Bede's Historia Ecclesiastica (Old English)

Bodl.: Tanner 10

f 99–100v


IN ÞEOSSE ABBUDISsan mynstre wæs sum broðor syndriglice mid godcundre gife gemæred & geweorðad forþon he gewunade gerisenlice leoð r wyrcan þa ðe to æfæstnisse & to arfæstnisse belumpen swa ðætte swa hwæt swa he of godcundum stafum þurh boceras geleornode<.> þæt he æfter medmiclum fæce in scop|gereorde mid þa mæstan swetnisse & inbryrdnisse geglængde & in engliscgereorde wel geworht forþ brohte. Ond for his leoþsongum monigra monna mod oft to worulde forhogdnisse & to geþeodnisse þæs heofonlican lifes onbærnde wæron. Ond eac swelce monige oðre æfter him in ongelþeode ongunnon æfæste leoð wyrcan. ac nænig hwæðre him þæt gelice don meahte. Forþon he nalæs from monnum ne þurh mon gelæred wæs þæt he þone leoð cræft leornade. Ac he wæs godcundlice gefultumed & þurh godes gife þone songcræft onfeng. Ond he forþon næfre noht leasunge ne idles leoþes wyrcan meahte ac efne þa an þa ðe to æfæstnesse belumpon & his þa æfæstan tungan gedeofanade singan. wæs he se mon in weoruldhade geseted oð þa tide þe he wæs gelyfdre ylde & næfre nænig leoð geleornade. Ond he forþon oft in gebeorscipe þonne þær wæs blisse intinga gedemed þæt heo ealle sealde þurh endebyrdnesse be hearpan singan. þonne he geseah þa hearpan him nealecan þonne aras he for for scome from þæm symble & ham eode to his huse. þa he þæt þa sumre tide dyde þæt he forlet þæt hus þæs gebeorscipes & ut wæs gongende. to neata scipene þara heord him wæs þære neahte beboden. þa he ða þær in gelimplice tide his leomu on reste gesette & onslepte þa stod him sum mon æt þurh swefn & hine halette & grette & hine be his noman nemnde. cedmon, sing me hwæthwugu | þa ondswarede he & cwæð ne con ic noht singan & ic forþon of þeossum gebeorscipe uteode & hider gewat forþon ic naht singan ne cuðe. eft he cwæð se ðe wið hine sprecende wæs. hwæðre þu meaht singan. þa cwæð he hwæt sceal ic singan. cwæð he sing me frumsceaft. þa he ða þas andsware onfeng þa ongon he sona singan in herenesse godes scyppendes þa fers & þa word þe he næfre gehyrde þære endebyrdnesse þis is. nu sculon herigean heofonrices weard meotodes meahte & his modgeþanc weorc wuldor fæder swa he wundra gehwæs ece drihten or onstealde. he ærest sceop eorðan bearnum heofon to hrofe halig scyppend. þa middangeard moncynnes weard ece drihten æfter teode firum foldan frea ælmihtig. þa aras he from þæm slæpe & eal þa þe he slæpende song fæste in gemynde hæfde & þæm wordum sona monig word in þæt ilce gemet gode wordes songes togeþeodde. þa com he on morgenne to þæm tungerefan þe his ealdormon wæs sægde him hwylc gife he onfeng & he hine sona to þære abbudissan gelædde & hire þa cyðde & sægde þa heht heo gesomnian ealle þa gelæredestan men & þa leorneras & him &weardum het secgan þæt swefn & þæt leoð singan þæt ealra heora dome gecoren wære hwæt oððe hwonon þ<..> cumen wære. þa wæs him eallum gesegen swa swa hit wæs þæt hit wære from drihtne sylfum heofonlic gifu forgifen þa rehton heo him & sægdon sum halig spell & godcundre lare word bebudon him þa gif he meahte þæt he in swinsunge leoþsonges þæt gehwyrfde þa he ða hæfde þa wisan onfongne þa eode he ham to his huse & cwom eft on morgenne & þy betstan leoðe ge |glenged him asong & ageaf þæt him beboden wæs. ða ongan seo abbudisse clyppan & lufigean þa godes gife in þæm men & heo hine þa monade & lærde þæt he woruldhad anforlete & munuchad onfenge & he þæt wel þafode. Ond heo hine in þæt mynster onfeng mid his godum & hine geþeodde to gesomnunge þara godes þeowa & heht hine læran þæt getæl þæs halgan stæres & spelles. ond he eal þa he in gehyrnesse geleornian meahte mid hine gemyndgade & swa swa clæne neten eodorcende ⸢in⸣ þæt sweteste leoð gehwerfde & his song & his leoð wæron swa wynsumu to gehyranne þætte seolfan þa his lareowas æt his muðe wreoton & leornodon. Song he ærest be middangeardes gesceape & bi fruman moncynnes & eal þæt stær. genesis. þæt is seo æreste moyses booc & eft bi utgonge israhela folces of ægyptalonde & bi ingonge þæs gehatlandes & bi oðrum monegum spellum þæs halgan gewrites canones boca. ond bi cristes menniscnesse & bi his þrowunge & bi his upastignesse in heofonas & bi þæs halgan gastes cyme & þara apostola lare & eft bi þæm dæge þæs toweardan domes & bi fyrhtu þæs tintreglican wiites & bi swetnesse þæs heofonlecan rices he monig leoð geworhte. ond swelce eac oðer monig be þæm godcundan fremsumnessum & domum he geworhte in eallum þæm he geornlice gemde þæt he men atuge from synna lufan & mandæda & to lufan & to geornfulnesse. awehte godra dæda. For þon he wæs se mon swiþe æfæst & regollecum þeodscipum eaðmodlice underþeoded. ond wið þæm þa ðe in oðre wisan don woldon he wæs mid welme micelre ellenwodnisse onbærned ond he forðon fægre ænde his lif betænde & geendade...

