Translated by Martha L. Reiner
This translation segment is from the Pearl Poem, written in the late 14th century in the medieval alliterative verse genre. Alliterative poetry was read at estates in developing towns where trading merchants from various nations and urban centers would visit. The concatinative lapidary poem weaves together themes of chivalric rescue, kingly presence in urban settlement, jousting and proto-market competition, clan and interests conflict, authority in disputes and interrogation, residual and emergent human trafficking, smelting of ores and crafting of jewelry, famine and disease including the Black Death of 1347-1351, the grandeur and mystery of nature and artifice, and exploration of seas and development of lands and agriculture.
. . .
. . . I knew in my kestrel quest unusual clues of the cliffs and Leuven. (1)
Toward a forest I revealed face,
Where there were rich rocks to describe.
The arrangements of them must no man misinterpret,
The smouldering glory that of them was lent,
For there were never weirs from which knowledge was woven
Of trial and simulation half so dearly dedicated.
So reproduced were all those going down the truth slides
With ice crystal cliffs, light people, and so free of children.
Wooden holds brought about them sea bound ones
Of low shackles and as far south as the blue of India;
As borne glimmering silver was left beside,
That pikes against haggling in such a complex tender hold;
When glimmering of glowing lodes against them slid,
With chimerical Chinese brilliance their Cyrillic bond choice shone.
The growlings that were around the ground and the grinding stones
Were gradual greyings, precious pearl speakings of the Orient;
The sun beams on the boat show desert winds and blind
. . .
The doubly represented proliferation of the passage of those placed down there
Encloses my ghost spirit to the forgotten forced seizure.
So fresh flowering of freeing test frights were,
As foes of the one hit against me freshly refestival’d.
Fowls of foes there flow in protection in iron,
Of flam band ways, both miniature and gregarious;
But systole-strings stirring, pillar alignment, and trial turning means
There reckon myrth bad mockings rather than revisionings,
For anyone, those captive display brides of their winged beast,
Pay songs with a sweet ascent in Indian smokes.
So gracious the seizures and blows to the seized no one saw delivered
As here and so elsewhere the maiden wife is reproduced.
That coherence of their other Fortune from me goes
For the dearth therof to devise
Nesting no wisely valued words that are borne on tongs.
I whisperingly welcome assent forth in common ways,
No embankment so big that did not have me dare them.
The fir in the rice forage, the fare taker with ruse desire
The plain, the blunt, the spies, the pairings;
And rawes and randies and rich penitence reconciliations
As at harvest time her bank tillage burnt.
I wandered to a waterway by the market shore where they all search the cherished . . . .
(1) Antoniszoon, Cornelis (b. ca.1499)’s Safegarde of saylers, or great rutter. Contayning the courses, distances, soundings, flouds and ebbes, with the marks for the entring of sundry harboroughs both of England, Fraunce, Spaine, Ireland, Flaunders, and the soundes of Denmarke, with other necessarie rules of common nauigation represents geographies and trading contexts that connect with narration and emotion in the Pearl Poem. Antoniszoon’s shipping narrative includes “The course from the Moones to Lubeck [Leuven].”
Leuven in Flanders, Belgium, was connected with the northern shipping route, Ireland to Scandinavia, and with the Baltic. See Hammel-Kiesow, Rolf (2002), Lubeck and the Baltic Trade in Bulk Goods for the North Sea Region 1150-1400, Lars Berggren et al eds., Cogs, Cargoes, and Commerce: Maritime Bulk Trade in Northern Europe 1150-1400, Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, cited in Johan Söderberg, Prices in the Medieval Near East and Europe, Towards a Global History of Prices and Wages, 19-21 Aug. 2004, Department of Economic History, Stockholm University.
More on the Pearl Poem.