British Library, Cotton Nero A.x manuscript. See also Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, St Erkenwald
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PEARL







1



erle, plesaunte to prynces paye
To clanly clos in golde so clere,
Oute of Oryent, I hardyly saye,
Ne proved I never her precios pere.
So rounde, so reken in uche araye,
So smal, so smothe her sydes were,
Queresoever I jugged gemmes gaye
I sette hyr sengeley in synglure.
Allas, I leste hyr in on erbere;
Thurgh gresse to grounde hit fro me yot.
I dewyne, fordolked of luf-daungere
Of that pryvy perle withouten spot.

Sythen in that spote hit fro me sprange,
Ofte haf I wayted, wyschande that wele
That wont was whyle devoyde my wrange
And heven my happe and al my hele.
That dos bot thrych my herte thrange,
My breste in bale bot bolne and bele.
Yet thoght me never so swete a sange
As stylle stounde let to me stele;
Forsothe, ther fleten to me fele
To thenke hir color so clad in clot.
O moul, thou marres a myry juele,
My privy perle wythouten spotte.

That spot of spyses mot nedes sprede
Ther such ryches to rot is runne:
Blomes blayke and blwe and rede
Ther schyne ful schyr agayn the sunne.
Flor and fryte may not be fede
Ther hit doun drof in moldes dunne;
For uch gresse mot grow of graynes dede,
No whete were elles to wones wonne.
Of goud uche goude is ay bygonne -
So semly a sede moght fayly not
That spryngande spyces up ne sponne
Of that precios perle wythouten spotte.

To that spot that I in speche expoun
I entred in that erber grene
In Augoste in a hygh seysoun
Quen corne is corven wyth crokes kene.
On huyle ther perle hit trendeled doun
Schadowed this wortes ful schyre and schene:
Gilofre, gyngure, and gromylyoun,
And pyonys powdered ay bytwene.
Yif hit was semly on to sene
A fayr reflayr yet fro hit flot.
Ther wonys that worthyly, I wot and wene,
My precious perle wythouten spot.

Bifore that spot my honde I spenned
For care ful colde that to me caght.
A deuely dele in my hert denned
Thagh resoun sette myselven saght.
I playned my perle that ther was penned
Wyth fyrce skylles that faste faght.
Thagh kynde of Kryst me comfort kenned,
My wreched wylle in wo ay wraghte.
I felle upon that floury flaght -
Suche odour to my hernes schot,
I slode upon a slepyng-slaghte
On that precios perle wythouten spot.


2

Fro spot my spyryt ther sprang in space -
My body on balke ther bod in sweven.
My goste is gon in Godes grace
In aventure ther mervayles meven.
I ne wyste in this worlde quere that hit wace
Bot I knew me keste ther klyfes cleven.
Towarde a foreste I bere the face
Where ryche rokkes wer to dyscreven.
The lyght of hem myght no mon leven,
The glemande glory that of hem glent,
For wern never webbes that wyyes weven
Of half so dere adubbemente.

Dubbed wern alle tho downes sydes
Wyth crystal klyffes so cler of kynde;
Holtewodes bryght aboute hem bydes
Of bolles as blwe as ble of Ynde.
As bornyst sylver the lef on slydes
That thike con trylle on uch a tynde;
Quen glem of glodes agayns hem glydes
Wyth schymeryng schene ful schrylle thay schynde.
The gravayl that on grounde con grynde
Wern precious perles of Oryente.
The sunnebemes bot blo and blynde
In respecte of that adubbement.

The adubbemente of tho downes dere
Garten my goste al greffe forgete.
So frech flavores of frytes were
As fode hit con me fayre refete.
Fowles ther flowen in fryth in fere
Of flaumbande hwes bothe smale and grete;
Bot sytole-stryng and gyternere
Her reken myrthe moght not retrete,
For quen those bryddes her wynges bete
Thay songen wyth a swete asent.
So gracios gle couthe no mon gete
As here and se her adubbement.

So al was dubbet on dere asyse
That fryth ther fortwne forth me feres.
The derthe therof for to devyse
Nis no wyy worthé that tonge beres.
I welke ay forth in wely wyse,
No bonk so byg that did me deres:
The fyrre in the fryth, the feier con ryse
The playn, the plonttes, the spyse, the peres;
And rawes and randes and rych reveres
As fyldor fyn her bukes brent.
I wan to a water by schore that scheres -
Lorde, dere was hit adubbement.



The dubbemente of tho derworth depe
Wern bonkes bene of beryl bryght.
Swangeande swete the water con swepe
Wyth a rownande rourde raykande aryght.
In the founce ther stonden stones stepe
As glente thurgh glas that glowed and glyght,
As stremande sternes quen strothe-men slepe
Staren in welkyn in wynter nyght.
For uche a pobbel in pole ther pyght
Was emerad, saffer, other gemme gente -
That alle the loghe lemed of lyght
So dere was hit adubbement.

3

The dubbement dere of doun and dales,
Of wod and water and wlonke playnes,
Bylde in me blys, abated my bales,
Fordidden my stresse, dystryed my paynes.
Doun after a strem that dryyly hales
I bowed in blys, bredful my braynes.
The fyrre I folwed those floty vales
The more strenghthe of joye myn herte straynes.
As fortune fares theras ho fraynes,
Whether solace ho sende other elles sore,
The wyy to wham her wylle ho waynes
Hyttes to have ay more and more.

More of wele was in that wyse
Then I cowthe telle thagh I tom hade,
For urthely herte myght not suffyse
To the tenthe dole of tho gladnes glade.
Forthy I thoght that Paradyse
Was ther over gayn tho bonkes brade.
I hoped the water were a devyse
Bytwene myrthes by meres made.
Byyonde the broke, by slente other slade,
I hoped that mote merked wore;
Bot the water was depe, I dorst not wade,
And ever me longed ay more and more.

More and more and yet wel mare
Me lyste to se the broke byyonde,
For if hit was fayr ther I con fare
Wel loveloker was the fyrre londe.
Abowte me con I stote and stare;
To fynde a forthe faste con I fonde.
Bot wothes mo iwysse ther ware
The fyrre I stalked by the stronde,
And ever me thoght I shulde not wonde
For wo ther weles so wynne wore.
Thenne nwe note me com on honde
That meved my mynde ay more and more.



