Bewnans Ke/ The Life of St Kea
A critical edition with translation
By Graham Thomas and Nicholas Williams
Winner of the 2008 Holyer An Gof Award for Cornish language publications. In 2000, a sixteenth-century manuscript containing a copy of a previously unknown play in Middle Cornish, probably composed in the second half of the fifteenth century, was discovered among papers bequeathed to the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth.
This eagerly awaited edition of the play, published in association with the National Library of Wales, offers a conservatively edited text with a facing-page translation, and a reproduction of the original text at the foot of the page – vital for comparative purposes. Also included are a complete vocabulary, detailed linguistic notes, and a thorough introduction dealing with the language of the play, the hagiographic background of the St Kea material and the origins of other parts in the work of Geoffrey of Monmouth.
The theme of the play is the contention between St Kea, patron of Kea parish in Cornwall, and Teudar, a local tyrant. This is combined with a long section dealing with the dispute over tribute payments between King Arthur and the Emperor Lucius Hiberius; Queen Guinevere’s adultery with Arthur’s nephew Modred; the latter’s invitation to Cheldric and his Saxon hordes to come to Britain to assist him in his conflict with his uncle; and Arthur’s battle with Modred.
Preface, vii; Acknowledgements, viii; Introduction, ix; Albert le Grand's "Life of St Ke", xi; Bewnans Ke: Synopsis, xvi; Albert le Grand's "Life of St Ke" and Bewnans Ke compared, xxii; Motifs found in the legend of St Kea and other saints' lives, xxxiv; St Kea, patron saint of Kea Parish, xxxvi; Bewnans Ke, Beunans Meriasek, and Glasney College, Penryn, xli; The date of the composition of Bewnans Ke, xliv; The pronunciation of Middle English unstressed -e, xlvi; The textual transmission of Bewnans Ke, xlvi; Spelling and language, xlix; Phonology, lix; Morphology, lxi; Syntax, lxv; Lexicon, lxviii; Versification, lxxv; Editorial method, lxxix; Abbreviations, lxxxii; Bibliography, lxxxiv; BEWNANS KE / THE LIFE OF ST KEA; Text and Translation, 1; Notes, 333; Index and glossary of Cornish words, 417; Index and glossary of English words, 478; Index of French words, 481; Index of Latin words, 482.
‘Bewnans Ke is a text of global significance, and one in which the literary link to King Arthur is fully established.’ ‘The discovery of the manuscript has brought about what in my view is another monumental event in the development of Cornish language and literary studies – Thomas and Williams’ translation and edition of the play, published in 2007 by the University of Exeter Press in association with the National Library of Wales.’ ‘Thomas and Williams’ version raises the bar considerably and must now be the standard to which others work toward, and the general editors of Exeter’s Medieval Texts and Studies series – Vincent Gillespire, Marion Glasscoe and M.J. Swanton should also be praised for their opening up of a neglected field – that of medieval Cornish writing.’ ‘What makes Thomas and Williams’ work compulsive is its comprehensiveness.’ ‘This is the look and feel of confident, modern, and uncompromising Cornish literary studies.’ ‘...the production values of this publication simply leave other Cornish-language material standing. It is also encouraging to see a major University Press take such interest in Cornish literature.’ (The Cornish Banner, No. 130, November 2007) As Graham Thomas observed at the time of discovery of the manuscript, Bewnans Ke may be the only medieval Arthurian play to have survived. Now, it is wonderful to have this edition to study for its historical interest and its Arthurian puzzle, and to read for its sheer entertainment value. The present volume, attractively produced in a chunky but portable hardback with book mark, will be a splendid addition to libraries and to the collections of Arthurian specialists, but a rather more economically priced paperback is highly desirable so that both the text itself and the editors’ hard work can receive the attention deserved. We can hope to hear much more about Bewnans Ke.’ (Linda Gowans, Arthuriana, Vol. 17, No. 3, Fall 2007) "This attractively produced and bound book presents the text of a newly discovered play in Middle Cornish..." . "The editors have done everything to make this text accessible. it is beautifully and spaciously laid out for easy reading and is faced by an English translation whihc itslef has considerable dramatic power." . "The language of this translation is direct and racy. The accumulative effect of the envoy's testimonies of their rulers' allegiance to the great potentates is almost hypnotic in its power. A very full introduction includes a summary of both Albert le Grand's ''Life of St Ke" and of the play, and they are compared to each other" (Revue d'histoire ecclesiastique, Feb 2008)
Jointly edited by Graham Thomas, formerly of the Department of Manuscripts and Records, National Library of Wales, and Nicholas Williams, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Modern Irish, University College, Dublin, who has published widely on Irish and Cornish literature and language.