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Comparison of Jane Draycott’s and Simon Armitage’s translations of Pearl

REWRITING PEARL: Translations by Jane Draycott and Simon Armitage

Pearl is an anonymous fourteenth century poem of 1212 lines, very alien in some ways, piercingly moving in others. Its speaker tells how, mourning the loss of his “pearl”, apparently his daughter, he fell asleep in the garden where he lost her before she turned two. While his body slept, his spirit journeyed to the Earthly Paradise, a landscape of miraculous beauty and light where he saw a Maiden on the far side of a river, his lost daughter, crowned, robed in white and shimmering with pearls. No longer an infant but … Continue Reading

Pearl, translated by Jane Draycott, Oxford Poets, Carcanet Press, £9.95

Jane Draycott’s Pearl is a remarkable poetic achievement and fills what has been a frustating gap in our translated literature. There is a translation by J. R. R. Tolkien, but it preserves the formal patterns of the original at the price of syntactical contortions that make it virtually unreadable as poetry, however useful as a crib. The original is a 2500 line long, fourteenth century dream poem, probably by the same author as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. It narrates a dream vision in which a grieving father speaks to the soul of his dead two-year-old daughter, receives consolation … Continue Reading