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virtue, heart, Beatitudes


The heart as an enclosure, changeable over time, and, like the communal chalice, capable of being emptied only to be filled again, proves to be one of the most complex symbols in Patience. The Pearl-Poet repeatedly focuses on the heart, from his inclusive plural reference to "herttes" in the poem's prologue (I. 2), to his conception of the Beatitudes as virtues of the heart (II. 13, 21, 23, 27), to his subsequent observations over the course of the narrative concerning the various states of the human – and even divine – heart. In fact, in the skillful hands of the poet, the poem becomes a figurative microscope trained on the minute workings of the Beatitudes in the metaphorically enlarged chambers of the human heart.