Translator's notes

Pearl (extract)

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The 14th-century dream-vision known as Pearl has enjoyed a somewhat narrower readership and a great deal less attention from translators than its sister poem from the same manuscript Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (British Museum - MS Cotton Nero A. x). Widely interpreted as a devotional work of consolation on the death of an infant daughter, the poem is admired as much for the striking intricacy of its lexical and harmonic patterning as for its elegiac power, and the most recent – and very vivid – scholarly translation by Marie Borroff (W.W. Norton,1999) skilfully re-animates that formal patterning in all its principal aspects. This version (from which the following two sections are the first of twenty) aims to move away from some of the strict regularity of the original towards a more fluid and echoing character, and is indebted to the invaluable interest and advice of Bernard O'Donoghue and to the support of Arts Council South East .

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