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Pearl, a dream vision, presents its poignant story of the education of a misguided Christian soul in metrically intricate and verbally ornate stanzas that add up to an overarching numerical design. Together with these two, Patience, Cleanness, and Saint Erkenwald make up the complete works of their anymous author. All exhibit the dramatizing powers and metrical virtuosity of a master-poet. But ne became part of the established literary can until the second half of the nineteenth century, when the single manuscript copies in which they survive were edited and printed. Taken together, these works offer us a wide-ranging portrait of life in the late Middle Ages from the point of view of an independent-minded, learned, and cosmopolitan Englishman, a man as conversant with the conduct of life in great households as with Christian tradition and doctrine. He knew, among other things, how to sail a medieval passenger ship from its mooring to open sea, how to dress the carcass of a deer or a boar at the end of a royal hunt, and how a knight might flatter a ble and beautiful lady in the most intimate of situations while politely evading her seductive overtures.
Marie Borroff is Sterling Professor of English, Emeritus, at Yale University. Her verse translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight was first published in 1967; it appeared together with her translations of Patience and Pearl in 2001. The Gawain-Poet: Complete Works, including her translation of Cleanness and St. Erkenwald, is scheduled for publication in 2010. She is the author of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: A Stylistic and Metrical Study and of Traditions and Renewals: Chaucer, the Gawain-Poet, and Beyond (Yale University Press, 1962, 2003).