  • Footnotes
    • IN: I is a decorated bird figure in the left margin
    • ÞEOSSE ABBUDISsan: ie, Hild of Whitby
    • sealde: for sceolde
    • for for: dittography
    • wordes: for wyrðes
    • &weardum: forondweardum; scribal abbreviation
    • þ<..>: for þæt
    • seolfan þa: for þa seolfan
  • Record Translation

    f 99–100v


    In the monastery of this abbess there was a certain brother especially distinguished and honoured with a divine gift, since he was accustomed to make songs fittingly, which pertained to religion and piety, so that whatever he learned of sacred writing from scholars, those things after a moderate space of time he brought forth in poetic language | adorned with the greatest sweetness and inspiration and well-wrought in the English language. And by his songs the spirits of many men were kindled to contempt of the world and to a longing for the heavenly life. And likewise many others after him among the English people began to compose pious songs, but none however could do so in the same manner because it was not at all from men nor through man that he learned the art of song, but he was divinely aided and through God's gift received the art of poetry. And therefore he never could make any sort of lying or idle song, but only those which pertained to piety and those which were appropriate for his pious tongue to sing. The man was established in a secular life until the time when he was of advanced age and he had never learned any songs. And therefore, often at a feast when there was deemed to be occasion of pleasure so that they all must in turn sing with a harp, when he saw the harp coming near him, he then arose for shame from that feast and went home to his house. On a certain occasion when he did this, so that he left the banquet-hall and was going out to the animal stables, whose care had been assigned to him that night, when he there at a suitable time set his limbs at rest and fell asleep, then a man stood by him in a dream and saluted and greeted him and called him by his name: 'Cædmon, sing me something.' | Then he answered and said: 'I do not know how to sing and therefore I went out from this feast and came hither, because I did not know how to sing at all.' Again he said, he who was speaking with him: 'Nevertheless, you must sing (for me).' Then he said: 'What must I sing?' Said he: 'Sing to me of the first Creation.' When he received this answer, then he began immediately to sing in praise of God the Creator verses and words which he had never heard, whose order is this:

    Now we must praise / the Guardian of the heavenly kingdom,

    the might of the Measurer / and his mind's purpose,

    the work of the Father of glory, / as he, the eternal Lord,

    established the beginning / of all wonders.

