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Lesson 8

Old English Written Records, Cædmon's Hymn

The first nine lines of this hymn are recorded in Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People.
Bede tells how Cædmon, an unlettered cattle-herd, was suddenly given the ability to compose poetry after being visited by an angel.

Caedmon's Hymn:
Northumbrian Version

Caedmon's Hymn:
West Saxon Version

Nu scylun hergan         hefaenricaes uard,
metudæs maecti         end his modgidanc,
uerc uuldurfadur,         sue he uundra gihuaes,
eci dryctin,         or astelidæ.

He aerist scop         aelda barnum
heben til hrofe,         haleg scepen;
tha middungeard         moncynnæs uard,
eci dryctin,         æfter tiadæ
firum foldu,         frea allmectig.
Nu sculon herigean         heofonrices weard,
meotodes meahte         and his modgeþanc,
weorc wuldorfæder,     swa he wundra gehwæs,
ece drihten,         or onstealde.

He ærest sceop         eorðan bearnum
heofon to hrofe,         halig scyppend;
þa middangeard         moncynnes weard,
ece drihten,         æfter teode
firum foldan,         frea ælmihtig.

Glossary to West Saxon version

-nu adv, conj: now, now that; just now
-sculan vb: must, have to,1st,pl,pres,indic
-herigean str vb: praise infinitive
-heofonrice noun: heavens kingdom g. sing
-Weard noun: guardian acc sing
-Meotodes noun: creator gen sing
-meahte acc sing might, power
-ond conj: and
-his gen sing masc/neut: his
-modgeþanc m noun: mood-thought, purpose acc sing
-weorc n noun: work, task, deed acc sing
-Wuldorfæder noun: Father of Glory (God); gen sing
-swa adv: thus, so; conjunctive adv: as, when
-he 3rd pers pron: he nom sing masc
-wundra noun gen pl: miracle, wonder;
-gehwæs gen sing pron: each, everyone
- ece adj: eternal, everlasting nom sing masc
- Drihten noun: the Lord nom sing
- or n noun: beginning acc sing
- onstealde 3rd pers sing pret : institute, establish, set an example for
- ærest superl adv: first
- sceop 3rd pers sing pret : create;
- eorþan noun: earth gen sing
- bearnum dat pl n noun: child
- heofon noun: heaven acc sing
- to prep: to, into, for, as a
- hrofe dat sing m noun: roof;
- halig adj: holy acc sing
- Scyppend nom sing: God, the Creator
- þa adv: then;
- middangeard m noun: world, middle earth; nom/acc sing
- monncynnes gen sing n noun: mankind
- æfter prep: after, according to
-teode 3rd pers sing pret: adorn
-firum dat pl m noun: people, human beings
-foldan acc sing f noun: earth, ground
-Frea noun: The Lord, Master; nom sing
-ælmihtig adj: almighty nom sing masc

manuscript page/Russian National Library,St-Petersburg /
showing the text of the Hymn on the margins
under the Latin text:

moderm English translation:
'Leningrad' Bede - MS. Lat. Q.v.I.18, Russian National Library, St-Petersburg Now we must praise the kingdom of heaven's guardian
The might of the Creator and his purpose,
The work of the Father of Glory as he of each miracle,
Eternal Lord, established the beginning.
He first created for the sons of the earth
Heaven as a roof, holy Creator.
The middle earth, mankind's guardian,
Eternal Lord, afterwards adorned
The earth with people, the Lord Almighty.

Sources and links to the lesson

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