More mervayle con my dom adaunt;
I sey byyonde that myry mere
A crystal clyffe ful relusaunt;
Mony ryal ray con fro hit rere.
At the fote therof ther sete a faunt,
A mayden of menske ful debonere.
Blysnande whyt was hyr bleaunt.
I knew hyr wel, I hade sen hyr ere.
As glysnande golde that man con schere,
So schon that schene anunder schore.
On lenghe I loked to hyr there -
The lenger, I knew hyr more and more.

The more I frayste hyr fayre face,
Her fygure fyn quen I had fonte,
Suche gladande glory con to me glace
As lyttel byfore therto was wonte.
To calle hyr lyste con me enchace
Bot baysment gef myn hert a brunt.
I sey hyr in so strange a place,
Such a burre myght make myn herte blunt.
Thenne veres ho up her fayre frount,
Hyr vysayge whyt as playn yvore,
That stonge myn hert ful stray astount -
And ever the lenger the more and more.

4

More then me lyste my drede aros;
I stod ful stylle and dorste not calle.
Wyth yyen open and mouth ful clos
I stod as hende as hawk in halle.
I hoped that gostly was that porpose;
I dred onende quat schulde byfalle
Lest ho me eschaped that I ther chos,
Er I at steven hir moght stalle.
That gracios gay wythouten galle,
So smothe, so smal, so seme slyght,
Ryses up in hir araye ryalle,
A precios pyece in perles pyght.

Perles pyghte of ryal prys
Ther moght mon by grace haf sene
Quen that frech as flor-de-lys
Doun the bonke con bowe bydene.
Al blysnande whyt was hir beau biys,
Upon at sydes and bounden bene
Wyth the myryeste margarys, at my devyse,
That ever I sey yet with myn yyen;
Wyth lappes large, I wot and wene,
Dubbed with double perle and dyghte,
Her cortel of self sute schene
Wyth precios perles al umbepyghte.

A pyght coroune yet wer that gyrle
Of marjorys and non other ston,
Highe pynakled of cler quyt perle
Wyth flurted flowres perfet upon.
To hed hade ho non other werle,
Her here-leke al hyr umbegon.
Her semblaunt sade for doc other erle,
Her ble more blaght then whalles bon;
As schorne golde schyr her fax thenne schon
On schylderes that leghe unlapped lyghte.
Her depe colour yet wonted non
Of precios perle in porfyl pyghte.

Pyght was poyned and uche a hemme
At honde, at sydes, at overture,
Wyth whyte perle and non other gemme,
And bornyste quyte was hyr vesture.
Bot a wonder perle wythouten wemme
Inmyddes hyr breste was sette so sure,
A mannes dom moght druyyly demme
Er mynde moght malte in hit mesure.
I hope no tonge moght endure,
No saverly saghe say of that syght,
So was hit clene and cler and pure,
That precios perle ther hit was pyght.

Pyght in perle, that precios pyse
On wyther half water com doun the schore.
No gladder gome hethen into Grece
Then I quen ho on brymme wore.
Ho was me nerre then aunte or nece;
My joy forthy was much the more.
Ho profered me speche, that special spyce,
Enclynande lowe in wommon lore,
Caghte of her coroun of grete tresore
And haylsed me wyth a lote lyghte.
Wel was me that ever I was bore
To sware that swete in perles pyghte.

5

"O perle," quoth I, "in perles pyght,
Art thou my perle that I haf playned,
Regretted by myn one on nyghte?
Much longeyng haf I for thee layned
Sythen into gresse thou me aglyghte.
Pensyf, payred, I am forpayned,
And thou in a lyf of lykyng lyghte
In Paradys erde, of stryf unstrayned.
What wyrde has hyder my juel vayned
And don me in thys del and gret daunger?
Fro we in twynne wern towen and twayned
I haf ben a joyles jueler."

That juel thenne, in gemmes gente,
Vered up her vyse wyth yyen graye,
Set on hyr coroun of perle orient
And soberly after thenne con ho say,
"Sir, ye haf your tale mysetente
To say your perle is al awaye
That is in cofer so comly clente
As in this gardyn gracios gaye,
Hereinne to lenge forever and play
Ther mys nee mornyng com never nere.
Her were a forser for thee, in faye,
If thou were a gentyl jueler.

"Bot, jueler gente, if thou schal lose
Thy joy for a gemme that thee was lef,
Me thynk thee put in a mad porpose
And busyes thee about a raysoun bref.
For that thou lestes was bot a rose
That flowred and fayled as kynde hyt gef;
Now thurgh kynde of the kyste that hyt con close
To a perle of prys hit is put in pref.
And thou has called thy wyrde a thef
That oght of noght has mad thee cler.
Thou blames the bote of thy meschef.
Thou art no kynde jueler."

A juel to me then was thys geste
And jueles wern hyr gentyl sawes.
"Iwyse," quoth I, "my blysfol beste,
My grete dystresse thou al todrawes.
To be excused I make requeste;
I trawed my perle don out of dawes.
Now haf I fonde hyt, I schal ma feste
And wony wyth hyt in schyr wod-schawes
And love my Lorde and al His lawes
That has me broght thys blysse ner.
Now were I at yow byyonde thise wawes,
I were a joyfol jueler."

"Jueler," sayde that gemme clene,
"Wy borde ye men? so madde ye be!
Thre wordes has thou spoken at ene;
Unavysed, for sothe, wern alle thre.
Thou ne woste in worlde quat on dos mene -
Thy worde byfore thy wytte con fle.
Thou says thou trawes me in this dene
Bycawse thou may wyth yyen me se.
Another - thou says in this countré
Thyself schal won wyth me ryght here.
The thrydde - to passe thys water fre.
That may no joyfol jueler.

6

"I halde that jueler lyttel to prayse
That loves wel that he ses wyth yye,
And much to blame and uncortoyse
That leves oure Lorde wolde make a lyye
That lelly hyghte your lyf to rayse
Thagh fortune dyd your flesch to dyye.
Ye setten Hys wordes ful westernays
That loves nothynk bot ye hit syye;
And that is a poynt o sorquydryye
That uche god mon may evel byseme -
To leve no tale be true to tryye
Bot that hys one skyl may dem.

