Pearly gates
Posted: 20 May 2011 07:57 PM   [ Ignore ]
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I’m aware that the phrase stems from a Biblical reference, but the exact phrase does not exist in the Bible itself. Was the phrase coined by a known author in a particular work?

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Posted: 21 May 2011 03:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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The biblical reference is Revelation 21:21:

And the twelve gates are twelve pearls, each of the gates is a single pearl, and the street of the city is pure gold, transparent as glass. (NSRV)

The earliest reference in the OED3 (Sep 2005) is from Joshua Sylvester’s a.1618 translation of Guillaume de Saluste Du Bartas, Du Bartas his diuine weekes, and workes, ii. iv. 521:

In Iervsalem; With-in whose Pearly Gates and Iasper Walls Shall enter nothing filthy or vnclean.

Du Bartas was a favorite of James I/VI and his works were widely read in the English court. So it seems likely this is the source of the English phrase. I don’t know what Du Bartas’s French phrasing is.

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Posted: 21 May 2011 05:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Here’s the original context:

books?id=hQqj3BNtp9wC&pg=PA651&img=1&zoom=3&hl=en&sig=ACfU3U143l_ocKMwB2MjYmKDGzMv7dOUpQ&ci=53,862,584,288&edge=0

As far as I can tell, there’s nothing in the original French even vaguely resembling this (it’s obviously a very free translation); here’s a sort-of-corresponding passage near the end of “La decadence” (the French version of “The Decay"), where you can check for yourself to see if I’ve missed anything (click the image to be taken to the full text):

books?id=xR86AAAAcAAJ&pg=PT1064&img=1&zoom=3&hl=en&sig=ACfU3U32njmP0yFUXF6yiJ9cCvq0b7Z3xg&ci=64,684,897,866&edge=0

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