Gower, John

born 1330?
died 1408, London?

English poet.

His works, in the tradition of courtly love and moral allegory, strongly influenced other poets of his day. His friend Geoffrey Chaucer called him "moral Gower." His Speculum meditantis (с 1374–78), written in French, is an allegorical work on vices and virtues. Vox clamantis (1385?), his major Latin poem, owes much to Ovid. His greatest work in English is the Confessio Amantis (begun с 1386), a long collection of exemplary tales of love.

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▪ English poet
born 1330?
died 1408, London?

      medieval English poet in the tradition of courtly love and moral allegory, whose reputation once matched that of his contemporary and friend Geoffrey Chaucer, and who strongly influenced the writing of other poets of his day. After the 16th century his popularity waned, and interest in him did not revive until the middle of the 20th century.

      It is thought from Gower's language that he was of Kentish origin, though his family may have come from Yorkshire, and he was clearly a man of some wealth. Allusions in his poetry and other documents, however, indicate that he knew London well and was probably a court official. At one point, he professed acquaintance with Richard II, and in 1399 he was granted two pipes (casks) of wine a year for life by Henry IV as a reward for complimentary references in one of his poems. In 1397, living as a layman in the priory of St. Mary Overie, Southwark, London, Gower married Agnes Groundolf, who survived him. In 1400 Gower described himself as “senex et cecus” (“old and blind”), and on Oct. 24, 1408, his will was proved; he left bequests to the Southwark priory, where he is buried.

      Gower's three major works are in French, English, and Latin, and he also wrote a series of French balades intended for the English court. The Speculum meditantis, or Mirour de l'omme, in French, is composed of 12-line stanzas and opens impressively with a description of the devil's marriage to the seven daughters of sin; continuing with the marriage of reason and the seven virtues, it ends with a searing examination of the sins of English society just before the Peasants' Revolt of 1381: the denunciatory tone is relieved at the very end by a long hymn to the Virgin.

      Gower's major Latin poem, the Vox clamantis, owes much to Ovid; it is essentially a homily, being in part a criticism of the three estates of society, in part a mirror for a prince, in elegiac form. The poet's political doctrines are traditional, but he uses the Latin language with fluency and elegance.

      Gower's English poems include In Praise of Peace, in which he pleads urgently with the king to avoid the horrors of war, but his greatest English work is the Confessio amantis, essentially a collection of exemplary tales of love, whereby Venus' priest, Genius, instructs the poet, Amans, in the art of both courtly and Christian love. The stories are chiefly adapted from classical and medieval sources and are told with a tenderness and the restrained narrative art that constitute Gower's main appeal today.

Additional Reading
Peter Nicholson (ed.), Gower's Confessio Amantis: A Critical Anthology (1991); R.F. Yeager, John Gower's Poetic: The Search for a New Arion (1990); Peter Nicholson, Love & Ethics in Gower's Confessio Amantis (2005).

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Gower, John — • Poet; born between 1327 1330, probably in Kent; died October, 1408 Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006. Gower, John     John Gower …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Gower, John — (ca. 1330–1408)    John Gower was a friend and contemporary of fellow poet Geoffrey CHAUCER. He enjoyed a literary reputation second only to Chaucer’s in his own lifetime and throughout the 15th century, and Shakespeare himself borrowed the plot… …   Encyclopedia of medieval literature

  • Gower, John — (?1325 1408)    The facts of this medieval poet s life are derived mainly from his poetry. He is thought to have owned land in Kent and in Yorkshire. He was blind from around 1400. He lived the latter part of his life as a layman in the priory of …   British and Irish poets

  • Gower, John — (1325? 1408)    Poet. Although few details of his life have come down to us, he appears to have been a man of wealth and importance, connected with Kent, well known at Court, and in possession of more than one estate. He was the friend of Chaucer …   Short biographical dictionary of English literature

  • Gower,John — Gow·er (gouʹər, gôrʹ, gōrʹ), John. 1325? 1408. English poet who wrote allegorical, didactic works, such as Vox Clamantis (1382? 1384), in Latin, French, and English. * * * …   Universalium

  • Gower, John — ► (1325? 1408) Poeta inglés. Escribió en francés Espejo del hombre y en inglés Confesión de un amante …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • GOWER, JOHN —    an English poet, contemporary and friend of Chaucer, but of an older school; was the author of three works: Speculum Meditantis, the Thinker s Mirror, written in French, lost for long, but recovered lately; Vox Clamantis, the Voice of One… …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

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  • John Leveson-Gower, 1. Earl Gower — PC (* 10. August 1694; † 25. Dezember 1754) war ein britischer Politiker der Tories, sowie der erste Tory, der im 18. Jahrhundert in die Regierung gelangte. Dort war er Lordsiegelbewahrer[1]. Er war …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • John Gower —     John Gower     † Catholic Encyclopedia ► John Gower     Poet; born between 1327 1330, probably in Kent; died October, 1408. He was of gentle blood and well connected. He may have been a merchant in London, but this cannot be authoritatively… …   Catholic encyclopedia

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