Monday, December 17, 2012

The Pearl

      What can a Medievalist say about the slaughter of innocents? Years ago, I read a poem called The Pearl, which had been written in 14th century Yorkshire by the same poet who wrote Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. In spite of the poet being a contemporary of Chaucer's, his poetry is extremely difficult to read because it is written in the local dialect of English.
      It is a poem about a father whose 2 year old daughter has died and he is consumed by grief over the loss of his child. The pearl is a metaphor for the soul and she is his most precious pearl that he has lost in a garden, i.e. she is lost in the soil or buried. He has a dream where he sees her in heaven living as a bride of Christ and she tells him that she is happy and that he should stop mourning her. He tries to cross to river to be with her and he wakes up. The reunion is denied. The poem is about how excessive grief is a sin and the death of a beloved child is all part of God's plan.
       I think that anyone who has lost a child or knows someone who has lost a child can say that the grieving never really ends. I am glad to see the Church seeks to comfort those who have lost children rather than tell them that their grief is wrong because the child is in a better place.
        Even in a time when people had more children than we do today and child mortality was high, the loss of a child affected people so terribly.
      I feel for the people of Newtown. Life will never be the same. How do you recover from that?
I also feel bad for the people of a little village in Afghanistan who just lost ten little girls aged 7 to 11 as they were out collecting firewood. Will their deaths spark an outcry and a demand to have landmines banned worldwide?

The Peal, edited by Sarah Stanbury, TEAMS book from University of Michigan
available online here.


Anachronist said...

I lovely post but the long and sad history of different countries has proven beyond doubt that the death of innocents, even a great number of innocents, means nothing - those who count don't care and those who care don't count.

Anachronist said...

BTW your post jogged my memory and here are the results:

The Red Witch said...

Thanks but it seems like the new mood on guns might finally push some new restrictions on gun ownership in the U.S.. It's a start. I have to wonder sometimes, if Diana had lived would she have been able to persuade the people of the world to ban land mines? She had only just taken up the cause before she died but it was getting attention.
A beautiful song and a sad memory.

Anachronist said...

it seems like the new mood on guns might finally push some new restrictions on gun ownership in the U.S.. It's a start.

I would love to be proven wrong this time, I really would.