Gower Bibliography

'Le Songe Vert,' BL Add. MS 34114 (the Spalding Manuscript), Bibliothèque de la ville de Clermont, MS 249 and John Gower.

Yeager, R.F. "'Le Songe Vert,' BL Add. MS 34114 (the Spalding Manuscript), Bibliothèque de la ville de Clermont, MS 249 and John Gower." In Middle English Texts in Transition: A Festschrift Dedicated to Toshiyuki Takamiya on his 70th Birthday. Ed. Horobin, Simon, and Mooney, Linne R. Woodbridge, Suffolk: York Medieval Press/Boydell & Brewer, pp. 75-87. ISBN 9781903153536

Review

In 1931, Ethel Seaton attempted to demonstrate that Gower was the most likely author of the French dream vision "Le Songe Vert." Someone (I have lost the reference) later characterized Seaton's piece as an exercise in "misplaced ingenuity," and Yeager would no doubt agree. He sets aside most of the points of resemblance that Seaton cites as unpersuasive, and he points out differences from Gower's work that she doesn't take into account. The main thrust of his essay, however, is what can be deduced about the date, authorship, and preservation of the poem from the two manuscripts in which it is found. The earlier and more ornate, London, British Library MS Additional 34114, bears the arms (and mitre) of Henry Le Despenser, Bishop of Norwich from 1370 to 1406. "Le Songe Vert" appears there somewhat anomalously alongside three long verse narratives about heroes from the past, and Yeager speculates that the interest that binds the four works together lies in the models of behavior that they provide--in two very different realms--for the chivalric class. Bibliothèque de la ville de Clermont MS 249 dates from the mid-fifteenth century and originated, Yeager argues, not far from where it is presently found, and it bears traces of the dialect of the south of France. It would be difficult to explain how a work of Gower's found its way so far, and "it seems wiser," Yeager concludes, "to speculate that Bishop Despenser, whose travels to France and the Low Countries are firmly attested, brought it home with him . . . than that the poem is one of Gower's that travelled the other way" (87). Yeager doesn't cite James Wimsatt's discussion of "Le Songe Vert" in "Chaucer and the French Love Poets" (Chapel Hill, 1968), 137-43, in which Wimsatt suggests that the French poem was modeled on Chaucer's "Book of the Duchess," and that it served in turn as a source for Oton de Granson's "Complainte de Saint Valentin," which resembles it closely in narrative setting. If the latter is correct, it would help make the dating of "Le Songe Vert" a bit more precise since Granson died in 1397. [PN. Copyright. The John Gower Society. JGN 33.2.]

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

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