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© 2016, The Columbia University Press.

The Pearl: Selected full-text books and articles

FREE! The Pearl: A Middle English Poem By Charles G. Osgood Jr D.C. Heath, 1906
A primary source is a work that is being studied, or that provides first-hand or direct evidence on a topic. Common types of primary sources include works of literature, historical documents, original philosophical writings, and religious texts.
Text and Matter: New Critical Perspectives of the Pearl-Poet By Robert J. Blanch; Miriam Youngerman Miller; Julian N. Wasserman Whitston, 1991
The Fayre Formez of the Pearl Poet By Sandra Pierson Prior Michigan State University Press, 1996
From Pearl to Gawain: Forme to Fynisment By Robert J. Blanch; Julian N. Wasserman University Press of Florida, 1995
FREE! An Introduction to English Medieval Literature By 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 By Dorothy Everett; Patricia Kean Clarendon Press, 1955
Librarian’s tip: "Pearl" begins on p. 85
The Bible in Middle English Literature By 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 By 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 By J. A. Burrows; A. J. Minnis; Charlotte C. Morse; Thorlac C. Turville-Petre Clarendon Press, 1997
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 12 "The 'Pearl'-Poet in his 'Fayre Regioun'"
Three Medieval Centuries of Literature in England, 1100-1400 By 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 By Reichardt, Paul F Papers on Language & Literature, Vol. 31, No. 2, Spring 1995
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
An Introduction to the Gawain-Poet By Ad W. Putter Longman, 1996
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "Pearl"
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