Jane Draycott, 2nd Prize (Open category)

(Section IV: lines 181–240)

More þen me lyste my drede aros.
I stod ful stylle and dorste not calle;
Wyth y3en open and mouth ful clos
I stod as hende as hawk in halle.
I hoped þat gostly wat3 þat porpose;
I dred onende quat schulde byfalle,
Lest ho me eschaped þat I þer chos,
Er I at steuen hir mo3t stalle.
Þat gracios gay wythouten galle,
So smoþe, so smal, so seme sly3t,
Ryse3 vp in hir araye ryalle,
A precios pyece in perle3 py3t.
Perle3 py3te of ryal prys
Þere mo3t mon by grace haf sene,
Quen þat frech as flor-de-lys
Doun þe bonke con bo3e bydene.
Al blysnande whyt wat3 hir beau biys,
Vpon at syde3, and bounden bene
Wyth þe myryeste margarys, at my deuyse,
Þat euer I se3 3et with myn ene;
Wyth lappe3 large, I wot and I wene,
Dubbed with double perle and dy3te;
Her cortel of self sute schene,
Wyth precios perle3 al vmbepy3te.

A py3t coroune 3et wer þat gyrle
Of mariorys and non oþer ston.
Hi3e pynakled of cler quyt perle,
Wyth flurted flowre3 perfet vpon.
To hed hade ho non oþer werle;
Her here leke, al hyr vmbegon,
Her semblaunt sade for doc oþer erle,
Her ble more bla3t þen whalle3 bon.
As schorne golde schyr her fax þenne schon,
On schyldere3 þat leghe vnlapped ly3te.
Her depe colour 3et wonted non
Of precios perle in porfyl py3te.

Py3t wat3 poyned and vche a hemme
At honde, at syde3, at ouerture,
Wyth whyte perle and non oþer gemme,
And bornyste quyte wat3 hyr uesture.
Bot a wonder perle wythouten wemme
Inmydde3 hyr breste wat3 sette so sure;
A manne3 dom mo3t dry3ly demme,
Er mynde mo3t malte in hit mesure.
I hope no tong mo3t endure
No sauerly saghe say of þat sy3t,
So wat3 hit clene and cler and pure,
Þat precios perle þer hit wat3 py3t.

Py3t in perle, þat precios pyece
On wyþer half water com doun þe schore.
No gladder gome heþen into Grece
Þen I, quen ho on brymme wore.
Ho wat3 me nerre þen aunte or nece;
My joy forþy wat3 much þe more.
Ho profered me speche, þat special spece,
Enclynande lowe in wommon lore,
Ca3te of her coroun of grete tresore
And haylsed me wyth a lote ly3te.
Wel wat3 me þat euer I wat3 bore
To sware þat swete in perle3 py3te!

(Section IV: lines 181–240)

Then fiercer than longing came the fear.
I didn't stir or dare to call
to her: wide-eyed and silent as a hawk
in a great hall I waited there.
I knew that what I saw was spirit
and I feared for what might follow –
that within my sight she'd disappear
before I could come close to her.
So smooth, so small, so delicate,
this graceful, innocent girl now rose
before me in her royal robes,
a precious creature set with pearls.

Now, like a vision granted, showered
in a setting of jewels fit for a queen
this child as fresh as a lily-flower
stepped downward towards the stream.
The fine white linen she wore seemed woven
with light and where its sides hung open
was laced with borders of pearls far paler
and prettier than any I'd seen before.
The sleeves of her robe fell long and low,
stitched in with double rows of pearls;
her skirts of the same fine linen were trimmed
and seeded all over with precious gems.

But the girl wore one thing more: a crown
composed entirely of ice-bright pearls
and no other stone, tipped and figured
with flowers, each petal set with a perfect gem.
She wore no other decoration
in her hair which in its falling framed
a face as white as ivory
and noble in its gravity.
Her hair like hand-worked gold shone
and flowed unbound around her shoulders,
the chalk-white pallor of her skin as pure
as all the fine-set pearls she wore.

Where her skin met the white of the linen
at her wrists, her throat and on every hem,
were set pearls with the pallor of no other stone.
The whole dress shone like an icy stream
and there at the heart of it all on her breast
lay a single immaculate pearl far greater
than all the rest. To tell its true measure
or worth would test a man's mind to the limit –
I swear no singer however inspired
could summon the words to capture the sight
of that pearl, so perfect, so faultless, so pale
and placed in the most precious setting of all.

I watched as this dearest creature set
with jewels walked at the water's edge
towards me: no man was happier from here
to Greece at the moment she came so near.
For that girl was closer to my heart
than aunt or niece, and the joy that I felt
far deeper. Inclining her lovely head
with all the grace of a lady, she bowed
and took off her jewel-encrusted crown:
with joy in her voice she bade me welcome.
That I had lived to speak to her
was heaven itself. My girl, this pearl.

Translated from the Middle English by Jane Draycott
  [Commentary on the poem by the translator]   

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