As Gower explains, Philomela as the nightingale mourns in her song her shame and sings about the pain of love. Procne was turned into a swallow and as such, she dwells near people’s home to warn wives about their husbands’ treachery. Tereus was turned into a lapwing (unlike in the traditional version, where he was turned into a hoopoe) – he has a crest on his head in memory of the fact that he used to be a knight. He was turned into a lapwing, because lapwings are the most treacherous of birds [the same comparison appears in Chaucer and Shakespeare. Apparently lapwings’ custom to fly away from their nests in order to lead the predators away earned them this reputation.] Genius ends his story with the moral: don’t rape and the Lover says he’d rather be trodden by wild horses than do something so abominable. Besides, as the saying goes, love is mixed with dread, so he dreads his lady’s displeasure and wants only to do her will. Then he asks Genius to keep on teaching him. All of these messages I, of course, heartily approve, although I can’t help thinking about these PSAs Rebel Alley does in Arrested Development. “Shoplifting. Not cool”.
In the next post, I am going to delve into the mysterious and complicated world of William Langland.