The Tree of Charity—Again
Modifies the views of Alford, Allen, and Kaske in arguing that, while PPl is steeped in biblical thinking, what is striking about this aspect of the poem is not so much its expository content, but its commentative method. For example, the inspiration for the Tree of Charity is probably the passage in the Glossa Ordinaria to Song of Songs 4:12, ‘hortus conclusus soror mea, sponsa’. While parts of the Tree episode are conventional (for example B.16.5-9 and 13-15), the transition from description to Will’s inner vision marks a departure from the Glossa‘s diagrammatic method, although L continues to use the Glossa extensively. PPl is written according to the typical methods of medieval commentary, bringing together disparate points of view, allowing each one as much authority as the others, a rhetorical technique that causes the problems arising for the poem’s readers. Looked at from this point of view, Bloomfield’s remark that PPl is ‘a commentary on an unknown text’ is prescient.
in Burrow and Duggan, Medieval Alliterative Poetry, pp. 125-39.