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Sodom and Gomorrah, poetry, Mandeville


The Pearl-Poet's late fourteenth-century appropriation in Cleanness of a mid-fourteenth century work, Mandeville's Travels, has been an established fact since the publication of Robert J. Menner's edition of the poem. The poet uses the Travels as a source for two important episodes: the description of Sodom and Gomorrah's cataclysmic destruction and the description of Belshazzar's brief and idolatrous reign in Babylon. While many points of connection between the Travels and Cleanness in the Sodom and Gomorrah episode have been identified, the poet's dependence on Mandeville in this scene raises two questions that have not yet been satisfactorily answered. The first of these is, Why does the poet borrow details from a book virtually unknown in England before 1371? The second is, Why does the poet significantly alter parts of this source as he includes them in his description of apocalyptic devastation?