Gower Bibliography

John Gower and the Uses of Allusion

Yeager, R.F. "John Gower and the Uses of Allusion." Res Publica Litterarum 7 (1984), pp. 201-13.


Yeager studies the poet's "art of allusion" through a close reading of the first 466 lines of Book 6 of CA. "Interweaving material drawn from various sources," he concludes, "Gower creates a intricately-textured poetry designed to portray the evils of drunkenness on three levels simultaneously: as social problem (love-drunkenness), as moral problem (drunkenness as sin, as loss of reason, etc.), and finally as spiritual problem of the highest kind (thirst of the soul for 'living water' which ends all thirst by faith and grace)" (p. 211). The conjunction of the amatory and the moral senses is part of the basic thematic pattern of CA; in this passage, however, using the equation between love and wine, Gower is particularly successful in linking "gluttonous intoxication" with the effects of love, both in Genius' discourse and in Amans' description of his own loss of reason. Like the drunkard, Amans is less satisfied the more he "drinks" of his rapturous vision of his lady, and what he really needs is a "reles" (6.253) from his driving need rather than more "wine." The spiritual dimension is introduced more subtly, first through Amans' allusions to "paradise" and the suggestion of higher objects of love; then in his unwitting allusion to the living well of John 4:1-15 in 6.276-91. The imagery of this passage is echoed in the allusion to Philippians 4:7 in "Jupiter's Two Tuns," and in a more complex way in the tale of "Bacchus in the Desert," which links "thirst" to "grace" with allusions to John 4:19-24, Genesis 22:12-13, and Apoc. 22:1 and 17. Gower has made two important additions to his source in this tale, Bacchus' prayer, and the reference to Bacchus as Jupiter's son, which creates a parallel to Christ and God the Father that informs the Biblical allusions in the tale. The link between Jupiter and God and between Bacchus and Christ is also found in another context in Ovide Moralise', which may explain Gower's substitution of "Bacchus" for the less familiar name "Liber" used by Hyginus. Here and elsewhere, according to Yeager, Gower invokes the familar "Christianization" of classical narrative of Ovide Moralise' as an "allegorical back-up" to the web of allusion that he has created in his own poetry. [PN. Copyright The John Gower Society. JGN 7.2]

Item Type:Article
Subjects:Sources, Analogues, and Literary Relations
Confessio Amantis

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