Caedmon is one of only two Anglo-Saxon poets whose names are known. According to Bede, writing in the 7th century, Caedmon was a cow-herd at a Yorkshire monastery, who was unable to sing in public until he miraculously found himself able to sing the Creation, a poem of nine lines. Saint Hilda the abbess of Whitby Abbey, encouraged his new calling and asked him to join the monastery. It appears in the margins of some copies of Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People, and is the oldest surviving text in English. Although many verses have been attributed to Caedmon, the original nine lines of alliterative Old English poetry are the only verses which can reliably be ascribed to him.

See also: alliterative verse

Caedmon's hymn of creation

The text of the poem, as it appears here, was transcribed from a facsimile of the Moore manuscript of Bede. This transcription and translation are hereby public domain.

Nu scylun hergan    hefaenricaes uard Now we should praise    the heaven-kingdom's guardian,
metudæs maecti    end his modgidanc the measurer's might    and his mind-conception,
uerc uuldurfadur    sue he uundra gihuaes   work of the glorious father,    as he each wonder,
eci dryctin    or astelidæ eternal Lord,    instilled at the origin.
he aerist scop    aelda barnum He first created    for men's sons
heben til hrofe    haleg scepen heaven as a roof,    holy creator;
tha middungeard    moncynnæs uard then, middle-earth,    mankind's guardian,
eci dryctin    æfter tiadæ eternal Lord,    afterward made
firum foldu   frea allmectig the earth for men,    father almighty.