Our venerable and God-bearing Father Cædmon is one of only two Anglo-Saxon poets whose names are known (the other being Cynewulf). The author of the first recorded poem in English, he is known as the Father of English Poetry.
According to Bede, writing in the 7th century, Cædmon 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. St. Hilda, the abbess of Whitby Abbey, encouraged his new calling and asked him to join the monastery. The poem we know as "Cædmon's Hymn" was written down by Bede in Latin in his Ecclesiastical History of the English People. The Anglo-Saxon version commonly read today is not, in actuality, Cædmon's own work, but comes from an Anglo-Saxon translation of Bede's history made sometime during the reign of St. Alfred the Great.
Cædmon's hymn of creation
|Nu scylun hergan hefaenricaes uard||Now we should praise the heaven-kingdom's guardian,|
|metudæs maecti end his modgidanc||the measurer's might and his mind-conception,|
|uerc uuldurfadur sue he uundra gihuaes||work of the glorious father, as he each wonder,|
|eci dryctin or astelidæ||eternal Lord, instilled at the origin.|
|he aerist scop aelda barnum||He first created for men's sons|
|heben til hrofe haleg scepen||heaven as a roof, holy creator;|
|tha middungeard moncynnæs uard||then, middle-earth, mankind's guardian,|
|eci dryctin æfter tiadæ||eternal Lord, afterward made|
|firum foldu frea allmectig||the earth for men, father almighty.|
The text of the poem, as it appears here, was transcribed from a facsimile of the Moore manuscript of Bede.