The Ordinalia cycle, while not considered spectacular as a whole, contains certain passages of exceptional poetry. In fact, it is suggested that a Cornish poem may have been borrowed by the author of “The Passion of Christ” and incorporated into the play. Let’s delve into this fascinating aspect of Middle Cornish literature.

The Mater Dolorosa’s Poem

According to Nance, a Cornish scholar, it is within the context of the Passion Play that a shorter religious poem can be found. This poem features the Mater Dolorosa, and in Middle Cornish, it is a beautiful piece of verse that could be described in the English of its time as ‘grete laymentacyoun.’ Despite being fragmented and distributed across three separate scenes of the play, none of its essence appears to be lost. Its distinctive metrical arrangement makes it relatively easy to reassemble, forming two verses, each comprising twenty-five lines.

A Glimpse of the Poem

Here is the poem, as restored by Nance in Unified Cornish, offering a clear indication of the poetic value embedded in the Ordinalia cycle:

Verse 1 English Translation (Verse 1)
Ellas! A gryst, ow map ker, Alas, O Christ, my dear son,
Yn mur bayn pan y-th-whelaf, when in great suffering I see Thee,
Ellas! dre guth pan yn clamder Alas, for grief,
Dhe’n dor prag na omwhelaf? why do I not fall in a swoon?
Dre ow map pyth yu ow cher? Through my Son, what is my state?
Pup ur-oll y-n-benygaf! All the time I bless Him!
Ellas! ny-won py tyller, Alas, I know not on what spot,
Byth moy py le, y-trygaf, nor yet in what place I shall abide,
Eghan! O, woe,
Rag y-fynnyr, for it is wished,
Mara kyllur if possible,
Gans paynys mur with great sufferings
Ow dyswul glan! to destroy me utterly!
Ogh, govy, ellas, ellas, O woe is me! Alas! Alas,
Gweles ow map mar dhyflas to see my Son so shamefully
Gans tebel wesyon dyghtys! used by wicked fellows!
A vap, dha guth re-m-ladhas, O Son, Thy sorrow hath slain me,
Na allaf gweles yn-fas · so that I can scarce see,
Kemmys dagrow re-olys! so many tears have I shed!
Govy, ny-won pandr ‘a wraf Woe is me, I know not what I shall do!
Gallas ow holon pur glaf My heart has become right sick
Dre brederow! through care:
Ny-allaf sevel yn-fas hardly can I stand
War ow threys, ellas, ellas, upon my feet. Alas,
Rak Galarow! for my sorrow.
Verse 2 English Translation
Ellas, ellas! ogh, tru tru! Alas! Alas! O, sad, sad!
Yn ow holon ass-yu bern What care is in my heart
Pan whelaf ow map jhesu when I see my Son, Jesu,
Adro dh’y ben curun spern, with a crown of thorns about His head,
Hag ef Map Dew a vertu and He the Son of God, of Power,
Ha gans henna gwyr Vyghtern, and therewithal a rightful King!
Treys ha dywluf a bup tu Feet and hands nailed
Fast takkyes gans kentrow hern, fast on either side with spikes of iron.
Ellas! Alas!
Y -fyth deth brus On the Day of Doom
Mur a anfus shalt thou have much misery
Y gyk ha’y gnas who didst sell Him,
Nep a-n-gwerthas! both flesh and fell!
Ogh, govy rag ow map ker, O woe is me, for my dear Son,
Dh’y weles y’n keth vaner to see Him treated in the same way
May whelaf lemmyn dyghtys! which now I see!
Ellas, na-varwen ynweth, Alas, that I might not also die,
Na-ve kensa ow deweth that my end might not sooner
Es dweth ow map y’n bys! be on earth than the end of my Son!
My a-yl bos morethek, Well may I be sorrowful
Gweles ow map mar anwhek to see my Son so ungently treated as He is;
Dyghtys del yu, He who is the lord
Nep yu Arluth lun a rasl in grace abounding!
Govy vyth, ellas, ellas, Woe is me forever! Alas! Alas!
Ragos, Jhesu! for Thee, Jhesu!