CAEDMON: The First English Poet

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Caedmon Memorial, St.Mary’s Churchyard, Whitby. N.Yorkshire

Inscription … “To the glory of God and in memory of Cædmon the father of English Sacred Song. Fell asleep hard by, 680.

 Caedmon is credited with being the first English poet.

He lived in the 7th Century A.D.  His actual date of birth is unknown. What we do  know of him is chiefly found in The Venerable Bede’s, ‘The Ecclesiastical History of the English People’ written in 731 A.D.,  50 years after Caedmon’s death. In fact the language Caedmon recited and sang in was Old English.  His works were recorded by others and passed on to subsequent generations.  As Bede reports, Caedmon began as a lowly herdsman working mainly in the fields and grounds of the Northumbrian Benedictine monastery of Streonæshalch (later to become Whitby Abbey) on the coast of North Yorkshire during the time when the renowned St Hilda, or Hild, was Abbess between 657 and 680 AD.

The Abbey occupies a dramatic position, exposed as it is at the edge of the cliffs above the town of Whitby, and facing directly out to the North Sea.  It was disestablished and fell into ruin after the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the early 16th Century.

Caedmon’s story is a fascinating one, with few sources for verification of its authenticity.

  Over the 3 days, starting tomorrow, I hope to present, translated by me from the original Old English, Caedmon’s own version of his life story. 

Whitby Abbey

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4 thoughts on “CAEDMON: The First English Poet

  1. I’ll look forward to these. Studied Old English as a brief module in my degree but I’m certain I wouldn’t be able to translate a word now!

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