All others talked as if
talk were a dance.
Clodhopper I, with clumsy feet
would break the gliding ring.
Early I learned to
hunch myself
close by the door:
then when the talk began
I’d wipe my
mouth and wend
unnoticed back to the barn
to be with the warm beasts,
dumb among body sounds
of the simple ones.
I’d see by a twist
of lit rush the motes
of gold moving
from shadow to shadow
slow in the wake
of deep untroubled sighs.
The cows
munched or stirred or were still. I
was at home and lonely,
both in good measure. Until
the sudden angel affrighted me—light effacing
my feeble beam,
a forest of torches, feathers of flame, sparks upflying:
but the cows as before
were calm, and nothing was burning,
……………..nothing but I, as that hand of fire
touched my lips and scorched my tongue
and pulled my voice
………………………….. into the ring of the dance.

(“Cædmon (IPA: /ˈkædmɒn/) is the earliest English poet whose name is known. An Anglo-Saxon herdsman attached to the double monastery of Streonæshalch (Whitby Abbey) during the abbacy of St. Hilda (657–680), he was originally ignorant of “the art of song” but supposedly learned to compose one night in the course of a dream. He later became a zealous monk and an accomplished and inspirational religious poet…)

His one known surviving poem(Text has been normalised to show modern punctuation and line- and word-division):

Hymn

Now [we] must honour the guardian of heaven,
the might of the architect, and his purpose,
the work of the father of glory
— as he, the eternal lord, established the beginning of wonders.
He, the holy creator,
first created heaven as a roof for the children of men.
Then the guardian of mankind, the eternal lord,
the lord almighty, afterwards appointed the middle earth,
the lands, for men.

Advertisements