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is himself so pure, should not loathe evil (5-22). After this preamble comes the text of the homily, Christ's own statement in Matthew that only the pure in heart shall see God (23-8). This, the poet now expounds, means that no one who is in any way defiled can approach God's pure presence (29-32); and to explain this coneretely he narrates at length the parable of the Man without a Wedding Garment (51-168), repeating the spiritual significance of the parable at the end-that unclean deeds, like the foul clothes of the wedding-guest, exclude a man from the joy of the presence of the Lord. Of all sins by which a man may forfeit bliss (177-92), 'filth of the flesh' most displeases God, as may be seen from the fact that only in avenging this sin was his wrath really aroused (193-204). He did not become angry when he overthrew Lucifer (205-33), nor when he drove Adam from Paradise (235-48), but only in the third place, when he brought the Flood upon the world for men's unchastity. Only after this complicated introduction does the poet narrate his three stories, the Flood, the destruction of Sodom, and Belshazzar's feast. In the brief conclusion (1805-12) he reminds the reader that he has shown the evils of uncleanness in three ways (1805), repeating his text at the end in true homiletic style, and closing with a prayer.
The stories from the Bible are naturally accompanied by passages of exhortation and admonition, which form subtle transitions from one narrative passage to another. After the poet has finished the story of the Flood, he urges his readers to avoid the sin which may prevent them from attaining to the sight of God (545-56). God kept his promise to Noah never again to destroy all flesh, but nevertheless he took wrathful vengeance on mankind once again for the same sin (557-80). Do not imagine that God
· Cf. note on 1. 25.
cannot perceive all the deeds of man and the thoughts of his heart. Those whom he finds pure he honors, but the others he scatters and slays in haste, as may be seen by his punishment of the wicked cities (581-600). After this story has been narrated, the poet introduces another and longer exhortation to purity, urging the sinner to strive to imitate Christ, whose pure birth and life the poet praises (1052108). This he may do by means of penance, which will wash him of sin, as the pearl is brightened by wine (1109-32). But having once been shriven, let him beware of a return to sin. For God is especially angry that anything which was once his should become unclean, though it be only a basin or bowl consecrated to his service (1133-48). Thus, by carefully concealed art, the poet passes from his praise of purity to Belshazzar's desecration of the vessels of the Temple, his third and last narrative.
In addition to purity, one other virtue is commended, as a kind of second theme, throughout the poem—what the poet calls trawþe, which includes not only faithfulness to men, but loyalty to God, or religious faith and belief. Besides the three instances of God's vengeance on men for sin against purity, four other incidents of punishments inflicted by Divine Justice are recorded, and each is because the sinner was lacking in trawbe. Lucifer is represented as a traitor (208 ff.); Adam is said specifically to have 'fayled in trawbe' (236); Lot's wife becomes a pillar of salt 'for two fautes þat þe fol was founde in mistraupe' (996); Jerusalem fell because the people were found 'untrwe' (1161) in their faith. The importance of these two virtues, purity and loyalty, connect the poem closely with Gawain, where the hero is tested in both at once.
The finer points in the poet's workmanship may be seen in his use of the Vulgate. The parts of the Vulgate which form the basis of the illustrative stories in Purity are sub
1 Cf. Miss Thomas, Sir Gawayne, p. 20.
joined, so that any one may examine in detail the different methods of translation, paraphrase, and elaboration that the poet employed. It will not, therefore, be necessary here to give more than a few illustrations of the poet's treatment of the Biblical narrative. The most notable thing about his translation is the frequency with which it is absolutely literal. Take, for instance, five lines of God's speech to Noah (323-7), and compare it with the original Latin (Gen. 6. 17-8):
For I shal waken up a water to wasch alle be worlde,
Ecce adducam aquas diluvii super terram, ut interficiam omnem carnem in qua spiritus vitæ est subter cælum. Universa quæ in terra sunt, consumentur. Ponamque fædus meum tecum.
