Caedmon’s Story: PartsVI, VII



After my examination
Which, I was told,
My divine gift,
In humility
I accepted this new role
No longer a toiler in God’s farmyard
But now become a monk novitiate
Tutored in biblical tradition
In the classic stories
God had bestowed
In His scriptures
Encouraged to
Make music with words
And voice,
To reflect the stories
From Genesis
To The Last Judgement.

My chief desire
Through all my words
Was to redirect my fellow man
From love of sin
To love of good deeds,
To altruism
To tolerance
And righteousness.

The new found confidence
Granted to me by God’s
Gave me the will
To sing
To follow the harp,
My trembling words
Colouring the air
Gripping my listeners,
Binding them to the message
Within the spell of my songs.


In Old English
In the vernacular of my calling
And under the tutelage
In matters of the scriptures
Of Hild’s scholars
I continued to compose
To recite
To sing to the harp.

In time
I took my vows
And became a monk
Enriched by recognition
Of my gifts by my fellows
I led a devout life
Given to God
And to his servants on earth
Expressing my joy
In my heart-felt words
All coloured
Through my imagination
With images of the life
And landscape
Which I knew
From my own surroundings
These, transcribed by my brothers,
And spread through them
To other foundations across the land.


As I now know
My end approaches
I have fallen ill
And during my fever
Unusual as it was
I had a premonition of my death
This allows me
I am told
As a revered follower of God
To receive my last Eucharist.

This I now
My pillowed head
In full knowledge of
Promised Peace
Hoping I have been true
Throughout my life
To my calling
As Herdsman
And Poet.
And that
In due time
This will deliver me
Into God’s presence.


Whitby Abbey Ruins in Silhouette . . . Watercolour Wash … WHB – 1991

Tomorrow . . . ‘ Caedmon’s Hymn’ – the only extant poem known to be by Caedmon


Caedmon’Story: Parts IV, V



When I woke
From my broken slumber
The words
I knew
Were still with me
Those same words
I had uttered at his bidding.

Charged with joy
I felt compelled to repeat
These hitherto unfamiliar
Expressions of my faith
To sing of creation
To all who would hear.

I straight away went
Revealed my verses
To my steward.
Astounded with my
Unfamiliar fluency
He sought for answers
For how
When and why
But I had no explanation
I merely repeated my joy
In the expression
Of such images
Such revelations
Of the worth of creation
And the works of God


‘We must attend the abbess
To present her with your new-found gift.’

And he straightway led me
Into her presence.
Hild listened with an intensity
Beyond the norm
As affected as I myself
By the scenes
Painted by my words
By the conviction in their truths
By the clarity of their vision.

Perhaps to test my resolve
The substance
Of my newly discovered powers
Hild asked that I render into verse
Another portion of sacred history
Explained to me
By one of her monks.

This task,
After labouring all night
I was able to comply with,
Whereon Hild,
Without further hesitation,
Pronounced on my future.

‘It is clear’, she finally said,
‘You have pondered well
During your silences
My dear Caedmon.
You have listened
And absorbed
All that has swirled around you
And God has considered
Has chosen the time
And granted you His blessing
Directing you
To spread his word
His deeds and challenges
To all Christendom
To this end
You must take the tonsure of a monk
You will be admitted to our order
Where your reverend brothers
Will expound the scriptures further

Myself, I only ask
That you continue to demonstrate
Your powers of poesy and sacred song,
For the benefit of all’.


Whitby Abbey . . . Photograph:  WHB – 2005

. . .  Concludes tomorrow with Parts VI & VII . . . 


Caedmon’s Story: Parts I, II, III


Cowherd at Whitby Abbey … Photograph by Frank Meadows Sutcliffe – c.1880



While the wind whispers words to me
On the cold cliff-top meadow
I gaze out to the cold sea of the north
Its waves ceaselessly gnawing
Chewing on the feet
Of these towering cliffs
Atop which sits
Streonaeshalch monastery
My home
Raised skywards
Its beseeching arches
Piercing the clouds
Their pinnacles breaching
The gates of heaven
Forever seeking
Connection with
God’s presence

Amongst the buttercups
In the pasture
On my lips

The salt tang of the sea
With staff in hand
I pause
Musing on my masters
Cloistered inside the abbey precincts
Cultivating their chants
Tending their herbs
Brewing their healing potions
While I exist
To care for their cattle
But wedded to my lowly calling
A lay brother
But a needed
Part of the whole

And my Abbess
Of such gentle demeanour
Finding the time to speak to me
Her lowly cowherd
Intent only on doing her bidding
On following her lead
Attempting to mirror her devotion
Her calling understood
And honoured
Even echoed
By her lowly servant.


Evening came
And with it

Mists drifting from the sea
In the refectory

A feast of sorts was spread
As is usual
We were all there
From abbess to monk
Minstrels, mummers
Swineherds, sheep herds
Farm hands, helpmates
Expected to play a part

I edged myself closer
To the fire’s flames
As before
Wanting no part in their story-telling
Fearing their disdain
To seek the ember’s warmth

The harp
From one to another
Each offering their words
To its accompaniment
Soon it would be
Handed to me
But I had no words to offer
No desire to demonstrate
My unschooled presence
No thoughts that I could
Or dare

As always
I sidled to the doorway
Stepped out
Into the cold evening air
Against the biting wind
The sea mist

I hastened to my mattress
To the warmth
Of my animals
My uncritical companions.


The weariness of work
Soon brought respite
To my tired limbs
And sleep came
Straw-cosseted sleep
Without warning
A blaze of light and
Intrusive whispered words 

‘Caedmon …
Sing a Song’
‘Sing to me’
‘Sing now’

I felt myself shudder
A half-discerned image
A presence
Beyond my ken
On the edge of vision
I knew I could not do as asked

‘… But I cannot
I know of no songs’

 ‘… Yes, Caedmon
… You can.
Sing to me
Of the beginning of all things
Just open your mouth
And let out the sound’

Knowing how futile
Was what I was being asked
Fear made me open my mouth


Unbid by me
I uttered words,
Recognisable words
Not just words
But beautiful words
Even I knew that
Words I had not heard before
Words I had not thought before
Words of hope
Of strength
Of compassion
Words of Our Creation
In praise
And Blessing
Words of Heaven
And of the Creator Himself.


…  Continues tomorrow with Parts 4 and 5 …