Monday, November 29, 2010

Caedmon's Hymn

Caedmon’s Hymn
Caedmon is considered the first English poet and Caedmon’s hymn marks the first major move from orallity to text. The hymn must have been very well known orally for it to be remembered, and it was deemed important and beautiful enough to want to write it down. It was written in a pagan society but Caedmons hymn is a hymn not a poem and by definition has religious connotations. It takes the form of a ‘dream vision narrative’ Caedmon had a dream and was visited by a religious figure, presumably God or an angel, from then onwards he was able to sing beautifully about his experience while spreading the message of God, to a chiefly pagan society. As it was an oral society the hymn was remembered simply by  memorizing  it and more than likely repeating it themselves at a later stage. For this reason the hymn contains a lot of alliteration and repetition. Alliteration was used a mnemonic device to help people remember the hymn. Repetition was used to ensure the basic message of the hymn would be remembered, and so that it was clear what specific point the author was trying to get across. In Caedmon’s hymn there are seven different epitaphs used for god, this shows the literary skill and variation present in medieval times, whereas in today’s written world that would be considered unimaginative and boring. The hymn is contained in Bede’s ecclesiastical  history with the old English text at the bottom almost as an afterthought , the main focus of Bede is a latin version of Caedmon’s hymn. Caedmon’s hymn also encouraged the written use of the vernacular, meaning more people would be able to interpret it.

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 allmectigprimo cantauit Cædmon istud carmen.

  Nu scilun herga hefenricæs uard
  metudæs mehti and his modgithanc
  uerc uuldurfadur sue he uundra gihuæs
  eci dryctin or astelidæ.
  he ærist scop ældu barnum
  hefen to hrofæ halig sceppend
  tha middingard moncynn&ealig;s uard
  eci dryctin æfter tiadæ
  firum foldu frea allmehtig


 Now let me praise the keeper of Heaven's kingdom,
 The might of the Creator, and his thought,
 The work of the Father of glory, how each of wonders
 The Eternal Lord established in the beginning.
 He first created for the sons of men
 Heaven as a roof, the holy Creator,
 Then Middle-earth the keeper of mankind,
 The Eternal Lord, afterwards made,
 The earth for men, the Almighty Lord.

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