Pearl of delight that a prince doth please
To grace in gold enclosed so clear,
I vow that from over orient seas
Never proved I any in price her peer.
So round, so radiant ranged by these,
So fine, so smooth did her sides appear
That ever in judging gems that please
Her only alone I deemed as dear.
Alas! I lost her in garden near:
Through grass to the ground from me it shot;
I pine now oppressed by love-wound drear
For that pearl, mine own, without a spot.
Since in that spot it sped from me,
I have looked and longed for that precious thing
That me once was wont from woe to free,
To uplift my lot and healing bring,
But my heart doth hurt now cruelly,
My breast with burning torment sting.
Yet in secret hour came soft to me
The sweetest song I e’er heard sing;
Yea, many a thought in mind did spring
To think that her radiance in clay should rot.
O mould! Thou marrest a lovely thing,
My pearl, mine own, without a spot.
In that spot must needs be spices spread
Where away such wealth to waste hath run;
Blossoms pale and blue and red
There shimmer shining in the sun;
No flower nor fruit their hue may shed
Where it down into darkling earth was done,
For all grass must grow from grains that are dead,
No wheat would else to barn be won.
From good all good is ever begun,
And fail so fair a seed could not,
So that sprang and sprouted spices none
From that precious pearl without a spot.
That spot whereof I speak I found
When I entered in that garden green,
As August’s season high came round
When corn is cut with sickles keen.
There, where that pearl rolled down, a mound
With herbs was shadowed fair and sheen,
With gillyflower, ginger, and gromwell crowned,
And peonies powdered all between.
If sweet was all that there was seen,
Fair too, a fragrance flowed I wot,
Where dwells that dearest, as I ween,
My precious pearl without a spot.
By that spot my hands I wrung dismayed;
For care full cold that had me caught
A hopeless grief on my heart was laid.
Though reason to reconcile me sought,
For my pearl there prisoned a plaint I made,
In fierce debate unmoved I fought;
Be comforted Christ Himself me bade,
But in woe my will ever strove distraught.
On the flowery plot I fell, methought;
Such odour through my senses shot,
I slipped and to sudden sleep was brought,
O’er that precious pearl without a spot.
From that spot my spirit sprang apace,
On the turf my body abode in trance;
My would was gone by God’s own grace
Adventuring where marvels chance.
I knew not where in the world was that place
Save by cloven cliffs was set my stance;
And towards a forest I turned my face,
Where rocks in splendour met my glance;
From them did a glittering glory lance,
None could believe the light they lent;
Never webs were woven in mortal haunts
Of half such wealth and wonderment.
Wondrous was made each mountain-side
With crystal cliffs so clear of hue;
About them woodlands bright lay wide,
As Indian dye their boles were blue;
The leaves did as burnished silver slide
That thick upon twigs were trembling grew.
When glades let light upon them glide
They shone with a shimmer of dazzling hue.
The gravel on ground that I trod with shoe
Was of precious pearls of Orient:
Sunbeams are blear and dark to view
Compared with that fair wonderment.
In wonder at those fells so fair
My soul all grief forgot let fall;
Odours so fresh of fruits there were,
I was fed as by food celestial.
In the woods the birds did wing and pair,
Of flaming hues, both great and small;
But cithern-string and gittern-player
Their merry mirth could ne’er recall,
For when the beat their pinions all
In harmony their voices bent:
No delight more lovely could men enthrall
Than behold and hear that wonderment.
Thus arrayed was all in wonderment
That forest where forth my fortune led;
No man its splendour to present
With tongue could worthy words have said.
I walked ever onward well-content;
No hill was so tall that it stayed my tread;
More fair the further afield I went
Were plants, and fruits, and spices spread;
Through hedge and mead lush waters led
As in strands of gold there steeply pent.
A river I reached in cloven bed:
O Lord! the wealth of its wonderment!
The adornments of that wondrous deep
Were beauteous banks of beryl bright:
Swirling sweetly its waters sweep,
Ever rippling on in murmurous flight.
In the depths stood dazzling stones aheap
As a glitter through glass that glowed with light,
As streaming stars when on earth men sleep
Stare in the welkin in winter night;
For emerald, sapphire, or jewel bright
Was every pebble in pool there pent,
And the water was lit with rays of light,
Such wealth was in its wonderment.
The wonderous wealth of down and dales,
of wood and water and lordly plain,
My mirth makes mount: my mourning fails,
My care is quelled and cured my pain.
Then down a stream that strongly sails
I blissful turn with teeming brain;
The further I follow those flowing vales
The more strength of joy my heart doth strain.
As fortune fares where she doth deign,
Whether gladness she gives or grieving sore,
So he who may her graces gain,
His hap is to have ever more and more.
There more was of such marvels thrice
Than I could tell, though I long delayed;
For earthly heart could not suffice
For a tithe of the joyful joys displayed.
Therefore I thought that Paradise
Across those banks was yonder laid;
I weened that the water by device
As bounds between pleasances was made;
Beyond that stream by steep or slade
That city’s walls I weened must soar;
But the water was deep, I dared not wade,
And ever I longed to, more and more.
More and more, and yet still more,
I fain beyond the stream had scanned,
For fair as was this hither shore,
Far lovelier was the further land.
To find a ford I did then explore,
And round about did stare and stand;
But perils pressed in sooth more sore
The further I strode along the strand.
