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Gower's public outcry.

The poetic voice of John Gower's Vox Clamantis is steeped in history. Its literary and biblical allusiveness combines with a sense of contemporary urgency to suggest the possibility for individual and communal reform in the midst of a crisis of authority in late fourteenth-century England. Speaking to those in positions of power and influence, the Vox adopts several rhetorical poses to hold individuals accountable to the compunction of their own consciences for failing to maintain order in the body politic. Looking to the past, the poet borrows verses from the Bible and from classical and medieval Latin texts to supply at least thirteen percent of what became the complete 10,000-line work. (1) This ancient erudition is mapped onto the outcry of a current John the Baptist, who, like his biblical prophet counterpart, urges his audience to repent of their sins. In the estates satire that comprises the bulk of the poem, Vox 2-7, Gower records the social and moral deficiencies of each segment of the polity. At key moments in this section, he not only speaks as a singular prophet and a learned messenger but also claims the universal voice of a common, sometimes divinely inspired, people, a contentious rhetorical category that demands close attention. The matrix of poetic voicing suppresses authorial originality and asserts a public complaint mindful of the past but alert to the challenges of the times. (2)

More so than Gowers complicated handling of authorial rhetoric, however, his vivid depiction of the voices of the rebellious commons of 1381 in Vox 1 has continued to draw critical attention. Vox 1, the book Gower added shortly after the uprising as a preface to what was likely a nearly complete estates satire, comprises a prophetic dream allegory in which the poet-dreamer witnesses the 1381 rebels transform into cacophonous, untamed, and thus unreasonable beasts before they storm the city of London. Here, the bold but inarticulate voices of the rebels contrast with the voice of the poet, as yet a reluctant prophet, who grows in confidence to decry social sins only after he hears a celestial voice authorize him to do so. Nowhere in Vox 1 does Gower cite the voice of the people as his source of authority.

This essay addresses the apparent inconsistency of voicing in Vox 1 and Vox 2-7. I propose that the poem's polyvocality contributes to a coherent ethical-political intervention in which Gower replicates the absence of authority in late medieval England and urges remorse among the upper and middle strata who have relinquished their responsibilities as members of the social body. The vox populi, plebis vox, and, once, the expression of the vulgus to which books 2-7 appeal ought to be the collective conscience of the English polity; however, even before 1381, they are aphonic sources of authority that speak but do not adequately sound. Through the interplay of the vox populi and its variants with prophetic and learned authorial poses, Gower enjoins readers to perform the self-accusal the poem likewise enacts. In the added book 1, he demonstrates this process in his own person. Thus, I argue that Vox 1, long distinguished from the other books as the Visio Angliae or Visio, functions not merely as a critique of the 1381 rebels but also as an exemplum of the failures of political community and of the self-reproval necessary to restore the resonance of the public voice. (3)

My reading takes as its point of departure the authorial control over texts that fuelled so much of the antagonism of 1381 and subsequently has prompted critical efforts to recover rebels' actions, motives, and voices in the surviving records. It is now widely accepted that monastic chroniclers denied the articulateness, even the humanity, of the commons who participated in the uprising in order to discredit and suppress rebels' attempts to claim certain rights through their selective destruction and appropriation of written documents. In his important study of rebel literacy, Steven Justice has situated Gower's Vox Clamantis in this context, showing that Vox 1 "erases any trace of verbal performance on the part of the rebels" and thereby rescues the public voice of the subsequent books. (4) Others have shown that the portrayal of the rebels as inarticulate animals appears to serve in conjunction with the poem's Latinity to invalidate competing voices and authorize Gower's ability to speak with a common voice. (5)

I take up Gower's authorizing rhetoric to revise our understanding of the relationship among the books of the poem and their use of voice. What remains understated in many readings of the Vox, including those that focus on the potent literary depiction of the uprising more than on the traditional estates satire, is the effect of books 2-7, which follow the Visio in the revised text and thus continue to engage with the common voice that had become so problematic in 1381. It is certainly possible that Gower could have removed references to the common people, as Langland's post-1381 C-text of Piers Plowman does, but there is no manuscript evidence to suggest that Gower diluted the authority of the people in Vox 2-7 after the uprising. (6) I propose that the Vox maintains its references to the people because they are already a troubled source of authority in what was likely the pre-1381 text. By analyzing Gowers popular voice in relation to other assertions of narrative authority, we may see that the Vox sustains a sense of rhetorical instability both before and after 1381 and demonstrates the process of self-reflection amid contemporary discord. Gower neither resolves the uncertainty of the rebellion's unruly voices nor legitimizes the current ruling classes as "the only possible form of order," (7) but instead legitimizes the need for individual and communal reform through such uncertainty.


If, as scholars have shown, the voices of 1381 pose a challenge to the Vox's social criticisms, nevertheless, so too Gower's authorial voicing contributes to a contentious outcry. Gower specifies at the end of book 7 that the poem's vox is an intentional source of vexation; it makes bold allegations under the guise of condemning only blameworthy figures for the harm they have done to the body politic.
   Quern sua mens mordet, de voce sit ille remorsus,
   Curet vt in melius que tulit egra prius ...
   Non tamen in specie quemquam de pondere culpe
   Accuso, set eo se probet intus homo ...
   Ergo suam culpam contrito corde, priusquam
   Consumpti simus, corrigat ipse malus.
   (7.25.1449-50, 1457-58, 1465-66) (8)

   [Repent, he who is disturbed by this voice,
   To better tend to the troubles he bore ...
   Yet not one man do 1 burden with guilt
   Save that he examine his own conscience ...
   Thus, let the sinful man amend his fault
   With contrite heart, before we are destroyed.]

Gower urges readers to assess their varied culpability in the contemporary state of disorder and to contribute to the process of communal reform. The call for self-reflection is a calculated rhetorical move. It allows the poet to appear impartial, but the standard of judgment it imparts on the audience is the remorse that comes with the sting of the poet's vox: de voce sit ille remorsus. Whoever is troubled by this voice ought to feel the prick of his own conscience.

The troubling nature of the poem's charges speaks for itself. Vox 2-7's social critique finds fault with each of the three traditional estates as well as the middling classes for corrupting the current age, but the principal targets of rebuke are those with authority and influence in ecclesiastical, political, and professional circles who fail to live up to their obligations. Gower appeals directly to priests, mendicants, knights, judges, lawyers, sheriffs, a nameless mayor, and the king: those who bear responsibility for social and moral order in the traditional hierarchy of estates. Not all objects of direct address would have been among the poem's actual readers, but they do suggest how Gower constructed the public import of his work, particularly its civic potential, among those who could read the text's Latin or had access to those who did. (9) Real and imagined readers, both clerics and laymen, could initiate reforms without subverting the traditional power structure; but first they had to reform themselves. (10) Even the fault Gower attributes to the lower orders, the desire for powers and privileges incongruous with their estate, manifests the deficiency of ecclesiastical and lay leadership. Vox 1's nightmarish dream vision of the 1381 Rising not only depicts the rebels as inarticulate animals when they invade London but also presents the city's probi homines as either unable or unwilling to resist them.

The tropes of narrative authority that comprise the poem's inner voices of self-reflection underscore the absence of virtuous leadership in contemporary society and mirror the instability that results from the deficiency of a fractured body politic. The claim to authority that would be most troubling to elites is found only in the books that critique the social estates: the invocation of a common, divinely inspired vox populi, plebis vox, and vulgus. In Vox 2-7, Gower invokes a "voice of the people" more than a dozen times at moments when he addresses the religious orders, lay ministers of justice, and the king, as well as in the conclusion to the poem. It is a voice that laments ("plangit"; 3.Prol. (55)) and shouts ("clamat"; 6.1.15); and it appears to represent the collective concerns of all people: "Non erit in dubio mea vox damans, erit omnis / Namque fides huius maxima vocis homo" [My outcry will not be in doubt, for every / man will be this voice's great guarantor; 3.Prol.79-80], For those to whom Gower explicitly directs this voice, the people represent an external, unified, and contemporary source of critique. However, the unanimity of this voice is undercut by the very social strains the poem attempts to overcome. Tensions over what it means to constitute a functional polity are revealed in the multivalence of terms Gower uses for the people: populus, which may signify collectivity in a neutral sense, and plebs and vulgus, which may denote the commons but in certain contexts also condemn the masses as a mob. As we will see, the poem's concern with the different valences of these words is not to harmonize them but to exploit their dissonance as a reflection of contemporary disorder. The voice of the people complicates the other layers of voicing: assertions of both a prophetic and a bookish authority, at times overt and at times implicit in the complete work, as well as the voice of a singular dreamer and the voices of the 1381 rebels in Vox 1. Each expression of voice contributes to the process in which Gower invites and models an examination of conscience.


In what follows, I will analyze the layers of voicing first in Vox 2-7 and later in Vox 1 to show that the Visio becomes a means, not of rescue, but of amplification of an explicitly troublesome outcry. In the absence of manuscript evidence for the pre-1381 poem--the five surviving fourteenth-century manuscripts include all of Vox 1--I base my analysis on the evidence that has led to critical consensus on the poem's revisions. (11) Vox 2-7 make no explicit mention of the 1381 Rising. Scholars thus agree that Gower composed these books in the early years of Richard II's reign, approximately between 1377 and 1381; that he added Vox 1 shortly after the Rising; and that he continued to revise passages to reflect disillusionment with Richard II later in his reign. (12) suggest that the placement of Vox 1 as a prefatory book to the estates satire, not an epilogue, sets the course for how to read the poem in its revised historical context and that the subsequent books remain relevant to post-revolt society.

