CADMON: The first Christian poet of England and, with the exception of Cynewulf, the only Anglo-Saxon versifier whose name is known; d. about 680. All information concerning him comes from Bede, who states (Hist. eccl., iv. 24) that he was a brother in Hilda's monastery at Streanæshalch (see HILDA, SAINT) and learned the art of song, not from men, but from God. Till well advanced in years he lived a secular life, and he often left a merry company where all were called on to sing in turn, feeling his inability to comply. On one such occasion he went from the hall to the stable, it being his duty that night to watch the animals, and in his sleep he saw some one standing before him and commanding him to sing of the Creation–which he thereupon was enabled to do, reciting an original poem, which Bede gives in Latin translation.1 1 On awaking Cædmon remembered the poetry of his dream, and proceeded to add more of the same purport. Being brought before the abbess Hilda, he related his vision, and, at the request of the learned men there present, put passages of Scripture which they repeated to him into excellent verse. Thereupon he was received into the monastery and instructed in the Biblical stories, large portions of which he subsequently versified. Among these were the creation of the world, the origin of man, and the whole history of Genesis; the departure of the children


of Israel from Egypt and their entrance into the land of promise; the incarnation, passion, resurrection, and ascension of Christ; the descent of the Holy Ghost and the preaching of the apostles; the terror of future judgment, the horror of hell, and the blessedness of heaven; and many other things by which he sought to lead men from the love of the world and to the choice of a good life. He was a very religious man and the manner of his death was in complete accord with his devout and tranquil life. Bede was born before Cædmon's death and lived not far from his monastery; hence his account is worthy of belief. The attempt of Sir Francis Palgrave to show that the story is a mere monk's tale is to be rejected. No doubt a monk named Cædmon lived at Streanæshalch and wrote poetry there, and evidently he was of low origin and unlearned. Several poems from a manuscript now in the Bodleian Library–a paraphrase of Genesis of more than 2,900 lines; Exodus, about 600 lines; Daniel, about 800 lines; and portions of the New Testament, including the lament of the fallen angels, Christ's visit to hell, and the temptation of Christ, formerly known as the Christ and Satan–were published by Franciscus Junius (François du Jon) at Amsterdam in 1655 and attributed to Cædmon. At present it is conceded that only the first of these poems has any claim to be considered the production of Cædmon, and that even this has been transmitted in an interpolated and much modified form (see HELIAND, THE, AND THE OLD-SAXON GENESIS); many think that it contains no work of Cædmon's at all. The hymn mentioned by Bede, however, is preserved in the Northumbrian dialect (Cædmon's own) by a Cambridge manuscript of the Historia ecclesiastica and is the oldest extant Christian poem in a Germanic tongue.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: Besides the edition of Junius, the poems of the Bodleian manuscript have been published by the Society of Antiquaries of London–Cœdmon's Metrical Paraphrase of Parts of the Holy Scripture in Anglo-Saxon, with an English Translation, Notes, and a verbal Index by B. Thorpe, London, 1832. The same society also published in their Archœologia, xxiv. (1832), fifty-two plates illustrative of the manuscript, including the illuminations, reissued separately London, 1833. Later editions are by K. W. Bouterwek, 2 vols., Gütersloh, 1849-54, and C. W. M. Grein, in his Bibliothek der angelsächsischen Poesie, ii, 316-562, new ed. by R. Wülker, Leipsic, 1894. Grein has also furnished a German translation in alliterative verse in Dichtungen der Angelsachsen stabreimend übersetzt, Göttingen, 1863. Consult further: Sir Francis Palgrave, in Archœologia, xxiv. (1832) 341-343, reprinted by Cook, pp. 12-13 (see below); W. H. F. Bosanquet, The Fall of Man or Paradise Lost of Cœdmon Translated in Verse, London, 1860; E. Sievers, Der Heliand und die angelsächsische Genesis, Halle, 1875; R. S. Watson, Cœdmon, the First English Poet, London, 1875; B. ten Brink, Geschichte der englischen Litteratur, i., 2d ed., Strasburg, 1899, Eng. transl., London, 1883; J. Earle, Anglo-Saxon Literature, London, 1884; R. Wülker, Grundriss zur Geschichte der angelsächsischen Litteratur, Leipsic, 1885; idem, Geschichte der englischen Litteratur, Leipsic, 1896; A. Ebert, Allgemeine Geschichte der Litteratur des Mittelalters vol. iii., Leipsic, 1887; A. S. Cook, in the Publications of the Modern Language Association of America, vol. vi., part 1, pp. 9-28, Baltimore, 1891; Plummer's Bede, ii, 248-258, Oxford, 1896; W. Bright, Early English Church History, pp. 311-316, Oxford, 1897; R. T. Gaskin, Cœdmon, the First English Poet, London, 1902. For the striking resemblance between parts of the Genesis and Milton's Paradise Lost, consult I. Disraeli, Amenities of Literature, pp. 37-50, ed. B. Disraeli, London, 1875; S. H. Gurteen, The Epic of the Fall of Man, a Comparative Study of Cœdmon, Dante, and Milton, London, 1896 (gives reduced facsimiles of the illuminations of the Bodleian manuscript).

1 1"Now ought we to praise the founder of the heavenly kingdom, the power of the Creator, and his wisdom, the deeds of the Father of Glory; how he, since he is God eternal, is the author of all things wonderful, and the one who first created the heaven as a roof for the sons of men, then the earth–the almighty guardian of the human race." Bede explains that he gives the sense, not the order of words, and wisely remarks that no verses can be transferred verbatim from one language to another, no matter how well it may be done, without losing much of their beauty and power.


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