The Cornish Charter Fragment Poem is a hidden gem in the history of the Cornish language, offering a unique glimpse into the linguistic and cultural heritage of Cornwall. Comprising only 41 lines, this poem holds significant importance for the Cornish language and reveals fascinating aspects of life and relationships in Cornwall during the era it was written. In this blog, we will explore why this poem is crucial to Cornish language history and what interesting elements can be found within its verses.

Preservation of Cornish Language

The Cornish language, once widely spoken in Cornwall, has faced centuries of decline and near-extinction. The poem, which likely dates back to the 17th century, is one of the few remaining pieces of Cornish literature. Its existence is a testament to the resilience of the language and its people. It serves as a valuable resource for language enthusiasts, historians, and linguists working to revive and understand Cornish.

Social and Cultural Insights

The poem provides a window into the social and cultural norms of Cornwall during its time of composition. It describes the customs and expectations surrounding courtship, marriage, and interpersonal relationships. This insight into daily life is invaluable for understanding the history and traditions of Cornwall.

Gender Dynamics

The poem reveals certain gender dynamics of the period. It portrays a woman who appears to have agency in choosing her partner and advises her to use her charm and influence to her advantage. This is a noteworthy departure from the more traditional and patriarchal views prevalent in many societies at the time.

Regional Identity

Cornwall has a distinct regional identity, and the poem showcases this uniqueness. The reference to the “Tamar Bridge” and the local phrasing and idioms used in the poem exemplify the distinct Cornish dialect and cultural references that contribute to Cornwall’s identity.

Emphasis on Courtesy and Kindness

The poem encourages courteous and kind behavior, emphasizing the importance of treating others well. This reflects the Cornish tradition of politeness and respect for others, values that have endured through generations.

The Power of Poetry

Poetry has been a powerful medium for preserving languages and cultures throughout history. This poem is a testament to the enduring power of poetry to convey emotions, traditions, and stories across generations. Its lyrical quality makes it not only a historical artifact but also a piece of art.

Intriguing Narration

The poem is written in a conversational tone, as if the speaker is offering advice to a friend. This informal style adds a personal touch and makes the poem relatable, even across centuries. The mention of a kiss and playful tone in the closing lines adds a touch of humor and humanity to the text.

In conclusion, the Cornish Charter Fragment Poem is a precious relic of Cornwall’s linguistic and cultural heritage. It sheds light on the Cornish language, social customs, and regional identity, making it a valuable resource for scholars and a source of pride for the Cornish people. This poem serves as a reminder that language is not just a means of communication but also a repository of history, culture, and the collective memory of a community. It is a call to preserve, protect, and celebrate the rich tapestry of the Cornish language and its unique place in the world.


Manuscript Kemmyn Cornish Text Translation
golsoug ty coweȝ Golsow ty goweth Listen, friend,
byȝ na borȝ meȝ Byth na borth meth Do not be shy!
dyyskyn ha powes Diyskynn ha powes Come down and rest
ha ȝymo dus nes Ha dhymmo deus nes and come closer to me
mar coȝes ȝe les Mar kodhes dha les if you know what is to your advantage,
ha ȝys y rof mowes Ha dhis y rov mowes and I will give you a girl,
ha fest unan dek Ha fest onan deg one who is very beautiful.
genes mar a plek Genes mara pleg If you like her,
ha, tanha y A tann hi go and get her;
kymmerr y ȝoȝ wrek Kemmer hi dhe’th wreg take her for your wife.
sconya ȝys ny vek Skonya dhis ny veg She will not murmur to refuse you
ha ty a vyȝ hy Ha ty a’fydh hi and you will have her
hy a vyȝ gwreg ty da Hi a vydh gwre’ti dha She will be a good wife
ȝys ȝe synsy Dhis dhe synsi to keep house for you.
pur wyr a lauara Pur wir a lavarav I tell you the complete truth.
ha govyn worty ha govynn orti Go and ask her
Lemen yȝ torn my as re Lemmyn y’th torn my a’s re Now I give her into your hand
ha war an greyȝ my an te Ha war an gres my a’n te and on the Creed I swear
nag usy far Nag usi hy far there is not her equal
an barȝ ma ȝe pons tamar A’n barth ma dhe bons Tamar from here to the Tamar Bridge.
my ad pes worty byȝ da My a’th pys orti bydh da I beg you to be good to her
ag ol ȝe voȝ hy a wra Hag oll dha vodh hi a wra and she will all you want,
rag flog yw ha gensy soȝ Rag flogh yw ha gensi doeth for she is a child and truthful withal.
ha gassy ȝe gafus hy boȝ ha gas hi dhe gavoes hy bodh Go and let her have her own way.
kenes mos ȝymmo ymmyug Kyn es mos dhymmo ymmewgh Before going,
eug alema ha fystynyug Ewgh alemma ha fistenewgh have a kiss for me!
dallaȝ a var infreȝ dar war Dalleth a-varr yn freth darwar Go away and be quick!
oun na porȝo Own na borthho Begin promptly, eagerly. Take care
ef emsettye worȝesy Ev omsettya orthis sy to make him nervous
kam na veȝo kamm na vedho so that he dare not
mar aȝ herg ȝys gul nep tra Mara’th ergh dhis gul neb tra oppose you at all.
lauar ȝesy byȝ ny venna Lavar dhiso byth ny vynnav If he bids you do something,
lauar ȝoȝo gwra mar mennyȝ Lavar dhodho gwrav mar mynnydh say to yourself, “I never will.”
awos a gallo na wra tra vyȝ Awos a allo ny wra travyth Say to him “I will do it if you wish.”
in vrna yȝ sens ȝe ves meystres Y’n eur na y’th syns dhe vos mestres For all he can, he will do nothing.
hedyr vywy hag harluȝes Hedra vywi hag arlodhes Then he will esteem you as Mistress
cas o ganso re nofferen Kas o ganso re’n Oferenn and Lady as long as you live.
curtes yw ha deboner Kortes yw ha deboner Courteous and kind is he
ȝys dregyn ny wra Dhis dregynn ny wra He will not do you any harm
mar an kefyȝ in danger Mara’n kevydh yn danjer If you (can) enthral him
sense fast indella Syns ev fast yndella hold him tightly so!