The poem is found solely in the Pearl manuscript, Cotton Nero A x. That manuscript also contains Pearl, Patience, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. None of the poems has a title or divisions of chapters, but the breaks are marked by large initial letters of blue, and each poem has a single, full page illustration. Each of these poems is entirely unique to this one manuscript. Cleanness (which is an editorial title) is also known by the editorial title Purity.
The manuscript, Cotton Nero A.x is in the British Museum. The first published edition was in Early English Alliterative Poems in the West Midland Dialect of the fourteenth century, printed by the Early English Text Society.
Cleanness is a description of the virtues of cleanliness of body and the delights of married love. It takes three subjects from the Bible as its illustrations: the Flood, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the fall of Belshazzar. Each of these is described powerfully, and the poetry is among the finest in Middle English. In each case, the poet warns his readers about the dangers of defilement and, at the same time, the joys of purity.
A paraphrase of the parable of the Wedding Guest follows in lines 51–171. This exemplum, explained by lines 171–192, follows directly from the previous sartorial metaphor and serves to show why the hearers should give attention to cleanness. Following this, lines 193–556 expound on God’s forgiveness and wrath, using the Fall of the Angels, the Fall of Adam and Eve (Gen 3), and the story of Noah (Gen 6: 5–32, 7, 8) (the first major exemplum of the poem) to demonstrate these divine attributes.
A transition (ll. 557–599), including a comment on how God reacts to sin (esp. lechery), follows.
In another transition (ll. 1050–1148), the narrator explains the symbolism of the second exemplum, ending with a description of God as strongly vengeful.
The third, and by far the longest, exemplum (ll. 1149–1796) recounts the conquest of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar and the transfer of the Temple treasures to Babylon where they were treated with reverence by the king. But after Nebuchadnezzar died, Belshazzar, a man given to the indulgence of his lusts, succeeded him. During an enormous drunken feast, he ordered that the Temple vessels be brought in and that everyone be served in them. God then determines to punish him. A huge hand appears, writes a message on the wall, and vanishes. No one can interpret this message. At the Queen’s suggestion, Daniel is called, and he interprets the three words and predicts Belshazzar’s downfall.
In his conclusion (ll. 1797–1812), the narrator summarizes by asserting that uncleanness angers God, but cleanness comforts Him.
US Patent Issued to Centre De Recherches Metallurgiques Asbl-Centrum Voor Research in De Metallurgie Vzw on July 9 for "Method of Measuring the Cleanness of Steel Strip" (Belgian Inventor)
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Publication No. WO/2009/138262 Published on Nov. 19, Assigned to CENTRE DE RECHERCHES METALLURGIQUES ASBL-CENTRUM VOOR RESEARCH IN DE METALLURGIE VZW for Steel Strip Cleanness Measurement Method (Belgian Inventor)
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Aug 27, 2013; ALEXANDRIA, Va., Aug. 27 -- United States Patent no. 8,519,260, issued on Aug. 27, was assigned to International Business...