Posted on Leave a comment

Pearl, Cleanness, Patience and Sir Gawayne

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907-21).
Volume I. From the Beginnings to the Cycles of Romance.

XV. Pearl, Cleanness, Patience and Sir Gawayne.

The third poem is a metrical rendering of the story of Jonah, and its subject, too, as in the case of Cleanness, is indicated by its first word, Patience. Though, at first sight, the metre of the two poems seems to be identical throughout, it is to be noted that the lines of Patience divide into what may almost be described as stanzas of four lines; towards the end of the poem, there is a three-line group, either designed so by the poet or due to scribal omission. The same tendency towards the four-lined stanza is to be found in parts of Cleanness, more especially at the beginning and end of the poem. Patience consists of 531 lines; it is terser, more vivid and more highly finished, than the longer poem Cleanness. It is a masterly paraphrase of Scripture, bringing the story clearly and forcibly home to English folk of the fourteenth century. The author's delight in his subject is felt in every line. In Cleanness, especially characteristic of the author is the description of the holy vessels