St. Cædmon the Melodist
St. Cædmon (reposed c. 680) is
the first known poet of the vernacular in
English. He is thought to have been a Celt, who was already old at the
time he came to Whitby to tend the animals. Too shy to join in the
communal singing after meals, he slipped out to work with the animals. One
night, according to Bede,
Cædmon fell asleep and had a vision in which he
learned a hymn; when he awoke, he knew the song and could recite it
perfectly. After his performance, Hilda urged him to become a monk.
remained illiterate but retained his ability to versify. He listened to
the lessons the monks read and reworked them into English verse, which
made the Scripture accessible to the laity. His verse form is said to have
been the traditional, oral form of the Anglo-Saxons. His only surviving
poem is the "Hymn of Creation," the poem he learned in his dream.
Karen Rae Keck
Codex Junius 11 A manuscript of religious poetry
(Genesis A & B; Exodus; Daniel; Christ and Satan) compiled in the
X Century. Although the authorship is disputed, some or
all of these poems may be the work of the illiterate herdsman who
(at the command of angels, according to Bede) founded English
literature. Geo. W. Kennedy translation, 1916.
Return to St Pachomius Library.