Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Caedmon's Hymn

The 19th Century  Caedmon Cross

Now let us praise Heaven-Kingdom's guardian,
the Maker's might and his mind's thoughts,
the work of the glory-father—of every wonder,
eternal Lord. He established a beginning.
He first shaped for men's sons
Heaven as a roof, the holy Creator;
then middle-earth mankind's guardian,
eternal Lord, afterwards prepared
the earth for men, the Lord almighty. 

There are plenty of Celtic saints with names that start with 'C',  Cadfael, Cuthbert, Colombo but I shall choose Caedmon, who wrote the above hymn whilst at Hilde's Whitby Abbey.  It wasn't always called Whitby, the original name was Streoneshalh, but after the Northern invasions it was called  Whitby - White Bay.
The story told by Bede in his book - An Ecclesiastical History of the English People, is that Caedmon, a poor cowherder and also illiterate composed the first hymn.  Bede translated it in Latin but other translations were Saxon, so if you know anything about Saxon writing of the time, each line of a poem is divided into two.  There are plenty of videos either singing or saying this hymn, but it is a rabbit hole that one fears to go down.
At one stage I fell in love with the sober tones of the organ, and also strangely enough with the chanting of monks.  There is something soothing in such music.  My records years ago reflect this, but then the old records are a thing of the past.
Looking at the Breverton book and I see that he says that the very first carol service in 1878 was held on Christmas Eve and was in Truro, Cornwall, he says
"The earliest carols were pagan chants and dances associated with fertility rites and the passing of the winter solstice".  Some carols are as recent as the 19th century, whilst others refer to earlier times.  Interestingly, the carol Partridge in a Pear Tree, is a symbolic way of teaching children, who could not go to church the basics of the bible.  For instance - Two turtle Doves - Old and new testament.  No wonder we love carols, well I do at least, the spontaneity of singing the 'Holly and the Ivy' or 'Away in a Manger' is a bit like the nursery rhymes of old.

The old Caedmon Cross


  1. Gregorian chant. Something else I have forgotten. It was something that grounded me during some dark times. I'll have to pull some out and see it it works still.

    1. I think it is the rhythm of the chant that settles the stress Debby ;)

  2. I'm enjoying your series on the old saints. Yes, very easy to dive down 'rabbit holes' of interest. I tend to spend way too much time that way.

  3. The Partridge in a Pear Tree was an interesting read Sharon, I could not think why religion had to be hidden, then of course I remembered Catholicism had to go underground at one stage.

    1. English history has long interested me, but my mind is boggled by the animosity between Catholicism and Protestantism--seemingly fired by the persuasion of the ruling monarch. And then we have the noble Puritans who fled to America and immediately started literal witch hunts of anyone who disagreed with their interpretations. My husband's maternal line descends from Mary Towne Estey, hanged for her vocal rejection of the prevailing religion.

    2. It is always like that, even today, one side will always know better Sharon. It is men arguing the fine points on principle. Helped with a dollop of greed and persecution. The puritans, presumably were also called dissenters as well when they left on the ships to America. In the big Catholic houses in England there are 'hidey holes' for priests to hide and give a sermon. People died for their beliefs.


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