"Deme now thyself if thou con dayly
As man to God wordes schulde heve.
Thou says thou schal won in this bayly.
Me thynk thee burde fyrst aske leve -
And yet of graunt thou myghtes fayle.
Thou wylnes over thys water to weve;
Er moste thou cever to other counsayle.
Thy corse in clot mot calder keve,
For hit was forgarte at Paradys greve;
Oure yorefader hit con mysseyeme.
Thurgh drwry deth bos uch man dreve
Er over thys dam hym Dryghtyn deme."

"Demes thou me," quoth I, "my swete,
To dol agayn, thenne I dowyne.
Now haf I fonte that I forlete,
Schal I efte forgo hit er ever I fyne?
Why schal I hit bothe mysse and mete?
My precios perle dos me gret pyne.
What serves tresor bot gares men grete
When he hit schal efte wyth tenes tyne?
Now rech I never for to declyne
Ne how fer of folde that man me fleme;
When I am partles of perle myne,
Bot durande doel what may men deme?"

"Thow demes noght bot doel dystresse,"
Thenne sayde that wyght, "why dos thou so?
For dyne of doel of lures lesse
Ofte mony mon forgos the mo.
Thee oghte better thyselven blesse
And love ay God in wele and wo,
For anger gaynes thee not a cresse.
Who nedes schal thole be not so thro;
For thogh thou daunce as any do,
Braundysch and bray thy brathes breme,
When thou no fyrre may to ne fro
Thou moste abyde that He schal deme.

"Deme Dryghtyn, ever Hym adyte,
Of the way a fote ne wyl He wrythe.
Thy mendes mountes not a myte,
Thagh thou for sorwe be never blythe.
Stynst of thy strot and fyne to flyte
And sech Hys blythe ful swefte and swythe;
Thy prayer may Hys pyté byte
That mercy schal hyr craftes kythe.
Hys comforte may thy langour lythe
And thy lures of lyghtly fleme.
For marre other madde, morne and mythe,
Al lys in Hym to dyght and deme."

7

Thenne demed I to that damyselle,
"Ne worthe no wraththe unto my Lorde
If rapely I rave, spornande in spelle.
My herte was al wyth mysse remorde
As wallande water gos out of welle.
I do me ay in Hys myserecorde;
Rebuke me never wyth wordes felle
Thagh I forloyne, my dere endorde,
Bot kythes me kyndely your coumforde,
Pytosly thenkande upon thysse:
Of care and me ye made acorde,
That er was grounde of alle my blysse.

"My blysse, my bale, ye han ben bothe;
Bot much the bygger yet was my mon
Fro thou was wroken fro uch a wothe.
I wyste never quere my perle was gon;
Now I hit se, now lethes my lothe;
And quen we departed we wern at on.
God forbede we be now wrothe -
We meten so selden by stok other ston!
Thagh cortaysly ye carpe con
I am bot mol and maneres mysse.
Bot Crystes mersy and Mary and Jon,
Thise arn the grounde of alle my blysse.

"In blysse I se thee blythely blent,
And I a man al mornyf mate;
Ye take theron ful lyttel tente
Thagh I hente ofte harmes hate.
Bot now I am here in your presente
I wolde bysech, wythouten debate,
Ye wolde me say, in sobre asente,
What lyf ye lede erly and late.
For I am ful fayn that your astate
Is worthen to worschyp and wele, iwysse;
Of alle my joy the hyghe gate,
Hit is in grounde of alle my blysse."

"Now blysse, burne, mot thee bytyde,"
Then sayde that lufsoum of lyth and lere,
"And welcum here to walk and byde,
For now thy speche is to me dere.
Maysterful mod and hyghe pryde
I hete thee arn heterly hated here.
My Lorde ne loves not for to chyde
For meke arn alle that wones Hym nere,
And when in Hys place thou schal apere
Be dep devote in hol mekenesse.
My Lorde the Lamb loves ay such chere;
That is the grounde of alle my blysse.

"A blysful lyf thou says I lede;
Thou woldes knaw therof the stage.
Thow wost wel when thy perle con schede
I was ful yong and tender of age,
Bot my Lorde the Lombe, thurgh Hys Godhede
He toke myself to Hys maryage,
Corounde me quene in blysse to brede
In lenghe of dayes that ever schal wage.
And sesed in alle Hys herytage
Hys lef is. I am holy Hysse -
Hys pyese, Hys prys; and Hys parage
Is rote and grounde of alle my blysse."

8

"Blysful," quoth I, "may thys be trwe?
Dyspleses not if I speke errour.
Art thou the quene of hevenes blwe
That al thys worlde schal do honour?
We leven on Marye that grace of grewe,
That ber a barne of vyrgyn flour.
The croune fro hyr, quo moght remwe
Bot ho hir passed in sum favour?
Now for synglerty o hyr dousour
We calle hyr Fenyx of Arraby
That freles flewe of hyr fasor
Lyk to the quen of cortaysye."

"Cortayse quen," thenne sayde that gaye,
Knelande to grounde, folde up hyr face,
"Makeles moder and myryest may,
Blessed bygyner of uch a grace."
Thenne ros ho up and con restay
And speke me towarde in that space,
"Sir, fele here porchases and fonges pray
Bot supplantores none wythinne thys place.
That emperise al hevens has
And urthe and helle in her bayly,
Of erytage yet non wyl ho chace
For ho is quen of cortaysye.

"The court of the kyndom of God alyve
Has a property in hytself beyng;
Alle that may therinne aryve
Of alle the reme is quen other kyng;
And never other yet schal depryve,
Bot uchon fayn of otheres hafyng
And wolde her corounes wern worthe tho fyve
If possyble were her mendyng.
Bot my lady of quom Jesu con spryng
Ho haldes the empyre over uus ful hyghe,
And that dyspleses non of oure gyng
For ho is quene of cortaysye.

"Of courtaysye, as says Saynt Poule,
Al arn we membres of Jesu Kryst.
As heved and arme and legg and navle
Temen to Hys body ful trwe and tryste,
Ryght so is uch a Krysten sawle
A longande lym to the mayster of myste.
Thenne loke what hate other any gawle
Is tached other tyyed thy lymmes bytwyste;
Thy heved has nauther greme ne gryste
On arme other fynger, thagh thou ber byghe.
So fare we alle wyth luf and lyste
To kyng and quene, by cortaysye."

