Exeter Medieval Texts and Studies


December 1st, 2021



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Pearl is a moving elegy written in the late fourteenth century, in which a grief-stricken narrator struggles to come to terms with the death of his baby daughter. He meets her, now transformed into a beautiful young lady, in a dream, where she attempts to bring him to understand the place of death in the divine plan, and where he is granted a sight of the heavenly Jerusalem. Pearl is celebrated as a jewel among medieval poems, although it is the most challenging of the four works by the anonymous author of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.
This new critical edition is designed to offer the maximum support for the reader of the poem. The text is accompanied by a close translation, and each of the twenty sections of the poem is provided with an introductory headnote as well as a running commentary. A general introduction supplies the necessary background information, on manuscript and authorship, form and structure, sources and influences, style, vocabulary and verse-form. The bibliography selects the most significant of the extensive critical studies. Written for both the specialist and the general reader, this book is an essential guide to this profound and complex poem. Designed as a replacement for E. V. Gordon’s standard edition of 1953 this is the only edition of Pearl to be accompanied by a literal translation and a full literary commentary and is the fruit of the author's 40 years of teaching medieval literature.

Author Information

Thorlac Turville-Petre is Professor Emeritus at the University of Nottingham. His many authored works include Reading Middle English Literature (Blackwell, 2007); (with Ralph Hanna) The Wollaton Medieval Manuscripts: Texts, Owners and Readers (Boydell, 2010); Poems from BL MS Harley 913: ‘The Kildare Manuscript’ EETS OS 345 (OUP, 2015); Description and Narrative in Middle English Alliterative Poetry (LUP, 2018); (with J. A. Burrow) A Book of Middle English, 4th edn. (Blackwell, 2021).

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Manuscript, Poet and Audience11
Visions and Dreams12
Dreamer and Maiden13
Pearl and Rose16
Biblical Sources19
Other Influences and Parallels21
Form and Structure24
This Edition29
I: The Garden41
II: The Dream Landscape51
III: Meeting61
IV: The Description of the Maiden71
V: Misconceptions81
VI: Reprimand91
VII: Reconciliation99
VIII: The Court of Heaven107
IX: Workers in the Vineyard115
X: The Wages123
XI: Grace131
XII: The Innocent and the Righteous141
XIII: The Pearl of Great Price151
XIV: The Lamb of Jerusalem161
XV: The Brides of the Lamb169
XVI: Two Jerusalems179
XVII: The New Jerusalem187
XVIII: City of Light197
XIX: The Procession205
XX: My Pryncez Paye213