Cornish Literature

Cornish literature is most noteworthy for its dearth. Unlike its close relative Welsh, there is little that has survived of the Cornish literature, and that which has is limited to religious pieces, mostly mystery plays. The language having died out in the 1750s (its last native speaker said to have died in 1775), the majority of the pieces date from 1350 to 1611.

The following are the main pieces:

The Charter Fragment: written on the back of a charter, it is dated between 1350 and 1400. The forty-line fragment seems to be a poem about a young girl's marriage.

Pascon agan Arluth (The Passion Poem): a poem on the Passion. A series of 259 lines divided into quatrains, it is dated to the fifteenth century.

The Ordinalia Trilogy: a series of mystery plays, focusing on the Old Testament, The Passion, and the Resurrection. The manuscript dates to the fifteenth century. It can be found online at The Synoptic Ordinalia.

Beunans Meriasek: a play on the life of St. Meriadoc. Peniarth MS 105B, it was rediscovered in the 1860s, and is currently housed at the National Library of Wales.

Beunans Ke: a play on the life of St. Ke, which seems to draw upon some Arthurian material; scholars believe those sections to be inspired by Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain. The manuscript NLW MS 23849D was only recently discovered, and is housed at the NLW.

The Homilies of Tregear: a translation of the homily|homilies of Edmund Bonner by Johan Tregear; it likely dates before Mary Tudor's death and Bonner's subsequent disgrace.

Gwreans an Bys (The Creation of the World): William Jordan's 1611 poem/play, of which only the first half surives. It is a different work from The Ordinalia.

Back to "C" | Back to JCE

Mary Jones 2004