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tion, so he now departed to His presence, leaving the world by a quiet death; and that tongue which had composed so many holy words in praise of the Creator, uttered its last words whilst he was in the act of signing himself with the Cross, and recommending himself into His hands; and by what has been here said he seems to have had foreknowledge of his death.”

Such is the remarkable account of the "Coming of Cadmon preserved in the writings of the ablest and most trustworthy historian of the Anglo-Saxon


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The historical truth of this account, however, and even the very existence of any such name as “Cædmon" have been called in question by at least one eminent English archæologist.* These and similar questions, although highly interesting to the antiquary, are in no sense of vital importance to the modern student of literature. Whether any such poet as Homer or as Shakespeare ever lived, or even if they did live, whether they wrote the works commonly attributed to them, are not matters of prime importance. The fact of the existence of these immortal works is amply sufficient, and although we should like to know somewhat of the life, the character, and the surroundings of the men who so largely

* Vide Note G.

contribute to our intellectual pleasure, yet, happily, our mental gratification is not limited by the possession of a knowledge of these facts.

It is so in the case of Cadmon. The poem exists, and from internal evidence can be proved to belong to the early days of Anglo-Saxon Christianity; and whether Beda's account is strictly historical, or whether such a ceorl as Cædmon ever lived, are questions of little if of any moment.

At the same time, we are not left entirely in the dark as to these mooted questions. With regard to Beda's narrative we have prima facie evidence that the historian received it directly from some one of the members of the celebrated double monastery at Whitby, where Cadmon is stated to have lived and died. According to Beda's chronology, which cannot be gainsaid, Cædmon must have been living while the future historian was a child; and the monastery in which Beda was reared and educated, being situated in the same section of the country as the lady Hilda's, viz., in Northumbria, must have had intimate relations with the latter. In this way, the traditions of one monastery would naturally be known, (and known in their original setting,) to the inmates of the neighbouring monastery.

The story of Cædmon's miraculously discovered gifts as a poet, which formed part of the legendary

history of the monastery at Whitby, was doubtless the poetic rendering of an actual fact. The author of the Anglo-Saxon poem may, or may not, have had any such dream as the legend describes, but the existence of the poem is a fact; and the tale of the bashful, super-sensitive hind leaving his companions because of his ignorance of music and falling into dreams of what he might have sung, is so true to nature that we may well regard it as the fanciful setting of a poetic age.

Nor is there anything strange in this development of legend-lore. The memory of the self-sacrificing life of the Lady Hilda has been preserved in story by the peasantry around her former home for more than a thousand years. An antiquary of Yorkshire tells. us that when the sunbeams fall among the Abbey ruins, the spectators who stand on the west side of Whitby churchyard, so as just to see the most northerly part of the Abbey, imagine they perceive, in one of the highest windows there, the resemblance of a woman arrayed in a shroud; and it is commonly believed among the peasantry, to be an appearance of the Lady Hilda in her glorified state. And so, she, who among an untaught people diffused the light of the Gospel and the warmth of its charity, still appears to the half-taught of to-day as a vision of sunshine in the old place of her toil.

As to the poem itself, it is certain from Beda's own statement, that he translated the opening lines of Cadmon's poem, as he gives them in his Historia, either from some manuscript which he had consulted, or from some version which he had heard recited and had committed to memory; and further, it is clear from his own statement that he did not attempt to give an exact translation of the original Anglo-Saxon but only a paraphrase. After quoting the lines in question, he says: "Verses never so well composed cannot be literally translated out of one language into another without losing much of their beauty and loftiness."

In the extant historical writings of the time between Beda and King Alfred, we do not recall any reference to Cædmon or his poem; but in King Alfred's translation of Beda's Historia we have Beda's narrative repeated, and the opening lines of Cadmon's poem given in Anglo-Saxon.

Whether King Alfred's Anglo-Saxon version is a re-translation of Beda's Latin, or a transcript from the original Anglo-Saxon, has been questioned; but on purely critical grounds we are convinced that King Alfred translated from the Latin, and did not copy from any Anglo-Saxon original.

This point will come out very clearly if we examine, side by side, the Latin wording of the His

toria and the wording of the Anglo-Saxon translation of King Alfred.

"Nunc laudare debemus auctorem regni cælestis, potentiam creatoris et consilium illius, facta patris gloriæ; quomodo ille, cum sit æternus deus, omnium miraculorum auctor extitit, qui primo filiis hominum cælum pro culmine tecti, dehinc terram custos humani generis omnipotens creavit."

So writes Beda in his Latin version of Cadmon's opening lines.

In King Alfred's translation this passage is rendered as follows:

Nu we sceolan herian
Heofon-ríces weard
Metodes mihte
And his mód-gethonc
Wera wuldor-fæder
Swá he wundra gehwæs
Éce dryhten

Oord onstealde

He ærest gesceop
Eorthan bearnum

Heofon to hrófe

Hálig scyppend
Thá middangeard
Mancynnes weard
Éce dryhten

Efter téode

Firum foldan

Fréa ælmihtig

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