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Occasionally in these pages I've referenced "Old English" and my interest in the field.  Here's a short piece to satisfy your possible curiosity on this topic.

The short poem below on the left is popularly known as "Caedmon's Hymn."  Its history is given to us by Bede, the early English historian who lived a generation after it was composed.

Briefly, Bede, who lived in the nearby monastery of Wearmouth tells us that Caedmon was at first attached as a laborer to the monastery of Whitby, founded in 657.

One night, when the servants of the monastery were gathered about the table for good-fellowship, and the harp was passed from hand to hand, Caedmon, knowing nothing of poetry, left the company for shame, as he had often done, and retired to the stable, as he was assigned that night to the care of the draught cattle.

As he slept, there stood by him in vision one who called him by name, and bade him sing.

"I cannot sing, and therefore I left the feast."

"Sing to me, however, sing of Creation."

Thereupon Caedmon began to sing in praise of God verses which he had never heard before.  This is generally recognized as the beginning of English sacred poetry.

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The version here is in the "West Saxon" dialect of the "Old English" language.  The audio is my brief recitation of the verses.  Remember that they were probably written to be accompanied by music played on the Celtic harp.

I know that my pronunciation is fairly approximate and is heavily influenced by my western American origins, but it gives you a reasonable idea of what the language sounded like at the time, and how it continued to sound until the 12th century.

The script I've used for the "Old English" text is an authentic reproduction that would be easily recognizable by people living at the time.


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Now (we) should praise the Guardian of the Heavenly Kingdom
the Ruler's power and His understanding,
the work of the Father of Glory, how He, eternal Lord
established the beginning of every wondrous thing.
He first created Heaven as a roof
for the children of mankind, the holy Creator;
then the Guardian of mankind,
the eternal Lord, afterward adorned the earth
the Lord Almighty (adorned) the world for men.


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Copyright 1996 - 2012 by David J. Wardell.  All Rights Reserved.

Revised: Tuesday, September 07, 2004 03:50:17 AM