Golowan


Verse spoken when lighting the Golowan bonfire at Midsummer

Golowan is a contraction of Gool Jowan 'The Feast of St John'. Golow is the Cornish word for 'light', and the celebration came to be associated with light according to folk etymology.


In Standard Cornish spelling

Tan i’n cunys

Gorraf desempys:

Re spladnha an tanjys

Dre lies pluw.


In the less phonetic Standard Written Form it is spelled

Tan y'n keunys

Gorrav desempis:

Re splanno an tansys

Dre lies pluw.


Pronunciation in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA)

Appropriate to West Cornwall after 1600

'thæ:n ɪn 'khɪ-nɨ

'gɔ-ɾəf də-'zɛm-phɨ

ɾɛ 'splæ-dhə ən 'thæn-dʒɨ

dɾɛ 'li:-əz̥ 'phliʊ


Approximate pronunciation

Appropriate to West Cornwall after 1600

Here aa represents the sound in English 'cat' but lengthened, and u represents schwa – the sound heard in English ‘the’ when that word is not given any emphasis. Note that s at the end of lines 1-3 and in the second word of the 4th line is half-way between an s-sound and a z-sound.

Taan in kinis

Goruf duzempis

Re spladnhu un tanjis

Dre lee-us pliw


Literal meaning in English

Fire in the firewood

I put at once:

Let shine the blaze

Through many a parish.


Poetical rendering into English

I set the pyre

At once on fire:

Let flame aspire

Over many a parish.