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allegory, poetry


The spiritual language, Ovidian love stories, and use of liturgical time in Pearl all invite allegorical interpretations of the poem. While there is clearly a literal, elegiac sense to the poem, there are also allegorical meanings. This makes perfect sense in light of the tradition of four-fold scriptural and literary interpretation in the Middle Ages, which the Pearl-Poet clearly used to understand biblical parables and compose his poetic masterpiece. The poet’s use of metaphoric language, memory of the legends of Orpheus and Eurydice and Pygmalion and Galatea, and astute interweaving of parables from the church liturgy alongside invocations of the Lenten and Paschal liturgical seasons within his dream vision all invite readers into a deeper understanding of the signifying power of Pearl.