John Gower ‘The Lover’s Confession’ ctd.

Philomela (here called Philomena) tells Tereus in strong words how she is going to complain about the dreadful thing he’s done: if she is among people, she will tell the people, if she is in the forest, she will tell it to the trees, or if she is imprisoned, she will tell it to the stones. Tereus then wraps her tresses around his arm and cuts off her tongues with shears. This is a detail which is both incongruous and horrific – one would sooner expect him to carry a sword than a pair of shears, unless he premeditated this. She has only a bit of tongue left with which she can chatter like a bird, a foreshadowing of her future fate. Then he imprisons her in an unspecified location (if I understand it correctly) and returns to his wife, telling her that her sister is dead. The grieving Procne starts to wear mourning and organizes a funeral for her sister (a symbolic one?). In the meantime, Philomela in her ill-defined prison ponders about the sudden change of her fortune, from king’s daughter to a maimed prsoner, and however sorry I feel for her, I don’t think I could take one more medieval meditation about the fickleness of fortune and the fall of the mighty. Fortunately she doesn’t dwell too much on it, but starts to pray in her heart (obviously being unable to pray aloud) to Jupiter for a means of vengeance.


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