2. Cædmon's Hymn
Text: 9-line fragment of a hymn by Cædmon (CAD-mun) circa 660 A.D.. Sung first in the West-Saxon dialect of Anglo-Saxon, then in Latin, and finally in Modern English:
Musicians: SATB chorus a cappella, baritone solo, triangle(s)/chime(s)/bell(s) on d” and/or d”’. Doubling with organ or strings may be helpful, unless the chorus is large.
Style: solo, chant, organum, motet, anthem, & canon
Program notes: The tune and most of the words of Cædmon’s famous hymn have been lost; this fragment of the text was recorded by the Venerable Bede. In this setting, the message and the musical theme are preserved through many changes of form as the language and the musical style gradually progress from those of the early Middle Ages to those of the English Restoration.
Nota Bene: Cædmon took his subject from the book of Genesis. But, by setting his words to music, I did not intend to endorse “creationism” or “intelligent design” of organisms. In fact, I teach the scientific theory of biological evolution (as described in this one-page summary). However, the ultimate origin of the mass-energy of the universe, and its physical laws, remains a subject full of mystery and wonder.
Creation window, early 16th c., église de la Madeleine de Troyes
photograph by Vassil, 2008
Cædmon memorial, St. Mary's churchyard, Whitby, North Yorkshire
photograph Richard Thomas, 2006