Pearl: Section I by Pearl Poet/Gawain Poet

Pearl, to delight a prince’s day,
Flawlessly set in gold so fair
In all the East, I dare to say,
I have not found one to compare.
So round, so radiant in array,
So small, so smooth her contours were,
Wherever I judged jewels gay
I set her worth as truly rare.
I lost her in a garden where
Through grass she fell to earthen plot;
Wounded by love beyond repair
I mourn that pearl without a spot.

Since from that spot it fled that day
I waited oft, in hope to see
What once could drive my gloom away
And charge my very soul with glee;
But heavy on my heart it lay
And filled my breast with misery.
Yet no song ever seemed so gay
As that quiet hour let steal to me
Though in my heart one thought ran free,
Her fresh face wrapped in earthly clot;
Earth, you have marred her purity,
My secret pearl without a spot.

That spot of spices needs must spread
Where such rich bounty doth decay,
With yellow flowers and blue and red
That shine so bright in sun’s clear ray.
Flower and fruit can ne’er be dead
Where that pearl slipped into the clay,
For grass will grow from seed once shed
Or grain could not be stored away,
And good will always good repay.
This comely seed shall perish not,
And spices will their fruit display
From that dear pearl without a spot.

From that spot I in speech expound
I entered in that garden green,
As August’s season came around
When corn is cut with sickles keen,
There that pearl rolled into the ground,
Shadowed with plants both bright and clean,
Wallflower, ginger, gromwell abound
Bright paeonies scattered in between;
Though they were seemly to be seen
No less in their scent my sense caught;
And there that jewel long has been,
My precious pearl without a spot.

Before that spot I clasped my hand,
In chilling care my heart was caught;
A bitter grief my soul unmanned
Though reason wiser comfort sought.
I mourned my pearl from freedom banned
With arguments that fiercely fought;
Though Christ’s grace bade me understand
My wretched will fresh sorrow brought.
On flowery sward I fell, distraught;
Such fragrance to my senses shot
In deepest sleep I dreamt, methought,
On that dear pearl without a spot.

From: http://www.billstanton.co.uk/pearl/pearl0203.htm
http://www.billstanton.co.uk/pearl/pearl0405.htm
http://www.billstanton.co.uk/pearl/pearl0607.htm

Date: 14th century (original); 1995 (translation)

By: Pearl Poet/Gawain Poet (14th century)

Translated by: William Graham Stanton (1917-1999)

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