Carcanet £9.95 (55pp) from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030
Pearl, By Jane Draycott
Friday 29 July 2011
Part of the same 14th-century manuscript as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, also written in its dialect, Pearl is an intricately wrought 1200-line elegiac poem.
A father grieves for his small daughter, dead before her second birthday. Anyone who has ever read this wrenchingly beautiful vision of love, and bereavement, and the consolation of faith, knows that historians lie when they say parents in times of high infant mortality didn't care very much for the little ones they lost.
Jane Draycott's fresh version of this anonymous masterpiece is the best available. The glamour, even glitz, of its view of paradise across the river of death dazzles as never before in modern English. And the sadness of the father, "exiled from the country/ of eternity", just breaks the heart.
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