Gower Bibliography

Gower and Lydgate

Pearsall, Derek. "Gower and Lydgate." Harlow, Essex . London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1969

Review

Pearsall acknowledges that Gower's decision to write in three languages may be perceived as "a timid hedging of bets on posterior fame, a safe but unspectacular investment" (5), but he argues that "there is a logic in Gower's progress through the languages which reflects the age, as always, with great fidelity" (5). For instance, the morally didactic MO comes in "a long tradition of serious, practical, admonitory writing in Anglo-French" (5). Accordingly, Pearsall suggests that in the MO Gower "places a moral grid over the map of human experience and reads it through that" (8). Truth, for Gower, is a castle under siege, "whose walls are crumbling and showing fissures. It is his duty, not to make daring exploratory forays into the hinterland of experience, but to shore up these fragments against the world's ruin" (8). The same is true for the VC, for when Gower asserts the moral responsibility of man in the face of the forces of Fortune and Nature, "nothing better illustrates the meaninglessness of experience, in the medieval scheme, in comparison with moral truth" (8-9). Gower's "savage Roman obscenity of wit" (9) in this work further suggests something of "the imaginative and verbal licence which Latin provided, when the simple innocence of the laity was not in danger of being corrupted" (9). The most interesting part of the VC, for Pearsall, is Book 1. Pearsall writes: "The Revolt certainly disturbed Gower, but it was a godsend to him as a fulfillment of his prophecies and as a way of getting his poem off to an explosive start" (10). In comparison with Gower's French and Latin works, the CA is "a relaxation from these strenuous moral endeavours … In this poem Gower found, as if by chance, his natural vocation as a polished and fluent verse narrator, and it is this story-teller's gift which is our chief delight in reading Gower, and his chief claim on our attention" (5-6). The bulk of Pearsall's chapter on Gower is therefore dedicated to proving the greatness of the CA, where Gower writes "out of imaginative sympathy and not out of admonitory purpose" (6). Much here is borrowed from Pearsall's previous article, "Gower's Narrative Art" (1966), although often with different nuances and emphases. For instance, more attention is given to Gower's excision of the reference to Chaucer, and Pearsall dwells a little longer on Gower's "verbal artistry" (21). Generally, though, all the same points are made, and Pearsall's conclusion repeats his earlier findings: "The Confessio, however, does in the end become something more than a programme, for it passes beyond prescription to a 'civilization of the heart', in which fine feeling, humane sensitivity and 'gentillesse' take over the role of conscience as the source of virtuous action. Sin is made to seem not so much deadly as stupid and low" (17). Pearsall's brief volume also refers sporadically to some of the minor works, and it includes a chronology of important dates in Gower's life as well as a select bibliography of the more important secondary literature on Gower. [CvD]

Item Type:Book
Subjects:Backgrounds and General Studies
In Praise of Peace
Style, Rhetoric, and Versification
Vox Clamantis
Cinkante Balades
Cronica Tripertita
Confessio Amantis
Mirour de l’Omme (Speculum Meditantis)

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