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. The poem 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.