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  The Pearl Poet
珍珠詩人
圖片來源:http://faculty.virginia.edu/engl381ck/three.html
主要文類:Poem
資料提供者:Cecilia Liu/劉雪珍
關鍵字詞:The anonymous alliterative porms;Allegory;English Literature I:the Medieval Period;English Literature and Culture From Medieval Period to the Eighteenth Century;Medieval English Literature & Culture, Spring 2002

The Pearl Poet

The Pearl Poet

 

Provider: 劉雪珍/ Cecilia Liu

   

The Anonymous Author of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

  Very little is known of the anonymous author of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, but most scholars agree on two facts: he lived during the fourteenth century, and he lived in the area of England known as the Northwest Midlands (present-day Lancashire, Derbyshire, and Yorkshire). The language of the poem seems to indicate his geographic origin, as it contains many northerly features of Middle English ­ certain words and spellings, as well as unusual pronunciations necessary to maintain the poem's rhyme. The one manuscript in which Gawain is found dates from the late fourteenth century and contains three other poems very similar in style and subject matter.

A closer look at these three poems provides further internal evidence that suggests something about the life of the author. Most likely, he lived in a rural area which allowed him to observe and appreciate nature. Gawain is filled with beautiful passages describing nature in all her seasons, and a familiarity with the country is immediately evident frozen waterfalls, storms, dewy leaves are all illustrated in a strikingly realistic fashion. But at the same time, the author exhibits a detailed familiarity with many aspects of medieval aristocratic life. He meticulously uses very technical language to describe things like armor and weaponry (on both the Green Knight and Gawain), the architecture of a castle (at the end of Fitt II, when Gawain finds Bertilak's castle), the hunter's process of dividing a deer's body (Fitt III), even the dialogue and sentiment of courtly love (Fitt III, between Gawain and the lady). All these detailed, technical passages suggest that the author of Gawain knew and encountered to some extent the medieval aristocratic life of which he wrote.

But this rural, educated poet was evidently not famous enough to preserve his name. Other works attributed to him include the three poems found in the same fourteenth-century manuscript as Gawain: Pearl, Purity, and Patience. Another poem sometimes attributed to the Gawain-poet (though with more controversy) is St. Erkenwald. All five of these poems are similar in their style and theme; though the stanza structure varies among the poems, they all exhibit the same northern dialect and the same colorful use of the Middle English alliterative tradition. But perhaps the most important unifying factor is their religious theme, which ultimately reveals the traditional medieval outlook of their anonymous author.

In this sense, it is best of compare the works of the unknown Gawain-poet with that of his closest contemporary, Geoffrey Chaucer. John Gardner considers these two the greatest English poets of the fourteenth century, but ranks Chaucer much higher in skill and accomplishment. He writes that "the Gawain-poet lacks Chaucer's moral complexity, lacks Chaucer's fascination with men unlike himself and the psychological insight that goes with that fascination, and lacks Chaucer's philosophical and artistic eclecticism" (Gardner 3). Whereas Chaucer anticipated the Renaissance with his essentially humanistic vision, viewing the intrinsic worth of each individual, the Gawain-poet adhered to a medieval vision of humanity. In this vision, each human was less a product of individual, unique traits and thoughts than a member of one race, situated between divinity and Nature and forced to contend with a universal sense of morality to achieve salvation. Chaucer's emphasis on religion was hardly simplistic, in fact often cynical. But for the Gawain-poet, religion and morality were the means by which mankind tempered his Nature and came closer to approaching God. It is this central belief, found in all his poems, that roots him squarely in the medieval Christian tradition. Perhaps the Gawain-poet's exclusion of a modern humanism ultimately led to his anonymity. For unlike the egoistic humanist Chaucer, who frequently mentioned himself by name in his works, the Gawain-poet maintained a traditionally medieval distance from his poems, never inserting his own perspective into the narrative. Had he but done this, perhaps we would know his identity today.

 

 
  (Source: Gradesaver)

(external)  English Literature I: the Medieval Period;English Literature and Culture From Medieval Period to the Eighteenth Century

 
   
     

 

 

 

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