Text and Translation
  • Publication Date: May 4, 2020
  • ISBN: 9781554814589 / 1554814588
  • 224 pages; 6" x 9"

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Text and Translation

  • Publication Date: May 4, 2020
  • ISBN: 9781554814589 / 1554814588
  • 224 pages; 6" x 9"

The fourteenth-century Middle English poem Pearl is one of the best dream vision poems ever written, yet its language (the Northwest Midlands dialect of late-medieval England) and literary allusions (to biblical, mythological, and medieval works) make it difficult for modern readers to understand.

This new dual-language edition of Pearl provides the original Middle English with a facing-page modern English translation. It includes a comprehensive introduction, annotations of key words and ideas, reproduction of the four manuscript illustrations, a literary sourcebook, and lists of biblical sources, significant liturgical dates, and the concatenation words. Literary and biblical sources for the poem are provided as appendices.


“A riddling meditation on loss, grief, and the nature of faith, Pearl is a tour de force of language and a masterpiece of poetic form. Jane Beal’s achievement in this edition is to render Pearl accessible to a contemporary audience without evacuating the wonder that the poem inspires or the productive ambiguity through which it creates meaning. The introduction and contextualizing materials will be invaluable to students seeking to understand the poem’s cultural contexts, and Beal’sjudicious editorial work and facing-page translation illuminate Pearl’s slippery language while encouraging engagement with the original Middle English.” — David K. Coley, Simon Fraser University

“Jane Beal’s edition and translation of Pearl will be a treasure for both students and scholars. In a thorough introduction that expertly frames the contexts and critical issues surrounding this singularly important poem, Beal also makes a compelling case for the value of having the original Middle English text alongside a student-friendly translation. Her close but graceful translation enriches the study of the poem for those who are not expert in Middle English, and the numerous footnotes that accompany the translation deepen our understanding of the Pearl-poet’s world. The edition also includes reproductions of relevant manuscript images, along with a wealth of key biblical and classical sources informing the poem. Beal’s edition will surely be a welcome addition to many university syllabi as well as an excellent resource for those researching the poetic gem that is Pearl.” — Randy Schiff, University at Buffalo, SUNY

A Note on the Text


  • Part I
  • Part II
  • Part III
  • Part IV
  • Part V
  • Part VI
  • Part VII
  • Part VIII
  • Part IX
  • Part X
  • Part XI
  • Part XII
  • Part XIII
  • Part XIV
  • Part XV
  • Part XVI
  • Part XVII
  • Part XVIII
  • Part XIX
  • Part XX

Appendix A: Literary Sourcebook—Key Passages

  • 1. Parables
    • a. Parable of the Pearl of Great Price
    • b. Parable of the Treasure in the Field
    • c. Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard
  • 2. Descriptions of Pearls
    • a. From Pliny, Natural History
    • b. From Albert the Great, De animalibus
    • c. From Marbod of Rennes, De lapidibus
    • d. From Bartholomæus Anglicus, De proprietatibus rerum
    • e. From The Peterborough Lapidary
    • f. From Florence McCulloch, Mediaeval Latin and French Bestiaries
  • 3. Jacobus de Voragine, “Life of Saint Margaret of Antioch,” The Golden Legend (c. 1260)
  • 4. Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun, “The Spring of Narcissus,” The Romance of the Rose
  • 5. The Story of Orpheus and Eurydice, King Alfred’s Version of the Consolation of Philosophy (late ninth century)
  • 6. From Dante, Purgatorio XXIX–XXXIII (early fourteenth century)
  • 7. Ovid, “Pygmalion and Galatea,” Metamorphoses (first century CE)
  • 8. Ovid, “The Phoenix of Arabia,” Metamorphoses (first century CE)
  • 9. From Origen, The Song of Songs: Commentary and Homilies (second century CE)
  • 10. “The New Jerusalem,” Revelation 21

Appendix B: List of Biblical Source Passages

Appendix C: Significant Liturgical Dates

Appendix D: Chart of Concatenation Words

Select Bibliography

Jane Beal is Associate Professor of English at the University of La Verne. She has also authored The Signifying Power of Pearl (Routledge, 2017) and co-authored and co-edited Approaches to Teaching the Middle English Pearl (MLA, 2018). See to learn more.