Gower Bibliography

"Pax Poetica: On the Pacifism of Chaucer and Gower."

Yeager, R.F. ""Pax Poetica: On the Pacifism of Chaucer and Gower."." Studies in the Age of Chaucer 9 (1987), pp. 97-121.


Yeager attempts the difficult task of discerning Gower's and Chaucer's attitudes towards peace and warfare on the basis of their writings. In Gower he finds a change in attitude between the poet's earliest and his final works, which he attributes in part to a reaction to the changing English fortunes in the war with France. In MO Gower argues the justness of Edward III's prosecution of the war. The very nature of his argument betrays Gower's legal training and reflects the influence of Isidore and Gratian, who emphasized in their justification of war the nature of the provocation. In VC and CA one detects the growing feeling that all wars "are more about money than about justice' (p. 104), placing greater emphasis on the motives of the warrior than on the wickedness of the enemy, and Gower's criticism of war in his later poems is accompanied by a greater emphasis on peace, in both cases reflecting the influence of Augustine. Augustine's influence is particularly evident in Gower's last English poem, "In Praise of Peace." In CA, while the dialogue between Amans and Genius in Book 3 reflects "a profound division in Gower's own heart" (p. 105), greater weight is given to the Confessor's advocacy of mercy and charity, and indeed CA as a whole seems to treat "not courtly love but love of order, and the peace which comes when discord is halted and right relations restored" (p. 107). Discerning Chaucer's attitude is more difficult: Yeager assembles what we know of the poet's biography, the opinions of those closest to him, the attitudes expressed in "Melibee" and "Sir Thopas," the effect of the juxtaposition of these two tales, and verbal similarities between passages that Chaucer added to "Melibee" emphasizing mercy and forgiveness and the words in his own Retraction, to conclude that Chaucer too was a man of peace, more instinctually than Gower but perhaps also more deeply and more thoroughly. [PN. Copyright The John Gower Society. JGN 7.1]

Item Type:Article
Subjects:Sources, Analogues, and Literary Relations
Vox Clamantis
Confessio Amantis
Mirour de l’Omme (Speculum Meditantis)

Gower Bibliography Editors Only: edit metadata