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 B1, Bd (parallel view only), Br, Ca, CArms, Di, H, Hr, Ld, Ln, Mg, N, O, P, P1, SanM, T1, To, Tr1, W.

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    Nu scylun hergan[2]      hefaenricaes uard,

    metudæs maecti,      end his modgidanc,

    uerc uuldurfadur      sue[3] he uundra gihuaes,

    eci dryctin,      or astelidæ!

5     He aerist scop      eordu barnum

    heben til hrofe,      haleg sceppend;

    tha[4] middungeard,      moncynnæs uard,

    eci dryctin,      æfter tiadæ

    firum foldu,      frea allmectig.

Apparatus (Significant witness variants)

1a Nu] Nu ƿe H W Mg Ln B1 To O (Post-Correction) Ca Hr CArms Ld Tr1 SanM Di P1 Br. 1a scylun hergan] herigan sculon B1. 3a uerc] ƿeoroda N ƿero O (Pre-Correction) ƿera O (Post-Correction) Ca. 3a uuldurfadur] fadur P1 Br ƿuldorgodes B1. 3b he] -- CArms. 3b uundra] ƿuldres Ca -- Hr. 3b gihuaes] fela B1 -- Hr gehƿilc H W Mg Ln SanM Tr1. 4a eci] -- Hr. 4a dryctin] -- Hr. 4b or] ord B1 Ca H Mg Ln Tr1 SanM O ær To -- Hr Ld CArms ƿord W. 4b astelidæ] onstealde T1 N O Ca -- Hr Ld CArms. 5a He] Hu Tr1 her P1 -- Hr þa he CArms Ld. 5a scop] gescop W Mg Ln Tr1 Ca H O SanM. 5b eordu] aelda M H W Mg Ln Tr1 SanM P. 6a til] to P Di P1 Br T1 B1 To N O Ca Hr CArms Ld H W Mg Ln Tr1 SanM. 6b haleg] -- Hr Ld CArms. 6b sceppend] scepen M drihten To -- Hr Ld CArms. 7a tha] þe B1 -- H Mg Ln Tr1 W SanM. 7a middungeard] middangearde H Mg Ln Tr1 W SanM. 8b tiadæ] eode N -- CArms tida H W Mg Ln Tr1 SanM. 9a foldu] on foldu Di P1 Br Hr CArms Ld H W Mg Ln SanM Tr1. 9b frea] euca Tr1. 9b allmectig] ælmihtes SanM ælmihtig halig scyppeod Hr Ld CArms.


[2]scylun] scylun is either first person plural with an unexpressed subject (i.e. [uue] scilun), 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). As Mitchell points out, there are parallels to uerc as subject.

In addition to P and M, scilun (and variant spellings) is found without uue or equivalent in N the uncorrected form of O, and T1 (all reflecting early forms of the West-Saxon eorðan recension); the fact that the West-Saxon eorðan recension appears to acquire a we in the course of its transmission indicates how this reading could have arisen through scribal trivialisation. See also §§ 5.18-5.20 for a discussion.

[3]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.

[4]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.