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pearl

pearl in figurative use, a precious, noble, or fine thing, the finest or best member or part. There is also a tradition that pearls may portend tears; they were supposed to be unlucky for brides, and in Webster's Duchess of Malfi (c.1623), the doomed Duchess dreams that the diamonds in her coronet are changed to pearls.

In heraldry, pearl is used for the tincture argent in the fanciful blazon of arms of peers.

Recorded from late Middle English, the word comes from Old French perle, perhaps based on Latin perna ‘leg’, extended to denote a leg-of-mutton shaped bivalve.
do not throw pearls to swine proverbial saying, mid 14th century, meaning that you should not offer something of value to someone unable to appreciate it. Originally with biblical allusion to Matthew 7:6, ‘Give not that which is holy unto dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet.’
Pearl Harbor a harbour on the island of Oahu, in Hawaii, the site of a major American naval base, where a surprise attack on 7 December 1941 by Japanese carrier-borne aircraft inflicted heavy damage and brought the US into the Second World War. The name may now be used allusively for a sudden and disastrous attack, mounted without warning.
Pearl Mosque a white marble mosque at Agra in Uttar Pradesh, northern India, built in the 17th century by the emperor Akbar (1542–1605).

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Pearl, The

The Pearl, one of four Middle English alliterative poems, all contained in a manuscript of c.1400, composed in the West Midland dialect, almost certainly by the same anonymous author, who flourished c.1370–1390. The Pearl is usually explained as an elegy for the poet's young daughter; in an allegorical vision of singular beauty he sees her as a maiden in paradise and becomes reconciled to her death. The second and third poems, Cleanness (or Purity) and Patience, are homiletic poems on those virtues. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the fourth poem, which relates a fabulous adventure of Gawain, is perhaps the most brilliantly conceived of all Arthurian romances. If single authorship is accepted, the artistry displayed in this poem and in The Pearl make the so-called Pearl-poet in some respects a rival to Chaucer. A fifth poem, St. Erkenwald, is attributed by some authorities to the same anonymous author.

For translations of the first, fourth, and fifth poems and for bibliography, see R. S. Loomis and R. Willard, ed., Medieval English Verse and Prose (1948); studies by I. Bishop (1968) and A. C. Spearing (1976).

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Pearl (river, China)

Pearl, Chin. Zhujiang, river, 110 mi (177 km) long, S Guangdong prov., S China. Formed at Guangzhou by the confluence of the Xi and Bei rivers, it flows E then S past Guangzhou and Huangpu island to form a large estuary between Hong Kong and Macao. The river links Guangzhou to Hong Kong and the South China Sea and is one of China's most important waterways and one of the centers of its world trade. It is vitally important to the special economic zones that lie along its estuary. The estuary, called Boca Tigris, is kept open for ocean vessels by dredging.

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Pearl (river, United States)

Pearl, river, 485 mi (781 km) long, rising in E Miss. and flowing S to Lake Borgne, an inlet of the Gulf of Mexico; its lower section (116 mi/187 km) forms the Miss.-La. boundary. Above Jackson, Miss., the Pearl's largest city, is Ross Barnett Reservoir, one of the state's chief water-storage areas.

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pearl

pearl XIV. ME. perle — (O)F., prob. — It. perla, repr. L. perna leg, ham, leg-of-mutton shaped bivalve.
Hence pearled (-ED2) XIV, pearly (-Y1) XV.

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Pearl

Pearl a city in central Mississippi, just east of Jackson; pop. 21,961.

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pearl

pearlbirl, burl, churl, curl, earl, Erle, furl, girl, herl, hurl, knurl, merle, pas seul, pearl, purl, Searle, skirl, squirl, swirl, twirl, whirl, whorl •salesgirl •ballgirl, call girl •cowgirl • showgirl • schoolgirl •choirgirl • weathergirl • Husserl

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Pearl

PEARL

PEARL . The making of the natural pearl commences when a grain of sand from the ocean or river floor works its way into the body of a pearl-bearing mollusk. To protect itself from this alien source of agitation, the mollusk secretes a substance (nacre, or mother-of-pearl) that slowly and cumulatively coats the foreign body until it loses its abrasive contours and becomes smooth and spherical in shape. On account of its singular origin, the pearl has been a symbol of sacred power since ancient times.

