The Parlement of Foules: An Interpretation

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

APPENDIX
Natura, Nature, and Kind

THE appearances of Nature as a personified figure in Latin literature have been carefully listed by E. C. Knowlton,1 and illuminatingly discussed by C. S. Lewis.2 For the present purpose we need only mention that already in Cicero (who discusses the use of the word by other philosophers in De Natura Deorum, II. xxxii) she is opifex callida (ibid. lvii), endowing man with reason ( De Finibus, II. xiv); that Statius briefly but pregnantly describes her as princeps et creatrix ( Thebaid, xi. 466), suggesting that there is some-

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1
J.E.G.P., xix ( 1920), pp. 224 ff. ('The Goddess Nature in Early Periods').
2
The Allegory of Love, pp. 54, 55, 77. Cf. E. R. Curtius, European Literature in the Latin Middle Ages, pp. 100 ff., and Medium Ævum, xxv ( 1956), p. 134). The subject of Natura in medieval literature and thought demands a monograph; this Appendix can do no more than refer to works that may have a bearing on the Parlement.

It is worth noting that in Lucretius Venus has the major role that later poets were to give to Nature: she is 'alma' ('increase-giving'), and 'rerum naturam sola gubernans' ( i. 2, 21). He never invokes 'Natura', though the actions of Nature are treated as though they were human (e.g. ii. 17 f.); at ii. 167 he discusses the view that the gods had ordained Natura and the arts of Venus, 'ne genus occidat humanum', but only to refute it. The hypothetical personification of rerum natura ( iii. 931 ff.) does not concern us.

Ovid's 'Hanc deus et melior litem natura diremit' ( Met. i. 21), where God and Nature seem to be identical, has a Stoic flavour; it refers to the conflict in Chaos of hot and cold, wet and dry, soft and hard, heavy and light, for which cf. Parlement, l. 380.

For Pliny's description of Nature as 'patens rerum omnium' ( xxvii, ad fin.), &c., v. de Lage, op. cit. below, p. 74, n. 177. Cudworth was to develop Cicero's notion of Nature as 'the manuary opificer of the Divine architectonical art' in his True Intellectual System of the Universe ( 1678), c. iii.

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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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