Anonymous: Cleanness

(504 words)
  • Ad Putter (University of Bristol)

This poem is extant in a single manuscript (British Library, Cotton Nero A.x.), where it follows Pearl (q.v.) and precedes Patience (q.v.) and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (q.v.). All four works are believed to have been written by the same poet. The first word of the poem, clannesse, gives the work its modern title, although the poem is also known as Purity. The alternative editorial titles pick out different aspects from the wide range of meanings united in the poet’s concept of cleanness, which encapsulates standards of hygiene (e.g. clean hands and clothes), sexual practices (homosexuality is unclean) as well as moral virtues (such as proper respect for sacred objects). As in Patience, the p…

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Putter, Ad. "Cleanness". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 30 March 2001
[, accessed 02 July 2015.]