The New Yorker - Josephine Livingstone - 16.06.2016
Le manuscrit, Cotton Nero A.x, se trouve à la British Library. Il a été publié pour la première fois en 1864 par la Early English Text Society.
The medieval poem “Pearl” was written by someone whose identity we do not know, and is set mostly within a dream. Neither of these facts is unusual in medieval poetry. Authorship is often unclear for works from that period, and dreams were popular as literary devices: then, as now, dreams allow poets to illustrate ideas that might otherwise be inexpressible. The “Pearl” poet used the technique to account for an experience that still seems impossible to describe—the loss of a child.
In the poem, the narrator visits the spot where a pearl once slipped from his grasp and got lost among “Gilofre, gyngure, & gromylyoune, / & pyonys powdered ay bytwene” (“ginger, gromwell, and gillyflower / with peonies scattered in between”). Swooning into unconsciousness, he comes to in a dream, in a place he has never been before, where cliffs split the sky (“ther klyfez cleven”). Across a river, he sees his pearl again, but now the “perle” is no mere thing—she is a young girl, richly arrayed in an elaborate outfit covered in pearls. Pearl also seems to be her name, or at least it is how the man addresses her: “ ‘O perle,’ quod I . . . ‘Art thou my perle?’ ” In reply, she calls him a jeweller, and he refers to her as a gem (“ ‘Jueler,’ sayde that gemme clene”).
Overcome with joy at finding his lost pearl, and unable fully to understand the complicated things she says to him, the dreamer plunges into the river to swim toward her. He is desperate to “swymme the remnaunt, thagh I ther swalte”—to swim across, or die trying. This angers the ruler of the celestial land, called the Prince: the dreamer does not belong there. He is flung out of his dream as punishment. He wakes up, and the poem ends with a short meditation on the glory of God, and then the words “Amen. Amen
Pensyf, payred, I am forpayned,& thou in a lyf of lyking lyghte,In paradys erde, of stryf unstrayed.I am hollow with loss and harrowed by pain,yet here you stand, lightened of all strife,at peace in the land of Paradise.
- Sections I-IV (stances 1-20)
- Sections V-VII (stances 21-35)
- Sections VIII-XI (stances 36-60)
- Sections XII-XV (stances 61-81)
Description et réveil
- Sections XVI-XX (stances 82-101)