The stinging outcry of Vox 2-7 cuts two ways. Voiced metaphors claim authority while also calling attention to the very crisis of authority that necessitates the poem. Gower cannot speak as a lone critic in books 2-7 without inviting the charge that he harbors a personal bias against elites for whom he reserves the most criticism. Notably, the rustic commons receive the least attention in just two short chapters, Vox 5.9-10, for neglecting the duties of their social station. The brief survey of peasant faults heightens Gowers focus on the other estates he believes should effectively promote reform. Directed at clerics and laymen in positions of power and influence, the authorial poses of a contemporary mouthpiece for God, a compiler of the many mouths and tongues of prior Latin texts, and a voice of the people rhetorically enhance the validity of the poem's complaints. Together, they harness the power of a communal outcry.

The poem's communal authority likewise manifests the troubled state of leadership in the late fourteenth-century English polity. The poet speaks because those who should lead by example in the traditional social hierarchy are either unable or unwilling to do so. In Vox 2, which was likely the original preface to the work, Gower asserts that many (plures; 2.1.37) wonder why contemporary conditions have deteriorated, but no one accepts responsibility. He goes on to rebuke secular leadership for heeding youthful, improvident voices rather than the voice of time-tested wisdom. (13) The denunciation of youthful folly contributes to Gower's critique of government as a "puerile regimen" during Richard Us minority (6.7.555-56 *). (14) The Crowns weakness imperils the people; for as goes the king so go his subjects: the people perish for their kings sins ("Propter peccatum regis populi perierunt"; 6.7.501).

The critique of authority does not stop at the youth or ineptitude of the Crown. Instead, it finds a moral void throughout religious as well as secular leadership. The nearly 3,400 lines that comprise Vox 3 and 4, the longest section devoted to a single estate, condemn greed and worldliness among the various religious orders and lament the confusion of the papal schism that began in 1378. (15) Vox 5 and 6 deplore aristocratic vanity; fraudulence among the urban commons; and injustices perpetrated by various ministers of the law. The widespread state of moral decay belies the fiction of communal authority that underwrites Gower's work.

The poem's voices thus assume a muted sense of moral authority indicative of current social conditions. The primary model of authority is John the Baptist, the vox clamantis in deserto to whom the poem's title refers (Mark 1:1-3). (16) Ultimately founded upon Isaiah 40:1-9 and 57:14, the prophetic voice is a mouthpiece for God who speaks to the heart of Jerusalem and removes the stumbling blocks from a wayward people. The biblical paradigm combines the chief elements of the poem's layered voices, the oral immediacy of a voice crying out and the textual gravity of ancient scripture that anticipates impending doom. (17) The Baptist analogue provides a model for denouncing modern-day Herods as well as for preaching general repentance through the implicit authority of divine intervention. However, there is more than something biblically prophetic at work in the poem's critique. The headnote to Vox 2's prologue attributes the poem to a universal voice and clamor "quasi omnium conceptus est" [as if of everyone; 2.Prol.Rubric]. This claim to universality, not the particularity of a divinely inspired prophet, defines the prevailing voice of the subsequent books. Although Gower asks God for prophetic authority to speak in an opening prayer--"Vt volo, sic verbum det deus ergo meum" [As I wish, so may God thus grant my words; 2.Prol.74]--in the remaining books, he complicates the divine influence as he cites other, temporal sources whose connection to the voice of God is not always reliable.

The juxtaposition of authorial tropes unsettles the potency of the collective conscience they comprise even as they speak severally to the Vox's readership. A pervasive bookish authority addresses the clerical and lay readers who could identify the Classical and Medieval Latin sources that supply so many of the poem's verses. Gower draws on several Ovidian texts, as well as twelfth-century Latin works that remained popular in the later Middle Ages. (18) Rarely does he name his sources, but he interweaves them along with biblical allusions throughout the Vox. (19) Only early in Vox 2 does he refer to this literary strategy:
   Non tamen ex propriis dicam que verba sequntur,
   Set velut instructus nuncius illa fero.
   Lectus vt est variis florum de germine fauus,
   Lectaque diuerso litore concha venit,
   Sic michi diuersa tribuerunt hoc opus ora,
   Et visus varii sunt michi causa libri:
   Doctorum veterum mea carmina fortificando
   Pluribus exemplis scripta fuisse reor.

   [Not my own words shall I speak hereafter,
   I report as an informed messenger.
   As honey is gathered from varied blooms,
   And the shell is drawn from a remote shore,
   So many mouths impart this work to me,
   And various visions are my book's source:
   My songs are fortified by men of old,
   I wrote them from many examples.]

Like the prophetic voice, the many mouths to which Gower credits his work combine a sense of oral immediacy and textual gravity. The poet figures himself a compiler of a variety of sources for experienced readers to parse.

The voice of the people rivals the literary claim to authority, because it adds a self-conscious, contemporary, oral source of wisdom. Gower cites this voice when he enumerates the flaws of each estate and disavows his individual perspective:
   Non ego personas culpabo, set increpo culpas,
   Quas in personis cernimus esse reas.
   A me non ipso loquor hec, set que michi plebis
   Vox dedit, et sortem plangit vbique malam:
   Vt loquitur vulgus loquor, et scribendo loquelam
   Plango, quod est sanctus nullus vt ante status.

   [Not individuals shall I rebuke
   But the blameworthy faults we see in them.
   Not of myself, I speak these things, but [I speak] what
   The common people's voice has given me,
   And everywhere it grieves their evil fate;
   I speak as does the public, I lament
   In writing the words, namely no estate
   Is inviolable as it once was.]

This stanza is the first time in the body of the social critique that Gower claims rhetorical authority through the people, identified here as plebs and vulgus. These terms imply a plebeian voice that speaks truths to those in positions of authority, here to wayward clerics. Elsewhere, Gower uses the less stratified populus to make the same claim to monks:
   Sic qui presumunt facies laruare sub vmbra
   Ordinis, et mundi crimina subtus agunt,
   Talibus ipse mea fero scripta, nec alter ab ipsis
   Leditur, immo suum quisque reportet onus.
   Est nichil ex sensu proprio quod scribo, set ora
   Que michi vox populi contulit, ilia loquar.

   [I direct my words to those who presume
   To conceal their faces in their [religious] order,
   Yet inwardly they commit worldly sins.
   No one else shall be damaged by my words,
   Rather let each one bear his own burden.
   Nothing I write is my own perception,
   I shall speak what the people's voice has lent me.]

We will see that the terms plebs, vulgus, and populus become increasingly troublesome in the section on the laity in which Gower enumerates the responsibilities the commons owe the body politic. At this moment in the text, though, popular voices seem to suggest that the poet's criticisms of religious orders derive from collective wisdom or common sense. (20) Bolstering the authority of this voice, Gower even asserts that the voice of the people agrees with the voice of God, adapting the traditional adage, vox populi vox dev. "Vox populi cum voce dei concordat" (3.15.1267). (21) The inversion of moral counsel from the people broadly defined to the religious estates castigates this group for its failings.

The popular voice's apposition to the vox dei allows the authorial pose to perform its own self-questioning. Subtly, Gower correlates the two voices in Vox 3's prologue when he attributes his words to the voice of the people and denies his own authority: "A me non ipso loquor hec, set qui michi plebis / Vox dedit" (3.Prol.11-12). This assertion of a plebeian voice, literally of the common people, embeds a reference to a divine voice, that of Christ in the Gospel of John 14:10, when Christ unifies himself with God: "Verba quae ego loquor vobis a me ipso non loquor Pater autem in me manens ipse facit opera" [The words that I speak to you, I speak not of myself, but the Father who abides in me, he does the works; emphasis added]. Similar turns of phrase appear throughout the Gospel account, including "mea doctrina non est mea sed eius qui misit me / si quis voluerit voluntatem eius facere cognoscet de doctrina utrum ex Deo sit an ego a me ipso loquar" [my doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. / If any man will do the will of him, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself; 7:16-17]. (22) When Gower credits his words to the voice of the people at the start of Vox 3, he presents readers with a similar challenge implicit in the biblical phrase a me ipso non loquor. to identify the nature and authority of this voice and determine if it is of God. Some manuscripts include additional emphasis on the divine authority behind the people's outcry: "Quod scripsi plebis vox est, set et ista videbis, / Quo clamat populus, est ibi sepe deus" [What I've written is the commons' voice, but you shall see, / where people call out, God is often there; 7.25.1469-70],23 The adverb sepe [often] is the operative word. Are plebs and populus not always in accord with the voice of God?

The answer to this question and its significance are bound up in the poem's Latinate textuality. The language fosters a multitextured allusiveness to biblical and secular sources. As we have just seen in Vox 3, the poem's Latinity permits the plebis vox to echo the words of Christ, but in so doing it constructs an interpretive challenge about the authority through which the people speak. Latinity also lends the popular voice the words of secular sources like Ovids Tristia and Epistulae Ex Ponto, which supply verses to Vox 3 and 7 at moments when Gower cites the voice of the people. (24) Ovid wrote these texts when he was exiled to the Black Sea for an offense to Augustus. (25) Embedded in Gower's defense of his criticisms, then, are the words of someone who suffered the consequences of political retribution. The verses appeal to the textual memory of Latin learning and make the Ovidian source a reminder of the response readers must eschew, the impulse to condemn the messenger--both Gower and the people he credits. Blame lies within.

What makes this voice effective, though, is also what makes it a cause of unease. The terms for the people and the assertion of the people's correspondence with God betray contemporary anxieties over the proper role of each estate in the body politic. Vox populi and other expressions of commonality were invoked at tense moments in the fourteenth century when the limitations of kingship and the influence of the parliamentary Commons were being negotiated. (26) During the deposition of Edward II in 1327, for example, Archbishop Walter Reynolds preached on the theme vox populi vox dei. (27) Later, amid the parliamentary confrontations at the end of Edward III's reign, the knights of the shire and burgesses who comprised the ranks of the Commons impeached powerful associates of the Crown via the "clamour de people" and "clamour des ditz communes." (28) A device for initiating legal action against corrupt officials, clamor indicated notoreity and widespread support; but in some cases, as when Londoners' clamor against John of Gaunt nearly caused riots in 1377, the legal construct may have become the rhetorical weapon of choice to reframe the demands of an unruly crowd. (29) By 1381, the articulation of complaints on behalf of the commons only became more socially charged. (30) For monastic chroniclers, the rebellion's greatest threat was the transformation of the social hierarchy, the direct connection rebels sought between the king and the third estate. The Anonimalle Chronicle, for instance, stresses rebels' subversion of the established order through their redefined common clamor and association: "Et les ditz communes avoient entre eux une wache worde en Engleys, 'With whom haldes yow?' et le respouns fuist, 'Wyth kynge Richarde and wyth the trew communes.'" (31) The chronicler's terms invoke the unity of a petitionary voice to portray not legal action but revolution.

