Gower Bibliography

Gower, Chaucer, and Rhyme Royal

Dean, James. "Gower, Chaucer, and Rhyme Royal." Studies in Philology 88 (1991), pp. 251-275.


John Fisher dated Gower's CB to the early 1370's, as part of his argument on Gower's participation in the London Pui. If he is correct, CB contains the earliest surviving examples of rhyme royal by an English poet. Dean, like Macaulay, holds out for a later date, and presents a small number of evident imitations of Chaucer from ``In Praise of Peace'' and the ``Supplication'' in CA 8.2217-2300 (but not from Traitié or CB) to argue that Gower's use of rhyme royal in both French and English was based on Chaucer's. The bulk of his essay is an examination of Gower's use of the stanza form in these four poems, with frequent comparison to Chaucer. Unlike Chaucer, who adopted the rhyme royal stanza for narrative verse in such poems as T&C and 2NT, Gower used rhyme royal only for his monitory ``IPP'' and in his philosophically oriented love-lyrics. In CB, Gower adopts (much more straightforwardly than Chaucer) both his imagery and his narrator from his French predecessors. He also reveals the ``universalizing, philosophical tendency'' that comes to fruition in CA. The two poems that Dean examines closely reveal Gower's effective use of enjambement and the concluding couplet, and his skillful use of the stanza form to articulate his argument. Traitié demonstrates a similar degree of skill, but is less interesting poetically than CB. Its main interest derives from the juxtaposition of the treatise form and its moralizing glosses with the depiction of the lover's experience in the secular lyrics. The strengths of ``IPP'' are much like those of Chaucer's similar moral balades, and the rhyme royal stanza lends dignity, high seriousness, and elegance. The ``Supplication,'' finally, is Gower's ``most `Chaucerian' moment,'' deftly blending natural, colloquial language with classical allusion, all within the artifice of the stanza form, and manipulating both caesura and enjambement to give individuality and credibility to the traditional complaint. Dean's essay is a valuable discussion of verse that is rarely examined closely; his argument is marred, however, by some troubling mistranslations of Gower's French. [PN. Copyright The John Gower Society. JGN 11.1]

Item Type:Article
Subjects:Sources, Analogues, and Literary Relations
Style, Rhetoric, and Versification

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