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Reading and Believing: Covenant in the Poems of the Pearl Manuscript

Reading and Believing: Covenant in the Poems of the Pearl Manuscript


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Reading and Believing: Covenant in the Poems of the Pearl Manuscript

Bates, Linda R.

Marginalia, Vol. 4, (2005-2006) Cambridge Yearbook

Abstract

The narrator of Patience recalls the Psalmist’s words: no one can escape the omniscience of God. This omniscience is specifically related by both poet and Psalmist to the faculties of sight and hearing: Jonah will not be able to escape his lord’s command simply by running away to sea since the creator of all sees and hears all. This incident, conveyed through a metonymical use of the senses, is one of many in the poems of the Pearl manuscript in which the poet explores the direct relationship between God and man and, specifically, its manifestations in the covenants of the Old and New Law. This essay suggests that by reading the poems in the context of figural imagery, the use of covenant in the works of the Gawain-poet points to a soteriological understanding of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Gawain himself becomes a type for humanity and his final encounter with Bercilak in the chapel thus communicates a model of penance, forgiveness and salvation.


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