I should not, I thought, by fear be banned
From delights so lovely that lay in store;
But a happening new then came to hand
That moved my mind ever more and more.
A marvel more did my mind amaze:
I saw beyond that border bright
From a crystal cliff the lucent rays
And beams in splendour lift their light.
A child abode there at its base:
She wore a gown of glistening white,
A gentle maid of courtly grace;
Erewhile I had known her well by sight.
As shredded gold that glistered bright
She shone in beauty upon the shore;
Long did my glance on her alight,
And the longer I looked I knew her more.
The more I that face so fair surveyed,
When upon her gracious form I gazed,
Such gladdening glory upon me played
As my wont was seldom to see upraised.
Desire to call her then me swayed,
But dumb surprise my mind amazed;
In place so strange I saw that maid,
The blow might well my wits have crazed.
Her forehead fair then up she raised
That hue of polished ivory wore.
It smote my heart distraught and dazed,
And ever the longer, the more and more.
More than I would my dread did rise.
I stood there still and dared not call
With closed mouth and open eyes,
I stood as tame as hawk in hall.
A ghost was present, I did surmise,
And feared for what might then befall,
Lest she should flee before mine eyes
Ere I to tryst could her recall.
So smooth, so seemly, slight and small,
That flawless fair and mirthful maid
Arose in robes majestical,
A precious gem in pearls arrayed.
There pearls arrayed and royally dight
Might one have seen by fortune graced
When fresh as flower-de-luces bright
She down to the water swiftly paced
In linen robe of glistening white,
With open sides that seams enlaced
With the merriest margery-pearls my sight
Ever before, I vow, had traced.
Her sleeves hung long below her waist
Adorned with pearls in double braid;
Her kirtle matched her mantle chaste
All about with precious pearls arrayed.
A crown arrayed too wore that girl
Of margery-stones and others none,
With pinnacles of pure white pearl
That perfect flowers were figured on,
On head nought else her hair did furl,
And it framed, as it did round her run,
Her countenance grave for duke or earl,
And her hue as rewel ivory wan.
As shredded sheen of gold then shone
Her locks on shoulder loosly laid.
Her colour pure was surpassed by none
Of the pearls in purfling rare arrayed.
Arrayed was wristlet, and the hems were dight
At hands, at sides, at throat so fair
With no gem but the pearl all white
And burnished white her garments were;
But a wondrous pearl unstained and bright
She amidst her breast secure did bear;
Ere mind could fathom its worth and might
Man’s reason thwarted would despair.
No tongue could in worthy words declare
The beauty that was there displayed,
It was so polished, pure, and fair,
That precious pearl on her arrayed.
In pearls arrayed that maiden free
Beyond the stream came down the strand.
From here to Greece none as glad could be
As I on shore to see her stand,
Than aunt or niece more near to me:
The more did joy my heart expand.
She deigned to speak, so sweet was she,
Bowed low as ladies’ ways demand.
With her crown of countless worth in hand
A gracious welcome she me bade.
My birth I blessed, who on the strand
To my love replied in pearls arrayed.
‘O Pearl!’ said I, ‘in pearls arrayed,
Are you my pearl whose loss I mourn?
Lament alone by night I made,
Much longing I have hid for thee forlorn,
Since to the grass you from me strayed.
While I pensive waste by weeping worn,
Your life of joy in the land is laid
Of Paradise by strife untorn.
What fate hath hither my jewel borne
And made me mourning’s prisoner?
Since asunder we in twain were torn,
I have been a joyless jeweller.’
That jewel in gems so excellent
Lifted her glance with eyes of grey,
Put on her crown of pearl-orient,
And gravely then began to say:
‘Good sir, you have your speech mis-spent
to say your pearl is all away
that is in chest so choicely pent,
Even in this gracious garden gay,
Here always to linger and to play
Where regret nor grief e’er trouble her.
‘Here is a casket safe’ you would say.
If you were a gentle jeweller.
But jeweller gentle, if from you goes
Your joy through a gem that you held lief,
Methinks your mind toward madness flows
And frets for a fleeting cause of grief.
For what you lost was but a rose
That by nature failed after flowering brief;
Now the casket’s virtues that it enclose
Prove it a pearl of price in chief;
And yet you have called your fate a thief
That of naught to aught hath fashioned her,
You grudge the healing of your grief,
You are no grateful jeweller.’
Then a jewel methought had now come near,
And jewels the courteous speech she made.
‘My blissful one,’ quoth I, ‘most dear,
My sorrows deep you have all allayed.
To pardon me I pray you here!
In the darkness I deemed my pearl was laid;
I have found it now, and shall make good cheer,
With it dwell in shining grove and glade,
And praise all the laws that my Lord hath made,
Who hath brought me near such bliss with her.
Now could I to reach you these waters wade,
I should be a joyful jeweller.’
‘Jeweller,’ rejoined that jewel clean,
‘Why jest ye men? How mad ye be!
Three things at once you have said, I ween:
Thoughtless, forsooth, were all the three,
You know now on earth what one doth mean;
Your words from your wits escaping flee:
You believe I live here on this green,
Because you can with eyes me see;
Again, you will in this land with me
Here dwell yourself, you now aver;
And thirdly, pass this water free:
That may no joyful jeweller.
