Monday, 3 September 2018

John Gower and the Gruffalo

Back in June I was thrilled to get another chance to broadcast an Essay on BBC Radio 3.  This one was about John Gower, "the forgotten medieval poet".  So I dusted off my Middle English, paid a quick trip to Southwark Cathedral, and did my best to convey the amazing range of this 14th-century Kentish curmudgeon.

"Here lies John Gower, poeta celeberrimus"
You can listen now at  It was recorded with a live audience at the fantastic York Festival of Ideas.  I did get rather carried away with this passage from the Confessio Amantis:

Medea with hire art hath wroght
Of cloth of gold a mantel riche,
Which semeth worth a kinges riche,
And that was unto Creusa sent
In name of gifte and of present,
For sosterhode hem was betuene;
And whan that yonge freisshe queene
That mantel lappeth hire aboute,
Anon therof the fyr sprong oute
And brente hir bothe fleissh and bon.
Tho cam Medea to Jason
With bothe his sones on hire hond,
And seide, 'O thou of every lond
The moste untrewe creature,
Lo, this schal be thi forfeture.'
With that sche bothe his sones slouh
Before his yhe, and he outdrouh
His swerd and wold have slayn hir tho,
Bot farewel, sche was ago

Stirring stuff! And a very similar metre to that used by Julia Donaldson, as I explain in my programme.

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