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  • Print publication year: 2014
  • Online publication date: August 2014

9 - Gower's Second Cursus

from III - The Classical Tradition
  • Edited by Ana Sáez-Hidalgo, Associate Professor at the University of Valladolid, Spain, R. F. Yeager, Professor of English and World Languages and chair of the department at the University of West Florida
  • Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
  • pp 141-152


Venus's dismissal of John Gower at the end of the Confessio Amantis ostensibly represents the end of his dual career as a lover and an author. Freed from his “trance” (CA VIII.2813) and shocked into recognition by the mirror rendering an accurate “liknesse of miselve” (CA VIII.2437), the poet receives a rosary of black beads with the gold inscription “Por reposer” (CA VIII.2907) and a new commission, to seek and pray for peace. This scene is echoed in the Confessio's explicit, literally the final words, in which the poet's book is sent to find lasting repose under the earl of Derby: sub eo requiesce futurus. Other elements of the poem, however, belie this sense of closure. Venus directs Gower not just to erotic and poetic retirement but to his own works: “But go ther vertu moral duelleth, | where ben thi bokes, as men telleth, | Which of long time thou has write” (CA VIII.2925–27). His literary destination is the Mirour de l'Omme and the Vox Clamantis, works that treat ethics, have found an audience influential enough to be proverbial (“as men telleth”), and were written “of long time” – both in the authoritative past and through a long process of composition and conceptual development.