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"Lovely pearl, which it pleases a prince to set radiantly in gold so bright. Alas! I lost her in a garden; through the grass to the ground it slipped from me. I languish, grievously wounded by the power of my love for that spotless pearl of mine."
Pearl is the first of the four poems of the Pearl manuscript, a 14th century work contemporaneous with Chaucer, Langland and Gower. It is widely acknowledged as a masterpiece of medieval English literature. In the poem the grief-stricken protagonist describes the loss of a precious pearl in a garden. He falls asleep and in his dream sees a vision of a beautiful Maiden, who through complex imagery is gradually revealed as the pearl, a lost loved one, often interpreted as the Dreamer's young daughter, though never explicitly identified.
The Dreamer questions the Maiden and receives instruction in Christian doctrine and morality with a remarkable degree of dramatic intensity, psychological insight, and human sympathy. The Dreamer awakes with his initial anguish extinguished, resigned, but with a new recognition of the comfort offered by his faith.
The near-literal prose translation is designed to facilitate understanding, and is faithfully based on Andrew and Waldron's fifth edition of The Poems of the Pearl Manuscript. This audio edition, expertly read by Professor Sarah Peverley, includes the unaltered introduction to Poems of the Pearl Manuscript in Modern English Prose Translation, and Pearl itself.