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362 Study Questions: Bede and "Caedmon's Hymn"

Vocabulary: Old English, Anglo-Saxon, oral-formulaic, epithet, caesura, alliteration, alliterative verse, compounding, vernacular, hymn

Identification: The Venerable Bede, Caedmon, The Ecclesiastical History of the English People, "Caedmon's Hymn"

Abbreviations: OE (Old English) ME (Middle English), MnE (Modern English) A-S (Anglo-Saxon)

Introduction Questions: What was Bede's occupation or vocation?
What does Bede's epithet, "Venerable" mean? [Consult a dictionary.]
What is the title of Bede's most important book--the source for most of our historical knowledge of Britain from the years 449-731?
What are some of the compounded epithets used for "God" in "Caedmon's Hymn" as translated into Modern English?

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 the song-circle?
Who taught Caedmon how to sing and spontaneously create poetry?
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 me something."
And he replied, "I don't know how to sing; that is why I left the feast to come here--because I cannot sing."
"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 guardian,
The Measurer's might and his mind plans,
The work of the Glory-Father, when of of wonders of every one
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.




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