If anyone could understand the fine line between legal and extra-legal action even before 1381, it was Gower, whose training and career likely involved the law. (32) It is probable that he would have recognized the fiction of unity that gives the people's voice political potency, especially when it is equated with the transcendent vox dei. For many critics of the Vox, the significance of the association between vox populi and vox dei rests in making Gower's voice of the people palatable, even in effacing other voices that might not be so divinely inspired. (33) Yet the activity of individuals in history points to the gap that exists between the people and God. While the divine stands above the minutiae of the present moment, the people remain bound to time and the vicissitudes of secular history. Therefore, the claim to articulate a public voice of complaint may justify itself through the collective authority of the people; but it also shows that the people are a contentious rhetorical category requiring careful interpretation to effectively reform society. Not every expression of common sentiment warrants credence.


The vocabulary of the people in Vox 2-7 destabilizes the unity of voice by reflecting back on the social experience of history. When the terms are used apart from authorial claims to commonality, they highlight the stratification of the body politic. Any distinction between populus, a collectivity, and plebs, the commons, gradually becomes apparent through rhetorical and narrative context. (34) Plebs is often paired with vulgus, a multitude or crowd, when it is used to critique the worldliness of people who resist Gower's social ideal. The juxtaposition is significant, because vulgus is used just once in relation to Gower's authorial perspective in 3.Prol.13 (cited above). Its rarity in this context indicates from an early stage in the project that Gowers choice of diction may indicate more than need of stylistic variation. In fact, British Library, Cotton Tiberius MS A.iv, one of the fourteenth-century presentation copies, omits this reference to vulgus entirely and replaces it with populus. This leads to the question of whether the concept of the public conjured in the word vulgus, which in certain contexts may indicate a pejorative rabble, is too unstable to entertain with the regularity of the other terms. By extension, it compels greater consideration of plebs in its broader context.

Plebs and vulgus stand out because they are the same terms with which Gower and contemporary chroniclers will denote the 1381 rebels as an unruly mob. As such, they call attention to the voices that would have been at odds with the very individuals the Vox purports to motivate, from civil servants and gentry to powerful bishops and the king. Even in the books Gower wrote before 1381, though, people terms draw attention to what it means to constitute a politically legitimate and thus articulate voice in late medieval society.

Vox 5 establishes the critical apparatus of Gowers terminology. Significantly, this book does not align the authorial voice with that of the people. Once, Gower cites Ovid in a rare instance of naming a literary source (5.6.384); otherwise he remains silent on the origins of his critique. The absence of a vox populi or plebis suggests that the conceptual people who would comprise a legal voice of complaint, those distinct from king and court, have become the subject, not the source, of the outcry. The book addresses the laity, featuring knights and the amorphous commons below their rank, both rustic peasants and city-dwellers. In a section that condemns aristocratic vanity, common talk emerges not as a source of authority but an object of criticism:
   O, cur sic miles mundi sibi querit honores,
   Cuius honor mundi stat sine laude dei,
   Vulgi vaniloqui sermones miles honorem
   Credit, et hos precio mortis habere cupit?

   [O, why does a knight seek worldly honors,
   Which remain without the esteem of God,
   Or believe people's chatter honor him,
   And desire it at the price of death?]

This passage equates the worldly honor knights crave with vulgi vaniloqui sermones, popular empty discourse at odds with the divine. While neither Macaulay nor Stockton offer an analogue for these lines in their editions of the poem, it is possible to find one in the Vulgate. Paul's second letter to Timothy addresses the dangers of false teaching and enjoins Timothy to labor like a good soldier of Christ (bonus miles Christi; 2 Tim 2:3). The epistle disallows a Christian soldier concern for worldly affairs and prohibits profane and empty talk (profana et vaniloquia; 2 Tim 2:16). Such is the vain discourse Gower aligns with vulgi. (35) The word order of line 281 even suggests that the knight who craves popular adulation is not a miles Christi but a miles mundi. Gower never tries to harmonize the worldly vulgi vaniloqui sermones of Vox 5 with the transcendent vox populi vox dei alluded to first in Vox 3.15. The one only risks undermining the other as it frames what it means to articulate a meaninful public voice.

The people terms in Vox 5's account of the rustic and urban commons define this voice according to those who have the power to promote effective reform. Peasants, identified as plebs and vulgus (36) cannot correct themselves ("rectificare"; 5.9.628), because it is not in their nature and only the divine may act contrary to nature: "Contra naturam fiunt miracula, vires / Nature deitas frangere sola potest" (5.9.625-26). Instead, Gower advocates the imposition of power upon this group: "Vulgi cardones lex amputet ergo nociuos, / Ne blada pungentes nobiliora terant" [Let law remove the rabbles harmful weeds, / therefore, lest their piercing thresh nobler crops; 5.9.605-6]. The significance of this account of the peasantry is its juxtaposition with the critique of the city in the next chapters; for Gower grants the urban commons the opportunity to change.

Also described as plebs and vulgus, the urban commons represent the best hope for a unified collective voice to speak, if they heed Gowers warning. At present, they appear no closer to the divinely inspired people with whom Gower has aligned his voice than are the peasantry; but they receive the mandate to wash away ("ablue"; 5.16.1000) their wickedness or else become a perverse mob. Gower utilizes several key terms to reveal the fate of the city that rejects divinely inspired love and wisdom, and so I quote in full:
   Est vbi nullus amor, vrbs habet omne nephas:
   Crimina dicuntur, resonat clamoribus ether,
   Inuocat iratum sic sibi quisque deum.
   Pertinet ad ciues rabidos compescere mores
   Candida pax homines, trux decet ira feras:
   Nulla fides, vbi nullus amor, set amore remoto
   Ignorat proprium quisquis in vrbe gradum.
   Dum diuisa manet plebs a sapientibus vrbis,
   Consilium multe calliditatis init:
   Ignis, aqua dominans duo sunt pietate carentes,
   Vulgus et indomitus peior habetur eis.

   [The city without love has every sin:
   Charges are bandied, air resounds with shouts,
   Thus each invokes for himself an angry God.
   It suits citizens to curb savage ways;
   Serene peace becomes men, harsh wrath wild beasts:
   No faith where there's no love, but love removed
   Each one in the city ignores his own rank.
   When city folk stay parted from the wise,
   They undertake a very cunning scheme:
   Wild fire and floods lack dutiful affection,
   And the untamed rabble are worse than they.]

The last lines of this passage adapt part of Gowers earlier Mirour de I'Omme, in which the multitude of common people ("La multitude q'est commuz") are like uncontrollable floods and wild fire. (37) The lines in the Mirour have been read to indicate Gower's anticipation of the unrest of 1381, particularly his criticism of peasants who seek power over lords and nobles who take no heed. (38) In Vox 5.16, the city itself is worthy of blame, a point stressed in lines 985-86, "Pertinet ad ciues ... decet ira feras." Here, Gower borrows from Ovid's Ars Amatoria 3.501-2, a passage that urges women to keep a serene countenance in pursuit of their beloved. He changes only one word, substituting dues for Ovid's fadem to teach a civic lesson. (39) Lack of love, both amore and the love implied in the dutiful pietate, affects even those with the privilege of citizenship as they submit to savage instincts contrary to propriety. Common clamor (resonat damoribus ether) thus remains bereft of divine sanction and invokes an iratum deum, a distortion of God that comes with the absence of love. The body politic distorts itself along with God when the common people of the city (plebs urbis) reject sources of wisdom and ignore their proper social rank. In this way, the people become an ungovernable rabble (vulgus indomitus).

The metamorphosis of the vulgus indomitus cuts to the heart of the civic and moral lesson of the entire poem, first books 2-7 and later the added vision of the 1381 Rising. Disregard for duty throughout the body politic inverts the natural order as Gower sees it; hence a cleric who covets worldly power bears the burdens of the world like a beast of burden ("iumentis similis"; 3.8.569), and a peasant who proudly refuses to labor behaves like an animal without reason ("racione carens vt bestia"; 5.10.651). Vox Is beast allegory of the 1381 Rising describes the rebels in similar terms, visualing the transformation of men into beasts who lack reason: "que racione carent" (1.10.782). Lack of reason is not simply a default of human cognition. Racio is a principle of order, by definition a reckoning or an account. (40) Its deficiency applies to any rank and signifies the social problem. Even the knight who fights for temporal fame rather than justice spurns the proper duties of his estate by making himself a slave to the world, more foolish than a fool ("Stulcior est stulto;" 5.1.32). A lawyer who mishandles the law perverts justice as swine who take pearls for its swill ("Vt margaritas si porcus sumat in escas;" 6.6.443). (41) The sins of the the estates are those of the city-dweller who, lacking civic love, ignores social rank.

