The "Strophe d'Hélinand" and John Gower.

Yeager, Robert F.

The "Strophe d'Hélinand" and John Gower.

Yeager, Robert F. "The 'Strophe d'Hélinand' and John Gower." Cahiers de recherches médiévales et humanistes / Journal of Medieval and Humanistic Studies 36, no 2 (2018): 115-33. ISSN: 2115-6360

The complex twelve-line stanza form or strophe of Mirour de l'Omme (aabaabbbabba) is acknowledged to be modeled on that of Hélinand de Froidmont's "Vers de al Mort," a poem to which Gower refers and quotes briefly in MO. Breaking new ground, Yeager argues that the poem is one Gower knew well, "in full, not in excerpt" (132), probably from a yet-to-be-discovered manuscript of Cistercian origin. According to Yeager, Gower's very choice to write MO in French, despite the official discouragement of French in the Statute of Pleading, had much to do with the "Mort," since the poem and its verse form "retained synonymity" in late fourteenth-century England with the "moral urgency of repentance and redirection of living" (133), a synonymity established by Yeager's commentary on the two other "known English examples" (121) of excerpts from the "Mort"--Oxford, Bodleian Library, Digby MS 86 and Maidstone (Kent) Museum MS A.1. However, Yeager argues, Gower "pushes far past" (121) these other two examples, using Hélinand's poem as his "guiding principle" (122) in formulating MO, exploring and developing shared themes and techniques, particularly Holy Fear and the rhetorical dimensions of strophe clustering, direct speech, and indirect speech. Yeager acknowledges as a matter of course the vital importance of other source material in MO, especially Frère Laurent's "Somme le Roi," but he demonstrates that Gower adopted and adapted the "distinctive, arresting poetic 'voice'" (126) of Hélinand's poem and its powerful strophe in creating his own French masterpiece. [MA. Copyright. The John Gower Society. eJGN 38.1.]


Gower Subjects
Mirour de l’Omme (Speculum Meditantis)
Sources, Analogues, and Literary Relations
Style and Versification