Friday, February 10, 2012

The Early Cornish Language

Cornish was spoken throughout Cornwall, The Isles of Scilly and to some extent in West Devon and Exeter until, following the battle of Hingston Down in 936, the Saxon king Athelstan drove the Cornish out of Exeter and declared the east bank of the river Tamar to be the border of his kingdom - a border which is of course still current today. Despite keeping his kingdom of Wessex separate from Cornwall, Athelstan still interfered with the Celtic monastic system. As the monasteries tended to be the originators and repositories of manuscripts it may be that this is responsible for the lack of extant texts from this early period of Cornish. It is not until around the time of the Norman conquest that a small number of documents start to appear, including the Bodmin Manumissions of the ninth/tenth century, giving the Cornish names of freed slaves, a Cornish-Latin vocabulary list called the Vocabulum Cornicum, and a short piece of advice about marriage dating from about 1200, which was found on the back of a charter dated 1340.

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Friday, January 20, 2012

The Death of Edmund the Martyr ~ Abbo of Fleury

"King Edmund stood within his hall of the mindful Healer with Hinguar, who then came, and discarded his weapons. He willed to imitate Christ's example, which forbade Peter to fight against the fierce Jews with weapons. Lo! to the dishonourable man Edmund then submitted and was scoffed at and beaten by cudgels. Thus the heathens led the faithful king to a tree firmly rooted in Earth, tightened him thereto with sturdy bonds, and again scourged him for a long time with straps. He always called between the blows with belief in truth to Christ the Saviour.
The heathens then became brutally angry because of his beliefs, because he called Christ to himself to help. They shot then with missiles, as if to amuse themselves, until he was all covered with their missiles as with bristles of a hedgehog, just as Sebastian was. Then Hinguar, the dishonorable Viking, saw that the noble king did not desire to renounce Christ, and with resolute faith always called to him; Hinguar then commanded to behead the king and the heathens thus did. While this was happening, Edmund called to Christ still. Then the heathens dragged the holy man to slaughter, and with a stroke struck the head from him. His soul set forth, blessed, to Christ."

Abbo of Fleury c.985

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Battle of the Trees ~ Taliesin

"I have been in a multitude of shapes,
Before I assumed a consistent form.
I have been a sword, narrow, variegated,
I will believe when it is apparent.
I have been a tear in the air,
I have been the dullest of stars.
I have been a word among letters,
I have been a book in the origin.
I have been the light of lanterns,
A year and a half.
I have been a continuing bridge,
Over three score river mouths."

Taliesin or Taliessin (c. 534 – c. 599) is the earliest poet of the Welsh language whose work has survived. His name is associated with the Book of Taliesin, a book of poems that was written down in the Middle Ages. His name means "Radiant Brow" (tal iesin in Welsh).

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