362 Study Questions: Bede and "Caedmon's Hymn"
Old English, Anglo-Saxon, oral-formulaic, epithet, caesura,
alliteration, alliterative verse, compounding, vernacular,
Identification: The Venerable Bede, Caedmon,
The Ecclesiastical History of the English People,
Abbreviations: OE (Old English) ME (Middle
English), MnE (Modern English) A-S (Anglo-Saxon)
What was Bede's occupation or vocation?
What does Bede's epithet, "Venerable" mean? [Consult
What is the title of Bede's most important book--the source
for most of our historical knowledge of Britain from the
What are some of the compounded epithets used for "God"
in "Caedmon's Hymn" as translated into Modern
Reading Questions: What was the only topic
Caedmon could write about, according to Bede?
Before Caedmon learned to sing, what would he do at feasts
when he saw the harp being passed in his direction around
Who taught Caedmon how to sing and spontaneously create
What does the angel order Caedmon to sing about? Why is
this thematically appropriate?
Explain how the Abbess basically turns Caedmon into a song-factory,
using him to churn out religious poetry.
Identifications: Be able to explain where
these quotations originate, explain who the author is (if
known), what characters are talking (if dialogue is taking
place), and explain in one or two sentences why the passage
is generally significant or important.
A: "Caedmon," he said, "sing
And he replied, "I don't know how to sing;
that is why I left the feast to come here--because I cannot
"All the same," said the one who was speaking
to him, "you have to sing for me."
"What must I sing?" he said.
And he said, "Sing about the Creation."
B: "Now we must praise heaven-kingdom's
The Measurer's might and his mind plans,
The work of the Glory-Father, when of of wonders of every
eternal Lord, the beginning established."
C: This is the general sense but not the
exact order of the words that he sang in his sleep; for
it is impossible to make a literal translation, no matter
how well-written, of poetry into another language without
losing some of the beauty and dignity.