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St. Caedmon of Whitby

Our venerable and God-bearing Father Cædmon is the first English poet whose name is known. The author of the first recorded poem in English, he is known as the Father of English Poetry. His feast day in the Church is February 11.

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.

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