The city thus epitomizes not just the community at large but specifically those among the laity who ought to have some agency in public life to articulate the collective conscience. City-dwellers prompt discord no less than do the peasantry with whom they are juxtaposed in Vox 5. The urban populace thus defined distorts the Augustinian concept of the collective populus as "coetus multitudinis rationalis rerum quas diligit concordi communione sociatus" [an assembled multitude of rational creatures bound together by a common agreement as to the objects of their love].42 This definition allowed Augustine to acknowledge that pagan Rome was in fact a res publica whose love objects led to the city's social and moral decline. Replacing reason with self-love, Gowers urban populace risks the collapse of public life and the repeat of the histories of Rome and Athens. These cities lost their honor when they became divided, Gower writes and prays, "Sors tamen ilia deo mediante recedat ab vrbe / Nostra, que magno fulsit honore diu" [But with God's help may that fate withdraw from / Our city, which long shone with great honor; 5.16.1015-16]. The lesson in Vox 5.16, based on examples of fallen cities, suggests that people face a choice, not a certain outcome. The prayer for vrbe nostra requires that the right people take proper action to change the current course.

Determining who are the right people to assume the cause of reform becomes a matter of careful interpretation of Gower's outcry. The right people emerge by contrast to the worldliness, godlessness, and division that characterize so many of the references to plebs and vulgus. Those who ought to initiate reform are the ones who heed the poem's warning and hold themselves to higher standards not just of social but also of moral comportment. The outcry underscores that the future depends upon how readers respond; the fate of Rome and Athens need not come to pass if they take note of this voice crying out.

If only by brief allusion, the examples of Rome and Athens underline the lessons of the past that accompany the call to reform in the poem's use of verses from other Latin texts. Critics have identified in the Latin borrowings Gower's nostalgia for the past. (43) It might be more accurate to suggest that Gower commands a respect for the past, because he transforms the blunders of history into opportunities for the self-improvement of learned readers. He recognizes that even past tragedies, like the downfall of cities, might teach important lessons to the present.

Awareness of history allows Gower to address the powerful as a prophet for the times. The past is indispensable to the tenuous balance he establishes between textual authority and the voice of the people, the one implicit in the poems verses and the other explicit at moments when Gower appeals to certain groups of readers. Both direct attention away from Gower himself and onto sources that appear beyond reproach, the ancient erudition of prior texts and the anonymous masses. The one has the vetting of time on its side; the other the immediacy of speaking in the present. One derives its authority from literate textuality; the other from a spoken, if troubled, correspondence with the voice of God. Together, they bridge past and present in an uneasy fusion. Old Latin verses become the medium of expression to represent the contemporary voice of the people; the rhetorical people lend immediacy to the words of the past. The Vox may not anticipate the exemplary stories which mingle entertainment and edification in the Confessio Amantis--that work's "middel weie I ... betwen the tweie, / Somewhat of lust, somewhat of lore" (44)--but it does offer this third way of articulating its social critique in its self-conscious mingling of learned Latin texts with the voice of the people.

Recourse to Latinate authority is not enough on its own to pressure readers to weigh the poet's words carefully. The voice of the people highlights the social and historical consequences of inadequate leadership, spelled out in Vox 7's depiction of the statue of Nebuchudnezzar from the Book of Daniel. (45) Gower's version of the statue in Vox 7 presents a significant modification from the biblical exemplar by keeping the feet intact. (46) In the Book of Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar dreams that a stone strikes at the feet of the statue and turns it to dust. The image provides an apocalyptic model of history with each section of the composite statue representing an historical epic--head of gold, arms and breast of silver, core of bronze, legs of iron, and feet of iron and clay. In accord with his hope to reform society, Gower's image is not one of total destruction, but it does present a prophetic warning to readers. In this regard, it may reflect the influence of Ovid's description of the four ages in Metamorphoses 1.89-150, which traces the decline of the golden age of faith and rectitude to the age of iron, in which fraud, cunning, and criminal greed proliferated ("fraudesque dolusque ... et amor sceleratus habendi"; Met. 1.130-31). (47) These are the same vices Gower decries. Reflecting the Ovidian context, his version of Nebuchadnezzar's statue portends the historical consequences of inadequate leadership from the top and middle sections of society. (48) That the head is already severed in the Vox indicates the irrelevance of those at the top of the social hierarchy in the corporeal metaphor of estates. Meanwhile, the middling classes of the social body who form the midsection do not figure into the picture at all.

Just as the severed head critiques elites, the missing midsection indicts the middling classes for their role in contemporary problems, along with the role of all with political agency whom they embody. Vox 5's condemnation of the civic body devoid of love reemerges in Vox 7: "Inter discordes antiqum fedus amoris / Non est ad presens qui reparare venit" [Amid discord no ancient bond of love / Is there now which comes for our renewal; 7.1.17-18]. That only the feet of the social body, the peasantry, remain indicates the reality of contemporary circumstances: the head and midsection have failed to lead by promoting civic love.

The image of the broken polity draws on medieval social theories that prescribe the obligations of each estate through the corporeal metaphor. (49) Gower's contemporary and possible acquaintance, the Archbishop of Rochester Thomas Brinton, offers the closest parallel to the Vox's corporeal polity. (50) An outspoken critic of clerical and courtly vices, Brinton articulates an ideal for social harmony in relation to the mystical body of Christ, where kings, princes, and prelates comprise the head; judges are the eyes; religious the ears; teachers the tongue; soldiers and merchants the right and left hands respectively; citizens the heart; and farmers and laborers the feet that support the whole body. (51) Brinton's sermon, preached before the synod of the province of Canterbury at Saint Paul's in London on 9 October 1373, presents the traditional three estates and the emerging middling classes in a similar way as Gower does when he laments each sector's sins. It is possible that Brinton provided a model for Gower's attempt to initiate reform through established channels. Gower may have had the greater challenge, however, because he could not fall back on the authority of an office as could the Archbishop of Rochester; his layered authorial voices reflect this challenge.

The public voice of Vox 2-7 may well prepare readers to identify the layers of meaning behind the roles people ought to play in the body politic. The poem itself traces where the people are missing from the composite statue and where their voices have ceased to productively contribute to the discourse. Only with this understanding, brought by the rhetorical complexity of the people, can readers reform themselves and spread the message to others.

   Si vox in fragili michi peccore firmior esset
   Pluraque cum linguis pluribus ora forent
   Hec tamen ad presens mala, que sunt temporis huius,
   Non michi possibile dicere cuncta foret.
     (1. Prol.43-46)

   [If the voice in my frail breast were stronger
   And had it many mouths with many tongues,
   Yet all these evils which right now exist
   Would be impossible for me to tell.]

Gower's Visio or dream allegory of the 1381 Rising enhances the call to reform by amplifying the poem's complex voicing. The authorial voice speaks not simply as a contemporary John the Baptist, and not at all as the voice of the people, but as a reluctant prophet who lacks the capacity to articulate the state of crisis. In point of fact, Gower still speaks with the many mouths and tongues of Latin poets like Ovid, from whom he borrows assorted verses. However, the Visio shows that the rebellion among all ranks of commons in 1381 further complicated the vox plebis or populi by adding a new term, turba, to its vocabulary for the people and introducing a direct vox celica as a means of ultimately authorizing the poet's voice. This is not to say that Gower merely dismisses the voices of the 1381 rebels, which become a counterpoint to the other voices in the poem, but that he employs them to show the consequences of subversive reform.

The widespread upheaval of 1381 featured calls to revolutionize English society from many mouths and tongues and often through violent attacks against those in positions of power. Despite the rhetorical challenges of promoting reform in this environment, however, Gower apparently made no major revisions to the Vox's social critique in books 2-7 that may be detected in the surviving manuscripts. Vox 2, for example, retains its explanation of the title of the work and its introductory invocation to the divine; while Vox 5's sections on the rustic and urban commons do not explicitly mention the Rising or its aftermath. Instead, the added Vox 1 recontextualizes the other books of the poem by demonstrating the process in which Gower assumes the role of a prophet for his times.

Vox 1 replaces an authorial voice of the people with an introspective and prophetic voice of a dreamer who witnesses the uprising as a personal nightmare. In the prologue, an encrypted signature spells out Gower's name before an invocation to John of Patmos aligns his identity with the exiled author of the biblical Apocalypse:
   Scribentis nomen si queras, ecce loquela
   Sub tribus implicita versibus inde latet.
   Primos sume pedes Godefridi desque Iohanni,
   Principiumque sui Wallia iungat eis:
   Ter caput amittens det cetera membra ...
   Insula quern Pathmos suscepit in Apocalipsi
   Cuius ego nomen gesto, gubernet opus.
     (1.Prol.19-23, 57-58)

   [If you seek to know the writer's name, see
   The letters veiled within these three verses.
   Take Godfrey's first feet and give them to John,
   Then join to them the first letter of Wales:
   Ter without its head gives the last letters ...
   He whom Patmos housed in Revelations,
   Whose name I bear, may he direct this work.]

The specificity of authorial identity--Gower's name with his exile-prophet namesake--contrasts markedly with the ambiguity of the voice of the people in Vox 2-7 but accords with the prophetic overtone of the whole poem. The naming device highlights Gower's perspective as a local prophet and begins to challenge readers to think locally as they question their roles in the breakdown of society. By the end of Vox 1, Gower is an exile like John of Patmos, writing his vision for posterity with the hope of fostering readers' introspection in the subsequent books.

The poet's perspective substitutes for whatever may have been readers' perceptions of and experiences with the outbreak of violence in 1381. The dream sequence reflects the panicked response Gower and some of his intended audience may have had to the uprising; but it also offers an alternative viewpoint for those who may have engaged in or sympathized with the revolt, including those shown by judicial records to be community leaders in places like Southwark and Kent, local administrators, and prominent members of their parishes. (52) Gower's eyewitness testimony presents one voice among many that requires careful analysis to determine its merits.

The Visio illustrates the trauma of the rebellion by depicting the rebels transformed into a menagerie of shrieking animals before they enter London. The Ovidian-style metamorphoses have become the hallmark of the Vox Clamantis in literary criticism. Some rebels become beasts of burden who refuse to abide by their given roles in the domestic economy; others become feral animals who lose all sense of the natural order and behave in ways perverse even for animals. The imagery denies the rebels rationality and articulateness so that their revolutionary outcry seems nothing more than beastly absurdity. Yet it is a natural extension of Gower's criticism of the estates in Vox 2-7, where people appear like animals when they refuse to abide by natural order. Vox 1 literalizes the analogy and makes it all the more visual.