In many archaic cultures the marine shell, because of its appearance, is associated with the female genitalia, and the pearl is believed to be both the sacred product and the emblem of the feminine generative power. The pearl thus symbolizes both the life that is created and the mysterious force that begets life. One example of this reproductive symbolism is found in Beiya, a Chinese text of the eleventh century ce. The author of Beiya likens the pearl to a developing fetus and calls the oyster "the womb of the pearl." The anthropomorphic image for this sacred power is the goddess of love. In the ancient Mediterranean world, shells and pearls were often symbols for the great goddesses. In a manner analogous to the pearl's origin in an oyster, Aphrodite was born from a marine conch, and the Syrian goddess was known as the Lady of Pearls.

It is through this connection with feminine generative power that the pearl becomes a symbol for regeneration and rebirth as well. As a regenerative force, the pearl is often thought to have the power to heal or protect from harm. Throughout the Middle Ages and into the seventeenth century, a debate flourished among European physicians concerning the best way to prepare a pearl for healing purposes: Should it be ground or dissolved? In either case, an elixir containing a pearl was prescribed for numerous physical ailments. An Eastern example of the belief in the power of the pearl to protect life is found in the iconography of the bodhisattva Kitigarbha, who is especially venerated in Japanese Buddhism by pregnant women and young children as the protector of all weak and suffering humanity; statues and images depict Kitigarbha holding a pearl, his emblem, in his left hand. Because of their connection with rebirth and resurrection, pearls have been found in the tombs of rulers in lands as far apart as Egypt and the Americas. In Laos, a pearl is inserted into each orifice of a corpse to effect safe passage into the next world.

Finding and obtaining the natural pearl is both hard work and a hazardous undertaking. Pearl fishers are known to work in pairs: One dives deep into the sea while a partner stays above to hold the other end of the fisher's lifeline and, after a predetermined time, to haul both pearl fisher and catch to the surface. The difficulties of locating and harvesting the natural pearl give rise to a second level of symbolism: The pearl represents the hard-won goal of spiritual striving. For example, in the parable about the merchant who found a pearl of special value and so went to sell everything he owned in order to purchase it, Jesus compares the kingdom of God to a pearl. In medieval European alchemy, one of the many names for the philosophers' stone is margarita pretiosa, or "precious pearl." In The Pearl, a Middle English tale by an anonymous author, the hero laments the disappearance of his pearl in a grassy meadow. Seeking it, he falls into another world, where he experiences spiritual renewal and regains the balance of his own inner nature. Zhuangzi, the legendary Daoist mystic, reports how the Yellow Emperor lost his "night-pearl" during an excursion to the edge of the world. He sought for it by means of every resource at hand: by science, by analysis, by logic. But only when, in despair, the emperor turned to the "emptiness" (xu ) that is the ground of all things was the pearl restored to him.

The search for the pearl is also the theme of the Gnostic Hymn of the Pearl, which relates how a prince leaves his heavenly home to recover a pearl that lies buried in Egypt in the possession of a giant serpent. The prince is sent forth by his father, mother, and brother, who watch over his journey in a way reminiscent of the second fisherman who holds the lifeline at the surface of the sea. The prince inevitably succumbs to the spell that governs all Egypt (a Gnostic symbol for the illusion of cosmic existence). He loses all memory of his origins and of the pearl (i. e., he becomes spiritually ignorant or unconscious). But his watchful parents send forth a message to awaken him and to remind him of his identity and his mission to recover the pearl.

Especially in the East, from India to Japan, the pearl is often depicted in the possession of a dragon or sea monster. These mythological beings, like the serpent in the Hymn of the Pearl, are common symbols for chaos, that admixture of forces both cosmic and spiritual that oppose the establishment of a meaningful and inhabitable order. Thus, the search for the pearl often entails a heroic confrontation with the demonic.