I hold that jeweller worth little praise
Who well esteems what he sees with eye,
And much to blame his graceless wayus
Who believes our Lord would speak a lie.
He promised faithfully your lives to raise
Though fate decreed your flesh should die;
His words as nonsense ye appraise
Who approve of naught not seen with eye;
And that presumption doth imply,
Which all good men doth ill beseem,
On tale as true ne’er to rely
Save private reason right it deem.
Do you deem that you yourself maintain
Such words as man to God should dare?
You will dwell, you say, in this domain:
‘Twere best for leave first offer prayer,
And yet that grace yo umight not gain.
Now over this water you wish to fare:
By another course you must that attain;
Your flesh shall in clay find colder lair,
For our heedless father did of old prepare
Its doom by Eden’s grove and stream;
Through dismal death must each man fare,
Ere o’re this deep him God redeem.’
‘If my doom you deem it, maiden sweet,
To mourn once more, then I must pine.
Now my lost one found again I greet,
Must bereavement new till death be mine?
Why must I at once both part and meet?
My precious pearl doth my pain design!
What use hath treasure but tears to repeat,
When one at its loss must again repine?
Now I care not though my days decline
Outlawed afar o’er land and stream;
When in my pearl no part is mine,
Only endless dolour one that may deem.’
‘But of woe, I deem, and deep distress
You speak,’ she said. ‘Why do you so?
Through loud lament when they lose the less
Oft many men the more forego.
‘Twere better with cross yourself to bless,
Ever praising God in weal and woe;
For resentment gains you not a cress:
Who must needs endure, he may not say no!
For though you dance as any doe,
Rampant bray or raging scream,
When escape you cannot, to nor fro,
His doom you must abide, I deem.
Deem God unjust, the Lord indict,
From His way a foot He will not wend;
The relief amounts not to a mite,
Though gladness your grief may never end.
Cease then to wrangle, to speak in spite,
And swiftly seek Him as your friend,
You prayer His pity may excite,
So that Mercy shall her powers expend.
To you languor He may comfort lend,
And swiftly your griefs removed may seem;
For lament or rave, to submit pretend,
‘Tis His to ordain what He right may deem.’
Then I said, I deem, to that damosel:
‘May I give no grievance to my Lord,
Rash fool, though blundering tale I tell.
My heart the pain of loss outpoured,
Gushing as water springs from well.
I commit me ever to His mercy’s ward.
Rebuke me not with words so fell,
Though I erring stray, my dear adored!
But your comfort kindly to me accord,
In pity bethinking you of this:
For partner you did me pain award
On whom was founded all my bliss.
Both bliss and gried you have been to me,
But of woe far greater hath been my share.
You were caught away from all perils free,
But my pearl was gone, I knew not where;
My sorrow is softened now I it see.
When we parted, too, at one we were;
Now God forbid that we angry be!
We meet on our roads by chance so rare.
Though your converse courtly is and fair,
I am but mould and good manners miss.
Christ’s mercy, Mary and John: I dare
Only on these to found my bliss.
In bliss you abide and happiness,
And I with woe an worn and grey;
Oft searing sorrows I possess,
Yet little heed to that you pay.
But now I here yourself address,
Without reproach I would you pray
To deign in sober words express
What life you lead the livelong day.
For delighted I am that your lot, you say,
So glorious and so glad now is;
There finds my joy its foremost way,
On that is founded all my bliss.’
‘Now bliss you ever bless!’ she cried,
Lovely in limb, in hue so clear,
‘And welcome here to walk and bide;
For now your words are to me dear.
Masterful mood and haughty pride,
I warn you, are bitterly hated here.
It doth not delight my Lord to chide,
For meek are all that dwell Him near.
So, when in His place you must appear,
Be devout in humble lowliness:
To my Lord, the Lamb, such a mien is dear,
On whom is founded all my bliss.
A blissful life you say is mine;
You wish to know in what degree.
Your pearl you know you did resign
When in young and tender years was she;
Yet my Lord, the Lamb, through power divine
Myself He chose His bride to be,
And crowned me queen in bliss to shine,
While days shall endure eternally.
Dowered with His heritage all is she
That is His love. I am wholly His:
On His glory, honour, and high degree
Are built and founded all my bliss.’
‘O blissful!’ said I, ‘can this be true?
Be not displased if in speech I err!
Are you the queen of heavens blue,
Whom all must honour on earth that fare?
We believe that our Grace of Mary grew,
Who in virgin-bloom a babe did bear;
And claim her crown: who could this do
But once that surpassed her in favour fair?
And yet for unrivalled sweetness rare
We call her the Phoenix of Araby,
That her Maker let faultless wing the air,
Like to the Queen of Courtesy.’
‘O courteous Queen,’ that damsel said,
Kneeling on earth with uplifted face,
‘Mother immaculate, and fairest maid,
Blessed beginner of every grace!’
Uprising then her prayer she stayed,
And there she spoke to me a space:
‘Here many the prize they have gained are praid,
But usurpers, sir, here have no place.
That empress’ realm doth heaven embrace,
From their heritage yet will none displace,
For she is the Queen of Courtesy.
‘The court where the living God doth reign
Hath a virtue of its own being,
That each who may thereto attain
Of all the realm is queen or king,
Yet never shall other’s right obtain,
But in other’s good each glorying
And wishing each crown worth five again,
If amended might be so fair a thing.
