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Pearl


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An alliterative poem in 1,212 lines of twelve‐lined octosyllabic stanzas from the second half of the 14th cent., the only manuscript of which is the famous Cotton Nero A. X which is also the sole manuscript of Patience, Cleanness, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and which comes from the North‐West Midlands. Modern critical practice treats the four poems in the manuscript as the work of a single author. Pearl was the author's daughter and only child, who had died before she was two years old. Wandering in misery, in the garden where she is buried, he has a vision of a river beyond which lies Paradise. Here he sees a maiden seated whom he recognizes as his daughter. She chides him for his excessive grief and describes her blessed state. He argues with her about the justice that makes her queen of Heaven when she died so young. Convinced by her, he plunges into the river in an attempt to join her, and awakes, comforted and reassured of his faith in God. The form and language of the poem are extremely brilliant.

Subjects: Literature.


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