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And of your newe wife God of his grace
But, thereasJ ye me profer swich dowairk
0 goode God I how gentle and how hind
But sooth is said, algate11 find it true,
My lord, ye wot that in my fader's place
The remnant of your jewels ready be
1 came, and naked I mote turn again.
J Whereas. k Such dower. 1 In every way. m Proved. "Dress. ■> Doubt .
The smock, quod he, that thou hast on thy hake
The folk her followen weeping in her way,
And Fortune aye they cursen as they gone:
But she fro weeping kept her eyen drey,*
T>Te in this time word ne spake she none.
Her fader, that this tiding heard auou,
Curseth the day and time that nature
Shope him* to been a lives" creature. There is scarcely perhaps to be found any where in poetry a finer burst of natural feeling than in the lines we have printed in Italics.
Contemporary with Chaucer, and probably born a few years earlier, though of the two he survived to the latest date, for his death did not take place till the year 140S, was John Gower. The tradition always has been that he was of the ancient family, said to have been seated at Stitenham, or Sittenham, in Yorkshire, before the Conquest, of which the Duke of Sutherland is now the head; and Mr. Todd, in his valuable 'Illustrations of the Lives and Writings of Gower and Chaucer' (8vo. Lon. 1810), has published a deed from the charter-chest of the Duke (then Marquis of Stafford), dated at Stitenham in 1346, to w hich the first of the subscribing w itnesses is Johannes Gower, and an indorsement upon which, but in a hand at least a century later, states this person
* With great difficulty. i This same.
Gone. • Dry. 'Formed. • Living.
to have been "Sir John Gower the Poet." If so, Gower must have been born before 1326 at the latest, and he must have been some years beyond eighty when he died. This is consistent with the manner in which his name is generally mentioned by old writers along with but before that of Chaucer, and with the express statement in some of the earlier accounts that he was the senior of the two. It is proved at any rate by his will, also published by Mr. Todd (and previously by Gough, in his ' Sepulchral Monuments,' 2 vols. fol. 1786), that he was a person of condition, and possessed of considerable property. He and Chaucer were friends, as well as contemporaries and brother poets; and there appears to be no sufficient reason for the notion that has been taken up by most of the modern biographers of the latter that they were alienated from one another in their old age.* It may be safely assumed, at least, that their friendship remained unbroken down to 1393, the year in which Gower, as he tells us himself, finished his ' Confessio Amantis,' where near the end he puts the following compliment to Chaucer into the mouth of Venus :—
And greet well Chaucer when ye meet,
As my disciple and my poete;
For in the flourcs of his youth,
In sondry wise, as he well couth,
Of ditties and of songes glade,
The which he for my sake made,
The land fulfilled is over all;
Whereof to him in special,
Above all other, I am most hold:
Forthy" now in his dayes old
Thou shalle him tell this message,
That he upon his latter age,
9 See the remarks of Sir Harris Nicholas, in his Life of Chaucer, p. 39. * Therefore.
To set an end of all his werk,
This was certainly liberal repayment for Chaucer's dedication to his friend, probably many years before, of his 'Troilus and Cresseid,' or rather of half that work, in the following; sober lines :—
O moral Gower! this booke I direct
To thee, and to the philosophical Strood,
The epithet here bestowed upon Gower is not perhaps exactly the one which a poet would most covet; but it has stuck, and Moral Gower is the name by which he has generally passed ever since. "O Moral Gower, and Lydgate laurcat," exclaims the Scotish poet Dunbar, in his Golden Targe. "Moral Gower, whose sententious dew adown reflareth with fair golden beams," says Hawes in his Pastime of Pleasure. "And near them sat old Moral Goore, with pleasant pen in hand," writes the author of 'A Dialogue both pleasant and pitiful,' Lon. 1573.* But his publisher, Bcrthelet the printer, is the most severe of all: in the dedication prefixed to his edition of the 'Confessio Amantis,' 1532, he naively remarks: "It was not much greater pain to that excellent clerk, the Moral John Gower, to compile the same noble wark than it was to me to print it." "No man," he adds, alluding to the former edition by Caxton, in 1483, "will believe it without conferring both the prints, the old and mine, together."
* Quoted by Mr. Todd in Illustrations, Introduction, p. xxix.
Gower is the author of three great poetical works (sometimes spoken of as one, though they do not seem to have any connexion of plan or subject); the 'Speculum Meditantis,' which is, or was, in French; the ' Vox Clamantis,' which is in Latin; and the ' Confessio Amantis,' which is in English. But the first, although an account of it, founded on a mistake, has been given by Warton, has certainly not been seen in modern times, and has most probably perished; and the second has never been printed. We have some specimens, however, of Gower's talents both as a French and as a Latin poet in certain short pieces in both these languages preserved in a volume in the Duke of Sutherland's library at Trentham (Staffordshire), of which an account has been given by Warton, (Hist. Eng. Poetry, ii. 334—341), and another, more full, particular, and exact, by Mr. Todd (Illustrations, pp. 93—108). Speaking of Gower's Latin poetry, Warton says that he "copied Ovid's elegiacs with some degree of purity, and with fewer false quantities and corrupt phrases than any of our countrymen had yet exhibited since the twelfth century."* Of the French pieces in the Trentham volume, which consist of fifty Balades, or sonnets, he observes, '' They have much real and intrinsic merit. They are tender, pathetic, and poetical; and place our old poet Gower in a more advantageous point of view than that in which ho has hitherto been usually seen. I know not if any even among the French poets themselves, of this period, have left a set of more finished sonnets; for they were probably written when Gower was a young man, about the year 1350. Nor had yet * Hist. Eng. Poet. ii. 305.