Gower Bibliography

Gower's Vox Clamantis and Usk's Testament of Love

Summers, Joanna. "Gower's Vox Clamantis and Usk's Testament of Love." Medium AEvum 68 (1999), pp. 55-62.


Summers' essay begins a bit oddly, with the claim that the usual view among those who have commented is that Gower's call for Chaucer to write his own "testament of love" (CA 8.2955*) reflects his "amusement or disdain" for the poem of Thomas Usk of the same name. At least three of the four sources that she cites make no such claim. (I have not seen the fourth, an essay by David Carlson in the Leyerle festschrift of 1993.) The bulk of this short piece, however, is not about Gower's attitude towards Usk but about Usk's towards Gower. Skeat and others have suggested that the "Shippe of Traveyle" episode in Book 1 of the "Testament" reflects Usk's hearing or reading of the C-text of Piers Plowman. Summers proposes that there is greater similarity to the allegory in Book 1 of the Vox Clamantis, both in the structure of the episode and in some interesting if not exact verbal parallels. In her summary, "both texts present a narrator who foolishly leaves home to become lost in a forest; witnesses the rampages of domestic animals, like swine, who have turned wild; is rescued by a ship, but then is subject to a treacherous storm; and is finally driven to an island" (p. 57). In the Testament, the allegory refers to Usk's experiences in the trial of Northampton, and Usk may have been inspired by Gower's later comparison of a lawsuit to a voyage in rough seas (VC 6.474-80). Summers wishes to suggest that these allusions might have been recognized and that Usk might thus deliberately have cloaked himself in the conservative and royalist sympathies of poet of the earliest versions of VC. She also suggests that the "Margarete" that Usk discovers on the island at the end of his voyage and that he pledges to serve faithfully represents King Richard, an identification that she supports by pointing out that the island in Gower’s vision is very clearly Britain. In the immediately following essay in the same issue of Medium AEvum, Lucy Lewis argues that Usk's "Margarete" is to be identified instead as Margaret Berkeley, wife of Sir Thomas Berkeley, well-known as a patron of Trevisa. [PN. Copyright John Gower Society. JGN 18.2.]

Item Type:Article
Subjects:Vox Clamantis
Influence and Later Allusion

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