Fritz Kemmler

title.none: Lydgate, Temple of Glass (Fritz Kemmler)

identifier.other: baj9928.0810.019 08.10.19

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Fritz Kemmler, University of Tuebingen,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2008

identifier.citation: Lydgate, John. J. Allan Mitchell. The Temple of Glass. TEAMS Middle English Texts. Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, 2007. Pp. 95. ISBN: $12.00978-1-58044-117-9 .

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 08.10.19

Lydgate, John. J. Allan Mitchell. The Temple of Glass. TEAMS Middle English Texts. Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, 2007. Pp. 95. ISBN: $12.00978-1-58044-117-9 .

Reviewed by:

Fritz Kemmler
University of Tuebingen

Lydgate's Temple of Glass poses quite a few problems: there are three versions (of various length) which can be attributed to either the author himself or the scribes who copied the text. Even though the tone of the poems seems to be a personal one, we do not know for whom or for which special occasion Lydgate composed this allegorical dream vision with its numerous allusions and parallels to Chaucer's early poetry, its detailed apparatus of classical heathen deities, topical allusions and rhetorical pomp.

In a well-planned and carefully executed introduction to his new edition, Allan Mitchell addresses the aspects just mentioned and argues convincingly that Lydgate should not be regarded as a kind of second-rate Chaucer, but as a capable poet in his own right. It is true that Lydgate still used the traditional (courtly) genres which Chaucer clearly had abandoned when he concentrated his attention and creative imagination on his masterpiece, the Canterbury Tales. One really wonders what could have been the "place in life" ("Sitz im Leben") of the genre of love allegory in early fifteenth-century England. Nevertheless, the number of manuscripts (there are seven complete manuscripts and several early printed versions) can be taken as an indication that there was still a "market" for love allegories and dream visions. In view of Lydgate's known patrons it would appear that he resorted to courtly genres to satisfy the literary taste of the rising bourgeois class, consisting of literate guildsmen and including women of rank.

The presentation of the text (21-53) follows the standard layout of the volumes in the TEAMS Middle English Texts Series: difficult Middle English words are glossed in the margin and occasional footnotes provide translations of especially difficult passages. While I have not found any inconsistencies in the Middle English text, the marginal glosses, especially in combination with the select glossary (91-95) are occasionally somewhat unsystematic. Thus, "ewrous," occurring at line 562, does have a marginal gloss, even though it is contained in the glossary. On the other hand, "yold" (line 623), in my view as difficult a form as "ewrous," will have to be looked up in the glossary. There, "yold" is glossed as "made to yield, render; captured"-- all of which glosses are not really convincing with reference to line 623 where "defeated" or "conquered" would be more elegant. At line 584, "That fro the deth, I trow, I mai not stert," "stert" is glossed "leap [out of the way]" and is not contained in the glossary. However, the glossary does contain "astert," glossed "to escape, slip out" and the first of the two glosses, "to escape" is in my view a better gloss for "stert" in line 584.

As noted above, The Temple of Glass is rich in topical allusions and references to the deities of antiquity. There are also numerous references to quite a few of the exemplary figures of classical antiquity. For readers not familiar with these concepts, extensive annotations are needed. Allan Mitchell's detailed and copious notes (55-78) are very helpful indeed. It is only in two instances that I disagree with his commentaries.

At line 703 the speaker refers to "the contre of Cirrea" as the seat of the goddess Venus. Since the reference to the seat of Venus is part of a prayer to the goddess, Mitchell's explanatory note is far from convincing: "Cirrha, an ancient Greek city is all of a sudden revealed to be the location of the Temple of Venus." The prayer is uttered in an oratory (l. 696) which can be anywhere. Further, Mitchell's commentary to line 704, where "sete" may mean both "home" and "exalted position of power," does not, in my view, effect "a symbolism that borders on the sacrilegious."

Line 706 reads: "In the river of Elicon the wel." The explanatory note is not really convincing: "Helicon is a large mountain in Greece" (72). While this is certainly true, the emphasis in line 706 is not on a mountain, but on a river and a well. A reference to the two famous springs associated with Mount Helicon, Aganippe and Hippocrene, both sacred to the muses, would have been a more helpful commentary.

The volume also contains textual notes (79-84) and a helpful bibliography (85-89). All in all, this carefully produced book is a welcome addition to the TEAMS Middle English Texts Series.