But my Lady of whom did Jesu spring,
O’er us high she holds her empery,
And none that grieves of our following,
For she is the Queen of Courtesy.’
In courtesy we are members all
Of Jesus Christ, Saint Paul doth write:
As head, arm, leg, and navel small
To their body doth loyalty true unite,
So as limbs to their Master mystical
All Christian souls belong by right.
Now among your limbs can you find at all
Any tie or bond of hate or spite?
Your head doth not feel affront or slight
On your arm or finger though ring it see;
So we all proceed in love’s delight
To king and queen by courtesy.’
‘Courtesy,’ I said, ‘I do believe
And charity great dwells you among,
But may my words no wise you grieve,
You in heaven too high yourself conceive
To make you a queen who were so young.
What honour more might he achieve
Who in strife on earth was ever strong,
And lived his life in penance long
With his body’s pain to get bliss for fee?
What greater glory could to him belong
Than king to be crowned by courtesy?
That courtesy gives its gifts too free,
If it be sooth that you now say.
Two years you lived not on earth with me,
And God you could not please, nor pray
With Pater and Creed upon your knee –
And made a queen that very day!
I cannot believe, God helping me,
That God so far from right would stray.
Of a countess, damsel, I must say,
‘Twere fair in heaven to find the grace,
Or of lady even of less array,
But a queen! It is too high a place.’
‘Neither time nor place His grace confine’,
Then said to me that maiden bright,
‘For just is all that He doth assign,
And nothing can He work but right.
In God’s true gospel, in words divine
That Matthew in your mass doth cite,
A tale he aptly doth design,
In parable saith of heaven’s light:
‘My realm on high I liken might
To a vineyard owner in this case.
The year had run to season right;
To dress the vines ’twas time and place.
All labourers know when that time is due.
The master up full early rose
To hire him vineyard workers new;
And some to suit his needs he chose.
Together they pledge agreement true
For a penny a day, and forth each goes,
Travails and toils to tie and hew,
Binds and prunes and in order stows.
In forenoon the master to market goes,
And there finds men that idle laze.
‘Why stand ye idle? he said to those.
‘Do ye know not time of day nor place?’
‘This place we reached betimes ere day’,
This answer from all alike he drew,
‘Since sunrise standing here we stay,
And no man offers us work to do.’
‘Go to my vineyard! Do what ye may!’
Said the lord, and made a bargain true:
‘In deed and intent I to you will pay
What hire may justly by night accrue.’
They went to his vines and laboured too,
But the lord all day that way did pace,
And brought to his vineyard workers new,
Till daytime almost passed that place.
In that place at time of evensong,
One hour before the set of sun,
He saw there idle labourers strong
And thus his earnest words did run:
‘Why stand ye idle all day long?’
They said they chance of hire had none.
‘Go to my vineyard, yeoman young,
And work and do what may be done!’
The hour grew late and sank the sun,
Dusk came o’er the world apace;
He called them to claim the wage they had won,
For time of day had passed that place.
The time in that place he well did know;
He called: ‘Sir steward, the people pay!
Give them hire that I them owe.
Moreover, that none reproach me may,
Set them all in a single row,
And to each alike give a penny a day;
Begin at the last that stands below,
Till to the first you make your way.’
Then the first began to complain and say
That they had laboured long and sore:
‘These but one hour in stress did stay;
It seems to us we should get more.
More have we earned, we think it true,
Who have borne the daylong heat indeed,
Than these who hours have worked not two,
And yet you our equals have decreed.’
One such the lord then turned him to:
‘My friend, I will not curtail your meed.
Go now and take what is your due!
For a penny I hired you as agreed,
Why now to wrangle do you proceed?
Was it not a penny you bargained for?
To surpass his bargain may no man plead.
Why then will you ask for more?
Nay, more – am I not allowed in gift
To dispose of mine as I please to do?
Or your eye to evil, maybe, you lift,
For I none betray and I am true?’
‘Thus I’, said Christ, ‘shall the order shift:
The last shall come first to take his due,
And the first come last, be he never so swift;
For many are called, but the favourites few.’
Thus the poor get ever their portion too,
Though late they came and little bore;
And though to their labour little accrue,
The mercy of God is much the more.
More is my joy and bliss herein,
The flower of my life, my lady’s height,
Than all the folk in the world might win,
Did they seek award on ground of right.
Though ’twas but now that I entered in,
And came to the vineyard by eveing’s light,
First with my hire did my Lord begin;
I was paid at once to the furthest mite.
Yet others in toil without respite
That had laboured and sweated long of yore,
He did not yet with hire requite,
Nor will, perchance, for years yet more.’
Then more I said and spoke out plain:
‘Unreasonable is what you say.
Ever ready God’s justice on high doth reign,
Or a fable doth Holy Writ purvey.
The Psalms a cogent verse contain,
Which puts a point that one must weigh:
‘High King, who all dost foreordain,
His deserts Thou dost to each repay.’
Now if daylong one did steadfast stay,
And you to payment came him before,
Then lesser work can earn more pay;
And the longer you reckon, the less hath more.’
‘Of more and less in God’s domains
No question arises,’ said that maid,
‘For equal hire there each one gains,
Be geurdon great or small him paid.
No churl is our Chieftain that in bounty reigns,
Be soft or hard by Him purveyed;
As water of dike His gifts He drains,
Or streams from a deep by drought unstayed.