Critics have observed the similarity of sound and imagery in Vox 1 and contemporary chronicle accounts of the uprising; but the distinct purpose of each account warrants closer attention. For chroniclers, as Paul Strohm has argued, animal metaphors deny rebels a coherent voice in order to undermine their "social standing, judgment, and objectives ... at every level of representation." (53) Such efforts were so effective that they propagated the long-held misconception that the rebellion was a commotion of peasants or, in the Westminster Chroniclers words, a "turba rusticorum." (54) The same words Gower uses for the people in Vox 2-7 marginalize the rebels in the chronicles. Thomas Walsingham perjoratively dubs rebels "vulgares"; Henry Knighton scorns "plebs ista nephanda." (55) Whatever organization and self-discipline with which the rebels pursued their objectives chroniclers recast as the chaos of a wild throng of senseless beasts. (56) The Westminster Chronicle says they behaved like mad dogs ("uti rabidissimi canes"), and Walsingham's Historia declares that "Non tamen resonabant verba inter horrificos strepitus, sed replebantur guttura multisonis mugitibus, vel quod est verius, vocibus pavonum diabolicis" [Words could not be heard among their horrible shrieks but rather their throats sounded with the bleating of sheep, or, to be more accurate, with the devilish voices of peacocks]. (57) Such hyperbole rhetorically counterbalances the inversion of the social order. The meaningless sound of rebel voices maintains chroniclers' authority to parse the meaning of the revolt. Whereas chroniclers may intend to silence the revolt by "repudiating the rebels' senseless racket," (58) however, Gower requires the noise to echo in readers' minds so that they may take appropriate steps to reform.

In the people behind the revolt's unruly voices Vox 1 reveals the threat to the social order. The instigator is the book's most distinctive rebel voice, Wat Tyler, the spokesman at Smithfield who confronted the king and the mayor of London on 15 June before he himself was killed. Gower illustrates the threat Tyler poses by renaming him "Graculus," jackdaw, the garrulous bird which, as others have noted, "mimics human speech but not human reason." (59) Tyler's unreasonable voice is dangerous because it is contagious. Gower depicts him urging the masses to bring about their own court and system of justice, presenting him as a literal rabble-rouser. Thus, the troublesome terms for the people abound in the description of Tyler's effect upon the mob: vulgus, plebs, and populi. A new word, turba (commotion or mob), sets the tone for how the people terms are used, so that even populus takes the shape of the mob:
   Singula turba silet, notat et sibi verba loquentis,
   ... Vocibus ambiguis deceptam prebuit aurem
   Vulgus et in finem nulla futura videt.
   Exaltatus enim cum sic de plebe fuisset,
   Ad se confestim traxerat omne solum:
   Nam sine consilio cum plebs sibi colla dedisset,
   Conuocat hie populum iussaque verba dedit.
   ... Vocis in excessu reliquos sic commouet omnes
   Graculus, et mentes plebis ad arma trahit;
   Stultaque pars populi que sit sua curia nescit,
   Que tamen ipse iubet iura vigoris habent.
     (1.9.701, 703-8, 11-14; emphasis added)

   [The whole mob hushed, noted the speakers words,
   ... The rabble lent deceived ear to fickle talk
   And saw nothing that would finally be.
   For when thus he'd been praised by common folk
   Straightway he drew all the land to himself:
   For when the commons surrendered their necks without counsel,
   He convened the throng here and gave orders.
   ... Jackdaw stirred all the rest in the rapture of his word
   And drew the common peoples minds to war;
   The stupid part of the people knew not what its court might be
   But they had the laws of force which he ordered.]

Led by Tyler, the people's outcry is clearly contrary to a vox populi vox dei; but it is no less powerful. "Jackdaw's" words place the people in a state of enthrallment. His effect upon them inverts the lex regia, an authorization either of popular sovereignty or absolutism based on the people's transferal of power to their sovereign. Tyler and his mob do not claim the standard royal law whereby what pleases the ruler has the force of law ("quod principi placuit, legis habet vigorem"). (60) Instead, they have the laws of force (iura vigoris) that are sustained through the coercion of Tyler's words and the mob's deeds. The same passage observes that when Tyler said kill, the people killed, and their sounds were like the din of the sea ("Est maris vt sonitus"; 1.9.722). The sounds Gower goes on to describe--"mugitus" [bellowing], "grunnitus" [grunting], "latratus" [barking], among others in Vox 1.11.799-830--are no less common or widespread and they take authority unto themselves. In this way, the rabble competes with the authorial voice; for it too cries out ("conclamat"; 1.11.808 and 813). The rebels' noise is all the more powerful, though, because it echoes in the air ("reuerberat"; 1.11.817) and becomes a source of division in the city. Even the Tower of London is subject to invasion and is divided by tongues like the Tower of Babel: "Turris diuisa linguis Babilonis ad instar" (1.18.1763).

The reverberation of rebels' voices grates against Londoners' silence. The city's complicity in the revolt is felt in the absence of voices who can counter the rebellion's noise. Silence indicates inaction, a fatal flaw Gower captures by calling the city "New Troy," a name dating back to Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae. The name marks the city's potential doom and promise as a replacement for its fallen counterpart. (61) It naturally calls to mind the betrayal of mythic Troy by its own weak defenses, a victim of corruption from within. Yet it also conveys the hope of Gower's prayer in Vox 5 that the city will escape Troy's fate.

The possibility of recovery emerges in the narration of the rebellion as a prophetic dream. The Visio gradually realizes Gower's authority to speak as a prophet--to turn the tragedy of 1381 into an opportunity for healing--by calling upon readers to discern their own culpability. The poet-dreamer demonstrates the appropriate, interior response to the Visio when he meditates on his personal sin: "Hec modo que pacior propria culpa tulit" [My own guilt has brought what I now suffer; 1.18.1784].With this admission, Gowers persona becomes an exile lost at sea in a dream-like obfuscation of time and place. As a second Brutus, the descendant of Trojan exiles, he reaches the shores of the island of Britain; but the island is not the place he knew before. An old man describes to him the state of the island; its founding by Brutus; and the discord of its people. The man's wish is the same as Gower's in Vox 2-7: "Non magis esse probos ad finem solis ab ortu / Estimo, si populi mutuus esset amor" [From east to west there'd be no worthier / People, I think, if they would love each other; 1.20.1981-82], These words resonate with the doom and promise London bears as New Troy. It is possible for people (populi) to change, but it requires a change of heart among them. This is one of the important lessons of Vox 2-7, as well; however, here at the end of Gower's vision of the Rising, he seems to succumb to doubt and fear over what the future holds. His initial reaction is one of dismay: "Nescio quo possum tutus habere fugam" [I did not know where I could safely flee; 1.20.1994], This anxiety sustains the urgency of the call for reform in the remaining books.

Before he turns to the social critique, Gower presents his task of writing as a special commission for the benefit of posterity. This commission takes place at a turning point in Vox 1, at line 2020 of the twentieth chapter. A new voice emerges on the scene, a "vox celica" that begins to speak to him. The celestial voice advises him to accept that his place of refuge is an inharmonious island, and it gives him a twofold command. First, he should stop struggling and find inner peace--"Si tibi guerra foris pateat, tamen interiori / Pace, iuuante deo, te pacienter habe" [If war rages outside, nevertheless / with God's help patiently keep peace within; 1.20.2027-28]. Second, he should break his own silence and write:

"Qui silet est firmus, loquitur qui plura repente, Probra satis fieri postulat ipse sibi.... Te tamen admoneo, tibi cum dent ocia tempus, Quicquid in hoc sompno visus et auris habent, Scribere festines, nam sompnia sepe futurum Indicium reddunt." (1.20.2041-42, 2047-50a)

["Strength is silence; he who speaks much in haste, Asks for satisfaction of reproaches, ... Yet 1 urge you, when time gives you leisure, All that you have seen and heard in this dream, Hasten to write, for dreams often impart A sign of the future."]

The heavenly voice's commission for the poet to write his dream segues nicely to the public voice of the subsequent books. Both voices shield Gower from reproach; but in the new context of the rebellion, the public outcry appears to have derived from the turmoil of 1381 itself and arguably portends continued disorder in the immediate aftermath of the uprising and in the more distant future if its message is not heeded. The story of the revolt, a fictionalized history and mythic allegory, confuses reality and nightmare as it prepares for the social critique of Vox 2-7.


The addition of Vox 1 to Gower's public outcry enhances the poem's call for self-reflection, a personal reform that leads to communal reform. Indeed, the prefatory Vox 1 makes the poem's critique even more powerful after the Rising. All the more so after observing the irrationality of rebellious voices, Gower's readers must weigh the voice of the people to whom he credits his criticism of clerical and lay elites.

Any uncertainties over this voice have been matched by uncertainties over the voices of the Rising. With the addition of Vox 1 it seems that the poem's vox dei contrasts sharply with the animalistic voices of the rebels; but these voices are no less powerful. To evaluate them is to prepare to evaluate the voice of the people Gower cites in the other books. The added Vox 1, with its naming of Gower and depiction of the turmoil in "New Troy," hints at the void Gower takes upon himself to fill through Vox 2-7's layered voicing. The vox celica at the end of Vox 1 indeed comes with divine authority and stresses the lack of moral coherence among those Gower believes should preserve order. In the context of the seven-book poem, tensions surrounding the people persist in Vox 2-7 and demand careful readers to decide if they will allow rebel voices to dictate the social order or if they will take up the call to reform themselves.

