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John Lydgate

John Lydgate

[lid-geyt, -git]
Lydgate, John, c.1370-c.1450, English poet, a monk of Bury St. Edmunds. A professed disciple of Chaucer, he was one of the most influential, voluminous, and versatile writers of the Middle Ages. His works may be divided into three classes: (1) poems written in the Chaucerian manner, such as the Complaint of the Black Knight, which resembles Chaucer's Book of the Duchess, and the allegory The Temple of Glass; (2) lengthy translations, of which the Troy Book (from the Latin of Guido della Colonna), The Fall of Princes (from the French of Laurent de Premierfait), and The Siege of Thebes (also from the French), are the best known; (3) short pieces, including fables, saints' lives, and devotional, philosophic, and occasional poems. After Lydgate's death his fame diminished rapidly. His poetry has been criticized for its prolixity and prosaic style.

See his Poems, ed. by J. Norton-Smith (1966); biography by L. A. Ebin (1985); study by D. A. Pearsall (1970).

John Lydgate of Bury (c. 1370 – c. 1451) was a monk and poet, born in Lidgate, Suffolk, England.

Early life and education

He was admitted to the Benedictine monastery of Bury St. Edmunds at fifteen and became a monk there a year later.

Patronage

Having literary ambitions (he was an admirer of Geoffrey Chaucer and a friend to his son, Thomas) he sought and obtained patronage for his literary work at the courts of Henry IV of England, Henry V of England and Henry VI of England. His patrons included, amongst many others, the mayor and aldermen of London, the chapter of St. Paul's Cathedral, Richard de Beauchamp, 13th Earl of Warwick and Henry V and VI, however his main supporter from 1422 was Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester. In 1423 he was made prior of Hatfield Broad Oak, Essex but soon resigned the office to concentrate on his travels and writing. He was a prolific writer of poems, allegories, fables and romances, yet his most famous works were his longer and more moralistic Troy Book, Siege of Thebes and the Fall of Princes. The Troy Book was a translation of the Latin prose narrative by Guido delle Colonne, Historia destructionis Troiae. Lydgate was also believed to have written London Lickpenny, a well-known satirical work; however, his authorship of this piece has been heavily discredited. He also translated the poems of William of Digulleville into English. In his later years he lived and probably died at the monastery of Bury St. Edmunds.

Talent

The Oxford English Dictionary cites Lydgate with the earliest record of using the word "talent" in reference to a gifted state of natural ability.

Quotations

  • "Who lesith his fredam, in soth, he lesith all."
    —an old proverb Lydgate included in his moral fable The Churl and the Bird
  • Lydgate wrote that King Arthur was crowned in "the land of the fairy", and taken in his death by four fairy queens, to Avalon where he lies under a "fairy hill", until he is needed again.
  • Lydgate is also credited with the first known usage of the adage "Needs must" in its fullest form: "He must nedys go that the deuell dryves” in his Assembly of the Gods. Shakespeare later uses it in All's Well That Ends Well.

References

External links

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