Category Archives: Venerable Bede

Bede’s Cosmological Hymn

One of the gems in the new edition of Bede’s On the Nature of Things and On Time, is the first translation and publication of Bede’s cosmology hymn. It doesn’t appear to have a very set title. Wallis and Kendall refer to it as the ‘Hymn of the Six Ages’, but the edition actually titles it the ‘Hymn of the Work of the Six Days of Creation and Six Ages of the World’. Descriptive but not very catchy. Derek over at St Bede’s Breviary may be interested to know that Wallis and Kendall assert that this hymn is the only one of Bede’s hymns written for the daily office.

Bede’s hymns are poems that were sung. There his no indication of  a chorus. We know he modeled his poetry on the many forms of hymns found in psalms.

This poem has 28 stanzas that together wrap up Bede’s views of the “ages of fleeting time”. There are 6 pairs of stanzas that link a day of creation with an age of time with four stanzas for the sixth day/age. There are introductory stanzas and descriptions of two ages to come. Here are perhaps the critical four stanzas (13-16):

On the sixth day was created

Man, who, displaying

The image of his Creator

Would live blessed forever.


The most high Creator of all,

By whom man was created

In the Sixth Age was created

A man, the Son of God.


As he sleeps, the splendid

Wife of Adam is formed,

Obtaining bone from his bones,

Flesh from his flesh.


Now the splendid bride is born

To Christ from his very flesh

And by the mystery of his blood

as he sleeps on the cross.


The bride is of course the church, known from ancient times as the body of Christ. Its not very easy to see Bede’s poetic patterns here in part because it was written in Latin. Kendall and Wallis assure us that the pattern is also found in some of Bede’s other genuine poems and fits within classical iambic dimeters. Bede’s style fits within what he described in his The Art of Poetry.


Kendall, Calvin B and Wallis, Faith. (2011). Bede: On the Nature of Things and On Times. Translated Texts for Historians Series. Liverpool University Press.


Bede’s Sacred Time Collection (via Heavenfield)

Cross posting from my other blog, Heavenfield.

Bede's Sacred Time Collection We have gotten used to the concept of Bede’s Temple trilogy as if they were the driving force behind his life’s work. A far bigger and broader theme can be found on his works, a planned collection of works on cosmology and sacred time. These works stretch from his earliest works to among his last. An incomplete list is a follows: – The Nature of Things and On Time, 703 – On Revelations, c. 703 – On Genesis (717-725) – On the Reckoning of Time, c. … Read More

via Heavenfield

Cologne MS 106: Book of Hildebald

I have written a few times about The Book of Hildebald, also known as Cologne MS 106 (here and here). As many of you know by now, the archive in Cologne Germany collapsed this week to a level equal to intentional destruction (see here for more information). Hopefully archivists around the world are taking a second look at their archive buildings and getting a little of these economic stimulus packages to ensure that this never happens again.

Given that the manuscript is labeled Cologne MS 106, I have to assume that it was in the archive unless it was on-loan elsewhere. Keep an eye out for its mention as they begin shifting through the rubble. I quick online search hasn’t turned up any information on where it was stored.

And then there were two…

So why is the Book of Hildebald important? The book, written during the tenure of Bishop Hildebald of Cologne (794-819), contains most of the works that Alcuin collected for Bishop Arno of Salzburg before 805, including several of Bede’s works. It includes one of only three early copies of Bede’s Abbreviated Psalter. If Cologne MS 106 has indeed been lost, it will severely hurt future studies of Bede’s psalter. It also included an early copy of Bede’s hymn on St Æthelthryth and 12 of his other metrical hymns. I have hypothesized before that this manuscript contained a portion of Bede’s lost Book of Hymns. If that it true, it may have been one of a kind.

The best source I know of on the manuscript is: Leslie Webber Jones. (1929) “Cologne MS.106: A Book of Hildebald” Speculum 4(1): 27-61.

Bede’s On Genesis

Yesterday and today have been a days of mixed news, but one of the bright spots what that my copy of Bede’s On Genesis arrived yesterday. Yippee! It feels like I’ve been waiting for it for years.

I would promise an upcoming review except for the fact that I think I made such a promise on Heavenfield about this time last year for Bede’s On Ezra-Nehemiah and that is no where near ready. I think there is a better chance that this one will appear in short quotes every once in a while though. It may also fit into the ongoing discussion of science and creation (which I haven’t forgotten about).

Two other commentaries of Bede’s that I hear are in process are his On the Song of Songs and On Samuel. I don’t think l’ve heard an ETA for either of them.

May 25: Bede the Venerable

To celebrate St Bede’s Feast day today, here is a new collect:

Heavenly Father, your servant Bede was a true scribe of the kingdom, devoting his life to teaching the rough and the eloquent the mysteries of your Scripture and creation: Grant that we share his devotion to exploring the mysteries of your Word and creation in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord who in the unity of the trinity now and forever. Amen

And three prayers of Bede’s composition:

From On Ezra-Nehemiah (DeGregorio, 2006: 226)

“Highest father of lights, by whom every excellent thing is given and from whom every perfect gift descends, you have given me, the humblest of your servants, both the love and the aid to consider the wonders of your law, and have manifested to me, unworthy though I am, the grace to not only grasp the ancient offerings in the treasury of this prophetic book but also to discover new ones beneath the veil of the old and to bring them forth for the use of my fellow servants – Remember me with favour, oh my God.”

From Ecclesiastical History of the English People, V:25 (McClure and Collins, 1994:295):

And I pray thee, merciful Jesus, that as Thou hast graciously granted me sweet draughts from the Word which tells of Thee, so wilt Thou, of Thy goodness, grant that I may come at length to Thee, the fount of all wisdom, and stand before Thy face for ever.

From On the Apocalypse (Douglas Day, Christ the Golden-Blossum, 2001, p. 17):

Grant us your light, O Lord, that the darkness in our hearts being wholly passed away we may come at last to the light, which is Christ. For Christ is the morning star, who when the night of this world has passed, brings to his saints the promised light of life, and opens to them eternal day. Amen.