Free is the pardon to him conveyed
Who in fear to the Saviour in sin did bow;
No bars from bliss will for such be made,
For the grace of God is great enow.
But now to defeat me you debate
That wrongly my penny I have taken here;
Deserve not hire at price so dear.
Where heard you ever of man relate
Who, pious in prayer from year to year,
Did not somehow forfeit the guerdon great
Sometime of Heaven’s glory clear?
Nay, wrong men work, from right they veer,
And ever the ofter the older, I trow.
Mercy and grace must then them steer,
For the grace of God is great enow.
But enow have the innocent of grace.
As soon as born, in lawful line
Baptismal waters them embrace;
Then they are brought unto the vine.
Anon the day with darkened face
Doth toward the night of death decline.
They wrought no wrong while in that place,
And his workmen then pays the Lord divine.
They were there; they worked at his design;
Why should He not their toil allow,
Yea, first to them their hire assign?
For the grace of God is great enow.
Enow ’tis known that Man’s high kind
At first for perfect bliss was bred.
Our eldest father that grace resigned
Through an apple upon which he fed.
We were all damned, for that food assigned
To die in grief, all joy to shed,
And after in flames of hell confined
To dwell for ever unrespited.
But soon a healing hither sped:
Rich blood ran on rough rood-bough,
And water fair. In that hour of dread
The grace of God grew great enow.
Enow there went forth from that well
Water and blood from wounds so wide:
The blood redeemed us from pains of hell
Of the second death the bond untied;
The water is baptism, truth to tell,
That the spear so grimly ground let glide.
It washes away the trespass fell
By which Adam drowned us in deathly tide.
No bars in the world us from Bliss divide
In blessed hour restored, I trow,
Save those that He hath drawn aside;
And the grace of God is great enow.
Grace enow may the man receive
Who sins anew, if he repent;
But craving it he must sigh and grieve
And abide what pains are consequent.
But reason that right can never leave
Evermore preserves the innocent;
‘Tis a judgement God did never give
That the guiltless should ever have punishment.
The guilty, contrite and penitent,
Through mercy may to grace take flight;
But he that to treachery never bent
In innocence is saved by right.
It is right thus by reason, as in this case
I learn, to save these two from ill;
The righteous man shall see His face,
Come unto him the harmless will.
This point the Psalms in a passage raise:
‘Who, Lord, shall climb Thy lofty hill,
Or rest within Thy holy place?’
He doth the answer swift fulfil:
‘Who wrought with hands no harm nor ill,
Who is of heart both clean and bright,
His steps shall there be steadfast still’:
The innocent ever is saved by right.
The righteous too, one many maintain,
He shall to that noble tower repair,
Who leads not his life in folly vain,
Nor guilefully doth to neighbour swear.
That Wisdom did honour once obtain
For such doth Solomon declare:
She pressed him on by ways made plain
And showed him afar God’s kingdom fair,
As if saying: ‘That lovely island there
That mayst thou win, be thou brave in fight.’
But to say this doubtless one may dare:
The innocent ever is saved by right.
To righteous men – have you seen it there? –
In the Psalter David a verse applied:
‘Do not, Lord, Thy servant to judgement bear;
For to Thee none living is justified.’
So when to that Court you must repair
Where all our cases shall be tried,
If on right you stand, lest you trip beware,
Warned by these words that I espied.
But He on rood that bleeding died,
Whose hands the nail did harshly smite,
Grant you may pass, when you are tried,
By innocence and not by right.
Let him that can rightly read in lore,
Look in the Book and learn thereby
How Jesus walked the world of yore,
And people pressed their babes Him nigh,
For joy and health from Him did pour.
‘Our children touch!’ they humbly cry,
‘Let be!’ his disciples rebuked them sore,
And to many would approach deny.
Then Jesus sweetly did reply:
‘Nay! let children by me alight;
For such is heaven prepared on high!’
The innocent ever is saved by right.
Then Jesus summoned his servants mild,
And said His realm no man might win,
Unless he came there as a child;
Else never should he come therein.
Harmless, true, and undefiled,
Without mark or mar of soiling sin,
When such knock at those portals piled,
Quick for them men will the gate unpin.
That bliss unending dwells therein
That the jeweller sought, above gems did rate,
And sold all he had to clothe him in,
To purchase a pearl immaculate.
This pearl immaculate purchased dear
The jeweller gave all his goods to gain
Is like the realm of heaven’s sphere:
So said the Lord of land and main;
For it is flawless, clean and clear,
Endlessly round, doth joy contain,
And is shared by all the righteous here.
Lo! amid my breast it doth remain;
There my Lord, the Lamb that was bleeding slain,
In token of peace it placed in state.
I bid you the wayward world disdain
And procure your pearl immaculate!’
‘Immaculate Pearl in pearls unstained,
Who bear of precious pearls the prize,
Your figure fair for you who feigned?
Who wrought your robe, he was full wise!
Your beauty was never from nature gained;
Pygmalion did ne’er your face devise;
In Aristotle’s learning is contained
Of these properties’ nature no surmise;
Your hue the flower-de-luce defies,
Your angel-bearing is of grace so great.
What office, purest, me apprise
Doth bear this pearl immaculate?’
