Imagens das páginas

poem have become wholly forgotten. Still such was the case.

The incursions of the Danes, and the destruction of the monastic libraries which followed, added to the ignorance and indifference of AngloNorman ecclesiastics, and the ravages of time itself, led, as we know, to the loss of many valuable writings. It was not until the seventeenth century, as we have before seen, that the manuscript of a sacred poem, corresponding to the one described by Beda, was discovered by Archbishop Ussher. This manu. script was used by Somner in the preparation of his Anglo-Saxon dictionary, and was subsequently presented by the Archbishop to Francis Dujon, known to all the scholars of his day under the nom de plume of Junius.

This famous manuscript, the only one now known to exist in England, is in the Junian collection in the Bodleian Library at Oxford, a small parchment volume in folio, containing two hundred and twentynine pages, the first two hundred and twelve of which are apparently in the handwriting of the tenth century.

The illuminations, or rather drawings, which accompany the manuscript, do not reach beyond the ninety-sixth page, although in almost every succeeding page, to the very end of the volume, blank spaces, intended to receive illuminations, occur, show

ing that in the illustrations as well as in the text, the manuscript was left unfinished. In the whole series of fifty-three plates, the colouring of but one has been completed ; the others being drawn simply in black and white, with a view, apparently, of being coloured later by the illuminator. Where colours have been introduced they are simply outlines in brown, vermilion, and green.

Junius, in the preface to the edition of this manuscript, which he published at Amsterdam 1655, does not hesitate to pronounce it a copy of the long lost poem of Cædmon described by Beda in his Historia ; and he does so, and doubtless correctly, on the ground of the correspondence which exists between the Ussher manuscript and Beda's description, no less than from the structure and general characteristics of the language.

It is true that the opening lines of the Junian manuscript do not correspond verbally either with the Latin of Beda or with the Anglo-Saxon of King Alfred; but as we have before stated, Beda did not pretend to give more than the sense of the passage, and Alfred avowedly copied from the original of Beda. Hence, it is not strange, but only what we might have expected a priori, that the manuscript of the poem, if ever discovered, although it might not agree verbatim, would agree substantially, with

the passage as given by Beda and his translator, King Alfred. And this proves to be the case with regard to the Junian manuscript as the following comparison will conclusively show:


Nu we sceolan herian
Heofon-rices weard
Metodes mihte
And his mód-gethonc
Wera wuldor-fæder
Swá he wundra gehwæs
Éce Dryhten
Oord onstealde
He arest gesceop
Eorthan bearnum
Heofon to hrófe
Hálig scyppend
Thá middangeard
Mancynnes weard
Ece Dryhten
Æfter téode
Firum foldan
Fréa ælmihtig.

Us is riht micel
Thæt we ródera weard
Wereda wuldor-cining
Wordum herigen
Módum lufien
He is magna sped
Heofod ealra
Fréa ælmihtig
Næs hin fruma defre
Ór geworden
Ne nu ende cymth
Écean Dryhtnes.

In this fragment, consisting of but eighteen short lines, we have the following epithets of the Deity, all of frequent occurrence in the so-called Paraphrase :—Heofon rices weard ; Éce Dryhten ; Hálig Scippend; Mancynnes weard; Fréa Ælmihtig; and there is scarcely a single phrase that is not common

to both compositions, while the same identity prevails in their whole structure. The exordium of the Poem conveys exactly the same thought as the Hymn cited by Beda, and clothed very nearly in the same mode of expression.

Few, if any, who have read the poem in the original, and have given it the close study that its intrinsic merits deserve, will refuse to accord to the monk of Whitby the possession of high poetic gifts; while some few will not hesitate to accept, even in this nineteenth century, the estimate of Beda, “ Et quidem et alii post illum in gente Anglorum religiosa poemata facere tentabant, sed nullus ei æquiparari potuit. Namque ipse non ab hominibus, neque per hominem institutus, canendi artem didicit, sed divinitus adjutus gratis canendi donum accepit.

“ Others after him in the English nation were wont to attempt to compose religious poems, but none could compare with him, for he did not learn the art of poetry by man, neither through man, but was divinely aided, and through God's grace received the gift of song.”



Analysis of Cædmon's “ Fall of Man."


HE poem which we are about to analyse, is the

earliest strain of sacred song that has come down to us from the distant past of England's poetic records.

It has been the fashion to style this famous relic of Anglo-Saxon literature a Scripture Paraphrase, but such a title is both inadequate and misleading. It is inadequate, since Cædmon's work though in the main based, as we shall subsequently see, on certain statements in the Hebrew Scriptures, on Biblical hints and Oriental imagery, is, nevertheless, in the form in which we have received it, virtually an original production, incorporating Rabbinical fancies, glosses, and comments, but still adorned with such innumerable touches of the poet's own imagination as to constitute it a distinct and independent version. Moreover, to designate it a Paraphrase is misleading, inasmuch as in the most highly finished portion of the work the author shows him

« AnteriorContinuar »