Bohemian Gower: "Confessio Amantis," Queen Anne, and Machaut's Judgment Poems.

Burke, Linda.

Bohemian Gower: "Confessio Amantis," Queen Anne, and Machaut's Judgment Poems.

Burke, Linda. "Bohemian Gower: 'Confessio Amantis,' Queen Anne, and Machaut's Judgment Poems." In R. Barton Palmer and Burt Kimmelman, eds. Machaut's Legacy: The Judgment Poetry Tradition in the Later Middle Ages and Beyond. Ed. R. Barton Palmer and Burt Kimmelman. (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2017), p. 192-216.

Burke begins with the evidence that CA and Chaucer's "Legend of Good Women" originated with the same commission, from Anne of Bohemia, first wife of Richard II. Machaut's "Jugement dou roi de Navarre" is a recognized "paradigm" for LGW, and Burke sees CA as well both as a "creative reworking of the 'Navarre'" (195) and as a poem heavily marked by Anne's influence. The evidence for Anne's role is found not just in the similarity to LGW. She is not mentioned explicitly, but Burke notes that contemporary allusions to female patrons were "more likely to be coded" (196). The clearest allusion to Anne occurs in VIII.2470-75, beginning "The newe guise of Beauwme was there, / With sondri thinges wel devised." The "thinges" Burke takes as a possible reference to Machaut's "dits," noting that three of Anne's own relatives served as patrons to Machaut, and also that two others were both patrons of and putative collaborators with Froissart and that her family also included several other women who were prominent in the cultivation of the arts. Anne stepped into the same role upon her arrival in England, Burke suggests, quickly learning English, as evidenced by not only Chaucer's dedication of LGW but also Clanvowe's in his "Book of Cupid." Anne's presence in CA is felt in the prominence given to exemplary women, beginning with the reference to "Carmentis" in the Latin verses that head the Prologue and including the many tales of women who were virtuous in love and those who serve as examples of wise "wifely counsel." (Burke also detects an interesting "topical edge" in the "Tale of Albinus and Rosemund," which "implicitly recalls" the death of Anne's grandfather, John of Bohemia, at the hands of her late father-in-law, the Black Prince, at the battle of Crécy.) In their choice of many similar examples, Gower and Machaut both engage with the tradition of clerical misogyny, but in ways that reveal important differences between CA and "Navarre." Machaut, in defending his own earlier work, gives voice to the views that his poem finally opposes, while Gower merely takes women's virtues for granted, and unlike both Machaut and Chaucer, has no need to depict himself as defending women only "in deference to an authority beyond his control" (205). And where Machaut's poem ends with a judgment against the poet and the imposition of a penance in the form of new poems, Gower's persona is released from his subjection to love and reverts to his earlier style of writing. In doing so, he leaves writing of love to "him which hath of love his make" (*VIII.3078), suggesting that "yes, the 'Confessio' was originally created as a love poem to honor the great love between [Richard and Anne]. Beyond that, Gower expressed his expectation that further 'songes' and 'seyinges,' literary creations, will arise from their royal partnership" (207). [PN. Copyright. John Gower Society, eJGN 37.1].


Gower Subjects
Confessio Amantis
Sources, Analogues, and Literary Relations