"Cortaysé," quoth I, "I leve,
And charyté grete be yow among.
Bot my speche that yow ne greve,
. . . . .
Thyself in heven over hygh thou heve
To make thee quen that was so yonge.
What more honour moghte he acheve
That hade endured in worlde stronge
And lyved in penaunce hys lyves longe
Wyth bodyly bale hym blysse to byye?
What more worschyp moght he fonge
Then corounde be kyng by cortaysé?

9

"That cortaysé is to fre of dede
Yf hyt be soth that thou cones saye.
Thou lyfed not two yer in oure thede;
Thou cowthes never God nauther plese ne pray
Ne never nawther Pater ne Crede -
And quen mad on the fyrste day!
I may not traw, so God me spede,
That God wolde wrythe so wrange away.
Of countes, damysel, par ma fay,
Wer fayr in heven to halde asstate
Other elles a lady of lasse aray -
Bot a quene! Hit is to dere a date."

"Ther is no date of Hys godnesse,"
Then sayde to me that worthy wyghte,
"For al is trawthe that He con dresse
And He may do nothynk bot ryght.
As Mathew meles in your Messe,
In sothfol gospel of God almyght,
In sample He can ful graythely gesse
And lyknes hit to heven lyghte.
'My regne,' He says, 'is lyk on hyght
To a lorde that hade a vyne, I wate.
Of tyme of yere the terme was tyght
To labor vyne was dere the date.'

"That date of yere wel knawe thys hyne;
The lorde ful erly up he ros
To hyre werkmen to hys vyne
And fyndes ther summe to hys porpos.
Into acorde thay con declyne
For a pené on a day, and forth thay gos,
Wrythen and worchen and don gret pyne,
Kerven and caggen and man hit clos.
Aboute under the lorde to marked tos
And ydel men stande he fyndes therate.
'Why stande ye ydel?' he sayde to thos,
'Ne knawe ye of this day no date?'

"'Er date of daye hider arn we wonne,'
So was al samen her answar soght.
'We haf standen her syn ros the sunne
And no mon byddes uus do ryght noght.'
'Gos into my vyne, dos that ye conne,'
So sayde the lorde and made hit toght.
'What resonabele hyre be naght be runne,
I yow pay in dede and thoghte.'
Thay wente into the vyne and wroghte
And al day the lorde thus yede his gate
And nw men to hys vyne he broghte
Welnegh wyl day was passed date.

"At the date of day of evensonge,
On oure byfore the sonne go doun,
He sey ther ydel men ful stronge
And sade to hem, wyth sobre soun,
'Wy stonde ye ydel thise dayes longe?'
Thay sayden her hyre was nawhere boun.
'Gos to my vyne, yemen yonge,
And wyrkes and dos that at ye moun.'
Sone the worlde bycom wel broun,
The sunne was doun and hit wex late.
To take her hyre he mad sumoun;
The day was al apassed date.

10

"The date of the daye the lorde con knaw;
Called to the reve, 'Lede, pay the meyny!
Gyf hem the hyre that I hem owe
And fyrre, that non me may reprené,
Set hem alle upon a rawe
And gyf uchon inlyche a peny.
Bygyn at the laste that standes lowe
Tyl to the fyrste that thou atteny.'
And thenne the fyrst bygonne to pleny
And sayden that they hade travayled sore.
'These bot on oure hem con streny!
Uus thynk uus oghe to take more.

"'More haf we served, uus thynk so,
That suffred han the dayes hete
Thenn thyse that wroght not houres two -
And thou dos hem uus to counterfete.'
Thenne sayde the lorde to on of tho,
'Frende, no waning I wyl thee gete.
Take that is thyn owne and go
And I hyred thee for a peny agrete.
Quy bygynnes thou now to threte?
Was not a pené thy covenaunt thore?
Fyrre then covenaunde is noght to plete.
Wy schalte thou thenne aske more?

"'More, wether louyly is me my gyfte
To do wyth myn quatso me lykes?
Other elles thyn yye to lyther is lyfte
For I am goude and non byswykes.'
'Thus schal I,' quoth Kryste, 'hyt skyfte:
The laste schal be the fyrst that strykes
And the fyrst the laste, be he never so swyft.
For mony ben called thagh fewe be mykes.'
Thus pore men her part ay pykes
Thagh thay com late and lyttel wore;
And thagh her sweng wyth lyttel atslykes,
The merci of God is much the more.

"More haf I of joye and blysse hereinne,
Of ladyschyp gret and lyves blom,
Then alle the wyyes in the worlde myght wynne
By the way of ryght to aske dome.
Whether welnygh now I con bygynne,
In eventyde into the vyne I come.
Fyrst of my hyre my Lorde con mynne;
I was payed anon of al and sum.
Yet other ther werne that toke more tom,
That swange and swat for longe yore,
That yet of hyre nothynk thay nom -
Paraunter noght schal to-yere more."

Then more I meled and sayde apert,
"Me thynk thy tale unresounable.
Goddes ryght is redy and evermore rert
Other Holy Wryt is bot a fable.
In Sauter is sayd a verce overte
That spekes a poynt determynable:
'Thou quytes uchon as hys desserte,
Thou hyghe kyng ay pertermynable.'
Now he that stod the long day stable
And thou to payment com hym byfore -
Thenne the lasse in werke to take more able,
And ever the lenger the lasse, the more."

11

"Of more and lasse in Godes ryche,"
That gentyl sayde, "lys no joparde,
For ther is uch mon payed inlyche
Whether lyttel other much be hys rewarde.
For the gentyl Cheventayn is no chyche;
Quether-so-ever He dele, nesch other harde,
He laves Hys gyftes as water of dyche
Other gotes of golf that never charde.
Hys fraunchyse is large; that ever dard
To Hym that mas in synne rescoghe,
No blysse bes fro hem reparde,
For the grace of God is gret inoghe.