The complete poem leaves the future of civil society up to its reading public; indeed, it calls this public into being through its fraught outcry. If Gower's vox speaks with the voice of God, it only does so because those who ought to lead by example lack the moral coherence to maintain the civic enterprise, as 1381 would show with devastating consequences. Gower indicates that readers may take up the cause of reform if they learn from history and from the poem's contemporary voice: that is, if they carefully examine the signs of the times and their own culpability. Tensions between the portrayal of the rebels in Vox 1 and the claim to the voice of the people in Vox 2-7 ensure that voicing always points back to the people. For readers to ponder who has the right to reform society is to begin to look to themselves to heal divisions within the body politic.

University of Connecticut

I completed this research through a Dissertation Fellowship from the University of Connecticut Humanities Institute at Storrs, CT. My thanks go to the Institute and the 2012-13 fellows for their support and feedback. A portion of this essay was presented at the 48th International Congress on Medieval Studies (May 2013). Very special thanks go to Fiona Somerset, Frederick M. Biggs, Kathleen Tonry, and the anonymous reviewer of PQ for their generous advice on prior drafts.


(1) Eric W. Stockton, "Introduction," The Major Latin Works of John Gower: The Voice of One Crying and the Tripartite Chronicle (Seattle: U. of Washington Press, 1962), 26.

(2) For the discursive context of Gower's public voicing, see Andrew Galloway, "The Common Voice in Theory and Practice in Late Fourteenth Century England," in Richard W. Kaeuper, ed., Law, Governance, and Justice: New Views on Medieval Constitutionalism (Leiden: Brill, 2013), 243-86.

(3) Drawing on Maria Wickert's distinction of Vox 1 as "the Visio" in Studies in John Gower, trans. Robert J. Meindl (Washington, DC: U. Press of America, 1981), many critics have considered the book a separate work entirely from books 2-7. A defense of this view on the grounds of tone and purpose is offered briefly in A. G. Rigg and Edward S. Moore, "The Latin Works: Politics, Lament and Praise," in A Companion to Gower, ed. Sian Echard (Cambridge: Brewer, 2004), 156-57. Here, Rigg and Moore discuss an earlier assertion that content merits the Visio's distinction in A. G. Rigg, A History of Anglo-Latin Literature, 1066-1422 (Cambridge U. Press, 1992), 287. Rigg also cites the manuscript tradition and textual evidence to support reading Vox 1 and the other six books as distinct writings in John Gower; Poems on Contemporary Events: The Visio Anglie and Cronica Tripulita, trans. A. G. Rigg, ed. David K. Carlson (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 2011), 1-18.

(4) Steven Justice, Writing and Rebellion: England in 1381 (Berkeley: U. of California Press, 1996), 209-13.

(5) The notion that Latin represents discursive stability and the vernacular volatility has been commonplace in scholarship until recently. David Aers, " Vox Populi and the Literature of 1381," in David Wallace, ed., The Cambridge History of Medieval English Literature (Cambridge U. Press, 1999), 432-53, suggests that the Vox's Latin helps to legitimize established structures of power. Readings of the Confessio Amantis have found that Latin helps to circumscribe or even lend authority to the vernacular. Sian Echard's discussion of the Vox's Latinity, "Gower's 'bokes of Latin': Language, Politics, and Poetry," Studies in the Age of Chaucer 25 (2003): 123-56, discussed further below, refutes these approaches. The multilingual context of contemporary literature like Piers Plowman also has much to offer Gower scholarship by identifying the variation and complexity of Latin discourse. See, for example, Fiona Somerset, "'Al pe comonys with o voys atonys': Multilingual Latin and Vernacular Voice in Piers Plowman," Yearbook ofhangland Studies 19 (2005): 107-36, which looks beyond code-switching to the "specialized competencies" and "differentiating idioms" of style that Latin affords (115).

(6) The changes to Piers Plowman remain a source of debate. See, for example, Andrew Galloway, The Penn Commentary on Piers Plowman, Vol. 1: C Prologue-Passus 4; B Prologue-Passus 4; A Prologue-Passus 4 (U. of Pennsylvania Press, 2006).

(7) Aers, "Vox Populi and the Literature of 1381," 443.

(8) Quotations of Gower's verse are from The Complete Works of John Gower, ed. G. C. Macaulay, 4 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1899-1902) and are cited in the text by book, chapter, and line number where applicable. Unless otherwise noted, translations are my own.

(9) Malte Urban suggests that the Vox is intended for private reading based on appeals in Vox 1 and 2 specifically to a reader or lector in Fragments: Past and Present in Chaucer and Gower (Bern: Peter Lang, 2009), 75-76. These appeals should not exclude the possibility that among elite circles Gower's Latin was read aloud. Joyce Coleman proposes that clerical prelectors who occupied religious and administrative roles in royal, upper-class, and ecclesiastical households would read Latin aloud and translate it for secular audiences in "Lay Readers and Hard Latin," Studies in the Age of Chaucer 24 (2002): 209-34. These readers were well versed in Ovidian and other Latin fictions, a significant context for Gower's work. Colemans focus here and in her earlier monograph, Public Reading and the Reading Public in Late Medieval England and France (Cambridge U. Press, 1996), is Gower's Confessio Amantis and its Latin apparatus; she does not consider "public readings" of the Vox.

(10) Gower's audience consists of a relatively narrow but expanding literate public, from prominent bishops of the time to laymen much like Gower, worldly but pious, discerning and bookish. Clerical readers may have included Simon Sudbury, Archbishop of Canterbury, who would be killed in the 1381 Rising, as well as the bishops serving Winchester, London, Rochester, and Salisbury in the late 1370s and early 1380s, and eventually Thomas Arundel, Archbishop of Canterbury at the time of the Lancastrian usurpation (1396-97, 1399-1414), to whom Oxford, All Souls College, MS 98 is dedicated. See John H. Fisher, John Gower: Moral Philosopher and Friend of Chaucer (New York U. Press, 1964), 105. Lay readers may have included London civil servants and members of the Parliamentary commons. M.B. Parkes, "Patterns of Scribal Activity and Revisions of the Text in Early Copies by John Gower," in New Science Out of Old Books: Studies in Manuscripts and Early Printed Books in Honour of A. I. Doyle, eds. Richard Beadle and A. J. Piper (Aldershot: Scolar Press, 1995): 96-97. See also Robert Epstein, "London, Southwark, Westminster: Gower's Urban Contexts," in A Companion to John Gower, 43-60.

(11) A fifteenth-century manuscript, Oxford, Bodleian Library, Laud Misc. 719, may reflect something of the original form with its omission of the allegory of the revolt, Vox 1.2-21; although it includes the prologue and first chapter of Vox 1, which introduce the text as a dream vision. Macaulay, Complete Works, lxvi-lxviii; Derek Pearsall, "The Manuscripts and Illustrations of Gower's Works," in A Companion to John Gower, 77; Carlson and Rigg, John Gower, 15-16.

(12) One of the chief discrepancies in the surviving manuscripts pertains to Vox 6's treatment of the king, in which lines sympathetic to Richard are replaced by more overt criticisms. For the political and literary influences on the Vox's composition and revision see, for example, R. F. Yeager, "Politics and the French Language in England During the Hundred Years' War: The Case of John Gower," in Denise N. Baker, ed., Inscribing the Hundred Years' War in French and English Cultures (Albany: State U. of New York Press, 2000), 127-57. For the manuscript evidence, see Parkes, 81-121.

(13) "Set modo siqua sapit docet aut prouisa senectus, / Vix tamen hec grata vox iuuenilis habet" [Now if old age is ever wise or teaches what it's foreseen, / Yet scarcely has this voice the welcome of a youth's; 2.Prol.35-36]. The folly of youth, a common theme in the moralist tradition, was increasingly cited during Richard II's reign leading up to his deposition. See P. J. P. Goldberg and Felicity Riddy, eds., Youth in the Middle Ages (York: York Medieval Press, 2004), and W. M. Ormrod, "Coming to Kingship: Boy Kings and the Passage to Power in Fourteenth-Century England," in Nicola F. McDonald and W. M. Ormrod, eds., Rites of Passage: Cultures of Transition in the Fourteenth Century (York: York Medieval Press, 2004), 31-50.

(14) Asterisked lines of Vox 6 appear in Dublin, Trinity College, D. 4.6 and Hertfordshire, Hatfield House MS (Macaulay's TH2), both fifteenth-century manuscripts. Macaulay believed 6.7.545-80* represent the urirevised phrasing of the passage (lxx). Manuscripts of the Vox that include what must have been an earlier redaction of Gower's address to a barely teenage king place blame on youthful counsel and anticipate a time when a mature Richard will be able to lead the court by example (6.7.559-60*). In another redaction that expresses greater hostility toward Richard, the critique blames the king more directly by equating his misgovernance with the neglect of moral conduct that comes with being a "puer indoctus'"(an ignorant boy; 6.7.555-56). Vox 6.7.545-580 are found in Oxford, All Souls College, MS 98; London, British Library, MS Cotton Tiberius A.iv; San Marino (California), Huntington Library, MS HM 150 (formerly Ecton Hall); London, British Library, MS Harley 6291; Glasgow, University Library, Hunterian MS T.2.17; Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Digby 138; and Oxford, Bodleian Library, Laud Misc. 719 (Macaulay's SCEHGDL).

(15) Manuscripts that lack reference to the schism, Dublin, Trinity College, D. 4.6 and Hertfordshire, Hatfield House MS, may contain lines originally written before 1378.

(16) All citations of the Latin Bible are taken from Biblia Sacra Iuxta Vulgatam Versionem, ed. Robert Weber et al., 4th ed. (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1994). Translations are based on the Douay-Rheims English translation.

(17) Gower describes this voice in the explanation of his title: "Vox clamantis erit nomenque voluminis huius, / Quod sibi scripta noui verba doloris habet" [The voice of one crying shall be its name / for this volume records present sorrow; 2.Prol.83-84[.

