Gower, John

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Gower, John

John Gower (gou´ər, gôr), 1330?–1408, English poet. He was the best-known contemporary and friend of Chaucer, who addressed him as "Moral Gower," at the end of Troilus and Criseyde. Apparently he was a Kentish landowner who lived in London until his last years, when he became blind and retired as a layman to the priory of St. Mary Overey. In the 15th and 16th cent. Gower was frequently paired with Chaucer as a master of English poetry. Each of his three major works, characterized by metrical smoothness and serious moral criticism, was written in a different language. Speculum Meditantis (or Miroir de l'omme, 28,603 French octosyllabic lines, written before 1381) is an allegorical manual of the vices and virtues; Vox Clamantis (10,265 Latin elegiac verses, written c.1381) expresses horror at the Peasants' Revolt led by Wat Tyler and goes on to condemn the baseness of all classes of society; Confessio Amantis, Gower's masterpiece (c.34,000 English lines, written c.1390) is a collection of stories that illustrate the Seven Deadly Sins. Among his minor works are Cinkante Ballades, which are love poems in French, and In Praise of Peace, a poem in English.

See his complete works (ed. by G. C. Macaulay, 4 vol., 1899–1902); selections, ed. by R. A. Peck (1968); studies by J. H. Fisher (1964) and R. A. Peck (1978); bibliography by R. F. Yeager (1981).

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