Cædmon was an Anglo-Saxon monk
whose story is told in The Venerable Bede
's Ecclesiastical History of the English People
. He lived in a monastery run by Abbess Hilda, who ruled the monastery from 657 until 680. According to the story, Cædmon reached a ripe old age
as a layman
without learning a single song, thus ensuring that he was untouched by vain
and idle secular music
. One night, Cædmon dreamed that a voice (most likely the disembodied voice of God
) called to him, asking for a song. Cædmon replied that he knew none, but the speaker demanded that he sing anyway, then asked for a song about the Creation
. At this, Cædmon began to sing a newly-composed song in praise of God
. The next morning, he told of his dream to the abbess and began reciting his song to audiences. Obviously influenced by divine favor
, Cædmon joined the monastery and had a long and famous career as a composer of religious poems.
The story of Cædmon in the Ecclesiastical History is important because it contains "Cædmon's Hymn", the earliest known surviving Old English poem.
Information found in The Norton Anthology of English Literature, seventh edition, vol. 1A.