


f.32v1-2
Lat+OE-inter
Latin text & OE text
 
in same hand
W
Winchester, Cathedral 1
[Gneuss 759]
s. ximed [O'Donnell]
s. x/xi or xiin [Gneuss]

prov. Winchester
f.81r
Lat+OE-margin
hymn in xi-hand (Dobbie)

main info for above tables taken from Dobbie, Minor Poems & O'Donnell, 'A Northumbrian Version' (app.), with additional information taken from Gneuss (2001) on pre-12th-c. mss.




Appendix III: Online readings of Cædmon's Song in Old English:

Sarah Higley reads
sydaudio

click here on the lyre
<- click on picture of lyre to listen to Dr. Sarah Higley read Caedmon's Hymn in Old English (may need to adjust volume to hear)
Robert Fulk reads
sydaudio

click here on the lyre
<- click on picture of lyre to listen to Prof. Robert Fulk read Caedmon's Hymn in Old English (from the Norton Online Archive)