Simon Armitage’s award-winning translation is set side-by-side with the original, which creates plenty of opportunities for deciphering and comparing the older and younger versions of English. The original really rolls round your tongue. The translation cuts to the quick with grief.
The story starts on a beautiful August day…
The pearl in question is the author’s daughter – he has a vision of her, so close, yet so out of reach.
The motif of love for a lost daughter as a spiritual journey probably was not new then and was taken up again later – as in the Polish sixteenth-century poet Jan Kochanowski’s beautiful Treny/Laments. Seeing a loved one out of reach in the beauty and glory of heaven, draws the writer closer to God. He even has a glimpse of the Holy City:
In the end, however, the poet has to return to earth for a little longer, but he is strengthened in his closeness to his daughter and to God, his “loving friend”.
I also found it comforting – maybe you will too.