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Caedmon

d. c.678. English poet. He was a cowherd who suddenly, according to Bede's Ecclesiastical History (IV. 24), was endowed with the gift of poetry and composed the short piece known as Caedmon's Hymn. Taken before Hilda,* abbess of Whitby, he composed other verses, as a result of which she persuaded him to enter the monastic life. He is said to have written on the Genesis story, the Exodus, Incarnation, Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension, as well as other topics. Of surviving Old English poetry, only the Genesis A text of the Junius MS is now thought possibly to have been his, and there are considerable doubts even about this. His hymn is written, in the four-stressed alliterative meter, with any number of unstressed syllables, characteristic of much Old English verse.

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