West-Saxon ylda recension

A critical reconstruction of the idealised recension archetype (after emendation)

Based on H with collations from Bd (parallel view only), Ln, Mg, SanM, Tr1, W.

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    Nu ƿe sculon herian      heofonrices ƿeard,

    metudes myhte,      ond his modgeþanc,

    ƿurc ƿuldorfæder      sƿa[1] he ƿundra gehƿilc[2],

    ece drihten,      ord astealde!

5     He ærest gescop      ylda bearnum

    heofon to hrofe,      halig scyppend[;]

    [þa] middangeard[3],      mancynnes ƿeard,

    ece drihten[,]      æfter t[eo]d[e][4]

    firum on fold[an][5],      frea ælmihtig[.]


[1]sƿa] Howlett suggests that sƿa 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 sƿa is a conjunction.

[2]gehƿilc] gehƿilc is being used here as an independent accusative singular neuter noun, “each”: ƿundra gehƿilc, “each of wonders.” See Bosworth and Toller [1898] 1972, supplement gehwilc I.1(a); Mitchell 1985a, § 467. With one exception (B1 fela), all other witnesses to all other recensions of the Hymn have a variant of gehƿæs.

[3][þa] middangeard] middangearde is the reading of all surviving manuscripts of the West-Saxon ylda recension. It is presumably dative singular used to indicate place where, “on (middle-)earth.” Mitchell describes this as a “rare” usage (Mitchell 1985a, § 1416). He gives examples from Bede, the Seafarer, and Boethius. With one exception (B1 þe middangeard), all other versions of Cædmon’s Hymn read þa middangeard. See above, § 7.48.

[4]t[eo]d[e]] All witnesses to the West-Saxon ylda recension read tida, “of times” (?), here. The form is nonsensical in a context in which a third person singular verb is required. With the exception of a probable error in N (eode, “went”) and a certain graphic error in the late and continental Br (cia de), all witnesses to all other recensions of Cædmon’s Hymn have the expected third person singular of tēon, “furnish.” See also § 6.53, above.

[5]fold[an]] All witnesses to the West-Saxon ylda recension have the dative plural here (foldum). While it may be possible to make sense of the form (on foldum, “among the nations”—see Bosworth and Toller [1898] 1972, folde and on I.7), no other examples of on with the dative plural of folde are found in Old English (Healey et al. 1994). All other recensions of Cædmon’s Hymn have an accusative singular, either by itself or with on: on foldu (Northumbrian eordu recension), foldu (Northumbrian aelda recension), foldan (early members of the West-Saxon eorðan recension), and on folden (West-Saxon eorðe recension). See also above, § 6.52.