(18) Latin sources include Peter of Riga's Aurora, a verse paraphrase of the Bible; the satirical De Vita Monachorum attributed to Alexander Nequam and Speculum Stultorum of Nigel de Longchamps; as well as Godfrey of Viterbo's universal chronicle, the Pantheon. Macaulay, Complete Works, xxxii-xxxiii. Maura Nolan, "The Poetics of Catastrophe: Ovidian Allusion in Gower's Vox Clamantis',' in Christopher Cannon and Maura Nolan, eds., Medieval Latin and Middle English Literature: Essays in Honour of Jill Mann (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2011), 113-33, reads the Ovidian references in Vox 1 as a counter text that makes possible a different way of seeing one's attachments to the world based on predetermined hierarchies and subjective experience.

(19) Gowers technique has been compared to the classical mode of cento, which forms new poems out of lines from previous poetry. See R. F. Yeager, "Did Gower Write Cento?" in John Gower: Recent Readings (Kalamazoo, MI: Western Michigan U., 1989), 113-32. For Gower's awareness of variance between his sources and his own narrative in Vox 1, see Andrew Galloway, "Gower in His Most Learned Role and the Peasants' Revolt of 1381," Mediaevalia 16 (1993): 329-47. Bruce Harbert discusses Ovidian borrowings in "Lessons from the Great Clerk: Ovid and John Gower," in Charles Martindale, ed., Ovid Renewed: Ovidian Influences on Literature and Art from the Middle Ages to the Twentieth Century (Cambridge U. Press, 1988), 83-97.

(20) The collective voice encapsulates what Anne Middleton has identified as the mode and purpose of late medieval public poetry in her reading of Gower's Confessio Amantis and Langland's Piers Plowman: a '"common voice' to serve the 'common good,"' a way of relating speaker to audience to promote civic piety; "Idea of Public Poetry in the Reign of Richard II," Speculum 53 (1978): 95. Although Middleton classified the voice of Ricardian public poetry as a vernacular middle ground between the clerical and the courtly, other scholars have convincingly shown that the public mode applies to Latin as well as vernacular, learned as well as popular literature. Fisher's reading in John Gower precedes that of Middleton, but its insights may offer a corrective to Middleton's limited interpretation of the vernacular tradition. Fisher highlights Gower's authorial voice and suggests that his hortatory pronouncements make the Vox his "public counterpart to the contemplation in the Mirour" (105). More recently, David R. Carlson, "The Invention of the Anglo-Latin Public Poetry (circa 1367-1402) and its Prosody, Especially in John Gower," Mittellateinisches Jahrbuch 39 (2004): 389-406, observes that Anglo-Latin public poetry addresses secular subject matter in an apprehensible style that could allow even a non-clerical audience to focus on its content; he chiefly discusses the Vox's unrhymed verse form. Other readings of Middle English verse have demonstrated the breadth of medieval public poetry and culture. C. David Benson, Public Piers Plowman: Modern Scholarship and Late Medieval English Culture (Pennsylvania State U. Press, 2004), xv-xviii, has discussed the multivalence of public discourse in distinction to the limited categories of lay, popular, and vernacular first outlined by Middleton. Maura Nolan's reading of John Lydgate, John Lydgate and the Making of Public Culture (Cambridge U. Press, 2005), emphasizes the simultaneous broadening and narrowing of public culture, marked by a wider audience for cultural forms of expression in the fifteenth century together with the Lancastrian commitment to the representative status of the king.

(21) The origins of this expression are much disputed. An early variant appeared in Hesiod's Works and Days, which condemned the pervasiveness of people's gossip as an alternative form of divine discourse. A biblical connotation may have derived from the juxtaposition of vox Domini with vox populi de civitate in Isaiah 66:5-6. Nineteenth-century political philosophers attributed the proverb in its present form to medieval writers, beginning with Alcuin in the eighth century, who warned of the foolishness of the peoples voice. Chronicle citations of Walter Reynolds's 1327 sermon on the adage (discussed further below) indicate that the expression had become proverbial by the fourteenth century. For the proverb's history, see S. A. Galiacher, "Vox Populi, Vox Dei," PQ 24 (1945): 12-19; Hans Walther, Proverbia sententiaeque Latinitatis Medii Aevi: Lateinische Sprichworter und Sentenzen des Mittelalters und derfriihen Neuzeit in alphabetischer Anordnung (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1963-69); Alain Boureau, "L'adage 'Vox populi vox Dei et l'invention de la nation anglaise (VUIe-XIIe siecle)," Annales, Histoire, Sciences Sociales 47e Annee, No. 4/5 (1992): 1071-89. For the context of Reynolds's sermon, see Matthew Giancarlo, Parliament and Literature in Late Medieval England (Cambridge U. Press, 2007), 59-60, and W. Mark Ormrod, Edward III (Yale U. Press, 2011), 51.

(22) John 7:28 also states, "a me ipso non veni" (I am not come of myself).

(23) Macaulay, Complete Works, 313, and Stockton, Major Latin Works, 470n.4. These lines are written over erasure in SCEHG.

(24) 3.Prol.61-82, 7.25.55-56.

(25) The reasons for Ovid's banishment are not entirely certain. In the Tristia, he cites two crimes, "carmen et error" (2.207). The literary crime, the publication of Ars Amatoria, may have been a ruse to deflect from Ovid's political misfortunes. In the Tristia, he alludes to having seen something he shouldn't have, which has invited comparison with the tale of the crow in Metamorphoses 2 retold by Gower and Chaucer. For the exile motif as well as the popularity of Ovid's Tristia and Epistulae Ex Ponto in medieval England, see Anita Obermeier, "The Censorship Trope in Geoffrey Chaucer's Manciples Tale as Ovidian Metaphor in a Gowerian and Ricardian Context," in Stephen Partridge and Erik Kwakkel, eds., Author, Reader, Book: Medieval Authorship in Theory and Practice (U. of Toronto Press, 2012), 80-105.

(26) John Watts, "Public or Plebs: The Changing Meaning of the Commons, 1381-1549," in Huw Pryce and John Watts, eds., Power and Identity in the Middle Ages: Essays in Memory of Rees Davies (Oxford U. Press, 2007), 242-60; W. Mark Ormrod, "Murmur, Clamour, and Noise: Voicing Complaint and Remedy in Petitions to the English Crown, c. 1300 -c. 1460," in W. Mark Ormrod, Gwilym Dodd, and Anthony Musson, eds., Medieval Petitions: Grace and Grievance (Woodbridge: D.S. Brewer, 2009), 135-55.

(27) Claire Valente, "The Deposition and Abdication of Edward II," English Historical Review 113 (1998): 852-81. Accounts of the deposition appear in Thomas Walsingham, Historia Anglicana, ed. H. T. Riley, Rolls Series No. 28, pt.l, 2 vols. (London, 1863, 1864), 1:186; Chronicon de Lanercost, ed. J. Stevenson (Edinburgh: Impressum Edinburgi, 1839), 258; the Historia Roffensis (London, B.L. MS Cotton Faustina B.v, fos. 49v-50r) printed in Anglia Sacra, ed. Henry Wharton, 2 vols. (London, 1691), 1:367; and the "Forma" (Cambridge, Trinity College MS R.5.41, fos. 125r-126r) printed in Natalie Fryde, Tryanny and Fall of Edward II: 1321-1326 (Cambridge U. Press, 1979; repr. 2003), 234. For the chronicle tradition, see M. V. Clarke, "Committees of Estates and the Deposition of Edward II," in Medieval Representation and Consent (New York: Russell and Russell, 1936), 173-95 and Roy M. Haines, "Bishops and Politics in the Reign of Edward II: Hamo de Hethe, Henry Wharton, and the Historia Roffensis',' Journal of Ecclesiastical History 44 (1993): 586-609.

(28) C. Given-Wilson et al., ed. and trans., The Parliament Rolls of Medieval England (Leicester: The National Archive, Scholarly Digital Editions, 2005), II: 324b.

(29) For the London clamor against Gaunt, see The Saint Albans Chronicle: The Chronica Maiora of Thomas Walsingham, ed. John Taylor and Wendy R. Childs, trans. Leslie Watkiss, vol. 1 (Oxford U. Press, 2003), 82-84. Tracing the legal framework back to the reign of Edward II, Wendy Scase underlines the legal force that accompanied the clamor of the people in Literature and Complaint in England 1272-1553 (Oxford U. Press, 2007). Emily Steiner focuses on the troubled nature of clamor, its competing claims to political representation and consent and its portrayal in times of political stress as "the undifferentiated vox of a commune vulgusj in "Commonality and Literary Form in the 1370s and 1380s," New Medieval Literatures 6 (2003): 209.

(30) For the participants of the Rising and their motivations, see Andrew Prescott, "London in the Peasants' Revolt: A Portrait Gallery," London Journal 7 (1981): 127-33; J. L. Bolton, "London and the Peasants' Revolt," London Journal 7 (1981): 123-24; Pamela Nightingale, "Capitalists, Crafts and Constitutional Change in Late Fourteenth-Century London," Past and Present 124 (1989): 3-35; and Pamela Nightingale, A Medieval Mercantile Community: The Grocers' Company and the Politics and Trade of London, 1000-1485 (Yale U. Press, 1995), chap. 11.

(31) Anonimalle Chronicle, 1331-1381, ed. V. H. Galbraith (Manchester U. Press, 1970), 139.

(32) For Gower's legal background, see John Hines, Nathalie Cohen, and Simon Roffey, "Iohannes Gower, Armiger, Poeta: Records and Memorials of His Life and Death," in A Companion to Gower, 23-41, and Candace Barrington, "John Gowers Legal Advocacy and 'In Praise of Peace,'" in Elisabeth Dutton, John Hines, and R. F. Yeager, eds., John Gower, Trilingual Poet: Language, Translation, and Tradition (Woodbridge: D. S. Brewer, 2010), 112-25.