‘My immaculate Lamb, my final end
Beloved, Who all can heal,’ said she,
‘Chose me as spouse, did to bridal bend
That once would have seemed unmeet to be.
From your weeping world when I did wend
He called me to his felicity:
‘Come hither to me, sweetest friend,
For no blot nor spot is found in thee!’
Power and beauty he gave to me;
In his blood he washed my weeds in state,
Crowned me clean in virginity,
And arrayed me in pearls immaculate.’
‘Why, immaculate bride of brightest flame,
Who royalty have so rich and bare,
Of what kind can He be, the Lamb you name,
Who would you His wedded wife declare?
Over others all hath climbed your fame,
In lady’s life with Him to fare.
For Christ have lived in care and blame
Many comely maids with comb in hair;
Yet the prize from all those brave you bear,
And all debar from bridal state,
All save yourself so proud and fair,
A matchless maid immaculate.’
‘Immaculate, without a stain,
Flawless I am’, said that fair queen;
‘And that I may with grace maintain,
But ‘matchless’ I said not nor do mean.
As brides of the Lamb in bliss we reign,
Twelve times twelve thousand strong, I ween,
As Apocalypse reveals it plain:
In a throng they there by John were seen;
On Zion’s hill, that mount serene,
The apostle had dream divine of them
On that summit for marriage robed all clean
In the city of New Jerusalem.
Of Jerusalem my tale doth tell,
If you will know what His nature be,
My Lamb, my Lord, my dear Jewel,
My Joy, my Bliss, my Truelove free.
Isaiah the prophet once said well
In pity for His humility:
‘That glorious Guiltless they did fell
Without cause or charge of felony,
As sheep to the slaughter led was He,
And as lamb the shearer in hand doth hem
His mouth he closed without plaint or plea,
When the Jews Him judged in Jerusalem.’
In Jerusalem was my Truelove slain,
On the rood by ruffians fierce was rent;
Willing to suffer all our pain
To Himself our sorrows sad He lent.
With cruel blows His face was flain
That was to behold so excellent:
He for sin to be set at naught did deign,
Who of sin Himself was innocent.
Beneath the scourge and thorns He bent,
And stretched on a cross’s brutal stem
As meek as lamb made no lament,
And died for us in Jerusalem.
In Jerusalem, Jordan, and Galilee,
As there baptized the good Saint John,
With Isaiah well did his words agree.
When to meet him once had Jesus gone
He spake of Him this prophecy:
‘Lo, the Lamb of God whom our trust is on!
From the grievous sins He sets us free
That all this world hath daily done.’
He wrought himself yet never one,
Though He smirched himself with all of them.
Who can tell the Fathering of that Son
That died for us in Jerusalem?
In Jerusalem as lamb they knew
And twice thus took my Truelove dear,
As in prophets both in record true,
For His meekness and His gentle cheer.
The third time well is matched thereto,
In Apocalypse ’tis written clear:
Where sat the saints, Him clear to view
Amidst the throne the Apostle dear
Saw loose the leaves of the book and shear
The seven signets sewn on them.
At that sight all folk there bowed in fear
In hell, in earth, and Jerusalem.
Jerusalem’s Lamb had never stain
Of other hue than whiteness fair;
There blot nor blemish could remain,
So white the wool, so rich and rare.
Thus every soul that no soil did gain
His comely wife doth the Lamb declare;
Though each day He a host obtain,
No grudge nor grievance do we bear,
But for each one five we wish there were.
The more the merrier, so God me bless!
Our love doth thrive where many fare
In honour more and never less.
To less of bliss may none us bring
Who bear this pearl upon each breast,
For ne’er could they think of quarrelling
Of spotless pearls who bear the crest.
Though the clods may to our corses cling,
And for woe ye wail bereaved of rest,
From one death all our trust doth spring
In knowledge complete by us possessed.
The Lamb us gladdens, and, our grief redressed,
Doth at every Mass with joy us bless.
Here each hath bliss supreme and best,
Yet no one’s honour is ever the less.
Lest less to trust my tale you hold,
In Apocalypse ’tis writ somewhere:
‘The Lamb’, saith John, ‘I could behold
On Zion standing proud and fair;
With him maidens a hundred-thousand fold,
And four and forty thousand were,
Who all upon their brows inscrolled
The Lamb’s name and His Father’s bare.
A shout then I heard from heaven there,
Like many floods met in pouring press;
And as thunder in darkling tors doth blare,
That noise, I believe, was nowise less.
But nonetheless, though it harshly roared,
And echo loud though it was to hear,
I heard them note then new accord,
A delight as lovely to listening ear
As harpers harping on harps afford.
This new song now they sang full clear,
With resounding notes in noble accord
Making in choir their musics dear.
Before God’s very throne drawn near
And the Beasts to Him bowed in lowliness
And the ancient Elders grave of cheer
They sang their song there, nonetheless.
Yet nonetheless were none so wise
For all the arts that they ever knew
Of that song who could a phrase devise,
Save those of the Lamb’s fair retinue;
For redeemed and removed from earthly eyes,
As firstling fruits that to God are due,
To the noble Lamb they are allies,
Being like to Him in mien and hue;
For no lying word nor tale untrue
Ever touched their tongues despite duress.
Ever close that company pure shall sue
That Master immaculate, and never less.”
‘My thanks may none the less you find,
My Pearl’, quoth I, ‘though I question pose.
