The History of English - Old English (c. 500 - c.1100)
About 400 Anglo-Saxon texts survive from this era, including many beautiful poems, telling tales of wild battles and heroic journeys. The oldest surviving text of Old English literature is “Cædmon's Hymn”, which was composed between 658 and 680, and the longest was the ongoing “Anglo-Saxon Chronicle”. But by far the best known is the long epic poem “Beowulf”. “Beowulf” may have been written any time between the 8th and the early 11th Century by an unknown author or authors, or, most likely, it was written in the 8th Century and then revised in the 10th or 11th Century. It was probably originally written in Northumbria, although the single manuscript that has come down to us (which dates from around 1000) contains a bewildering mix of Northumbrian, West Saxon and Anglian dialects. The 3,182 lines of the work shows that Old English was already a fully developed poetic language by this time, with a particular emphasis on alliteration and percussive effects.