"Bot now thou motes, me for to mate
That I my peny haf wrang tan here;
Thou says that I that com to late
Am not worthy so gret fere.
Where wystes thou ever any bourne abate,
Ever so holy in hys prayere,
That he ne forfeted by sumkyn gate
The mede sumtyme of hevenes clere?
And ay the ofter, the alder thay were;
Thay laften ryght and wroghten woghe.
Mercy and grace moste hem then stere,
For the grace of God is gret innoghe.

"Bot innoghe of grace has innocent.
As sone as thay arn borne by lyne
In the water of babtem thay dyssente.
Then arne thay boroght into the vyne.
Anon the day, with derk endente,
The niyght of deth dos to enclyne
That wroght never wrang er thenne thay wente.
The gentyle Lorde thenne payes hys hyne;
Thay dyden hys heste, thay wern thereine.
Why schulde he not her labour alow -
Yys, and pay hym at the fyrste fyne?
For the grace of God is gret innoghe.

"Inoghe is knawen that mankyn grete
Fyrste was wroght to blysse parfyt;
Oure forme fader hit con forfete
Thurgh an apple that he upon con byte.
Al wer we dampned for that mete,
To dyye in doel out of delyt
And sythen wende to helle hete
Therinne to won withoute respyt.
Bot theron com a bote astyt;
Ryche blod ran on Rode so roghe
And wynne water then at that plyt.
The grace of God wex gret innoghe.

"Innoghe ther wax out of that welle,
Blod and water of brode wounde;
The blod uus boght fro bale of helle,
And delyvered uus of deth secounde.
The water is baptem, the sothe to telle,
That folwed the glayve so grymly grounde,
That wasches away the gyltes felle
That Adam wyth inne deth uus drounde.
Now is ther noght in the worlde rounde
Bytwene uus and blysse bot that he wythdrow,
And that is restored in sely stounde,
And the grace of God is gret innogh.

12

"Grace innogh the mon may have
That synnes thenne new, yif hym repente;
Bot wyth sorw and syt he mot hit crave
And byde the payne therto is bent.
Bot resoun, of ryght that con not rave,
Saves evermore the innossent.
Hit is a dom that never God gave
That ever the gyltles schulde be schente.
The gyltyf may contryssyoun hente
And be thurgh mercy to grace thryght,
Bot he to gyle that never glente
As inoscente is saf and ryghte.

"Ryght thus I knaw wel in this cas
Two men to save is God, by skylle;
The ryghtwys man schal se Hys face,
The harmles hathel schal com Hym tylle.
The Sauter hyt sas thus in a pace,
'Lorde, quo schal klymbe Thy hyghe hylle
Other rest wythinne Thy holy place ?'
Hymself to onsware He is not dylle:
'Hondelynges harme that dyt not ille,
That is of hert bothe clene and lyght -
Ther schal hys stepe stable stylle.'
The innosent is ay saf by ryght.

"The ryghtwys man also sertayn
Aproche he schal that proper pyle
That takes not her lyf in vayne
Ne glaueres her nieghbor wyth no gyle.
Of thys ryghtwys, sas Salamon playn,
How kyntly oure Koyntyse hym con aquyle.
By wayes ful streght he con hym strayn
And scheued hym the rengne of God awhyle,
As quo says, 'Lo, yon lovely yle!
Thou may hit wynne if thou be wyghte.'
Bot hardyly, wythoute peryle,
The innosent is ay save by ryghte.

"Anende ryghtwys men, yet says a gome,
David in Sauter if ever ye sey hit,
'Lorde, Thy servaunt draw never to dome,
For non lyvyande to Thee is justyfyet.'
Forthy to corte, quen thou schal com
Ther alle oure causes schal be tryed,
Alegge the ryght - thou may be innome
By thys ilke spech I have asspyed.
Bot He on Rode that blody dyed,                                                                           See Dream of the Rood
Delfully thurgh hondes thryght,                                                                             Julian of Norwich, Showing of Love
Gyve thee to passe, when thou arte tryed,
By innocens, and not by ryghte.

"Ryghtwysly quo con rede,
He loke on bok and be awayed
How Jesus Hym welke in arethede,
And burnes her barnes unto Hym brayde
For happe and hele that fro Hym yede.
To touch her chylder thay fayr Hym prayed.
His dessypeles wyth blame, 'Let be!' hym bede,
And wyth her resounes ful fele restayed.
Jesus thenne hem swetely sayde,
'Do way, let chylder unto me tyght;
To suche is hevenryche arayed.'
The innocent is ay saf by ryght.

13

"Jesu con calle to Hym Hys mylde
And sayde Hys ryche no wyy myght wynne
Bot he com thyder ryght as a chylde
Other elles nevermore com therinne.
Harmles, trwe, and undefylde,
Wythouten mote other mascle of sulpande synne -
Quen such ther cnoken on the bylde,
Tyt schal hem men the gate unpynne.
Ther is the blys that con not blynne
That the jueler soghte thurgh perré pres
And solde alle hys goud, bothe wolen and lynne,
To bye hym a perle was mascelles.

"This makelles perle, that boght is dere,
The joueler gef fore alle hys god,
Is lyke the reme of hevenesse clere -
So sayde the Fader of folde and flode -
For hit is wemles, clene, and clere,
And endeles rounde and blythe of mode,
And commune to alle that ryghtwys were.
Lo, even inmyddes my breste hit stode!
My Lorde, the Lombe that schede Hys blode,
He pyght hit there in token of pes.
I rede thee forsake the worlde wode
And porchace thy perle maskelles."

"O maskeles perle, in perles pure,
That beres," quoth I, "the perle of prys,
Quo formed thee thy fayre fygure?
That wroght thy wede, He was ful wys.
Thy beauté com never of nature;
Pymalyon paynted never thy vys,
Ne Arystotel nawther by hys lettrure
Of carpe the kynde these propertes.
Thy colour passes the flour-de-lys;
Thyn angel-havyng so clene cortes -
Breve me, bryght, quat kyn ostriys
Beres the perle so maskelles?"

"My makeles Lambe that al may bete,"
Quoth scho, "my dere destyné,
Me ches to Hys make, althagh unmete
Sumtyme semed that assemblé.
When I wente fro yor worlde wete,
He calde me to Hys bonerté:
'Cum hyder to me, my lemman swete
For mote ne spot is non in thee.'
He gef me myght and als bewté;
In Hys blod He wesch my wede on dese
And coronde clene in vergynté,
And pyght me in perles maskelles."

