A Clerk of Oxford posts this fascinating background to the O Antiphons, including the Old English versions from the Exeter Book:
We are now in the last days of Advent, the season of the O Antiphons. These
ancient antiphons, sung at Vespers in the week before Christmas, retain a
remarkable hold on the imagination today - just as they did twelve hundred years
ago for one Anglo-Saxon poet, who turned them into a series of short poems in
English. For the next few days I want to post the Old English poetic versions of
the O Antiphons, which are much more than translations of the Latin texts: they
are exquisite poetic meditations on the rich imagery of the antiphons,
responding to them in subtle and creative ways. In translating them to post here
I've been astonished anew by their beauty and interest, and I hope you'll enjoy
them as much as I do.
They survive in a manuscript known as the Exeter Book, an anthology of
English poetry on all kinds of themes and in all kinds of forms: elegies,
saints' lives, riddles, wisdom poetry, philosophical reflections, heroic
laments, and many poems which resist classification. The O Antiphons are the
first poems in the collection, and they were probably composed some time earlier
than the date of the tenth-century manuscript, perhaps around the year 800. They
are anonymous, though once attributed by scholars to Cynewulf, and they long
suffered from being lumped together with the poems which follow them in the
manuscript (which also concern Christ, so you will sometimes find them being
called 'Christ I' or 'Christ A'). However, they deserve to be treated, and
appreciated, separately and on their own terms, as a collection of individual
poems linked by their common source in the O Antiphons.
Read the rest here.