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and annually celebrated in the month of May. She published an edict, which assembled all the poets of France in artificial arbours dressed with flowers : and he that produced the best poem was rewarded with a violet of gold. There were likewise inferior prizes of flowers made in silver. In the mean time the conquerors were crowned with natural chaplets of their own respective flowers. During the ceremony, degrees were also conferred. He who had won a prize three times was created a doctor en gaye Science, the name of the poetry of the Provencial troubadours. The instrument of creation was in verseo. This institution, however fantastic, soon became common through the whole kingdom of France: and these romantic rewards, distributed with the most impartial attention to merit, at least infused an useful emulation, and in some measure revived the languishing genius of the French poetry.
The French and Italian poets, whom Chaucer imitates, abound in allegorical personages: and it is remarkable, that the early poets of Greece and Rome were fond of these creations. Homer has given us, STRIFE, CONTENTION, FEAR, TERROR, TUMULT, DESIRE, PERSUASION, and BENEVOLENCE. We have in Hesiod, DARKNESS, and many others if the Shield of Hercules be of his hand. Comus occurs in the Agamemnon of Eschylus; and in the Prometheus of the same poet, STRENGTH and FORCE are two persons of the drama, and perform the capital parts. The fragments of Ennius indicate, that his poetry consisted much of personifications. He says, that in one of the Carthaginian wars, the gigantic image of SORROW appeared in every place: “Omnibus endo locis ingens apparet imago Tristitias.” Lucretius has drawn the great and terrible figure of SUPERSTITION, “Quæ caput e cæli regionibus ostendebat.” He also mentions, in a beautiful procession of the Seasons, CALOR ARIDUS, HYEMS, and Algus. He introduces Medicine muttering with silent fear, in the midst of the deadly pestilence at Athens. It seems to have escaped the many critics who have written on Milton's noble but romantic
Recherches sur les poctes couronnez, Mem. Lit. tom. x. p. 567. 4to.
allegory of Sin and Death, that he took the person of Death from the Alcestis of his favorite tragedian, Euripides, where BANATOS is a principal agent in the drama. As knowledge and learning increase, poetry begins to deal less in imagination: and these fantastic beings give way to real manners and living characters.
IF Chaucer had not existed, the compositions of John Gower, the next poet in succession, would alone have been sufficient to rescue the reigns of Edward the Third and Richard the Second from the imputation of barbarism. His education was liberal and uncircumscribed, his course of reading extensive, and he tempered his severer studies with a knowledge of life. By a critical cultivation of his native language, he laboured to reform its irregularities, and to establish an English style. In these respects he resembled his friend and cotemporary Chaucerb: but he participated no considerable portion of Chaucer's spirit, imagination, and elegance. His language is tolerably perspicuous, and his versification often harmonious: but his poetry is of a grave and sententious turn. He has much good sense, solid reflection, and useful observation. But he is serious and didactic on all occasions: he preserves the tone of the scholar and the moralist on the most lively topics. For this reason he seems to have been characterised by Chaucer with the appellation of the MORALL Gowers. But his talent is not confined to English verse only. He wrote also in Latin; and 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.
Gower's capital work, consisting of three parts, only the last of which properly furnishes matter for our present inquiry, is
* See supra, pag. 177. line 19. Chaucer died October 25, 1400, aged • It is certain that they both lived and 72 years.
Gower died, 1402. wrote together. But I have considered Troil. Cress. ad calc. pag. 333. edit. Chaucer first, among other reasons here- Urr. ut supr. after given, as Gower survived him. VOL. II.
entitled SPECULUM MEDITANTIS, Vox CLAMANTIS, CONFESSIO Amantis. It was finished, at least the third part, in the year 13934. The SPECULUM MEDITANTIS, or the Mirrour of Metitation, is written in French rhymes, in ten books. This tract, which was never printed, displays the general nature of virtue and vice, enumerates the felicities of conjugal fidelity by examples selected from various authors, and describes the path which the reprobate ought to pursue for the recovery of the divine grace. The Vox Clamantis, or the Voice of one crying in the Wilderness, which was also never printed, contains seven books of Latin elegiacs. This work is chiefly historical, and is little more than a metrical chronicle of the insurrection of the Commons in the reign of king Richard the Second. The best and most beautiful manuscript of it is in the library of All Souls college at Oxford; with a dedication in Latin verse, addressed by the author, when he was old and blind, to archbishop Arundel. The Confessio AMANTIS, or the Lover's Confession, is an English poem, in eight books, first printed by Caxton, in the year 1483. It was written at the command of Richard the Second; who, meeting our poet Gower rowing on the Thames near London, invited him into the royal barge, and after much conversation requested him to book some new things.
This tripartite work is represented by three volumes on
d Confess. ANANT. Prol. fol. 1. a. poem or balade, by the same author.-col. 1. Imprinted at London, in Flete- Ellis.) strete, by Thomas Berthelette, the xii. MSS. Num. 26. It occurs more daie of March, ann. 1554. folio. This than once in the Bodleian library; and, edition is here always cited.
I believe, often in private hands. There © Bibl. Bodl. MSS. Bodl.NE. F.8.9. is a fine manuscript of it in the British And MSS. Fairf. 3. (Gower's Specu- Museum. It was written in the year lum Meditantis has never, I believe, been 1397, as appears by the following line, seen by any of our poetical antiquaries; MSS. Bodl. 294. nor does it exist in the Bodleian Library. Campbell, the author of Gower's article Hos ego bis DENO Ricardi regis in anno. in the Biographia Brit., and Warton, who profess to give an account of its contents, tion. From the Prologue. See supra,
& TO THE REDER, in Berthelette's ediwere deceived by the ambiguity of a reference in Tanner; and, instead of the p. 174. Note', line 3, col. a. work in question, describe a much shorter
Gower's curious tomb in the conventual church of Saint Mary Overee in Southwark, now remaining in its antient state; and this circumstance furnishes me with an obvious opportunity of adding an anecdote relating to our poet's munificence and piety, which ought not to be omitted. Although a poet, he largely contributed to rebuild that church in its present elegant form, and to render it a beautiful pattern of the lighter Gothic architecture: at the same time he founded, at his tomb, a perpetual chantry.
It is on the last of these pieces, the ConfessIO AMANTIS, that Gower's character and reputation as a poet are almost entirely founded. This poem, which bears no immediate reference to the other two divisions, is a dialogue between a lover and his confessor, who is a priest of Venus, and, like the mystagogue in the Picture of Cebes, is called Genius. Here, as if it had been impossible for a lover not to be a good Catholic, the ritual of religion is applied to the tender passion, and Ovid's Art of Love is blended with the breviary. In the course of the confession, every evil affection of the human heart, which
progress or counteract the success of love, is scientifically subdivided; and its fatal effects exemplified by a variety of apposite stories, extracted from classics and chronicles. The poet often introduces or recapitulates his matter in a few couplets of Latin long and short verses. This was in imitation of Boethius.
This poem is strongly tinctured with those pedantic affectations concerning the passion of love, which the French and Italian poets of the fourteenth century borrowed from the troubadours of Provence, and which I have above examined at large. But the writer's particular model appears more immediately to have been John of Meun's celebrated ROMAUNT DÉ LA Rose. He has, however, seldom attempted to imitate the picturesque imageries, and expressive personifications, of that exquisite allegory. His most striking pourtraits, which yet are conceived with no powers of creation, nor delineated