Often the construction is so changed as to take away all semblance of Biblical style, and, although the translation remains accurate, the naturalness of the alliterative phrase completely conceals the Scriptural origin. It would hardly be suspected that Abraham's instruction to Sarah (625-6):
Pre mettez of mele menge and ma kakez,
is an exact rendering of the Vulgate (Gen. 18. 6): tria sata simila commisce et fac subcinericios panes. Even so ordinary a line as (804)
And in be myry mornyng ze may your waye take
is a direct translation of et mane proficiscemini in viam vestram (Gen. 19. 2). In the following passage the first
* See Appendix.
line is translated with obvious literalness, but the second, although it conveys the exact sense of the original, has no verbal similitude (1669-70):
Watz not bis ilke worde wonnen of his mowþe,
The translation is generally most literal in the purely narrative passages, and very much elaborated in such descriptions as those of the Flood, of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and of Belshazzar's feast. But the fact that the narrative parts of Belshazzar's feast are greatly expanded, as well as the story of the man without a wedding garment, which contains no description, shows that this is hardly the fundamental distinction between the use of literal translation and elaborate paraphrase. It would, perhaps, be truer and simpler to say that the poet elaborates whatever passages, narrative or descriptive, he wishes to emphasize. And since the Biblical stories he tells are important for him only as illustrations of God's acts of vengeance against sin, this would account for the great expansion of the descriptions of the flood and the destruction of the cities, since there God inflicts punishment by natural agencies, and the poet must emphasize the terrible aspects of nature; and it would likewise explain the space given to the narrative of Belshazżar's downfall, since here God metes out punishment by human agency, and the poet must emphasize the terror of the king and the onslaught of his enemies." A good example of the poet's, method of elabora
* It should, moreover, be remembered that the Biblical accounts of Belshazzar's feast and the parable of the Wedding Garment are comparatively short in the original, and need to be filled with more details than the stories of Noah and Abraham and Lot; and also that the poet is sometimes carried away with his story, and elaborates a passage out of proportion to its importance; cf. p. lii.
tion is his description of the Flood, where many or most of the striking details of the picture are the poet's own invention, although he includes scattered through the passage (361-424) reminiscences or paraphrases of almost all the phrases in the brief Biblical account (361, cf. Gen. 7. 10; 363-4, cf. Gen. 7. 11; 369, cf. Gen. 7. 17; 385, cf. Gen. 7. 19; 405-6, cf. Gen. 7. 20; 408-9, cf. Gen. 7. 22-3; 413, cf. Gen. 7. 17; 415-6, cf. Gen. 7. 18).
The poet's thorough familiarity with the Bible, if it were not obvious from the ease with which he quotes and refers to it," might be judged from the skill with which he harmonizes and combines different passages. This he exhibits not only in the fusion of the two accounts of the parable of the Wedding Feast, and of the many passages concerning the siege of Jerusalem and the seizure of the vessels of the Temple, but also in the interweaving of phrases and the combinations of details not consecutive in the original. Some cases where a Biblical phrase has been shifted from its original position or context may, of course, be due simply to faulty memory*; but others are plainly intentional. For instance, the poet omits Gen. 6. 5, since almost the same expression occurs later in Gen. 8. 21 (515-8), and for Gen. 6. 5 he substitutes a paraphrase of Gen. 6. II, translating cumque vidisset Deus terram esse corruptam by 'when he knew uche contre coruppte in hitselven' (281), and combining the clause with a paraphrase of Gen. 6. 6 (283-4). Similarly in Daniel's account of Nebuchadnezzar's pride and exile, which in general follows Dan. 5. 18-21, are inserted the details of Dan. 4. 27-30—for example, Nebuchadnezzar's boastful speech (1663-8).
2 Cf. Osgood, pp. xvii ff. 2 Cf. note on 1. 51.
Cf. note on 1. 1157. * The closeness of the translation in many passages makes it improbable that the poet was composing entirely from memory.