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Caedmon's <em>Hymn</em>

Caedmon's Hymn

by Caedmon

Analysis: Trivia

Brain Snacks: Tasty Tidbits of Knowledge

Caedmon was no Lady Gaga. According to Bede, "he was never able to compose any vain and idle songs but only such as dealt with religion and were proper for his religious tongue to utter." (Source.)

Although Bede was the first to write "Caedmon's Hymn" down, he wasn't the first to record it in its original West-Saxon dialect. The original version only appears in later manuscript copies of Bede's text, at first as marginalia (i.e., written in the margins of the page, rather than with the rest of the text). All in all, the Old English version appears in seventeen different manuscripts, from the eighth to the fifteenth century. (Source.)

Bede was not one hundred percent thrilled with his translation of Caedmon's Hymn into Latin. Right underneath he wrote that it gave "the general sense but not the exact order of the words that he sang in his sleep; for it is impossible to make a literal translation, no matter how well written, of poetry into another language without losing some of the beauty and dignity" (Source.)

Caedmon isn't finished yet. After his Hymn launched the entire tradition of English poetry, Caedmon is still generating his own poetry. Poet Denise Levertov (1923-97) penned a simple but moving take on the story of the first English poet. (Source.)

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