A late 14th-century poem in alliterative verse usually ascribed to the Pearl-poet, because it is preserved in the same manuscript (Ms. Cotton Nero A x) as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Cleanness and Pearl.
The poem clearly stands in the homiletic tradition. Its intention is very similar to a sermon on the virtue of patience, one of the beatitudes in Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, as it is reported in the gospel of St Matthew. In his prologue the poet mentions all nine of the great blessings culminating in patience which he closely relates to poverty and contrasts to anger.
In order to illustrate his theme the poet draws on the story of Jonah, taken from the Vulgate Bible. The disobedient and ill-natured Jonah is humorously taught his lesson. Although he preaches to the Ninevites very skillfully and with great effect, he does not respond to God's orders with patience. In exegetigal terms Jonah is traditionally seen as a type foreshadowing Christ, but in this poem he develops to his - sometimes very comic - antitype. In contrast to Jesus, Jonah is rebellious, disobedient and stubborn.
By this surprising development of the biblical character the poet creates a protagonist who vividly brings home the teaching to the audience. The Pearl-poet's version of the story of Jonah and the Whale is one of the most comic versions in literature.