The Jeweler is Rudely Awakened

Canto XX

Delight drove o'er me thru eye and ear;
My mortal mind in madness melted.
When I saw my fair one, I would be there
Beyond the water, though she's insulted.
I thought that nothing might interfere
Or fetch me a blow and bring me to halt;
Springing into the stream, naught could me veer
From my intent, whate'er befall.
But of that mind I was forestalled!
When I 'cross the stream wouldst spring without measure,
From that thought I was recalled--
'Twas not in accord with my Prince's pleasure.

Note the concluding catch line of this stanza and identify the link word of our final canto, "pleasure." Be aware also, that the verb "to please," the noun "pleasure," and the adjective "pleasant" are all variations of the same roots. Then recall the very first line of the poem: "Pearl, pleasant to a prince's pleasure." We have come full circle--but with what gain! We began by talking (easily enough) about a pearl--that paradoxical product of a wounded oyster--one which any prince or nobleman would have found pleasing. We wind up with the same words but talking about pure and priceless pearl-people who are pleasing to the Prince of Peace. And in such godliness is great gain!

We are back now, also, to the "deep river" of tradition (song, story, and poem)--there to discover that the poor Jeweler still does not understand. However, the Pearl Poet uses the river to different (and I would say, greater) effect than any other writer I know. Usually the river represents simply the passage of death, whether that takes place in fear or in peace. But our poet uses it to reveal to us something very important about ourselves.

As in the case with the Jeweler himself, our generation (perhaps above all other) is a generation of "Paradise Stormers." Powered by a strong sense of deserving innocence ("I've suffered enough already--that's what the pastor says") we have a right to happiness and are not shy about asserting it. We, with the Jeweler, are ready to charge across the stream, come what may: "If she's there, I have a right to be there; it's only fair."

With us, of course it is not that we are all that eager to get to the River Jordan and beyond. For us, that's not where Paradise lies anymore. No, the one we have an eye on is the Paradise of Here-and-Now; and that we are going to have, one way or another. We've had a hard time of it, and we deserve a little comfort.

Obviously "the world" is quick to offer (for a price) all that we need for health and happiness--in some cases with actually twice the amount of active ingredients (like, say two aspirins). But now "the church" promises to do you even better; it can give you the same thing for nothing. "Not as the world gives give I unto you--but even cheaper and easier."

And so, in the Conservative Christian Chapel, the visiting Go-Get-'Um-for-Jesus holds forth: "Come unto me all ye that are weary and heavy-laden (yes, we know that hangnails can hurt like anything) and I will give you instant miracle. Just come forward with your request (place your order here, please). Jesus wants you happy; so give your life to him, and everything will be hunky-dory in a jiffy." (Meanwhile, in the background, the choir is singing softly: "When he calls me I will answer; I'll be somewhere listening for my name.")

Across the street, in the First Liberal Fellow-and-Gal-Ship, the word is: "Now, now, that's all right. We understand. Everybody does something like that once in a while. But we accept you as a person. Why don't you sign up for our Christian Stroking Group or come to our class on Tea and Sympathy for the Weary and Heavy-Laden (Hangnails included)?"

Of course, out in the middle of the street stands Jeremiah, complaining:

They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying " peace, peace," when there is no peace," when there is no peace.

To which "they who heal lightly and blithely" would have a perfect right to respond: "Don't blame us. We're giving the people what they want--in fact, what they demand. You should know they aren't the type who are about to wait upon the Lord to know their strength. They feel they've suffered enough already."

We are a generation of Paradise Stormers; and we will wake up right where the Jeweler does.


It pleased him not that I did push
'Cross miraculous margins in mad array.
Though rash and reckless in the rush,
Yet the event itself didst me gainsay.
For, right as down the bank I thrust,
That wrong wrenched my dream agley.
Then wakened I 'mongst the garden's brush;
And my head upon that hillock lay
Where my pearl to the ground didst stray.
I came to as from a seizure;
And, grieving, to myself didst say:
"Now all be to the Prince's pleasure!"


I was pleased full ill to be excised
So suddenly from that fair region,
From all those sights so pleasant and prized.
A heavy longing struck me numb;
And mournfully then I agonized:
"O pearl," quod I, "of rich renown,
So dear it is what thou devised
To show me in varacious vision.
If true and tried this be a sermon
That thy estate is heavenly treasure,
Then 'tis well with me in this dolorous dungeon
That thou art to the Prince's pleasure."


To that Prince's pleasure if I'd always bent
And yearned no more than for me was spread
And myself held to that in true intent--
As prayed me that pearl who with me pled--
Then, disposed & drawn to God's presence,
into more of his mysteries would I have been led.
But always doth man more happiness hunt
Than might by right be his privilege.
Therefore my joy asunder was rived
And I cast from the castle of endless measure.
Therefore my joy asunder was rived
And I cast from the castle of endless measure.
Lord, mad are they who 'gainst thee have strived
Or proffered thee aught against thy pleasure.

If even in our grief and brokenheartedness, we had been willing to give thought to the Prince's pleasure ...

If we had learned contentment with what we had, rather than always yearning for more than for us was spread ...

But always doth man more happiness hunt than might by right be his privilege.

By right, we deserve nothing. In Luke 17:10, Jesus tells us, So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, 'We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!'"

Yet if we had been willing to accept life at the Prince's pleasure, who can say what comfort might have been ours?

"Lord, mad are they who 'gainst thee have strived--or proffered thee aught against thy pleasure!" Our "volunteering" for Paradise has been as presumptuous as our "demanding" comfort on our own terms.

Dear Lord, Forgive!


To please the Prince or with him get right
Easily comes to the good Christian;
For I've found him, both day and night,
A God, a Lord, a Friend full fine.
Upon the hillock I accepted my plight
For pity of the pearl I pine.
Then gave I that pearl to God outright
In blessed memory of the Christ divine
Who, in the form of bread and wine,
The priests do daily show by measure.
To be humble hirelings he doth us assign
And precious pearls unto his pleasure.

amen ~ amen

Copyright (c) 1983