THE three Dramas contained in these volumes constitute the most important relic known to exist of the Celtic dialect once spoken in Cornwall. They are of greater amount than all the other remains of the language taken together; and the only other Cornish composition left of the same antiquity, the poem of Mount Calvary, is barely equal to one-fourth of their extent. It will be understood, as a matter of course, that quantity and antiquity are here the chief elements of value, and that, apart from some evidence of the condition and culture of the Cornish Celts of the fourteenth or fifteenth century, the term important applies to the language only; in regard to the matter, there is nothing in these Dramas that may not be found in such as have been printed in English, French, and Latin, under the designation of Mysteries, or Miracle-plays.
The object of the Editor in undertaking this work was simply to preserve from obscurity and possible destruction the most considerable relic of the language, existing in a single manuscript, which had not been consulted for perhaps a century, or since the language had ceased to be spoken in the more remote districts of the county. But after reading a few lines only, he became aware that it would be impossible to produce a text having any pretence to correctness, without knowing something of the language; because some letters were occasionally doubtful, and the divisions of the words frequently uncertain. He was therefore induced to study it by the help of Lhuyd's Grammar and the Vocabulary printed by Pryce, using as his text-book Jordan's " Creation" with the English version. Subsequently, by the kindness of the Rev. R. Williams of Rhydycroesau, he obtained a copy of the " Mount Calvary," which he had been unable to purchase, although he had eagerly sought for it during several months; and it was his rare good fortune, that Mr. Williams had collated this copy with the original manuscript in the British Museum, correcting the numerous errors which so seriously impair the value of the printed edition.
In preparing the manuscript for the press the Editor translated each line as he transcribed it; and finding the result to be better than he anticipated, he thought it might add to the interest of the publication to print his version opposite the text. He had made the translation like a school exercise, word for word, without attending in any way to English idiom; and he has printed it as he made it, only correcting mistakes of the earlier portions, by the help of the increased knowledge acquired as he went on with his work, and altering the diction here and there, where it was absolutely necessary to do so, if he would be understood. He is aware that many errors are still left, and he would wish to ascribe them to the tentative nature of a translation made from an uncultivated and forgotten language, which was to be acquired chiefly from faulty versions made by unlearned men, who lived when it was barely a shadow of what it had been; some of these errors are corrected in notes commencing at page 203 of the second volume. He is afraid that the piecemeal way in which he has proceeded will be too visible to Celtic scholars, who will find occasionally a want of that precision which ought .... '
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