Pearl is a medieval poem by an unknown author. In amongst the various other narratives of battle, leadership, quests and loyalty of its time, it’s a quiet, elegiac piece that focuses on the emotional pain of the narrator, a father who is grieving for his lost ‘pearl,’- generally assumed to be his child. The father’s quest is a dream-vision that takes him into an afterlife where he speaks to a ‘Pearl-Maiden,’ and questions her about the nature of life and death.
There is no one definitive allegorical reading of the poem, and the meaning of ‘pearl’ shifts, but it still stays with me for its depiction of loss and consolation. Because of the poem’s circular nature (each verse starting with the word that finished the previous verse) and the shifting meaning of ‘pearl,’ you could also read it as a poem about loss of faith or a part of the self, which is eventually resolved in conversation; you get the sense that it is not the Christian doctrine spoken by the Pearl Maiden but the nature of the exchange and its compassion which eventually relieves the narrator’s suffering.