Gower Bibliography

The Allegory of Love: A Study in Medieval Tradition

Lewis, C. S. "The Allegory of Love: A Study in Medieval Tradition." Oxford: Clarendon, 1936

Review

Lewis traces the development of the courtly love tradition from France in the eleventh century to England in the sixteenth. The place of Gower in this history is assessed in chapter 5, where he is grouped with Thomas Usk. Lewis praises Gower for the strong "architectonics" (198) of the CA. The key to Gower's success is that he learned from Andreas Capellanus how courtly love had a moral code, and so could be combined fruitfully with a religious confession. Lewis also praises Gower for his plain style, even though it frequently descends to the prosaic. He notes Gower's tendency not to tell us what people think. Gower further focuses less on shapes and colours and more on movement and action. Yet Gower has a romantic element, which Lewis finds unusual for a medieval poet. Gower "excels in strange adventure, in the remote and the mysterious" (210). Lewis briefly discusses Gower's moral didacticism – which includes a surprising "element of iron in a poet elsewhere so gentle" (212) – before turning to the story of Amans in the frame narrative. Lewis notes the complex mingling of humour, pathos, devotion, and realism in the exchanges between Amans and Genius. What makes the story of Amans stand out is its ending. The death of love becomes a touching allegory for life in general. The final line to this section is both simple and perfect (221): "homward a softe pas I went." Still, the fact that Gower fails to end his poem here is emblematic of Gower's ability as an artist: "Gower has risen to great poetry, but he is not a great poet" (222). [CvD]

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

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