Cædmon’s Hymn

A reconstruction of the hypothetical written ancestor to all surviving recensions of the poem

Based on M (orthographic forms) and the West-Saxon eorðan recension (substantive readings) with collations from the Northumbrian aelda recension, the Northumbrian eordu recension, the West-Saxon eorðe recension, and the West-Saxon ylda recension.

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    Nu scylun[1] hergan      hefaenricaes uard,

    metudæs maecti,      end his modgidanc,

    uerc uuldurfadur      sue[2] he uundra gihuaes,

    eci dryctin,      or astelidæ!

5     He aerist scop      eordu barnum

    heben til hrofe,      haleg sceppend;

    tha[3] middungeard,      moncynnæs uard,

    eci dryctin,      æfter tiadæ

    firum foldu,      frea allmectig.

Apparatus (Significant recensional variants)

1a Nu] Nu ƿe ylda eorðe eordu. 3b uundra] -- eorðe. 3b gihuaes] gehƿilc ylda -- eorðe. 4a eci] -- eorðe. 4a dryctin] -- eorðe. 4b or] ord ylda -- eorðe. 4b astelidæ] onstealde eorðan -- eorðe. 5a He] -- eorðe. 5a scop] gescop ylda. 5b eordu] aelda aelda ylda. 6a til] to eorðan ylda eordu eorðe. 6b haleg] -- (transposed to end of poem) eorðe. 6b sceppend] -- (transposed to end of poem) eorðe. 7a tha] -- ylda. 7a middungeard] middangearde ylda. 8b tiadæ] tida ylda. 9a foldu] on foldu eordu eorðe on foldum ylda. 9b allmectig] ælmihtig halig scyppend eorðe.


[1]scylun] scylun is either first person plural with an unexpressed subject (i.e. [ƿue/ƿe] scylun), or third person plural with uerc uuldurfadur, 3a, as subject. The former interpretation is supported by the form in Bede’s paraphrase, debemus; but the latter interpretation is suggested by a lack of convincing syntactic parallels in Old English (see especially Mitchell 1985b), and, perhaps, similar syntax in the Benedicite (Stanley 2002, 3). See above, §§ 5.18-5.20 and 2.43. scylun (and variant spellings) appears without a pronominal subject in all witnesses to the Northumbrian aelda recension (i.e. P and M) and the earliest witnesses to the West-Saxon eorðan recension (N, O [Pre-Correction], and T1). All other recensions and later manuscripts of the West-Saxon eorðan recension have a variant of ƿue/ƿe as subject.

[2]sue] Howlett suggests that sue may be intended as an adverb (“thus”) rather than a causal conjunction (“as, because”). For a discussion of the evidence, see above, § C.9. The punctuation here assumes sue is a conjunction.

[3]tha] tha can be construed as either a causal conjunction (“when”) or an adverb (“then”). While the reading has considerable effect on our understanding of the poem’s structure and theology (see above, § C.9, and esp. Blockley 1998, 20-26), neither reading can be ruled out conclusively. The punctuation in this edition follows that of most modern editions in treating tha as an adverb.