'Moral Gower', as Chaucer called him, is most famous for his masterly use of three languages (Latin, French and English). In each language he wrote one major work criticising the political and social conditions of his time, most notably the English Confessio Amantis (c.1390), 33,000 lines of a lover's confession to Genius, the priest of Venus. Among his shorter poems are the Anglo-Norman Cinkante Balades (before 1374) and the English In Praise of Peace, dedicated to Henry IV.
John Gower, born the son of a rich Yorkshire family, lived in Kent throughout the first half of his life. From 1377 onwards he lived at the priory of St. Mary Overie's in Southwark. At the age of 70 he went blind. He was a benefactor to the priory and was buried in its church (today: St. Saviour's). He was known at court, he knew Richard II personally and was a friend of Chaucer, who dedicated his Troilus and Criseyde to him.
Aside from Confessio Amantis, his best-known works are the Mirour de l'Omme, an allegory of about 32,000 lines in French about fallen man, his virtues and vices; the Vox Clamantis (c.1379-81) of 10,265 lines in Latin dealing with politics and kingship, especially the early reign of Richard II and the Peasants' Revolt of 1381.
In Shakespeare's Pericles, the much admired Gower appears as the chorus.
|Literature, Middle English Period, Poetry|