Comparing between Old and Middle English Literature

Who was Caedmon? Who was Bede? Why was it unusual for Caedmon to compose a hymn?

Cædmon is one of the earliest English poets who had an interest in animals and cared for them during the 657-680. He had little idea about poetry and songs and only composed his first song in a dream. Later on, Caedmon established himself as one of the renowned and accomplished Christian poets. According to Bede, it was unusual for Caedmon to engage in poetry because he was very illiterate and all that he could do was to recite Christian poems. Bede described Caedmon’s level of illiteracy as cow-herd. So according to Bede, Caedmon’s entrance into poetry was therefore miraculous. Caedmon was very shy and always felt ashamed to the extent that he could not even contribute a song.

What is the most notable visual difference in Caedmon’s literature?

Caedmon’s hymns were very challenging to translate and understanding given the uniqueness of his poems and literary writings. Caedmon introduced an unfamiliar form of poetry writing during the fifth century.

Why Caedmon’s hymns were hard and complex?

His hymns were complex given that he used word division, punctuation, and capitalization in order to give a clear understanding of the unpopular Old English writing. These styles were at the time new in literature, hence making it hard to understand his hymns.
The old English literature was initially called by the early scholars in Anglo Saxon England as the Anglo- Saxon literature was originated in the early 7th century after the Norman Conquest of 1066. According to Bede, the Norman conquest of 1066 usually referred as Caedmon’s Hymn is the oldest extant poem in the history of English as compared to the Grave which is one of the final poems written in old English and therefore, presents a transitional text between Old and Middle English (Penn 121). The poem Beowulf is the most famous work of the old literature and forms the canon of traditional English literature.
In descending order of quantity, the old English literature consists of the following: sermons and saints lives, translated works of the early church priests, biblical translations, narrative history works, Anglo-Saxon chronicles, wills of individuals, laws enacted by the state and practical works of the grammar. However, due to the evolution of things, Old English literature has gone through different periods of research more so in the 19th and early 20th centuries (Penn 119). At this period of time, the focus was on the Germanic and pagans roots that many writers thought they could detect in old English literature. It is worth noting that today as the scholars focus upon paleography and the physical manuscripts; there is still a lot of debate regarding the dating, place of origin, connection between the Anglo-Saxon culture and the rest of Europe in the middle ages.
Al ager number of manuscripts is found in the Anglo –Saxon period with much material written during the 9th and 11th centuries. The manuscripts were written in Latin and the vernacular languages and they were later considered losses of a manuscript as a result of the dissolution of the monasteries. The study of languages began during the reign of Queen Elizabeth1 at the time Matthew Parker and others the manuscripts they needed. One of the significant characteristics of the old manuscripts was that they were highly-priced in the 16th century and also they had aesthetic beauty of uniformly spaced letters (Penn 123).

 

Middle Literature

This term Middle English literature means literature is written inform of the English language which is called Middle English and it originated from the 12th century to the 1470s. Interestingly, it is at this period when the Chancery Standard which is a form of London based English became widespread and the printing press regularized the language (Penn 125-6). The transition of the early modern English took place between the 1470s but the transition did not radically change the characteristics of the literacy work. However, the literacy changed drastically when the effects of the renaissance and reformed Christianity became apparent in the era of King Henry VIII.
Much work in the transition of English literature was done in the 14th century by scholars like Pearl Poet’s, Patience, Cleanness and Sir Gawain among others. At this time, Chaucer was the highly regarded English poet of the middle age and hence spearheaded the transition of the Middle English literature as he was seen by his contemporaries as a successor to the great tradition of Virgil and Dante (Penn 129).
Finally, in the latter part of the 14th century, there was a consolidation of English as a written language taking over from French and Latin in many areas. The most notable characteristic at this time was the larger shift from primarily theological or religious subject matter to that secular nature. In this period, the growth in the number of secular books being copied in English was common in many parts of the continent (Penn 130). It is therefore right to conclude that the latter portion of the 14th century is the most significant period in history in the transition and development of the English literature.

 

Work Cited
Penn, Stephen. “Literacy and Literary Production” in Chaucer: an Oxford Guide, ed. Ellis, Steve. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005, pp. 113-130.

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