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Caedmon's Song

To show that joy can be found in everyday things and expressed in song.

by The Revd Alan M. Barker

Suitable for Key Stage 2


To show that joy can be found in everyday things and expressed in song.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need to prepare the story of Caedmon (Caed is pronounced as if to rhyme with 'died').
  • A Come and Praise tape may be used to introduce the 'Song of Caedmon'.
  • Bible link: The psalms are poetry and songs which have been used in worship for centuries, since the days of the Old Testament. Caedmon's song echoes Psalms 8 and 104.


  1. Attempt, rather untunefully, to sing some scales, e.g. Doh, re, mi, fa, so, la, te, doh. Refer to the television programme Pop Idols - do the children think you stand a chance? Ten thousand people auditioned to join this singing competition. By last December only ten were left. Some who entered couldn't really sing in tune, but still enjoyed singing and dreamed of becoming famous. Would any of the children have liked to have joined in? How would they have felt if they were told that they 'couldn't sing'?

  2. Introduce the story of Caedmon. It's a story from the early days of Christianity in the North of England (about 660 AD - over 1300 years ago), and one which tells of someone who dreamed that he could sing.

  3. Caedmon's Story
    by Alan Barker

    On a grey winter's afternoon Caedmon, the herdsman, fed and watered the horses that were sheltered in a rough stone stable. It was a bitterly cold day and a robin flew in among the rafters, pecking up grain that was found among the straw. It too was seeking some shelter from the icy weather. The robin tamely settled near to Caedmon and began to sing. Its clear trills and whistles broke the evening silence.

    Caedmon paused to listen. He was looking forward to the warmth of the great dining hall in the nearby monastery, and to a feast that would be held later that night. But one thought made him hesitate. He knew that after dinner a harp would be passed around the table and that everyone would be expected to sing a song. The others would all sing songs, celebrating great people and occasions of the past. But he couldn't sing. The words and music just didn't seem to come. He felt embarrassed and miserable. If only he could sing as freely as the robin!

    Later that night, after dinner had been served, the entertainment began. Caedmon's friends eagerly took their turns to play and sing. After each song everyone cheered and applauded. Caedmon decided that before the moment came for him to sing he would slip outside. Making the excuse that he needed to take care of his animals, he crept out of the hall and returned alone to the stable. There he went to his bed. The sounds of music and laughter drifted through the darkness, and Caedmon felt very sad that he couldn't have joined in the singing and stayed with his friends. Eventually he went to sleep and had a dream.

    In Caedmon's dream someone said to him, 'Caedmon, sing a song to me.'

    'I can't sing,' he replied, 'that's why I left the entertainment.'

    'But you shall sing,' the voice insisted.

    'What can I sing?' asked Caedmon. The answer came: 'Sing about creation.'

    So, in his dream, Caedmon began singing. He sang of the wonders of the starry night sky, and of the sea's powerful waves beating against the nearby cliffs. He sang of the earth and all its creatures, and praised God for the beauty that he saw each day. He sang, filled with joy by the words and music that flowed from deep within him.

    Waking early the next morning, Caedmon began his daily work of feeding the horses and found himself quietly humming a tune. It was the music of his dream, and Caedmon realized that he could remember the words too! The robin appeared, and as it began to sing Caedmon dared to sing his song. It came so naturally, that Caedmon grew in confidence and so did the sound of his voice. Everyone who heard it was amazed. 'What a wonderful song! Just listen to Caedmon singing!' they exclaimed.

    Soon Caedmon became famous. He left the work of the stable to become a monk, and his poetry and music were used in the worship of the monastery. His dream had come true. People travelled miles to hear him sing, yet Caedmon never forgot the beauty and the inspiration of a robin's song!

  4. Reflect that Caedmon is sometimes known as the 'father of English sacred (religious) poetry'. Part of his song, adapted into modern English, says:

    Now we must praise the Keeper of Heaven,
    The might of the Lord, the thoughts of his mind,
    The glorious Lord's works who created each wonder.

    Caedmon found joy in the things that surrounded him each day, and learned to express that joy in singing.

  5. Optional: You could mention the song 'Yesterday', one of the most famous songs of the Beatles, written by Paul McCartney. He too heard the tune in a dream and when he woke up he was convinced that it must be a tune that he remembered from hearing it somewhere. He played it to all his friends but no one had ever heard it before. Just like Caedmon, he was given the tune in a dream.

Time for reflection

Sing or listen to 'Song of Caedmon' (Come and Praise, 13). Explain that this was written by a modern composer. How do the words and the music of this song express a feeling of joy? What kind of song would the children like to write?

Thank you, God,
for all that brings us joy,
for your gifts of poetry and song,
and for their ability to excite and inspire us.


'Song of Caedmon' (Come and Praise, 13)

(You might also be interested in downloading and using the Caedmon's Song recording at

Publication date: February 2002   (Vol.4 No.2)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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