Portal:Saints/Selected biography/1

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The ruins of Whitby Abbey, where Cædmon is said to have lived and composed

Saint Cædmon /kædmɒn/ is the earliest English poet whose name is known. An Anglo-Saxon herdsman attached to the double monastery of Streonæshalch (Whitby Abbey-pictured) during the abbacy of St. Hilda (657680), he was originally ignorant of "the art of song" but supposedly learned to compose one night in the course of a dream. He later became a zealous monk and an accomplished and inspirational religious poet.

Cædmon is one of twelve Anglo-Saxon poets identified in medieval sources, and one of only three for whom both roughly contemporary biographical information and examples of literary output have survived. His story is related in the Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum ("Ecclesiastical History of the English People") by St. Bede who wrote, "[t]here was in the Monastery of this Abbess a certain brother particularly remarkable for the Grace of God, who was wont to make religious verses, so that whatever was interpreted to him out of scripture, he soon after put the same into poetical expressions of much sweetness and humility in English, which was his native language. By his verse the minds of many were often excited to despise the world, and to aspire to heaven."