Sir Orfeo and Pearl

I really liked the author’s spin on the classical myth of Orpheus and Eurydice in “Sir Orfeo,” mainly because it was a happy spin. The introduction talks about how the classical story features an Orpheus that loses Eurydice, his wife, to death and upon getting her back, loses her yet again through no fault but his own. In “Sir Orfeo,” Heurodis does not die (though how she is treated by the fairies is quite grotesque) and Orpheus stays faithful and wins her back. Also, his steward remains faithful to his lord and the kingdom is restored in the end. Reading a piece with a cheery ending was quite nice after all the sorrowful pieces we’ve been through. This piece touches on loss, but also restoration. I also thought the references to London throughout the piece were interesting; the intro explains how the editor scribe for this manuscript was believed to be based in London. Overall, I found this piece easy to read, interesting to read, and happy to read.

I also enjoyed Pearl, mainly because of how it is set up. Reading about the use of symbolism in the introduction through numbers and words helped me notice the patterns used throughout the poem. I appreciated how the author linked the stanzas together by using the same word (pearl, ornament, etc.), representing a string of pearls. I appreciated a story about the relationship between a self-absorbed father and his innocent yet wise daughter who has passed away, mainly because most of the pieces we have read so far have been about the romantic relationship between a man and a woman.

4 thoughts on “Sir Orfeo and Pearl

  1. I also really enjoyed reading Pearl in light of the overt symbolism that you mention, particularly that of the pearl itself by its round shape and glowing appearance as being representative of purity. The refrains throughout the poem encouraged a flowing progression. This poem was partially incredibly easy to read because the majority of what we read depicted scenes of beauty in Paradise and that of natural beauty, in addition to Pearl’s beauty. I agree that it was refreshing to read a poem about a relationship other than romantic, but I also questioned logically the idea of Pearl being the bride. The text establishes her age as below the age of reason and I can only assume that the use of the word bride is metaphorical (similar in a sense to how nun’s “marry” Christ), but I did not quite know how to interpret this metaphor. I have a feeling that I might be missing something incredibly obvious in this regard.

    • I hope this becomes more apparent in the reading for Tuesday, Tamar. The Pearl explains quite a bit of this, through the Book of Revelation, which is a source of much of the imagery of this poem.

  2. One aspect of Pearl that I kept thinking about while reading the poem was the recent popularity of the book/film Heaven Is for Real. For anyone who isn’t familiar with the story, the idea is that a young boy survives a near-death experience with a vision of his experience in heaven, a vision which of course conveys a moral message to the broader audience of piety and humility. Although it’s true the specific symbolism of Pearl requires a bit of legwork on our part to understand, I think that the notion of an innocent child speaking from across the beyond to us is still an inherently appealing notion, perhaps because the lesson it teaches comes out of the mouth of an untainted speaker .

    • While it’s appealing to the Dreamer, he also struggles with her being in a position of authority ‘over’ him to teach him in the particular way she does (or, at least attempts to). On another note, the boy who told the story Heaven is For Real has recently come forward to say it was all made up. In a way, that offers a different kind of reassurance–perhaps of the sort the Dreamer is seeking, despite himself.

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