Analysis of the Epic Poem, Beowulf - Beowulf and Caedmon’s Hymn

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Beowulf and Caedmon’s Hymn

In Beowulf the Christian element, which coexists alongside the pagan or heathen, may have originated in part from the works of Caedmon.

The Christian element in Beowulf had to be included by the original poet or by minstrels who recited it in later times because it is so deeply imbedded in the text. The extent to which the Christian element is present varies in different parts of the poem. While the poet’s reflections and characters’ statements are mostly Christian, the customs and ceremonies, on the other hand, are almost entirely heathen/pagan. This fact seems to point to a heathen work which has undergone revision by Christian minstrels.

The Christianity of Beowulf is of a vague
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The Biblical passage to which this may refer is St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, chapter six, verses 16 and following: “. . . above all taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” E. Talbot Donaldson, distinguished scholar-critic of medieval English literature, disagrees that the minstrel was referring to the Bible; he comments: “Yet there is no reference to the New Testament – to Christ and His Sacrifice which are the real bases of Christianity in any intelligible sense of the term.” (Bloom 1). Aside from this possibly Biblically-based passage, the only passages of the Bible made use of are those relating to the Creation, the story of Cain and Abel, and the Deluge. But these may be allusions to contemporary religious poetry; for example, the story of Creation may have come from spiritual songs or poetry like Caedmon’s Hymn:

“. . . the power of the Creator, the profound mind

of the glorious Father, who fashioned the beginning

of every wonder, the eternal Lord.

For the children of men he made first

heaven as a roof, the holy Creator. . . .(Alexander 6)

All that we know about the poet-monk Caedmon is contained in a Catholic priest’s account: the Venerable Bede’s The

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