At this stage, I would like to ask you just for brief initial impressions concerning the combination of the "commentary on the state of the world" in the Prologue and the traditional dream vision frame opening. How do they fit together?
"If I shall summon to my mind
Those olden days, then I shall find
How all the world was full of wealth"
It does not only describe the very flawless world, but also a significant part of it is dedicated to the God, praising him in every possible manner.
Love is mentioned in the prologue:
"May He cure all the ills and smarts
That trouble full and faithful hearts,
And bring Love back to us again", and Love (with the capital L) is the theme of the following part of the "Confessio Amantis".
Introduction develops these thoughts on Love and tells the reader of its importance, compares Love to a decease, says Love is blind etc., but it is still very significant, and it is a further subject of the poem.
So the introduction presents the reader the main character, who is suffering, for he is far away from his Love travelling in the woods in May, and his blasphemy ("Now let me wholly live or die"). He prays to the Ancient Greek gods of love and they come and make him confess (Christian tradition). It is not unusual (a combination of the Christian traditions and pagan gods or a combination of different cultures), but still was unexpected.
In the commentary on the state of the world little was said on Love, but a lot on how people and society in general degrade through times.
Introduction is, on the other hand, more concerned with the notion of Love (which has a bit of Cretien vibes).
To be honest, it is a hard question for me, I have only assumptions: perhaps, the link is in the fact of confession, that, according to the prologue, would not hurt the society (Venus was frowning and disappointed, for she states, many claim they are descent, and not always it is the truth), and perhaps, there is a price to pay for something one may long for.
In the introduction, we meet the narrator who suffers because of love. He comments on love and all the ways in which one may suffer because of it. As Valeriia has mentioned, it was interesting to note the prominent concept of Christian God and have the Greek Gods of Love present as well. In a way, it reminded me of Beowulf in this sense.
I think that both the prologue and the introduction talk of suffering. This suffering will come if something is left unfulfilled – in the case of the prologue, people are full of hate and incapable of coming together which leads to the division and subsequent suffering. In the introduction, the narrator’s love is left unfulfilled.
The introduction seems to develop some ideas from the Prologue, so I think they go together well. The speaker describes his misery in Love and turns to Venus. Could that mean that he suffers because he turns to a Greek Goddes instead of Christian God? That might be an answer to what was proposed in the Prologue - unless you devote fully to Christian God, those Olden perfectt Days where Love was pure will not come back. But on the contrary, in the first part of the Introduction the speaker says this about God:
"He gives his graces undeserved;
Often, from people who have served
Him well, he takes all benefice,
As from a man who plays at dice"
He doesn't hide the fact that God treats pious and sinful people the same. God decides himself who he will make happy or not regardless of who you are, and as Love is put on the same level as God, it doesn't matter who you are or what you do, Love would come or make you suffer no matter the circumstances. So in the end, is there really a reason to pray to God? I am not sure if I understood the text correctly but this is my feeling about both parts.
I completely agree with the comment about "the good old times." It is a perfect example of "everything looks better in the retrospective." The author focuses on the bad and sad things that are happening around him right now and under this state of mind he brings his nostalgic distorted memories and sweet nostalgia.
In Book 1, he argues that the problem is a lack of temperance. But further on he starts to speak of love in a romanticized way, as of a great (yet blind) power beyond human control, and then he introduces us into the story of the man troubled by unrequited love. I am not quite sure how to understand this transition from a soberly didactic, scorning introduction to a dreamy story of a love-sick man. The combination, or rather contrast between the sober Christian love praised in the introduction and the excited, infatuated talk to the Greek deities does not make the message much clearer.The most likely explanation is that the tale of the lover is a cautionary one (the lover says he has sinned against love, he confesses to Venus and in certain way recieves an absolution. In this sense, the Venus persona could possibly be considered a personification of the ideal love presented in the prologue, rather than the Greek goddess (so in this sense she is not "problematic" within the discourse of Christian literature).
I wonder how well Gower´s ideal love would fit into the idea of Christian love: something that is more caritas than passion? The prologue and the dream vision seem a curious combination of the two (curious to me as a reader nowadays, I should say): Gower (unlike Jean de Meung) is completely serious in his description of Genius as Venus´ priest/confessor.
I wonder where exactly this dream-vision trope of “I went into a forest and found myself elsewhere” started, since it is found in romances, in Roman de la Rose, in Gower and in Dante (and these are actually interconnected, and Gower takes a lot from Roman de la Rose, but still, where did it start?).
I would also like to add something I thought about during our previous lesson and now it occurred to me again:
It is understandable that Gower chooses for his moral a comparison between a lawful and illicit love, but another thing that all the versions ignore is that Apollonius, after he married, forgot about the fisherman (and consequently lost both his wife and then his daughter). This possible moral, which would fit within the pagan and Christian framework (simply “repay this kindness that you received”) is completely left out and despite the text being really narratively inconsistent, I find this the funniest thing. The narrative itself, not only Apollonius, forgets about the fisherman until the very end.
As for the trope, I can't say, because it's difficult to determine what IS the start - i.e., how many of the components that finally meet in the trope have to be there for us to say, this is it. But I know that an analogical situation (green meadow, shade of trees, murmuring streams, warbling birds/cicadas) forms a background for Socrates' inspired third speech in Phaedrus (the vision of Right Love). So I'd say it goes way back. I suppose Curtius would be the author to consult on this. Btw, thanks for bringing up Roman de la Rose. It's definitely a point of departure for all the Late Medieval authors.
I agree with what has already been said, the combination of the two parts certainly seems an interesting choice. They seem to follow each other thematically, but are very different in tone and method. The prologue speaks directly to the reader, while the introduction is formed by the dialogue of the lover and the priest. Much of the introduction seems like an allegory, where the “love-struck” lover converses with Venus and the priest, Genius. The voice of authority seems to change, in the prologue, Gower seems to be moralizing and critical, while in the introduction we get a different speaker, Genius, who seems to be instructing the lover. These changes kind of make it seem like there are two prologues or introductions. The fact that the prologue does not reveal anything about the lover, or the priest etc., thus, there being a little to no relevance of the prologue to the following lover’s confession seems also as very interesting.