Where’s Arthur when we need him?


Let’s continue the Arthurian theme from the last blog, which included a map of the early distribution of the surname Arthur. The warrior-king Arthur, who left his imprint in the landscape from Brittany to Scotland, was given a restored role by the Cornish revivalists of the early 1900s.

It seems an appropriate time of the year to remember this poem by Robert Morton Nance (1873-1959), who steered the revival of the Cornish language from the 1920s. Here it is in Nance’s revived medieval Cornish and in English.

War scoren noth pren derow py kefer del yn gwaf?
Whath arta mylvyl delen las a-dyf pan dheffo haf!

War dreth segh yn prys mordryg rag scath py kefer dowr?
Whath arta lanwes mor a dhe, rag gorhel myghtern lowr!

Py kefer houl yn ebron yn tewlder hanternos?
Whath arta golow hanterdeth yn splander a wra dos!

Py kefer Myghtern Arthur? Ny-wor den-vyth an le.
Whath nyns yu marow; ef a vew, hag arta ef a-dhe!

Where are leaves found on the bare branches of an oak tree in winter?
But a million green leaves will grow again when the summer comes!

Where is water found for a boat on a dry beach at the ebbing tide?
But the flowing tide will come again, enough for a king's ship!

Where is a sun found in the sky in the darkness of midnight? 
But the light of midday will come again in brightness!

Where is King Arthur? No one knows the place.
But yet he is not dead; he lives, and he shall come again!

Given that, on a variety of levels, we appear to be living in the end times, the poem, with its prediction of Arthur’s return, is doubly appropriate.

Just hurry up!

(For more Cornish poetry see The Wheel: an anthology of modern poetry in Cornish, edited by Tim Saunders, 1999)

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