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tion, despite some palpable false quantities and excess of word-play, are based on Virgil and Ovid, and testify to much power of assimilation. The influence of those writings, however, was purely formal. The spirit of the work is derived from the old Hebrew prophets, and especially from the Book of Daniel. There is that in the Vox Clamantis which suggests Piers Plowman. But Gower is not, like Langland, a born dreamer; and the form of the vision is limited to the first part of the poem, where men are represented as beasts. Gower regards national distress as punishment for national sin, and he is particularly severe on the clergy; but he betrays no sympathy with the Lollards, and in his later Latin poem vehemently assails the sect. This, the so-called Tripartite Chroniele, is in leonine hexameters, and directed against the fallen Richard.
The Confessio Amantis was undoubtedly called forth by Chaucer's Legende of Goode Women. It is Gower and probable that Gower thought that here Chaucer. his friend was attempting something he could do very much better himself. The Legend*, it will be remembered, was the fruit of Chaucer's Latin period, and Gower had good reason to deem himself the finer scholar, while he was not yet convinced of his inferiority as a poet. Gower evidently regarded his contemporary with disapproval, perhaps even with some contempt. He advises him to cease writing on love-topics, as unbefitting a man of his years. This allusion provoked Chaucer's remarkable outburst in the Prologue of the Man of Lawes Tale, in which he retorts that he, at any rate, had not treated incestuous themes like "Canace" and "Apollonius of Tyre."
The fable, or, as it may perhaps be called, the setting, of the Confessio Amantis is taken from two sources. In the Romance of the Rose Jean de Meung had made Genius the chaplain and confessor of Nature. Gower makes Genius the priest of Venus, and Genius receives the confession of the lover. Hence the title of the book. But Gower owes something to Chaucer also. In the prologue of the Legende of Goode Women the God of Love appears, and is full of wrath with the poet, while good Queen Alceste intercedes for him. In tHe-.Confes.*io si mantis it is Venus who acts the part of mediator between her son and the lover. The confession covers a very wide field. Altogether there are about thirty thousand lines in the poem, and its multifarious content inr eludes dissertations on various branches of science and philosophy, as those terms were then understood. Clearly a work of this sort cannot be read through, and as "skipping" must be indulged in, the most sensible course is to peruse only the tales.
These tales are introduced nominally as cxempla,
though, in many instances, Gower ignores the true
moral and drags in an application which does
Antecedents. -hit- I
not tally; but that is one more reason why the context should be neglected. Gower borrows his stories, for the most part, from mediaeval Latin authors.1 He was, of course, familiar with the Gesta Romanorum and the Seven Wise Masters, versions of which had appeared in English; and he may have been influenced also by the attempt of an English Dominican, Thomas Walleys, about 1340, to "moralise" Ovid's Metamorphoses, as well as by the similar attempt of Chretien le Gouais, at the beginning of the century. The best of his stories is perhaps that of Florent, of which the source is unknown. It is roughly identical with the Wyf of Bathes Tale, and Chaucer, it may be surmised, felt the admirable style of the narration as a challenge. In general, Gower is not comparable to Chaucer. He is a great pedant, and at heart a monk. The Confessio Amantis,1 however, is of considerable importance as the first collection of "novels" in English, and it is highly probable that its publication assisted, even more than the Decameron, in determining the form of the Canterbury Tales.
1 Gower's Tale of the Coffers was based directly or indirectly on Barlaam and Jomphut. It is commonly regarded as derived from the Decameron (x. 1), or from Vincent de Beauvais' Speculum NUtoriaU, but these are points which cannot be determined with certainty. Not long before Jean de Condd had written his Dit dou Roi et des ffiermittes, of which the fundamental idea is the same; and it is superfluous to remind the reader of Shakespeare's caskets in the Merchant of Venice. As Barlaam and Jomphat was originally composed, about A.d. 800, in Greek, it will be seen that this was linguistically a well-travelled fable.
1 The Confessh Amantis is much in need of complete re-editing. Pauli'8 edition is not regarded as satisfactory.
TIME AND SPACE.
DINO COMPACKI—THE VILLANI—FKOI8SART—LOPEZ AYALA—RAMON MUNTANER—MARCO POLO—SIR JOHN MAUNDEVILLE.
It is a sign of the solidarity of European letters that you cannot talk about Chaucer without talking in the same breath about Boccaccio. In discussing the Canterbury Tales I have not quitted Boccaccio, and therefore cannot be said to return to him; but other comparisons render it necessary that I should take leave, at least for a spell, of Chaucer. From Boccaccio and his brother novelists, from Franco Sacchetti especially, to Dino and the Villani is but a step. Sacchetti paints his times, and so does Dino Compagni. The great difference between them is that Dino lived earlier, and did survive to witness the apotheosis of the novel—in his day a slight, unimportant class—under the hand of Boccaccio. He was forced to depend, therefore, on such patterns of Italian prose — rude chronicles, translations, treatises—as might then be had. But neither Sacchetti nor Compagni can be regarded strictly as professional writers. Both were men of affairs.
Dino's Chroniele of the Things that Happened in his Times, whether you consider it with reference An important to its external fortunes or in respect of controvert, ^ matter, has much the interest of a romance. The reputed author of an uninspired allegorical poem, the Intdligenzia, and of certain lyrics about which a similar verdict must be entered, Compagni figures in his own narrative as a Florentine of mark. Other historians do not convey quite this impression. Indeed, they are silent concerning him. Tor three or four centuries he was a lost name, a vanished memory. All at once, after this long oblivion, his fame began to grow, until now, among literary folk, he is one of the lares et penates of his native city. Not to know Dino Compagni argues yourself ignorant of an exciting and sanguinary controversy, the end of which is not yet.
The celebrity of the man is bound up with that of his chronicle, which, in 1640, underwent a resurrection. In that year its existence was notified by Federigo Ubaldini, but the MS. remained imprinted until the next century. In 1858 Pietro Fanfani sounded the signal for the fray by uttering in his review II Piowno Arlotta the ominous word "apocryphal." Dino found a champion in M. Hillebrand, who, in answer to Siguor Fanfani, published a book entitled Dino Compagni, itude historique et littiraire sur I'&poquc de Dante.1 A new assailant, however,
1 Paris, 1862.