# 1.8: The Venerable Bede

$$\newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} }$$ $$\newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}}$$$$\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}$$ $$\newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}$$ $$\newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}$$ $$\newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}$$ $$\newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}$$ $$\newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}$$ $$\newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}$$ $$\newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}$$ $$\newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}$$ $$\newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}$$ $$\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}$$ $$\newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}$$ $$\newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}$$ $$\newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}$$ $$\newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}$$ $$\newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}$$ $$\newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}$$ $$\newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}$$ $$\newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}$$ $$\newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}$$

(c. 673-735 ACE)

Cædmon’s Hymn is found in the work of an English monk named Bede (later called the Venerable Bede). Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People, written in Latin, covers British history from the Roman invasion to 731 ACE, the year the history was completed. In particular, Bede focuses on the conversion of pagan tribes to Christianity: first the Celtic tribes, and then the Anglo-Saxons. Bede credits both Irish and Italian missionaries with doing all of the work to bring about conversions, condemning native Britons for their lack of effort. The process of conversion was still underway when Bede was writing. Early rulers would often convert, and then order their subjects to convert as well, so Bede is careful to record the history of conquests: whoever controls a group potentially controls the religion. Bede’s work also features numerous miracle stories, which serve to remind readers both of the power of religion and a reason to convert. The most famous example is the story of the illiterate Caedmon, who is blessed one night with the ability to compose poetry. Cædmon’s Hymn, composed in Anglo-Saxon and translated by Bede into Latin, is considered one of the earliest example of Anglo-Saxon poetry.

## 1.9.1 The Story of Cædmon and Cædmon’s Hymn

Found in the Ecclesiastical History of the English People

Completed 731 ACE

### Preface

To the most glorious king Ceolwulf . Bede, the servant of Christ and Priest .

I formerly, at your request, most readily sent to you the Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation, which I had lately published, for you to read and judge; and I now send it again to be transcribed, and more fully studied at your leisure. And I rejoice greatly at the sincerity and zeal, with which you not only diligently give ear to hear the words of Holy Scripture, but also industriously take care to become acquainted with the actions and sayings of former men of renown, especially of our own nation. For if history relates good things of good men, the attentive hearer is excited to imitate that which is good; or if it recounts evil things of wicked persons, none the less the conscientious and devout hearer or reader, shunning that which is hurtful and wrong, is the more earnestly fired to perform those things which he knows to be good, and worthy of the service of God. And as you have carefully marked this, you are desirous that the said history should be more fully made known to yourself, and to those over whom the Divine Authority has appointed you governor, from your great regard to the common good. But to the end that I may remove all occasion of doubting what I have written, both from yourself and other readers or hearers of this history, I will take care briefly to show you from what authors I chiefly learned the same.