Wherever the cultivation or liberation of the soul is regarded as the goal of spiritual striving, the pearl may symbolize the soul itself. This belief may have historical roots in the mythological thinking of the Hellenistic world, from which has come the formula "Ho sōma, hē sarx" ("The body is the tomb"). In this view, the subject of spiritual and eternal life is the immortal soul that exists within an alien and perishable body. According to the Mandaeans, the pearl's temporary home within the oyster provides an allegory for the temporary dwelling of the soul within the body. A variation of this imagery is found in the Coptic Kephalaia, a Manichaean text that relates how the soul is like a raindrop that falls into the sea and enters the body of an oyster in order to develop into a pearl. So, too, the soul acquires permanent definition and individuality by enduring life in the body. The pearl as a symbol for the actualized soul found its way into the poetry of the ūfī mystic Farīd al-Dīn ʿAār:

Out of the ocean like rain clouds come and travel
For without traveling, you will never become a pearl!

Bibliography

Bausani, Alessandro. Persia religiosa: Da Zaratustra a Bahaʾullah. Milan, 1959.

Bausani, Alessandro. Storia della letteratura persiana. Milan, 1959.

Cirlot, J. E. A Dictionary of Symbols. 2d ed. New York, 1971.

Eliade, Mircea. Images and Symbols: Studies in Religious Symbolism. New York, 1961. Contains a comprehensive bibliography.

Jonas, Hans. The Gnostic Religion: The Message of the Alien God and the Beginnings of Christianity. 2d ed., rev. & enl. Boston, 1963.

New Sources

Donkin, R. A. Beyond Price: Pearls and Pearl-Fishing: Origins to the Age of Discoveries. Philadelphia, 1998.

Hackney, Ki, and Diana Edkins. People and Pearls: The Magic Endures. New York, 2000.

Landman, Neal, Rudiger Bieler, Paula Mikkelson, and Bennet Bronson. Pearls: A Natural History. New York, 2001.

Malaguzzi, Sylvia. The Pearl. New York, 2001.

Beverly Moon (1987)

Revised Bibliography

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pearl

pearl Hard, smooth, iridescent concretion of calcium carbonate produced by certain marine and freshwater bivalve molluscs. It is composed of nacre, or mother-of-pearl, which forms the inner layer of mollusc shells. A pearl results from an abnormal growth of nacre around minute particles of foreign matter, such as a grain of sand.

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pearl

pearl / pərl/ • n. a hard, lustrous spherical mass, typically white or bluish-gray, formed within the shell of a pearl oyster or other bivalve mollusk and highly prized as a gem. ∎  an artificial imitation of this. ∎  (pearls) a necklace of pearls. ∎  something resembling a pearl in appearance: the sweat stood in pearls along his forehead. ∎ short for mother-of-pearl. ∎ fig. a precious thing; the finest example of something: the nation's media were assembled to hear his pearls of wisdom. ∎  a very pale bluish gray or white like the color of a pearl. • v. [intr.] 1. poetic/lit. form pearllike drops: the juice on the blade pearled into droplets. ∎  [tr.] make bluish-gray like a pearl: the peaked hills, blue and pearled with clouds. 2. [usu. as n.] (pearling) dive or fish for pearl oysters. PHRASES: pearls before swine valuable things offered or given to people who do not appreciate them. DERIVATIVES: pearl·er n.

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Pearl

Pearl ★★½ 1978

Sweeping miniseries covers the careers and private lives of those who live and work at the naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, from right before the Japanese attack to its aftermath. 233m/C VHS . Robert Wagner, Dennis Weaver, Lesley Ann Warren, Brian Dennehy, Max Gail, Mary Crosby, Gregg Henry, Katherine Helmond, Angie Dickinson, Tiana Alexandra, Richard Anderson, Adam Arkin, Marion Ross, Allan Miller, David Elliott; D: Hy Averback, Alexander Singer; W: Stirling Silliphant; C: Gayne Rescher; M: John Addison; Nar: Joseph Campanella. TV

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Pearl, The

PEARL, THE

A Middle English alliterative poem. The Pearl-Gawain MS, written in the last quarter of the 14th century, contains four alliterative poems, Patience, Purity (or Cleanness ), The Pearl, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. This MS (in the Cotton Collection, British Museum) is the only extant version. All the poems are written in the same scribe's hand, but there is no agreement among scholars about common authorship. All the poems are excellent examples of 14th-century alliterative verse, but Patience, which relates the story of Jona, and Purity, which contrasts the virtue of Christ and the Blessed Virgin to the wickedness of all pagan gods and goddesses, are completely overshadowed by Pearl and Gawain; in the latter two poems Middle English alliterative poetry reaches its highest eminence.

