Caedmon’s Song

Cover of a children's book telling the story of Caedmon

Cover of a children’s book telling the story of Caedmon

A quiet man who loved tending his cows at Whitby in North Yorkshire, Caedmon couldn’t recite poetry because he thought he had no stories to tell. Then after one especially upsetting public event, Caedmon stormed home, fell asleep in the barn, and everything changed for him. A man appeared in a dream saying ‘Sing about the creation of all things’ and Caedmon immediately sang verses in praise of God the Creator that had never been heard before.

Caedmon (living about the year 680) was an insignificant voice, a cowsherd. Now he is known as the first named poet in the English literary tradition, and an encourager to people who hate speaking in public.

Jesus Christ, God’s word, speaks from the margins of society. Caedmon (feast day February 11th) is a great exemplar of this great tradition.  The Venerable Bede’s ‘Ecclesiastical History’ is full of the names of the elite of the time, and yet, thankfully, in book 4 he finds space to tell of someone who did not walk the corridors of power – Caedmon.

The song of Caedmon


Caedmon’s song  could be easily remembered. It was a powerful aid to speaking and preaching. It also transcended classes within the society of his day. He adapted the ancient themes and formulas for his new way of telling the Christian faith.

So often the church has been enriched and challenged by a voice from the margins, the unexpected poet, singer or prophet. Thank God for them. Not least today, the people of God need poetic voices like those of Caedmon.

Surely Caedmon is a worthy candidate for inclusion in the official list of  saints and holy ones commemorated by the Church of England. (See here)

About stchrysostoms

St Chrysostom’s is an Anglican (Church of England) parish church in Manchester, UK. We’re an inclusive, diverse and welcoming faith community rejoicing in our Anglo Catholic tradition, where people of many differing backgrounds make friends. Find our Facebook group at
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1 Response to Caedmon’s Song

  1. Thank you for introducing me to Caedmon. He makes me think also of John Clare. I have recently been reading about Saint Gobnait, saint of bees and beekeepers, whose feast day is also February 11th and who has much in common with, and may be the same being as, Brigid, saint and also older goddess. Her feast day is February 1st and it was pointed out that the Julian calendar shifted dates by 11 days, which means that Gobnait’s day may once have been February 1st too. And so the same with Caedmon. Interestingly, Brigid is the inspirer of poets and of poetry and so perfect that his day should be the same as hers. I love to find these deeper and wilder threads that weave so many seemingly disparate things together.

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