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of the exordium in a Latin version sufficiently in accord with the diction of the Bodleian Ms. to render it, all discrepancies notwithstanding, nearly certain that he is following the same text. King Alfred, or the translator who worked under his direction, rendering Beda into Anglo-Saxon, gives indeed quite a different text as Caedmon's; but it seems almost certain that, not having the poet himself to refer to, he is merely turning Beda's Latin back into the vernacular. Beda further gives an account of Caedmon's
writings which agrees with the contents of the MS. to a considerable extent. He describes them as paraphrases of Genesis and Exodus, “with many other histories of holy writ,” also of the New Testament, and of poems on the world to come. So far as Genesis is concerned, the description, with one remarkable exception to be noticed, tallies exactly; and “the other histories" may be thought to be represented by a paraphrase of Daniel, also in the MS. The Caedmonian authorship of the Exodus is questioned on the ground of its superior poetical merit, and the internal evidence it seems to afford of the poet's having been a warrior. The poems contained in the MS. which relate to the New Testament and the invisible world do not agree so well, there are also linguistic variations, and the hand
Poem on the
writing is that of a different scribe. There seems, therefore, good reason for concluding that Genesis, with one important exception to be named immediately, and possibly Exodus and Daniel, were written by Caedmon ;
and the other piece, by poets of his school, who, Bede says, were numerous.
The exception we have noted to the generally Caedmonian authorship of the Genesis is the remarkable history of the Temptation of Adam and Eve, commonly known as “Genesis B.,” which it is difficult to believe unknown to Milton. Critics are nearly unanimous in regarding it as improbable that this striking poem should have been written by the paraphrast of Genesis and Exodus, and the improbability is increased by its evident relation to the old Gerinan poem of the Heliand, written in the eighth century, whose author was sufficiently erudite to have been indebted to the Latin poems of Avitus, Bishop of Vienne. The Heliand (“Saviour") is of course solely concerned with the New Testament, but seems to imply a corresponding poem on the Old, existing at present solely in the Anglo-Saxon fragment known as “Genesis B." In any case this is at least two centuries later than Caedmon. As might be expected, the gentle diffident minstrel, whose doubts and fears kept him back from song for half a century,
excels chiefly in tender passages, Ruthwell Cross
such as the following description
of the Dove and the olive - tree, thus rendered by Mr. Stopford Brooke :
Far and wide she flew,
With her booty flew, brought it to the sailor,
This is pretty and tasteful embroidery, but the poet does not invent; he simply amplifies and adorns the matter before him. The poet of the Temptation and the Fall, however indebted he may be to Avitus for hints, shows true original genius in his additions to his text; his pictures of Satan bound in the infernal regions, of the loyalty of the infernal retainer who performs the errand to Eden at his lord's behest, and of the subtlety by which Eve is overcome. Unlike Milton, he conceives of Satan as so straitly fettered in the deeps of hell as to be unable to put his designs against the human race into execution by his personal efforts, and compelled to solicit the aid of one of his thanes. The immense loss in sublimity which this involves is almost compensated by the closeness to human nature :
If I to any thane
that he from here upward lordly treasure
and outward might go ; in former times have given
might come through these barriers, while we in the good seats
and strength in him had blissful sate ;
that with raiment of feather at no more acceptable time
his flight he could take, could he ever with value
and whirl through the welkin, my bounty requite.
where the new work is standing If men for this purpose
-Adam and Eve any one of my thanes
in the earthly realm
with wealth surrounded
Keats justly eulogises Milton for placing vales in hell, but it will be seen that the Anglo-Saxon poet had been beforehand with him.
When the contents of the Bodleian MS. were given to the world by Franciscus Junius they were unaccompanied by any Latin version, and Milton's sight had failed him. Yet it is hardly possible to believe him unacquainted with a poem from which he continually seems to be borrowing, while he no less continually improves it. Nothing could be more natural than for Junius to present his book to the Commonwealth's Latin Secretary, and when Milton, his mind fraught with his growing epic, discovered that the volume contained a poem on the same subject, he would assuredly seek and find an interpreter. Considering the naturalisation, far more complete than in any other country—which the Bible was to undergo in England, and the extent to which English literature was to be permeated by it, the derivation of the earliest Anglo-Saxon poems from the Scriptures is a phenomenon of the deepest significance.
The authorship of the Exodus poem presents a problem. The spirit certainly seerns too martial for the author of Exodus, but on the other hand we have Bede's distinct testimony that Caedmon did compose a para