Home » Cleanness: An Alliterative Tripartite Poem on the Deluge, the Destruction of Sodom, and the Death of Belshazzar by Unknown
Cleanness: An Alliterative Tripartite Poem on the Deluge, the Destruction of Sodom, and the Death of Belshazzar Unknown

Cleanness: An Alliterative Tripartite Poem on the Deluge, the Destruction of Sodom, and the Death of Belshazzar


Published October 1st 2007
ISBN : 9781406781663
248 pages
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PREFACE The Manuscript. A brief description of the manuscript in which Cleanness is preserved, namely Cotton Nero A. x in the British Museum, will be found in the Preface to Patience in this series. The poem follows immediately on Pearl in that manuscript, and is in the same hand, though here and there occur corrections and retracings of letters in a later hand. I do not think any of the retracings can be definitely differentiated from the handwriting of the corrector. 1 There aretwo illustrations to Cleanness, namely, Noah and his family in an open boat in lieu of the Ark, and Daniel before Bel- shazzar the latter is reproduced in this volume, together with a specimen of the text. Large initial letters of blue, flourished with red, mark the chief divisions of the poem. The Quatrain Arrangement. As was noted in the Preface to Patience, there can be no doubt that the author of these two poems planned his work on the basis of alliterative quatrains, and the manuscript indicates, by a slight mark in the left-hand margin, the beginnings of these stanzaic divisions, though in many cases these marks are now illegible. In the case of Patience, the quatrain arrangement of the printed text, with a break after each group of four lines, for the first time made clear the thought and movement of the poem, and the gain in its right under- standing and interpretation must be generally admitted. 1 See Textual Notes on the passages in question. ix b CLEANNESS The present poem, more than three times the length of Patience, has been hitherto considered, in spite of its recognized merits, monotonous and discursive and it is questionable whether it has ever been read in accordance with the poets intention.It is confidently hoped that the present arrangement in quatrains may avail in respect of Cleanness as in the case of Patience. One thing is certain, that the inter- pretation of the poem from beginning to end is helped forward, and many difficulties are cleared up by the know- ledge of the poets metrical method.1 It is, however, noteworthy that here and there he forgot or made a mistake in the matter of his quatrain arrangement. When he dis- covered his error, he made good without any drastic revision. I have indicated, in the latter case, i. e. in 11. 1541-92 and in 11. 1757-92, how the error came about and was rectified. 2 Evidently in Cleanness the poet was still imperfect in this effective device for giving to continuous alliterative verse something of the character of stanzaic poetry. In Patience he showed his skill wellnigh to perfection. The poets division into three main sections is carefully indicated by the scribe, and in the present text I have followed these divisions, save in respect of the Prologue, which in the MS. is not made a section by itself. The three sectional divisions are indicated by larger capital letters than those of 1 It is an amazing fact that, in spite of my discovery of this key to the reading ofthese poems, Dr. K. J. Menner has not onlyprinted Cleanness without the quatrain division, but has not seen the value of the poets method for the punctuation and sense of the poem. As regards his view that the poem can certainly not be said to be written in four-line stanzas, the reader can judge for himself. For example, Dr...