Monday, October 5, 2015

The Pearl Poet

The Pearl Poet is the name used to refer to the author of the 14th century Middle English poem, which survives only in a single manuscript. The same manuscript also includes the romance "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight", and two Christian narrative poems: "Patience" and "Cleanliness". All four poems are believed to be the work of a single author.

In "Pearl" (spelled "Perle" in the original), a father mourns the death of his young daughter, and dreams he encounters her as a grown woman in heaven, although he is still earthbound. She answers his questions with doctrinal teaching, and shows him the heavenly city. The 101 12-line stanzas are very alliterative.

The following is from J.R.R. Tolkien's translation of "Pearl".

from Pearl (88)

Of sun nor moon they had no need,
For God Himself was their sunlight;
The Lamb their lantern was indeed
And through Him blazed that city bright
That unearthly clear did no light impede;
Through wall and hall thus passed my sight.
The Throne on high there might one heed,
With all its rich adornment dight,
As John in chosen words did write.
High God Himself sat on that throne,
Whence forth a river ran with light
Outshining both the sun and moon.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.