    First he made the earth / for the children of men,

    heaven as a roof, / the holy Creator.

    Then the Guardian of mankind, / the eternal Lord,

    afterwards created / the world,

    the earth for men, / the almighty Lord.

    Then he arose from that sleep and all that which he sang while sleeping he had fast in his memory and he soon added in the same manner to those words many words of songs pleasing to God. Then in the morning he came to the town-reeve, who was his alderman. He told him what kind of gift he received, and he immediately led him to the abbess and made it known and described it to her. Then she ordered all of the most learned men and scholars to gather, and to those who were present commanded him to tell of that dream and sing that song, so that it might be determined by the judgement of all of them what that was and whence it had come. Then it was seen by all just as it was, that to him from God himself a heavenly gift had been given. Then they spoke to him and told some holy story and divine words of knowledge; they bade him then, if he could, that he turn that into poetic metre. Then, when he had undertaken it in this manner, then he went home to his house and came again in the morning and with the best adorned | song he sang and rendered what he was bid.

    Then the abbess began to embrace and love the gift of God in that man and she exhorted and advised him that he should abandon the worldly life and accept the life of a monastic, and he readily agreed to this. And she took him into the monastery, with his goods and received him into the community of God's servants and ordered that he be taught the sequence of holy stories and narratives. And he was able to learn all that he heard and, keeping it all in mind, just like a clean animal chewing cud, turned it into the sweetest song. And his songs and his poems were so beautiful to hear that his teachers themselves wrote and learned from his mouth. He sang first about the creation of the world and about the origin of mankind and all of the history of Genesis – that is the first book of Moses – and afterwards about the exodus of the people of Israel from the land of Egypt and their entry into the promised land, and about many other stories of the canonical books of holy scripture, and about Christ's incarnation and about his suffering and about his ascension into the heavens, and about the coming of the Holy Ghost and of the teaching of the apostles, and then about the day of coming judgement and about the terror of the tormenting punishment and about the sweetness of the heavenly kingdom, he wrought many songs. And so he also made many others about divine mercy and judgement. In all of them he eagerly sought to draw men away from the love of sin and evil deeds and to awaken in them the love and practice of good deeds. For he was a very devout man and humbly devoted himself to regular service. And against those who wished to do otherwise, he burned with a surging of great ardour. And for this reason with a beautiful end he closed and ended his life...

  • Document Description

    Record title: Bede's Historia Ecclesiastica (Old English)
    Repository: Bodl.
    Shelfmark: Tanner 10
    Repository location: Oxford

    Bede was born in Northumbria around 672–3 and was sent at the age of seven to the Benedictine house of Wearmouth, where he lived until his death at the sister monastery of Jarrow on 26 May 735. His Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum (History of the English Church and People) was completed around 731 and provided a well-documented narrative of the conversion of the Anglo-Saxon settlers to Christianity. Bede places the story of Cædmon late in the life of abbess Hild and late in Cædmon's life as well. Hild died in 680, giving a terminus ad quem for the composition of 'Cædmon's Hymn.' The poem survives in both Latin and West Saxon versions of Bede's Historia Ecclesiastica, and as a marginale in the Northumbrian dialect (Herbert Thurston, 'Bede, Venerable, Historian and Doctor of the Church, b. 672 or 673; d. 735,' Catholic Encyclopedia Online Edition,, accessed 31 December 2020; Bede, Ecclesiastical History, pp xix–xxxvii).

    early 10th-c.; Old English; parchment; 139 leaves (2 + 2 parchment flyleaves, now removed); 250mm x 165mm; modern pagination and foliation; gilt line decorations on spine; 18th-c. calf binding.

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