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  • Writer's pictureSeb Falk

John Gower and the Gruffalo

Updated: May 12, 2020

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.

John Gower's effigy, Southwark Cathedral
"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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