Gower Bibliography

Gower's Virgil

Kuczynski, Michael P. "Gower's Virgil." In On John Gower: Essays at the Millenium. Ed. Yeager, R.F. Studies in Medieval Culture (46). Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute, 2007, pp. 163-87.


Though Virgil does not function as a direct source for Gower in anything like the way that Ovid does, he still serves as one of Gower's most important models, and Gower may be the most "Vergilian" of contemporary English poets, especially considered in contrast to Chaucer. The most important direct reference to Virgil is found in the verses "Eneidos Bucolis" which appear at the end of some MSS of CA and VC. If Gower himself did not write these lines, he at least must be responsible for attaching them to his work, and they affirm Virgil both as the model that he seeks to emulate and as the one that he seeks to surpass. Virgil was renowned in the late Middle Ages for his moral seriousness, for his wisdom, for his rhetorical achievement, and also for broad historical scope of his best-known poem, honoring both a heroic individual and the nation that he helped to found. Kuczynski cites evidence that Gower conceived of his own tripartite project in the same epic terms. But as the final lines of "Eneidos Bucolis" indicate, Gower also felt that his Christian ethical scheme conferred an inherent superiority over the pagan poet. A similar double view of Virgil is displayed in his three appearances in CA. In "Virgil's Mirror," it is his wisdom, extending to both moral and national self-knowledge, that is evoked, but in his other two appearances, in the discussion of Gluttony in Book 6 and in the procession of lovers in Book 8, he is the senex amans, "a type of the very lack of self-knowledge, enslavement to passion, that Amans escapes at the poem's close by gazing into Venus's marvelous glass" (178-79). Gower may have seen in Virgil a figure for his own self-subjection to the burdens of to the theme of fin'amor that he chose for CA, but at the end of the poem, "in the figure of the liberated Amans, he is released from its obsessive claims on his attention. That Virgil, Rome's greatest poet, is among the number who plead for his release is noteworthy and more significant if we understand Gower as having aspired to emulate and even to exceed Virgil's preeminent literary achievement" (180). [PN. Copyright The John Gower Society. JGN 27.1]

Item Type:Book Section
Subjects:Sources, Analogues, and Literary Relations
Confessio Amantis
Manuscripts and Textual Studies

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