The Pearl

Pearl, The

The Pearl, one of four Middle English alliterative poems, all contained in a manuscript of c.1400, composed in the West Midland dialect, almost certainly by the same anonymous author, who flourished c.1370–1390. The Pearl is usually explained as an elegy for the poet's young daughter; in an allegorical vision of singular beauty he sees her as a maiden in paradise and becomes reconciled to her death. The second and third poems, Cleanness (or Purity) and Patience, are homiletic poems on those virtues. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the fourth poem, which relates a fabulous adventure of Gawain, is perhaps the most brilliantly conceived of all Arthurian romances. If single authorship is accepted, the artistry displayed in this poem and in The Pearl make the so-called Pearl-poet in some respects a rival to Chaucer. A fifth poem, St. Erkenwald, is attributed by some authorities to the same anonymous author.

For translations of the first, fourth, and fifth poems and for bibliography, see R. S. Loomis and R. Willard, ed., Medieval English Verse and Prose (1948); studies by I. Bishop (1968) and A. C. Spearing (1976).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2013, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

FREE! The Pearl: A Middle English Poem
Charles G. Osgood Jr.
D.C. Heath, 1906
Text and Matter: New Critical Perspectives of the Pearl-Poet
Robert J. Blanch; Miriam Youngerman Miller; Julian N. Wasserman.
Whitston, 1991
The Fayre Formez of the Pearl Poet
Sandra Pierson Prior.
Michigan State University Press, 1996
'Pearl' and the Liturgical 'Common of Virgins.'
Bhattacharji, Santha.
Medium Aevum, Vol. 64, No. 1, Spring 1995
From Pearl to Gawain: Forme to Fynisment
Robert J. Blanch; Julian N. Wasserman.
University Press of Florida, 1995
FREE! An Introduction to English Medieval Literature
Charles Sears Baldwin.
Longmans Green, 1922
Librarian’s tip: "Pearl, a Medieval English Elegy (about 1370)" begins on p. 173
Essays on Middle English Literature
Dorothy Everett; Patricia Kean.
Clarendon Press, 1955
Librarian’s tip: "Pearl" begins on p. 85
The Bible in Middle English Literature
David C. Fowler.
University of Washington Press, 1984
Librarian’s tip: Chap. Four "The Pearl Poet"
Seeing the Gawain-Poet: Description and the Act of Perception
Sarah Stanbury.
University of Pennsylvania Press, 1991
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 2 "Gazing toward Jerusalem: Space and Perception in Pearl"
Essays on Ricardian Literature in Honour of J.A. Burrow
A. J. Minnis; Charlotte C. Morse; Thorlac C. Turville-Petre; J. A. Burrows.
Clarendon Press, 1997
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 12 "The 'Pearl'-Poet in his 'Fayre Regioun'"
Three Medieval Centuries of Literature in England, 1100-1400
Charles Sears Baldwin.
Little, Brown, 1932
Librarian’s tip: "Mystical Allegory, Pearl (about 1370)" begins on p. 170
Sir Israel Gollancz and the Editorial History of the Pearl Manuscript
Reichardt, Paul F.
Papers on Language & Literature, Vol. 31, No. 2, Spring 1995
Studies in Medieval Literature: In Honor of Professor Albert Croll Baugh
Macedward Leach.
University of Pennsylvania Press, 1961
Librarian’s tip: "Wyclif, Langland, Gower and the Pearl-Poet on the Subject of Aristocracy" begins on p. 139
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: A Poem for Henry of Grosmont?
Cooke, W. G.; Boulton, D'a. J. D.
Medium Aevum, Vol. 68, No. 1, Spring 1999
An Introduction to the Gawain-Poet
Ad W. Putter.
Longman, 1996
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "Pearl"
Search for more books and articles on <i>The Pearl</i>