Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Cædmon's Hymn Heroes and Hyper texts

Cædmons Hymn

From what we know Cædmons Hymn is the oldest documented english poem. The poem was composed to be song and therefore easy to remember.

Cædmon used alliteration and the repetition of words the make it so. The poem was never composed to be written down and can be summarized in two lines “Let me now praise God the Creator" (1-4), and "God created Heaven, earth, and man" (5-9).

1) Nu scylun hergan hefaenricaes uard

2) metudæs maecti end his modgidanc

3) uerc uuldurfadur sue he uundra gihuaes

4) eci dryctin or astelidæ

5) he aerist scop aelda barnum

6) heben til hrofe haleg scepen.

7) tha middungeard moncynnæs uard

8) eci dryctin æfter tiadæ

9) firum foldu frea allmectig

To be honest I do not think that the modern English version dose the poem justice. Originally Cædmons Hymn would have been sung but in the modern english the poems alliteration in old english dose not translate. I feel that because of this it ruins the poem. The poem was composed to be recited to the plucking of a harp. The reason for the way it is written is because the poem in the old english is easy to remember.

Now let me praise the keeper of Heaven's kingdom,

the might of the Creator, and his thought,

the work of the Father of glory, how each of wonders

the Eternal Lord established in the beginning.

He first created for the sons of men

Heaven as a roof, the holy Creator,

then Middle-earth the keeper of mankind,

the Eternal Lord, afterwards made,

the earth for men, the Almighty Lord.

Although the manuscripts of the Hymn have been examined to analyze Old

English dialects, to describe oral formulae, and to establish a text of the poem, almost no attention has been paid to the variety of ways in which the text is set out.

This variety of formatting and the poem's origin as an oral composition

make Caedmon's Hymn an especially rewarding work to study. Because the

poem is found in fourteen manuscripts copied in England from the eighth

through the twelfth centuries, representing two manuscript environments

and two dialects, it provides much evidence about the transformation of a

work as it passes from an oral to a literate medium, about the consequent

development of a text in Old English, and about the presuppositions underlying the way a text was to be read.

-From Orality and the Developing Text

of Caedmon's Hymn

By Katherine O'Brien O'Keeffe

“The text of Caedmon's hymn of the Creation also perfectly satisfies the cognitive needs of an utterance that, once generated, must be memorizable so that it can later be recalled by rote. Each Old English line has two balanced phrases with four stressed syllables, three of which alliterate. Each half-line, if uttered musically, in time to the plucking of a harp, would fit nicely into our phonological working (short-term) memory, which can accept two seconds of speech only before recycling. The poet phonologically encodes each first half-line to make recall of the closing half-line easy. For example, "hergan" (`praise') alliteratively -- that is, musically -- calls up "hefaenricæs" (`Heaven's kingdom'), as "metudæs maecti" (`the creator's might') does "modgidanc" (`thought'). Half-lines often are formulas, common fixed phrases that repeat themselves, such as "eci dryctin" (`the Eternal Lord'). The same word often begins different half-lines, such as "hefaenricæs" (1) and "hefen to hrofæ" (6), or ends such lines, like "uard" (1, 7) and "mehti" (2, 9). For such reasons, literary historians term Old English poetry as "oral formulaic": meant for publishing only as speech, and so not available in written form, poets filled their works with formulas, easily re-used and remembered building blocks. Caedmon's hymn has just two sentences, which can be summarized: "Let me now praise God the Creator" (1-4), and "God created Heaven, earth, and man" (5-9). The assertion itself has a simple logic that ensures Caedmon can link together, in memory, the larger units, the full lines, into a verse paragraph. Its length may also reflect a common cognitive upper-limit on large text segments.”

From- http://rpo.library.utoronto.ca/poem/369.html

1 comment:

Caolán said...

Nice article Stephen.