I should not try your lofty mind,
Whom Christ to bridal chamber chose.
I am but dirt and dust in kind,
And you a rich and radiant rose
Here by this blissful bank reclined
Where life’s delight unfading grows.
Now, Lady, your heart sincere enclose,
And I would ask one thing express,
And though it clown uncouth me shows,
My prayer disdain not, nevertheless.
I nonetheless my appeal declare,
If you to do this may well deign,
Deny you not my piteous prayer,
As you are glorious without a stain.
No home in castle-wall do ye share,
No mansion to meet in, no domain?
Of Jerusalem you speak the royal and fair,
Where David on regal throne did reign;
It abides not here on hill nor plain,
But in Judah is that noble plot.
As under moon ye have no stain
Your home should be without a spot.
This spotless troop of which you tell,
This thronging press many-thousandfold,
Ye doubtless a mighty citadel
Must have your number great to hold:
For jewels so lovely ‘twould not be well
That flock so fair should have no fold!
Yet by these banks where a while I dwell
I nowhere about any house behold.
To gaze on this glorious stream you strolled
And linger alone now, do you not?
If elsewhere you have stout stronghold,
Now guide me to that goodly spot!’
‘That spot’, that peerless maid replied,
‘In Judah’s land of which you spake,
Is the city to which the Lamb did ride,
To suffer sore there for Man’s sake.
The Old Jerusalem is implied,
For old sin’s bond He there let break.
But the New, that God sent down to glide,
The Apocalypse in account doth take.
The Lamb that no blot ever black shall make
Doth there His lovely throng allot,
And as His flock all stains forsake
So His mansion is unmarred by spot.
There are two spots. To speak of these:
They both the name ‘Jerusalem’ share;
‘The City of God’ or ‘Sight of Peace’,
These meanings only doth that bear.
In the first it once the Lamb did please
Our peace by His suffering to repair;
In the other naught is found but peace
That shall last for ever without impair.
To that high city we swiftly fare
As soon as our flesh is laid to rot;
Ever grow shall the bliss and glory there
For the host within that hath no spot.’
‘O spotless maiden kind!’ I cried
To that lovely flower, ‘O lead me there,
To see where blissful you abide,
To that goodly place let me repair!’
‘God will forbid that,’ she replied,
‘His tower to enter you may not dare.
But the Lamb hath leave to me supplied
For a sigh thereof by favour rare:
From without on that precinct pure to stare
But foot within to venture not;
In the street you have no strength to fare,
Unless clean you be without a spot.
If I this spot shall to you unhide,
Turn up towards this water’s head,
While I escort you on this side,
Until your ways to a hill have led.’
No longer would I then abide,
But shrouded by leafy boughs did tread,
Until from a hill I there espied
A glimpse of that city, as forth I sped.
Beyond the river below me spread
Brighter than the sun with beams it shone;
In the Apocalypse may its form be read,
As it describes the apostle John.
As John the apostle it did view,
I saw that city of great renown,
Jerusalem royally arrayed and new,
As it was drawn from heaven down.
Of gold refined in fire to hue
Of glittering glass was that shining town;
Fair gems beneath were joined as due
In courses twelve, on the base laid down
That with tenoned tables twelve they crown:
A single stone was each tier thereon,
As well describes this wondrous town
In apocalypse the apostle John.
These stones doth John in Writ disclose;
I knew their names as he doth tell:
As jewel first the jasper rose,
And first at the base I saw it well,
On the lowest course it greenly glows;
On the second stage doth sapphire dwell;
Chalcedony on the third tier shows,
A flawless, pure, and pale jewel;
The emerald fourth so green of shell;
The sardonyx, the fifth it shone,
The ruby sixth: he saw it well
In the Apocalypse, the apostle John.
To them John then joined the chrysolite,
The seventh gem in the ascent;
The eighth the beryl clear and white;
The twin-hued topaz as ninth was pent;
Tenth the chrysoprase formed the flight;
Eleventh was jacinth excellent;
The twelfth, most trusty in every plight,
The amethyst blue with purple blent.
Sheer from those tiers the wall then went
Of jasper like glass that glistening shone;
I knew it, for thus did it present
In the Apocalypse the apostle John.
As John described, I broad and sheer
These twelve degrees saw rising there;
Above the city square did rear
(Its length with breadth and height compare);
The streets of gold as glass all clear,
The wall of jasper that gleamed like glair;
With all precious stones that might there appear
Adorned within the dwellings were.
Of that domain each side all square
Twelve thousand furlongs held then on,
As in height and breadth, in length did fare,
For it measured saw the aspostle John.
As John hath writ, I saw yet more:
Each quadrate wall there had three gates,
So in compass there were three times four,
The portals o’erlaid with richest plates;
A single pearl was every door,
A pearl whose perfection ne’er abates;
And each inscribed a name there bore
Of Israel’s children by their dates:
Their times of birth each allocates,
Ever first the eldest thereon is hewn.
Such light every street illuminates
They have need of neither sun nor moon.
Of sun nor moon they had no need,
For God Himself was their sunlight;
The Lamb their lantern was indeed
And through Him blazed that city bright
That unearthly clear did no light impede;
Through wall and hall thus passed my sight.
The Throne on high there might one heed,
With all its rich adornment dight,
As John in chosen words did write.
High God Himself sat on that throne,
Whence forth a river ran with light
Outshining both the sun and moon.
