A layman cowherd, in his later years he came to work with animals at the double monastery of Whitby. One night in 657 he received a vision which commanded him to glorify God with hymns, and which gave him the poetic skills to do so. As he was illiterate, the brothers would read the Bible to Caedmon, and he would repeat it back to them as poetry. With the encouragement of Saint Hilda, Whitby’s abbess, he became a Columban lay brother. First known poet of vernacular English. His story was recorded by Saint Bede. Miracles attributed to his intercession.
- in the British Isles
- may have been Celtic
Wherefore, being sometimes at feasts, when all agreed for glee’s sake to sing in turn, he no sooner saw the harp come towards him than he rose up from the board and went homewards. Once, when he had done this and gone from the feast to the stable, where he had that night charge of the cattle, he laid himself down to rest at the proper time and there appeared to him in his sleep one who said, greeting him by name, “Caedmon, sing some song to me.”
“I cannot sing,” he answered, “and for that reason I left the feast and came hither, because I could not sing.”
He who talked with him answered, “However that may be, you shall sing to me.”‘
“What shall I sing?” rejoined Caedmon.
“Sing the beginning of created things,” said the other. Having received this answer, the abbey’s cowherd began to sing, to the praise of God the Creator, verses which he had never heard before, and afterwards awaking from his sleep, he remembered all that he had sung in his dream and added more to the same effect in verse worthy of the Deity.
– Saint Bede
Now we should praise
the heaven-kingdom’s guardian,
the measurer’s might
and his mind-conception,
work of the glorious father,
as he each wonder,
instilled at the origin.
He first created
for men’s sons
heaven as a roof,
the earth for men,
-translation of by Caedmon, the hymn he learned in his vision
Let us now praise the Guardian of the Kingdom of Heaven and the might of the Creator,and the thought of His Mind, glorious Father of men; for He, Lord Eternal, did frame the beginning of every marvellous thing. He first made the heavens as a roof for the children of men, God, the Creator! Then the mid-earth did the eternal Lord, the Guardian of men, therewith provide, and earth for men, the Lord God Almighty! – Saint Caedmon
- “Saint Caedmon“. CatholicSaints.Info. 11 August 2009. Web. 31 July 2015. <>