"Why, maskelles bryd, that bryght con flambe,
That reiates has so ryche and ryf,
Quat kyn thyng may be that Lambe
That thee wolde wedde unto Hys vyf?
Over alle other so hygh thou clambe
To lede wyth Hym so ladyly lyf.
So mony a comly anunnder cambe
For Kryst han lyved in much stryf,
And thou con alle tho dere out dryf
And from that maryag al other depres -
Al only thyself so stout and styf,
A makeles may and maskelles."

14

"Maskelles," quoth that myry quene,
"Unblemyst I am, wythouten blot,
And that may I wyth mensk menteene,
Bot 'makeles quene' - thenne sade I not.
The Lambes uyves in blysse we bene,
A hondred and forty thowsande flot
As in the Apocalyppes hit is sene.
Sant John hem syy al in a knot
On the hyl of Syon, that semly clot;
The apostel hem segh in gostly drem,
Arayed to the weddyng in that hyl-coppe,
The nwe cyté o Jerusalem.

"Of Jerusalem I in speche spelle;
If thou wyl knaw what kyn He be,
My Lombe, my Lorde, my dere juelle,
My joy, my blys, my lemman fre,
The profete Ysaye of Hym con melle
Pitously of Hys debonerté:
'That gloryous gyltles that mon con quelle
Wythouten any sake of felonye,
As a schep to the slaght ther lad was He,
And as lombe that clypper in lande nem,
So closed He hys mouth fro uch query'-
Quen Jues Hym jugged in Jerusalem.

"In Jerusalem was my lemman slayn
And rent on Rode wyth boyes bolde.
Al oure bales to bere ful bayn,
He toke on Hymself oure cares colde;
Wyth boffetes was Hys face flayn
That was so fayr on to byholde.
For synne He set Hymself in vayn
That never hade non Hymself to wolde.
For uus He lette Hym flyye and folde
And brede upon a bostwys bem;
As meke as lomp that no playnt tolde
For uus He swalt in Jerusalem.

"Jerusalem, Jordan, and Galalye,
Ther as baptysed the goude Saynt Jon,
His wordes acorded to Ysaye.
When Jesu con to hym warde gon,
He sayde of Hym thys professye:
'Lo, Godes Lombe, as trwe as ston,
That dos away the synnes dryye
That alle thys worlde has wroght upon.'
Hymself ne wroghte never yet non
Whether on Hymself He con al clem.
Hys generacyoun quo recen con
That dyyed for uus in Jerusalem?

"In Jerusalem thus my lemman swete
Twyes for lombe was taken there,
By trw recorde of ayther prophete,
For mode so meke and al Hys fare.
The thryde tyme is therto ful mete,
In Apokalypes wryten ful yare.
In mydes the trone there sayntes sete,
The apostel John Hym saw as bare,
Lesande the boke with leves sware
There seven syngnettes wern sette in seme;
And at that syght uche douth con dare
In helle, in erthe, in Jerusalem.

15

"Thys Jerusalem Lombe hade never pechche
Of other huee bot quyt jolyf
That mot ne masklle moght on streche,
For wolle quyte so ronk and ryf.
Forthy uche saule that hade never teche
Is to that Lombe a worthyly wyf,
And thagh uch day a store He feche
Among uus commes nouther strot ne stryf,
Bot uchon enlé we wolde were fyf.
The mo the myryer, so God me blesse!
In compayny gret our luf con thryf,
In honour more and never the lesse.

"Lasse of blysse may non uus bryng
That beren thys perle upon oure bereste,
For thay of mote couthe never mynge
Of spotles perles tha beren the creste.
Althagh oure corses in clottes clynge
And ye remen for rauthe wythouten reste,
We thurghoutly haven cnawyng;
Of on dethe ful oure hope is drest.
The Lombe uus glades, oure care is kest;
He myrthes uus alle at uch a mes.
Uchones blysse is breme and beste -
And never ones honour yet never the les.

"Lest les thou leve my tale farande,
In Appocalyppece is wryten in wro:
'I seghe,' says John, 'the Loumbe Hym stande
On the Mount of Syon ful thryven and thro,
And wyth Hym maydennes an hundrethe thowsande
And fowre and forty thowsande mo.
On alle her forhedes wryten I fande
The Lombes nome, Hys Faderes also.
A hue fro heven I herde thoo,
Lyk flodes fele laden runnen on resse,
And as thunder throwes in torres blo
That lote, y leve, was never the les.

"'Nautheles thagh hit schowted sharpe
And ledden loude althagh hit were,
A note ful nwe I herde hem warpe;
To lysten that was ful lufly dere.
As harpores harpen in her harpe,
That nwe songe thay songen ful cler
In sounande notes, a gentyl carpe.
Ful fayre the modes thay fonge in fere
Ryght byfore Godes chayere,
And the fowre bestes that Hym obes,
And the aldermen so sadde of chere -
Her songe thay songen never the les.

"'Nowthelese, non was never so quoynt
For alle the craftes that ever thay knewe,
That of that songe myght synge a poynt
Bot that meyny the Lombe that swe.
For thay arn boght, fro the urthe aloynte,
As newe fryt to God ful due,
And to the gentyl Lombe hit arn anjoynt
As lyk to Hymself of lote and hwe.
For never lesyng ne tale untrwe
Ne towched her tonge for no dysstresse.
That moteles meyny may never remwe
Fro that maskeles mayster never the les.'"

"Never the les let be my thonc,"
Quoth I, "my perle, thagh I appose.
I schulde not tempte thy wyt so wlonc
To Krystes chambre that art ichose.
I am bot mokke and mul among,
And thou so ryche a reken rose
And bydes here by thys blysful bonc
Ther lyves lyste may never lose.
Now, hynde, that sympelnesse cones enclose,
I wolde thee aske a thynge expresse,
And thagh I be bustwys as a blose,
Let my bone vayle never the lese.

16

"Neverthelese cler I yow bycalle
If ye con se hyt be to done.
As thou art gloryous, wythouten galle,
Wythnay thou never my ruful bone.
Haf ye no wones in castel walle,
Ne maner ther ye may mete and won?
Thou telles me of Jerusalem, the ryche ryalle,
Ther David dere was dyght on trone -
Bot by thyse holtes hit con not hone,
Bot in Judee hit is, that noble note.
As ye ar maskeles under mone,
Your wones schulde be wythouten mote.

