The Parlement of Foules: An Interpretation

By J. A. W. Bennett | Go to book overview

Prologue

Who was hier in philosophie To Aristotle in our tonge but thou!

HOCCLEVE, Lament for Chaucer

CONJECTURE about the poem that Chaucer called 'the book of seint Valentynes day of the Parlement of Briddes' and that copyists labelled tractatus de congregacione volucrum, or "'The Temple of Bras'", bulks large in the lumber of learned articles and theses piled up in half a century of Chaucer- Forschungen and university expansion. For some four hundred years the poem, though included in all editions of Chaucer pretending to completeness, received little attention save from poets or plagiarists. Thus Lydgate, Chaucer's most diligent disciple, owed to it the conceit in the presentation-verses that he sent with an eagle to Henry VI and Katherine his mother, 'sittyng at the mete vpon the yeris day in the Castell of Hertford':

This foole with briddes hathe holde his parlement Whereas the lady which is called Nature Sate in hir see, lyche a presydent, And alle, yche oon, they dyd hir besy cure To sende to yowe good happe, good aventure;1

By 1550 Chaucer's title had been borrowed for a poem2 and a play;3 and T. Howells adapts several lines of the work itself in his Devises, 1581. But Thomas Tyrwhitt, that

____________________
1
Minor Poems, E.E.T.S. (o.s.), 192, p. 649. He refers directly to the poem in his Falls of Princes, ll. 311-15.
2
v. S.T.C. 19304.
3

Bishop Gardiner forbade 'the players of london, as it was tolde me, to play any mo playes of Christe, but of robin hode and litle Johan, and of the

-1-

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The Parlement of Foules: An Interpretation
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents vii
  • List of Plates ix
  • Prologue 1
  • Chapter I - The Proem 25
  • Chapter II - Park of Paradise and Garden of Love 62
  • Chapter III - Nature and Venus 107
  • Chapter IV - Love's Meinie 134
  • Envoy 181
  • Appendix - Natura, Nature, and Kind 194
  • Bibliographical Note 213
  • Index 215
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