Gower Bibliography

The Poetry of John Gower

Bland, D. S. "The Poetry of John Gower." English 6 (1948), pp. 286-290.


Bland considers Gower's artistic merits by looking at three stories: the tales of Ceix and Alceone (Book 4), Jason and Medea (Book 5), and Lucrece (Book 7). The first of these stories demonstrates Gower's skill in linking all scenes with natural transitions: "Gower is forced into using none of the clichés which Chaucer employs in linking the parts of his version" (286). Gower is also less melodramatic, avoids digressions, and prefers action over conversation and thought. At the same time, he includes some "delightful" (287) poetic touches, as when he describes the floor of Sleep's house as being strewn with dreams (287). The story of Jason and Medea further demonstrates Gower's "metrical skill" (287). His use of the caesura and enjambment results in lines that show "briskness and vigour" (287). Gower's "unadorned directness of style" (288) lacks Chaucer's "frequent brutal abruptness" (287) and demonstrates instead the clarity and polite speech of aristocratic society. Not only does Gower show "classical" (288) restraint where Chaucer has "tap-room vigour" (288), but Gower is also a romantic. He loves exotic and mysterious locations and he is deeply interested in Medea's magic. In describing the latter, Gower quickens the pace by introducing trochaic lines among the iambic ones. Lastly, the tale of Jason and Medea reveals Gower's mastery of the verse paragraph (288). In the next section, Bland compares Gower's tale of Lucrece with Shakespeare's version. Where Shakespeare's story is "a psychological study" (289), Gower focuses on action. Bland observes that "at the time when Gower wrote men were not in position to understand fully the nuances of character and of personal relationships, except under the guise of allegory" (289). Bland ends with some comments on the framework of the CA. Given courtly love's conventional emphasis on adulterous passion, it is inevitable that Book 8 is a kind of recantation. However, Gower becomes anti-climactic when he follows up his revelation of Amans's old age with a didactic prayer for the state of England. Gower's flaw, then, is that he is a good teller of stories, but lacks the "genius" and "intelligence to support a long poem" (290). He ranks second to Chaucer as "a master of a plain style" (290), despite the fact that he is often merely prosaic. [CvD]

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

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