"Thys moteles meyny thou cones of mele,
Of thousandes thryght, so gret a route -
A gret ceté, for ye arn fele,
Yow byhod have wythouten doute.
So cumly a pakke of joly juele
Wer evel don schulde lyy theroute;
And by thyse bonkes ther I con gele
I se no bygyng nawhere aboute.
I trowe alone ye lenge and loute
To loke on the glory of thys gracious gote.
If thou has other bygynges stoute,
Now tech me to that myry mote."

"That mote thou menes in Judy londe,"
That specyal spyce then to me spakk.
"That is the cyté that the Lombe con fonde
To soffer inne sor for manes sake.
The olde Jerusalem, to understonde,
For there the olde gulte was don to slake.
Bot the nwe that lyght, of Godes sonde,
The apostel in Apocalyppce in theme con take.
The Lompe ther wythouten spottes blake
Has feryed thyder Hys fayre flote,
And as Hys flok is wythouten flake,
So is Hys mote wythouten moote.

"Of motes two to carpe clene
And Jerusalem hyght bothe, nawtheles -
That nys to yow no more to mene
Bot 'Ceté of God' other 'Syght of Pes' -
In that on oure pes was mad at ene.
With payne to suffer the Lombe hit chese.
In that other is noght bot pes to glene
That ay schal laste wythouten reles.
That is the borgh that we to pres
Fro that oure flesch be layd to rote;
Ther glory and blysse schal ever encres
To the meyny that is wythouten mote."

"Moteles may, so meke and mylde,"
Then sayde I to that lufly flor,
"Bryng me to that bygly bylde
And let me se thy blysful bor."
That schene sayde, "That God wyl schylde!
Thou may not enter wythinne Hys tor.
Bot of the Lombe I have thee aquylde
For a syght therof thurgh gret favor.
Utwyth to se that clene cloystor
Thou may, bot inwyth not a fote;
To strech in the strete thou has no vygour
Bot thou wer clene wythouten mote.

17

"If I this mote thee schal unhyde,
Bow up towarde thys bornes heved,
And I anendes thee on thys syde
Schal sue tyl thou to a hil be veved."
Then wolde I no lenger byde,
Bot lurked by launces so lufly leved
Tyl, on a hyl, that I asspyed,
And blusched on the burghe as I forth dreved.
Byyonde the brok, fro me warde keved
That schyrrer then sunne wyth schaftes schon.
In the Apokalypce is the fasoun preved
As devyses hit the apostel John.



As John the apostel hit syy with syght,
I syye that cyty of gret renoun,
Jerusalem so nwe and ryally dyght
As hit was lyght fro the heven adoun.
The borgh was al of brende golde bryght,
As glemande glas burnist broun -
Wyth gentyl gemmes anunder pyght,
Wyth bauteles twelve on basyng boun,
The foundementes twelve of riche tenoun.
Uch tabelment was a serlypes ston,
As derely devyses this ilke toun
In Apocalyppes the apostel John.

As John thise stones in Writ con nemme,
I knew the name after his tale:
Jasper hyght the fyrste gemme
That I on fyrst basse con wale.
He glente grene in the lowest hemme;
Saffer helde the secounde stale.
The calsydoyne thenne wythouten wemme,
In the thrydde table con purly pale.
The emerade, the furthe, so grene of scale;
The sardonyse, the fyfthe ston,
The sexte, the rybé, he con hit wale
In the Apocalyppce the apostel John.

Yet joyned John the crysolyt
The seventhe gemme in fundament;
The aghtthe, the beryl cler and quyt,
The topasye twynne-hew, the nente endent.
The crysopase, the tenthe is tyght,
The jacyngh, the enleventhe gent.
The twelfthe, the tryeste in uch a plyt,
The amatyst, purpre wyth ynde blente.
The wal abof the bautels bent
Of jasporye as glas that glysnande schon.
I knew hit by his devysement
In the Apocalyppes, the apostel John.

As John devysed yet saw I thare;
Thise twelve degres wern brode and stayre.
The cyté stod abof ful sware,
As longe, as brode, as hyghe ful fayre;
The stretes of golde as glasse al bare -
The wal of jasper that glent as glayre -
The wones wythinne enurned ware
Wyth alle kynnes perre that moght repayre.
Thenne helde uch sware of this manayre
Twelve forlonge space, er ever hit fon,
Of heght, of brede, of lenthe to cayre,
For meten hit syy the apostel John.

18

As John hym wrytes yet more I syye;
Uch pane of that place had thre gates,
So twelve in poursent I con asspye.
The portales pyked of ryche plates
And uch gate of a margyrye,
A parfyt perle that never fates.
Uchon in scrypture a name con plye
Of Israel barnes, folewande her dates -
That is to say, as her byrth-whates.
The aldest ay fyrst theron was done.
Such lyght ther lemed in alle the strates,
Hem nedde nawther sunne ne mone.

Of sunne ne mone had thay no nede;
The selfe God was her lambe-lyght,
The Lombe her lantyrne, wythouten drede.
Thurgh Hym blysned the borgh al bryght.
Thurgh wowe and won my lokyng yede,
For sotyle cler noght lette no syght.
The hyghe trone ther moght ye hede
Wyth alle the apparaylmente umbepyghte,
As John the appostel in termes tyghte;
The hyghe Godes self hit set upone.
A rever of the trone ther ran outryghte
Was bryghter then bothe the sunne and mone.

Sunne ne mone schon never so swete
As that foysoun flode out of that flet;
Swythe hit swange thurgh uch a strete
Wythouten fylthe other galle other glet.
Kyrk therinne was non yete -
Chapel ne temple that ever was set.
The Almyghty was her mynster mete,
The Lombe the sakerfyse ther to refet.
The gates stoken was never yet,
Bot ever more upen at uche a lone.
Ther entres non to take reset
That beres any spot anunder mone.

