Cædmones Léoþ/Cædmon’s Hymn

Cædmon’s Hymn, although preserved by the Northumbrian historian Bede as a Christian hymn, has been used by Anglo-Saxon Heathens for some decades now.  Brian Branston, in his work The Lost Gods of England, explored the Heathen symbolism preserved within the poem.  Indeed, as poetic alliterations and half-lines were traditionally borrowed and recycled in Old English poetry, it is quite likely that many of these verses were lifted from older Heathen poems. For example, Wuldor is cognate to the Old Norse god-name for Ullr.  Likewise, Fréa is cognate with the Old Norse Freyr. Dryhten, or drighten, refers to a warlord.  In this case, dryhten refers to a god of war with Wóden being the most likely candidate given the creation nature of the hymn.  Metod, or Measurer, may also be a poetic kenning for Tiw (Old Norse: Týr), the god of the Þing (Law Assembly) who metes out justice.  The title of Mankind’s Warder certainly recalls Þunor whereas the title of Heaven-kingdom’s warder could have originally referred to either Þunor or Hama (ON: Heimdallr).

Cædmones Léoþ (Original text followed by Þórbeorht Línléah’s translation)
Nú wé sculon herian     hefonríces weard
Now we shall hery (praise)     heaven-kingdom’s warder
Meotodes meahte     ond his módgeþanc,
Measurer’s might     and his mood-thoughts
weorc Wuldorfæder[es],     swá hé wundra gehwæs,
work of the Wuldor-Father     as he wonders’ each
éce dryhten     ór onstealde.
the Eternal Drighten     in the beginning installed.
Hé ǽrest scóp,     eorþan bearnum
He erst shaped     for the earth’s bairns
Heofan tó hrófe.      Hálig Scieppend
Heaven as a roof.      The Holy Shaper
Þá middangeard,     monncynnes weard,
then Middle-Yard     mankind’s warder
éce dryhten,     æfter téode,
the Eternal Drighten     after[ward] appointed
firum foldan,     fréa eallmihtig.
a fold for men     Fréa almighty.


Now we shall hery [praise] the warder of heaven’s kingdom, the measurer’s might, his mood-thoughts, the work of the Wuldor-Father [Glory Father], that Eternal Drighten [Warlord] who in the beginning installed each wonder.
He erst [long ago] shaped the heaven to be a roof for the earth’s bairns [children].
Then the Holy-Shaper, Mankind’s Warder, the Eternal Drighten, Fréa [Lord] Almighty, afterward appointed Middle-Yard [Middle Earth] a fold [land] for men.

Another excellent Heathen translation of this poem can be found in Garman Lord’s Way of the Heathen.