Pearl, in 101 interlinked 12-line stanzas, is cast in the form of an elegy. The speaker, sorrowing over the loss of his not quite two-year-old daughter, falls asleep in his garden and is granted a vision of her. She instructs him about the joys of heaven, tells him not to weep for her since she is in the company of the virgins who dance before the throne of God, and finally shows him a vision of the Heavenly Jerusalem, with its golden buildings and towers of precious stones, as it is described in Revelation. The glories of the narrator's vision are matched by the ornate and intricate verse. Each stanza contains only two rhyming sounds, and each is bound to its fellows by the device of beginning each stanza with a line containing a key word, and closing the stanza with a line including the same word, so that one word runs through each of the sections as a unifying principle.

Pearl is now widely interpreted as an allegory, though critics are not agreed as to its significance. Allegorical readings generally suggest that the poem is concerned with the loss of grace or with a dark period in the narrator's spiritual life. Whatever the ultimate interpretation, the poem is obviously a powerful argument for submitting to God's will in adversity.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight relates in 2,530 lines the story of Gawain's exchange of blows with the

preternatural Green Knight, who survives a beheading by Gawain and demands the right to a return match one year later. Gawain's search for the Green Knight the next year ends in a castle at Christmas. The lord of the castle keeps Gawain there for three days, during which it is agreed that the lord will exchange the trophies of three days' hunting for whatever Gawain receives on those days. On two days Gawain receives kisses from the lady of the castle, who tries to seduce him, and he keeps his bargain with the host. On the third day he receives from the lady a magic girdle that is supposed to ward off all harm. This he does not give to the host but wears to his meeting with the Green Knight. The Green Knight, who only nicks Gawain's neck, reveals himself to be the lord of the castle and announces that all was done at the command of Morgan le Fay, to test the Round Table and to frighten Queen Guinevere. The poem is written in stanzas consisting of a varying number of alliterative lines, ending in one twostressed line followed by a four-stressed quatrain (a device known as the bob-and-wheel).

Interpretations of Gawain vary greatly. Among them, the poem has been regarded as a straightforward romance, as an allegory, and as a repository of English and Celtic myths. All critics agree, however, that it is one of the greatest of Middle English poems, and it is universally praised for the intricacy of its structure, controlled diction, sure characterization, balanced composition, and general high poetic achievement. Recent interpretations have increasingly stressed the religious aspects of the poem, and it may well be that Gawain represents the Christian in the worldvirtuous, following his duty as he sees it, but occasionally fallible and in need of testing and correction.

Bibliography: Patience, ed. i. gollancz (2d ed. London 1924). Purity, ed. r. j. menner (New Haven, Conn. 1921); under the name Cleanness, ed. i. gollancz and m. day, 2 v. (London 192133). Pearl, ed. e. v. gordon (Oxford 1953); ed. and tr. m. v. hillmann (Convent Station, N.J. 1961), valuable introd, and notes. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, ed. j. r. r. tolkien and e. v. gordon (London 1925); ed. i. gollancz et al. (Eary English Text Society, orig. ser. 210; 1940); ed. j. kreuzer and tr. j. rosenberg (New York 1959), with excellent introd. g. l. kittredge, A Study of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Cambridge, Mass. 1916). m. borroff, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: A Stylistic and Metrical Study (New Haven, Conn. 1962). m. w. bloomfield, "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: An Appraisal," Publications of the Modern Language Association 76 (1961) 719, invaluable summary of previous scholarship. sr. madeleva, Pearl: A Study in Spiritual Dryness (New York 1925), the first fully allegorical study. d.w. robertson, "The Heresy of The Pearl: The Pearl as Symbol," Modern Language Notes 25 (1950) 152161. j. speirs, Medieval English Poetry: Non-Chaucerian Tradition (London 1957). d. everett, Essays on Middle English Literature, ed. p. kean (Oxford 1955).

[n. d. hinton]

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