By W. A. Davenport

Ranging from the belief taht 'Pearl', 'Purity', 'Patience' and 'Sir Gawain and the fairway knight' are by means of one poet, W.A. Davenport seeks to outline the character of his paintings. He makes an in depth research of every poem, contemplating the 4 no longer quite a bit of their

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Example text

The question of the disruption one may feel in the 'characterisax tion' is one which I wish to postpone for the moment, since it involves reviewing one's whole sense of what the Dreamer and the Maiden represent, but certainly, if one reads the dream assuming, as I have done so far, that the Dreamer is the same character as the T of the first section, then there comes a point when the characterisa' tion no longer firmly holds, and one suspects the poet of adjusting his figures to become functions of his theme.

This one represents a modification in his attitude in that his request for knowledge of the Maiden's life is an implicit acceptance of the difference between past and present. The speech has a greater humility than in his first addresses, a humility towards which mixed feelings are aroused, for, though the humbling of pride may be necessary for the Dreamer's good, the reader, involved in his feel/ lings, simultaneously sees the humility as humiliation and responds to the sorrowful courage. The Dreamer impresses one here as having learnt already from experience, having learnt how to reprove gently, how to speak with a controlled recognition of his earlier in* discipline, and how to plead movingly that the natural feeling of grief needs comfort and that the former love between the two should eliminate 'debate*.

But the reversed process, as in Pearl, where discourse is enclosed within a narrative, means that the argument is displaced from its expected function; the ideas cease to be open ideas, but become ad hoc ones which we judge not by their general validity but as they reflect on the story. Our understanding of Pearl thus seems to me to depend very little on the ideas used within it, because it is to their effect, to the experiencing of them, that our attention is directed; so, for instance, the reader is not asked to bring to the poem an understanding of the operation of grace, but is asked to bring a sympathetic confusion about it, and a recognition of how illogical Christian doctrine can seem.

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