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Early Indo-European Texts

Old English

Jonathan Slocum

This page contains a text in Old English with a modern English translation. This particular text and its translation are extracted from a lesson in the Early Indo-European Online series, where one may find detailed information about this text (see the Table of Contents page for Old English Online in EIEOL), and general information about the Old English language and its speakers' culture.

Bede's Account of the Poet Caedmon

Ws h se mon in weoruldhde geseted o tde e h ws gelfedre yldo, and h nfre nig lo geleornade: and h for on oft in geborscipe, onne r ws blisse intinga gedmed -- t he ealle sceolden urh endebyrdnesse be hearpan singan -- onne h geseah hearpan him nalcan, onne rs h for scome from m symble, and hm ode t his hse. h t sumre tde dyde, t h forlt t hs s geborscipes, and t ws gongende t nata scypene, ra heord him ws re nihte beboden, h r in gelimplicre tde his limo on reste gesette and onslpte, std him sum mon t urh swefn, and hine hlette and grtte, and hine be his naman nemde:

'Cdmon, sing m hwthwegu.'

andswarode h and cw: 'Ne con ic nht singan, and ic for on of yssum geborscipe t ode, and hider gewt, for on ic nht ce.'

Eft h cw s e mid him sprecende ws: 'Hwere meaht m singan.'

Cw h: 'Hwt sceal ic singan?'

Cw h: 'Sing m frumsceaft.'

h s andsware onfng, ongan h sna singan, in herenesse Godes Scyppendes, fers and word e h nfre ne gehrde, ra endebyrdnes is is:

        N w sculan herian         heofonrces Weard,
        Metodes mihte         and his mdgeonc,
        weorc Wuldorfder;         sw h wundra gehws,
        ce Dryhten,         ord onstealde.

        H rest gescep         eoran bearnum
        heofon t hrfe,         hlig Scyppend;
        middangeard,         moncynnes Weard,
        ce Dryhten,         fter tode
        frum foldan,         Fra lmihtig.


He was a man appointed to secular life, up to the time that he was of advanced age, and he never learned any poetry. For that reason, often at the feast, when there was deemed to be cause for merriment -- so that they all in succession should sing to the harp -- when he saw the harp draw near to him, he arose from the feast out of shame and went home to his abode. Then one time he did this, so that he left the house of the feast and was going out to the cattle shed (their care was entrusted to him for the night). When at a suitable time he arranged his arms and legs on a resting place there, and fell asleep, a man stood by him in a dream and hailed and greeted him and called him by name:
"Caedmon, sing something for me."
Then answered he and said, "I can not sing, and because of this I went out from the feast and went here because I could (sing) naught."
Again he said (he who was speaking with him): "But you can sing to me."
Said he, "What shall I sing?"
He said, "Sing to me about the creation."
When he received this answer, he then began immediately to sing, in praise of God the Creator, those verses and those words which he had never ever heard; the arrangement of them is this:
    "Now we must praise the Lord         of the kingdom of Heaven,
    God's power         and his purpose,
    the work of the Father of Glory;         thus he, of every wonder
    the eternal Lord,         established the beginning.
    He first created,         for the children of earth,
    heaven for a roof,         the holy Creator;
    then the earth,         mankind's Guardian,
    the eternal Lord;         afterwards settled
    with men the earth,         the Lord Almighty.