Gower Bibliography

A New Arion: Lydgate on Saints, Kings and 'Good Acord'

Reimer, Stephen R. "A New Arion: Lydgate on Saints, Kings and 'Good Acord'." South Atlantic Review 79.3-4 (2015), pp. 144-55. ISSN 0277-335X

Review

Although Lydgate's and Gower's politics continue to be popular topics on their own, no real attention has gathered around any relations between the ideas of Gower and his successor in Lancastrian literary circles. Reimer begins with the unassailable point that both poets share an interest in a well-governed society led by a king whose virtuous rule starts with himself, and extends to bringing the estates of society into "good acord" rather than a state of war. Lydgate's only known prose work, "The Serpent of Division," examines Pompey's war with Julius Caesar and the resulting "catastrophic consequences to the nation of princely ambition and bellicosity" using "Gower-like themes" and a "Gower-like use of ancient stories" to understand contemporary politics (145). Both Lydgate and Gower focus on "Division" as a central cause of social breakdown, on prudent peace over rash war, and on the invocation of a mythic poet (Arion in Gower's CA, Amphion in Lydgate's "Siege of Thebes") able to bind up the golden chains of social harmony. Lydgate's two double hagiographies, the "Lives of Saints Edmund and Fremund" (which according to Jennifer Sisk functions as a "speculum regis" for Henry VI), and the "Lives of Saints Alban and Amphibal" (modeled on "Edmund and Fremund") offer a more complex view of virtuous governance in both spiritual and civic terms. Edmund's early reign generates a long passage on the ideals of righteous rule and a well-regulated body politic; still, "the text does not offer a single model of kingship but a set of alternatives, with no clear prioritizing of the one over the other" (147). St. Alban's story begins with the Roman conquest of Britain and the creation of a proto-Arthurian knighthood under the guidance of Emperor Diocletian, whose set of vows champion a similar set of virtues for good governance aimed at the upper classes, with a clear emphasis on common profit and a caution against rousing rebellion--presumably among the hotheads of the Third Estate so memorably personified in Gower's VC. Ultimately the argument here, that Lydgate is like Gower in his vision of good governance yielding a peaceable kingdom, is built with relatively little discussion of Gower himself beyond brief invocations at beginning and end; Gowerians will hear the resonances clearly, nonetheless. [JF. Copyright. The John Gower Society. eJGN 35.1.]

Item Type:Article
Subjects:Influence and Later Allusion
Confessio Amantis
Vox Clamantis

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