(33) Stockton suggests that Gower did not actually subscribe to the adage voxpopuli, vox Dei, given his vexation over the 1381 Rising (368n.2). For Aers, it is only after the common voice is rendered in Latin that it could garner the esteem of the voice of God (" Vox Populi and the Literature of 1381," 440). Similarly, Urban says that the references to the people's voice comprise a "double movement" of conjuring and silencing the people (Fragments, 72-73).

(34) The contextualization of terms is similar to that of patristic and other medieval writings, in which people terms can (although do not always) signal the stratification of plebs and vulgus along lines of ecclesial relationships, social class, and education. For Augustine's use of plebs to designate the laity or pastoral flock in distinction to priests and bishops, see Alexander Evers, Church, Cities, and People: A Study of the Plebs in the Church and Cities of Roman Africa in Late Antiquity (Leuven: Peeters, 2010). Juristic texts, including Justinian's Institutes, following the second-century exemplar of Gaius, tend to specify the distinction of terms along class lines: plebs excludes and populus includes patricians and senators. Justinian's Institutes, trans. with an introduction by Peter Birks and Grant McLeod with Latin text of Paul Krueger (Cornell U. Press, 1987), 1.2.4. In one of his epistles, Alcuin uses the patristic phrase vulgus indoctum (untaught crowd) to explain the outbreak of violence in Tours. See Samuel W. Collins, The Carolingian Debate Over Sacred Space (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), 117. The preface to Petrarch's De Remediis likewise distinguishes between the common crowd (vulgari cognomine) and the learned few (docti ... quiperrari sunt), although it does so to explain the broad appeal of the language of fortune. Petrarque, Les Remedes aux Deux Fortunes, De Remediis Utriusque Fortune: 1354-1366, vol. 1, ed. and trans. Christophe Carraud, (Grenoble: Millon, 2002).

(35) Stockton's prose translation in Major Latin Works adopts the more contemptuous connotation of vulgi: "Why does he believe that the words of the prattling mob are an honor, and wish to possess them at the price of death?" (202).

(36) Vox 5 characterizes the peasantry in these ways: "Inter quos plebis magis errat iniqua voluntas, / Sulcorum famulos estimo sepe reos" [A perverse will roves more among those of the commons, /1 rate servants of the plow often liable; 5.9.575-76] and "Hie loquitur eciam diuersis vulgi laborariis, qui sub aliorum / regimine conducti, variis debent pro bono communi operibus subiugari" [Here he also speaks of the various workers from the rabble, / hirelings under the charge of others who ought to be bound to their various tasks for the common good; 5.10.Rubric].

(37) "Car ja ne serront arrestuz / Par resoun ne par discipline" [For they will not be stopped by reason or by discipline; MO 26500-5]. William Burton Wilson, trans., Mirour de I'Omme (The Mirror of Mankind) (East Lansing, MI: Colleagues Press, 1992), 347-48.

(38) Fisher, John Gower, 98-99.

(39) Ovid, The Art of Love and Other Poems, ed. J. H. Mozley, 2nded. (Harvard U. Press, 1985).

(40) Justice, Writing and Rebellion, 212. See also John A. Alford, "The Idea of Reason in Piers Plowman," in Edward Donald Kennedy, Ronald Waldron, and Joseph S. Wittig, eds., Medieval English Studies Presented to George Kane (Suffolk: D.S. Brewer, 1988), 199-215.

(41) The allusion is to Matthew 7:6.

(42) Augustine, The City of God Against the Pagans, 6: Books 18.36-20, ed. W. C. Greene (Harvard U. Press, 1969). The translation is from the edition of the same name by R. W. Dyson (Cambridge University Press, 1998).

(43) Rigg and Moore, "The Latin Works: Politics, Lament and Praise," 160. See also Malte Urban's discussion of Gower's stylistics in "Past and Present: Gower's Use of Old Books in Vox Clamantis," in John Gower: Manuscripts, Readers, Contexts, ed. Malte Urban. (Turnhout: Brepols, 2009), 176.

(44) Confessio Amantis, Prol. 17-19. This is the mark of the Confessio's public status in Middleton's "Public Poetry." Middleton says it is here that Gower's authorial "voice is no longer that of the prophet, satirist, or moral historian, but that of a lover, and his style is conscientiously pitched to take a 'middel weie' between earnest and game" (102).

   Nunc caput a statua Nabugod prescinditur auri,
   Fictilis et ferri stant duo iamque pedes:
   Nobilis a mundo nunc desinit aurea proles,
   Pauperies ferri nascitur atque sibi.

   [Now the head of gold is severed from Nebuchudnezzar's statue,
   And the two feet of clay and iron still stand:
   Now the noble, golden race passes from the world,
   And the poverty of iron springs from it.]

(46) In the Prologue of the Confessio, Gower follows the Book of Daniel even more closely by marking the destruction of the feet first in his depiction of Nebuchadnezzar's statue. As in the biblical story, the feet are destroyed by a stone that represents the might of God. See Russell A. Peck, "John Gower and the Book of Daniel," in John Gower: Recent Readings, 159-87. Lynn Arner reads the Confessio's statue for its critique of the 1381 rebels in "History Lessons from the End of Time: Gower and the English Rising of 1381," Clio 31.3 (2002): 237-55.

(47) Ovid, Metamorphoses 1-8, ed. G. P. Goold, 3rd ed. (Harvard U. Press, 1984), 1.130-31.

(48) For Malte Urban, the historical significance of the erasure of the middle section "adds to Gower's focus on the perceived rupture separating his present from the idealized past, with the absent torso highlighting the absence of the vital connection between past and present" ("Past and Present," 182).

(49) Political theory that informs Gower's project includes John of Salisbury's Policraticus and Vincent of Beauvais's Speculum Doctrinale. See R. F. Yeager, "The Body Politic and the Politics of Bodies in the Poetry of John Gower," in Piero Boitani and Anna Torti, eds., The Body and the Soul in Medieval Literature (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 1999), 145-65. See also D. E. Luscombe and G. R. Evans, "The Twelfth-Century Renaissance," in J. H. Burns, ed., The Cambridge History of Medieval Political Thought (Cambridge U. Press, 1991), 306-40.

(50) For the connection between Gower and Brinton, see Galloway, "Reassessing Gower's Dream Visions," in John Gower, Trilingual Poet, 299. It seems likely that they had mutual acquaintances. In the spring of 1382, Brinton participated in the commission to try 1381 rebels in Kent along with Sir Arnald Savage, the executor of Gower's will, and two others with whom Gower had business dealings. Savage himself may have helped to circulate Gowers Latin poetry; see Parkes, "Patterns of Scribal Activity," 81-121.

(51) "Huius mistice corporis multa sunt membra, quia capita sunt reges principes et prelati; oculi sunt iudices sapientes et veraces consiliarii; aures sunt religiosi, ligna doctores boni; manus dextra sunt milites ad defendum parati; manus sinistra sunt mercatores et fideles mechanici; cor sunt ciues et burgenses quasi in medio positi; pedes sunt agricole et laborantes quasi totum corpus firmiter supportantes." Thomas Brinton, The Sermons of Thomas Brinton, Bishop of Rochester (1373-1389), ed. Sister Mary Aquinas Devlin, 2 vols. (London: Royal Historical Society, 1954), 2:111; Mary Aquinas Devlin, trans., "Bishop Thomas Brunton and His Sermons," Speculum 14 (1939): 335-36. For the similarity of this passage to the ideal community of Langland's Piers Plowman, see G. R. Owst, Literature and the Pulpit in Medieval England (Cambridge U. Press, 1933), 586-89, and Anthony Gross, "Langland's Rats: A Moralist's Vision of Parliament," Parliamentary History 9 (1990): 286-301.

(52) See Prescott, "London in the Peasant's Revolt," 127-33.

(53) Paul Strohm, Hochon's Arrow: The Social Imagination of Fourteenth-Century Texts (Princeton U. Press, 1992), 34.

(54) The Westminster Chronicle, 1381-1394, ed. and trans. L. C. Hector and Barbara F. Harvey (Oxford: Clarendon, 1982), 2.

(55) Walsingham, Historia Anglicana, 1:454 and passim; Knighton's Chronicle, 1337-1396, ed. and trans. G. H. Martin (Oxford: Clarendon, 1995), 208.

(56) By reading between the lines of chronicle accounts critics have determined that the rebels had clear objectives; their leaders were articulate; and in many cases they acted with restraint in regard to the documents they destroyed and officials they attacked. For extended analysis, see Justice, Writing and Rebellion, chap. 1.

(57) Westminster Chronicle, 2; Walsingham, Historia Anglicana 1:460; R. B. Dobson, trans., The Peasants' Revolt of 1381 (London: Macmillan, 1970), 173.

(58) Susan Crane, "The Writing Lesson of 1381," in Barbara Hanawalt, ed., Chaucer's England: Literature in Historical Context (Minneapolis: U. of Minnesota Press, 1992), 209.

(59) Craig E. Bertolet, "Fraud, Division, and Lies: John Gower and London," in R. F. Yeager, ed., On John Gower: Essays at the Millennium (Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, 2007), 61.

(60) Justinian Institutiones, 1.2.6, taken from Imperatoris Iustiniani Institutionum Libri Quattuor, Introductions, Commentary, and Excursus by J. B. Moyle, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1890), 104-5. See, for example, Somerset, "Al pe comonys," 124, and Hwa-Yong Lee, Political Representation in the Later Middle Ages: Marsilius in Context (New York: Peter Lang, 2008), 63-71.

(61) As Sylvia Federico has observed in New Troy: Fantasies of Empire in the Late Middle Ages (Minneapolis: U. of Minnesota Press, 2003), 3, Gower's use of the metaphor constructs a "fantasy place, where historical memory and imaginative construction vie with one another for interpretive ascendancy."
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Title Annotation:John Gower's Vox Clamantis
Author:Longo, Pamela L.
Publication:Philological Quarterly
Article Type:Critical essay
Date:Jun 22, 2013
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