Neither sun nor moon ever shone so sweet
As the pouring flood from that court that flowed;
Swiftly it swept through every street,
And no filth nor soil nor slime it showed.
No church was there the sight to greet,
Nor chapel nor temple there ever abode:
The Almighty was their minister meet;
Refreshment the Victim Lamb bestowed.
The gates ever open to every road
Were never yet shut from noon to noon;
There enters none to find abode
Who bears any spot beneath the moon.
The moon therefrom may gain no might,
Too spotty is she, of form too hoar;
Moreover there comes never night:
Why should the moon in circle soar
And compare her with that peerless light
That shines upon that water’s shore?
The planets are in too poor a plight,
Yea, the sun himself too pale and frore.
On shining trees where those waters pour
Twelve fruits of life there ripen soon;
Twelve times a year they bear a store,
And renew them anew in every moon.
Such marvels as neath the moon upraised
A fleshly heart could not endure
I saw, who on that castle gazed;
Such wonders did its castle gazed;
I stood there still as quail all dazed;
Its wondrous form did me allure,
That rest nor toil I felt, amazed,
And ravished by that radiance pure.
For with conscience clear I you assure,
If man embodied had gained that boon,
Though sages all essayed his cure,
His life had been lost beneath the moon.
As doth the moon in might arise,
Ere down must daylight leave the air,
So, suddenly, in a wondrous wise,
Of procession long I was aware.
Unheralded to my surprise
That city of royal renown so fair
Was with virgins filled in the very guise
Of my blissful one with crown on hair.
All crowned in manner like they were,
In pearls appointed, and weeds of white,
and bound on breast did each one bear
The blissful pearl with great delight.
With great delight in line they strolled
On golden ways that gleamed like glass;
A hundred thousands were there, I hold,
And all to match their livery was;
The gladdest face could none have told.
the Lamb before did proudly pass
With seven horns of clear red gold;
As pearls of price His raimant was.
To the Throne now drawn they pacing pass:
No crowding, though great their host in white,
But gentle as modest maids at Mass,
So lead they on with great delight.
The delight too great were to recall
That at His coming forth did swell.
When He approached those elders all
On their faces at His feet they fell;
There summoned hosts angelical
An incense cast of sweetest smell:
New glory and joy then forth did fall,
All sang to praise that fair Jewel.
The strain could strike through earth to hell
That the Virtues of heaven in joy endite.
With His host to laud the Lamb as well
In deed I found a great delight.
Delight the Lamb to behold with eyes
Then moved my mind with wonder more:
The best was He, blithest, most dear to prize
Of whom I e’er heard tales of yore;
So wondrous white was all His guise,
So noble Himself He so meekly bore.
But by his heart a wound my eyes
Saw wide and wet; the fleece it tore,
From His white side His blood did pour.
Alas! thought I, who did that spite?
His breast should have burned with anguish sore,
Ere in that deed one took delight.
The Lamb’s delight to doubt, I ween,
None wished; though wound He sore displayed,
In His face no sign thereof was seen,
In His glance such glorious gladness played.
I marked among His host serene,
How life in full on each was laid–
Then saw I there my little queen
That I thought stood by me in the glade!
Lord! great was the merriment she made,
Among her peers who was so white.
That vision made me think to wade
For love-longing in great delight.
Delight there pierced my eye and ear,
In my mortal mind a madness reigned;
When I saw her beauty I would be near,
Though beyond the stream she was retained.
I thought that naught could interfere,
Could strike me back to halt constrained,
From plunge in stream would none me steer,
Though I died ere I swam o’er what remained.
But as wild in the water to start I strained,
On my intent did quaking seize;
From that aim recalled I was detained:
It was not as my Prince did please.
It pleased Him not that I leapt o’er
Those marvellous bounds my madness swayed.
Though headlong haste me heedless bore,
Yet swift arrest was on me made,
For right as I rushed then to the shore
That fury made my dream to fade.
I woke in that garden as before,
My head upon that mound was laid
Where once to earth my pearl had strayed.
I stretched, and fell in great unease,
And sighing to myself I prayed:
‘Now all be as that Prince may please.’
It pleased me ill outcast to be
So suddenly from that region fair
Where living beauty I could see.
A swoon of longing smote me there,
And I cried aloud then piteously:
‘O Pearl, renowned beyond compare!
How dear was all that you said to me,
That vision true while I did share.
If it be true and sooth to swear
That in garland gay you are set at ease,
Then happy I, though chained in care,
That you that Prince indeed do please.’
To please that Prince had I always bent,
Desired no more than was my share,
And loyally been obedient,
As the Pearl me prayed so debonair,
I before God’s face might have been sent,
In his mysteries further maybe to fare.
But with fortune no man is content
That rightly he may claim and bear;
So robbed of realms immortally fair
Too soon my joy did sorrow seize.
Lord! mad are they who against Thee dare
Or purpose what Thee may displease!
To please that Prince, or be pardon shown,
May Christian good with ease design;
For day and night I have Him known
A God, a Lord, a Friend divine.
This chance I met on mound where prone
In grief for my pearl I would repine;
With Christ’s sweet blessing and mine own
I then to God it did resign.
May He that in form of bread and wine
By priest upheld each day one sees,
Us inmates of His house divine
Make precious pearls Himself to please.