The mone may therof acroche no myghte;
To spotty ho is, of body to grym,
And also ther ne is never nyght.
What schulde the mone ther compas clym
And to even wyth that worthly lyght
That schynes upon the brokes brym?
The planetes arn in to pouer a plyght
And the selfe sunne ful fer to dym.
Aboute that water arn tres ful schym
That twelve frytes of lyf con bere ful sone;
Twelve sythes on yer thay beren ful frym
And renowles nwe in uche a mone.

Anundre mone so gret merwayle
No fleschly hert ne myght endeure
As quen I blusched upon that bayle,
So ferly therof was the fasure.
I stod as stylle as dased quayle
For ferly of that freuch fygure,
That felde I nawther reste ne travayle
So was I ravyste wyth glymme pure.
For I dar say, wyth conciens sure,
Hade bodyly burne abiden that bone,
Thagh alle clerkes hym hade in cure
His lyf wer loste anunder mone.

19

Ryght as the maynful mone con rys
Er thenne the day-glem dryve al doun,
So sodanly on a wonder wyse
I was war of a prosessyoun.
This noble cité of ryche enpryse
Was sodanly ful, wythouten sommoun,
Of such vergynes in the same gyse
That was my blysful anunder croun.
And coronde wern alle of the same fasoun,
Depaynt in perles and wedes qwyte.
In uchones breste was bounden boun
The blysfyl perle with gret delyt.

With gret delyt thay glod in fere
On golden gates that glent as glasse.
Hundreth thowsandes, I wot ther were,
And alle in sute her livrés wasse;
Tor to knaw the gladdest chere.
The Lombe byfore con proudly passe
Wyth hornes seven of red golde cler.
As praysed perles His wedes wasse.
Towarde the throne thay trone a tras.
Thagh thay wern fele, no pres in plyt,
Bot mylde as maydenes seme at mas
So drov thay forth with gret delyt.

Delyt that hys come encroched,
To much it were of for to melle.
Thise aldermen, quen he aproched,
Grovelyng to his fete thay felle.
Legyounes of aungeles, togeder voched,
Ther kesten ensens of swete smelle.
Then glory and gle was nwe abroched;
Al songe to love that gay juelle.
The steven moght stryke thurgh the urthe to helle
That the Vertues of heven of joye endyte.
To love the Lombe His meyny in-melle,
Iwysse I laght a gret delyt.

Delit the Lombe for to devise
With much mervayle in mynde went,
Best was He, blythest, and moste to pryse
That ever I herde of speche spent.
So worthly whyt wern wedes Hys,
His lokes symple, Hymself so gent;
Bot a wounde ful wyde and weete con wyse
Anende Hys hert thurgh hyde torente.
Of His quyte syde his blod outsprent.
Alas, thoght I, who did that spyt?
Ani breste for bale aght haf forbrent
Er he therto hade had delyt.

The Lombe delyt, non lyste to wene;
Thagh He were hurt and wounde hade,
In His sembelaunt was never sene,
So wern His glentes gloryous glade.
I loked among His meyny schene,
How thay wyth lyf wern laste and lade.
Then saw I ther my lyttel quene
That I wende had standen by me in sclade.
Lorde, much of mirthe was that ho made
Among her feres that was so quyt!
That syght me gart to thenk to wade
For luf longyng in gret delyt.

20

Delyt me drof in yye and ere -
My manes mynde to maddyng malte.
Quen I sey my frely, I wolde be there
Byyonde the water, thagh ho were walte.
I thoght that no thyng myght me dere,
To fech me bur and take me halte,
And to start in the strem schulde non me stere
To swymme the remnaunt, thagh I ther swalte.
Bot of that munt I was bitalt.
When I schulde start in the strem astraye,
Out of that caste I was bycalt;
Hit was not at my Prynces paye.

Hit payed Hym not that I so flonc
Over mervelous meres so mad arayde.
Of raas, thagh I were rasch and ronk,
Yet rapely therinne I was restayed.
For ryght as I sparred unto the bonc,
That brathe out of my drem me brayde.
Then wakned I in that erber wlonk;
My hede upon that hylle was layde
Ther as my perle to grounde strayd.
I raxled and fel in gret affray,
And sykyng to myself I sayd,
"Now al be to that Prynces paye."

Me payed ful ille to be outfleme
So sodenly of that fayre regioun -
Fro alle tho syghtes so quyke and queme.
A longeyng hevy me strok in swone,
And rewfully thenne I con toreme,
"O perle," quoth I, "of rych renoun,
So was hit me dere that thou con deme
In thys veray avysyoun!
If hit be veray and soth sermoun
That thou so stykes in garlande gay,
So wel is me in thys doel-doungoun
That thou art to that Prynses paye."

To that Prynces paye hade I ay bente
And yerned no more then was me gyven,
And halden me ther in trwe entent
As the perle me prayed that was so thryven -
As helde, drawen to Goddes present,
To mo of His mysterys I hade ben dryven.
Bot ay wolde man of happe more hente
Then moghten by ryght upon hem clyven.
Therfore my joye was sone toriven
And I kaste of kythes that lastes aye.
Lorde, mad hit arn that agayn Thee stryven
Other proferen Thee oght agayn Thy paye.

To pay the Prince other sete saghte,
Hit is ful ethe to the god Krystyin.
For I haf founden Hym, bothe day and naghte,
A God, a Lorde, a frende ful fyin.
Over this hyul this lote I laghte
For pyty of my perle enclyin;
And sythen to God I hit bytaghte
In Krystes dere blessyng and myn,
That in the forme of bred and wyn
The preste uus schewes uch a daye.
He gef uus to be His homly hyne
And precious perles unto His pay.
Amen Amen


Portrait of Sir Robert Cotton who collected this manuscript with Pearl and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and for whom Augustine Baker worked, who in turn helped preserve Julian manuscripts


The poem is analogous to Dante's Purgatorio, to Chaucer's Book of the Duchess, to Nathaniel Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter and to Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Aurora Leigh. The Pearl maiden could be both a dead child and the poet's soul, his anima, as in the case with King Lear's Cordelia. While it is felt that the crude illustrations are by a later hand, what is interesting is that in both Sir Gawan and the Green Knight in this same manuscript and in this Pearl poem the protagonist could well be a portrait of its author, balding, and in this medieval convention, also stanind in for ourselves and our own expereincing in the reading and pedagogy of the text.