Caedmon's Hymn to God (From Old English)

This is arguably the oldest extant sample of English poetry. It is attributed by Bede to the poet Caedmon of the early Middle Ages and, if so, it would be Caedmon's only surviving work (though Caedmon was known to have written a great many works in his day, all other surviving works attributed to him have since been shown to be the work of later poets.)

Cædmon's Hymn to God
By Cædmon (Ostensibly)
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Click to hear me recite the poem in Old English

Hail now the holder of heaven's realm,
That architect's might, his mind's many ways,
Lord forever and father of glory,
Ultimate crafter of all wonders,
Holy Maker who hoisted the heavens
To roof the heads of the human race,
And fashioned land for the legs of man,
Liege of the worldborn, Lord almighty.

The Original:

Nū sculon heriġean heofonrīċes weard,
Meotodes meahte ond his mōdġeþanc,
weorc wuldorfæder, swā hē wundra ġehwæs,
ēċe Drihten, ōr onstealde.
Hē ǣrest sceōp eorðan bearnum
heofon tō hrōfe, hāliġ Scyppend;
þā middanġeard monncynnes weard,
ēċe Drihten, æfter tēode
fīrum foldan, Frēa ælmihtiġ.


  1. Fascinating! It is very hard to find any reasonable spoken Old English/ Anglo-Saxon. I am intensely interested since the first few years of my life I heard a great deal of Frisian. I can still read Frisian and understand spoken Stads Fries. My mother spoke Stads Fries but my father spoke the Frisian dialect of West Terschelling, Westers. Terschelling is Skylge in Frisian. I find that the Old English is really very different from contemporary Frisian. I have never heard anyone speak Middle Frisian and I believe that Old Frisian is not known since there are no texts in Old Frisian. Obviously, however, it must have resembled Anglo-Saxon, or at least some forms of Saxon and some forms of the language spoken by the Angles.

  2. Please add the source for your 'original' Old English text, there are so many versions around...:-) Thanks!

  3. Thanks for this. I don't know why today (9 Feb 2013) I suddenly remembered Caedmon's hymn. Although I majored in mathematics when I was an undergrad 50 years ago, I did take some senior English courses. My favourites were Old English and Chaucer; I can still recite (no doubt with errors!) bits of Beowulf, Caedmon's Hymn and the Canterbury Tales. Chaucer's English still retains the lyricism and muscularity of Old English.
    It was a treat to hear good old Anglo-Saxon again.

  4. I was extremely moved by your reading of the text, thank you so much ! Please excuse a Frenchwoman who has never studied Old English, I hope you woń´t be furious if I tell you I think à bard in Meduseld wouldń t have done it better.

  5. Claudio FernandezApril 23, 2013 at 6:45 PM

    A.Z., I love your recitation of Caedmon's Hymn. I'm trying to learn Old English myself for etymological purposes.