Cornish literature refers to written works in the Cornish language. The earliest surviving texts are in verse and date from the 14th century, there are virtually none from the 18th and 19th centuries but writing in revived forms of Cornish began in the early 20th century. The Prophecy of Ambrosius Merlin concerning the Seven Kings is a 12th-century poem written ca.1144 by John of Cornwall in Latin, John stated that the work was a translation based on an earlier document written in the Cornish language. The manuscript of the poem, on a codex currently held at the Vatican Library, is unique and it attracted little attention from the scholarly world until 1876, when Whitley Stokes undertook a brief analysis of the Cornish and Welsh vocabulary found in Johns marginal commentary. These notes are among the earliest known writings in the Cornish language, in 2001 this important work was translated back into Cornish by Julyan Holmes. Pascon agan Arluth, a poem of 259 eight-line verses probably composed around 1375, is one of the earliest surviving works of Cornish literature. The most important work of literature surviving from the Middle Cornish period is the Cornish Ordinalia, the Ordinalia consists of three mystery plays, Origo Mundi, Passio Christi and Resurrexio Domini, meant to be performed on successive days. Such plays were performed in a Plain an Gwarry, in 1981, the Breton library Preder edited it in modern scripture under the name of Passyon agan arluth. The longest single surviving work of Cornish literature is Beunans Meriasek, a verse drama dated 1504. The first two are the known surviving Cornish prose texts from the 17th century. Bosons work is collected, along with that of his son John Boson, fragments of Cornish writing continued to appear as the language was becoming extinct during the 18th century. However, in the late 19th century a few works by non-native speakers were produced, of the early pieces the most significant is the so-called Cranken Rhyme produced by John Davey of Boswednack, one of the last people with some traditional knowledge of the language. The poem, published by John Hobson Matthews in 1892, may be the last piece of traditional Cornish literature, in 1865 German language enthusiast Georg Sauerwein composed two poems in the language. Both of these works are characterised by a specifically revivalist mode. These efforts were followed in the early 20th century by further works of revivalist literature by Cornish language enthusiasts, the literary output of the Cornish revival has largely been poetry. Another significant early text is Peggy Pollards 1941 play Beunans Alysaryn and this is an example of Cornish written by the hand of a native speaker. The text is interesting from a sociolinguistic point of view in that Bodinar speaks about the contemporary state of the Cornish language in 1776. The dearth of Cornish readers has made the production of novels difficult, the earliest was Melville Bennettos An Gurun Wosek a Geltya in 1984, subsequently Michael Palmer published Jory and Dyroans
The opening verses of Origo Mundi, the first play of the Ordinalia (the magnum opus of mediaeval Cornish literature), written by an unknown monk in the late 14th century
A 'Plain an Gwarry' (Cornish - playing place), an open-air performance area used historically for entertainment and instruction. This Plain an Gwarry is in St Just in Penwith.