2007 Archive Edition - See the Archive Notice on the Project Homepage for more information.
St. Cędmon (d. c. 680) is the first known poet of the vernacular in English. He is thought to have been a Celt, who was already old at the time he came to Whitby to tend the animals. Too shy to join in the communal singing after meals, he slipped out to work with the animals. One night, according to Bede, Cędmon fell asleep and had a vision in which he learned a hymn; when he awoke, he knew the song and could recite it perfectly. After his performance, Hilda urged him to become a monk. Cędmon remained illiterate but retained his ability to versify. He listened to the lessons the monks read and reworked them into English verse, which made the Scripture accessible to the laity. His verse form is said to have been the traditional, oral form of the Anglo-Saxons. His only surviving poem is the "Hymn of Creation," the poem he learned in his dream.
Karen Rae Keck
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