Cdmons Hymn Cdmon seventh

century) Generally considered the oldest poem written in English, "Csdmon's Hymn" is found in some 17 manuscripts dating from as early as the eighth century, which is remarkable for an Anglo-Saxon poem. "C^dmon's Hymn" owes its relative popularity to its parent work: the poem is reproduced as part of the Venerable Bede's Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglo-rum (Ecclesiastical History of the English People, 731). Bede's work—and the poem itself—was written originally in Latin; however, the Old English poem is written outside the lined margins of the Latin text and in a smaller hand.

Bede tells the full story of the origins of "C®dmon's Hymn" in his Historia (4.24), dating the events to approximately 680. C®dmon, a cowherd serving the abbey of Whitby in Northumbria, was at a feast as a harp was passed from guest to guest, each reciting a poem when the harp came his way. Before the harp reached him, C®dmon, afraid to sing, left and returned to his shed. There he slept and dreamed of a heavenly visitor who prompted him to sing of the biblical Creation story. He returned and sang, and when the others heard C®dmon's song, they took him to the abbess, who welcomed C®d-mon into the abbey. There he continued to compose biblical poetry. Some scholars thus assign other poems to him, or at least to a "school of C®dmon."

In addition to its antiquity, the poem is remarkable for bringing together two different traditions: It expresses Judeo-Christian content in a Germanic poetic form. The poem is not only written in Germanic verse (four-beat lines marked by alliteration) but in a Germanic style, with multiple names for God: metod (creator), dryhten (lord, with martial overtones), scieppend (shaper), and frea (lord). other appositives for God are more poetically expressed as kennings; God is heofon-rices weard ("the keeper of the heavenly kingdom"), wuldor-fxder ("the glorious father"), and mann-cynnes weard ("the keeper of humankind"). Such variation of expression reflects the multiple perspectives the Germanic Anglo-Saxons had on the Christian God, and thereby offers significant insight into the reception and acceptance of Christianity among the newly converted Anglo-Saxons.

See also Anglo-Saxon Poetry.

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