John Clanvowe

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Sir John Clanvowe (1341–1391) was a Welsh diplomat, soldier and poet.

Clanvowe was born to a Welsh Marcher family in an area that would later become part of Radnorshire but took up residence in Wigmore, Herefordshire.

He was a personal friend of Geoffrey Chaucer.[1] In 1386 they were both deponents in Scrope v. Grosvenor in the Court of Chivalry (where both Clanvowe and Chaucer testified in support of the claims by the Scrope family to bear a particular coat of arms).[2]

He was one of the 'Lollard knights' (with supposedly heretical views) at the court of Richard II of England.[3]

In 1390 he was campaigning with Louis II, Duke of Bourbon against Tunis.[4] He was buried with Sir William Neville in a joint tomb discovered in 1913 in Istanbul's Arap Mosque[5][6] in a way (helmets facing each other as if kissing, shields overlapping, impaled coats-of-arms), which would suggest a homosexual relationship between the two men.[7]


His best-known work was The Book of Cupid, God of Love or The Cuckoo and the Nightingale, a fourteenth-century debate poem influenced by Chaucer's Parliament of Fowls. In the poem, the nightingale praises love but the cuckoo mocks it for causing more trouble than joy. The poem is written as a literary dream vision and is an example of medieval debate poetry. A concerto inspired by the poem was composed by Georg Friedrich Handel. It apparently also influenced works by both John Milton and William Wordsworth.

Clanvowe also wrote The Two Ways, a penitential treatise.[8]

He is first mentioned in the History of English Literature by F. S. Ellis in 1896. The Cuckoo and the Nightingale had previously been attributed to Chaucer but the Encyclopedia of Medieval Literature notes the absence of direct evidence linking Clanvowe with the work.[9]


  1. ^ Thomas Garbaty, Medieval English Literature (1984).
  2. ^ Edith Rickert, Chaucer's World (1962), p. 147.
  3. ^ David Aers, Culture and History, 1350-1600: Essays on English Communities, Identities, and Writing (1992), p. 9.
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ Düll, Siegrid; Luttrell, Anthony; Keen, Maurice Hugh. 'Faithful unto death : the tomb slab of Sir William Neville and Sir John Clanvowe, Constantinople 1391'. Antiquaries Journal, 71 (1993 for 1991), 174-90. ISSN 00035815.
  7. ^ Bray, Alan. The Friend.  Google Books
  8. ^ Lee Patterson, Chaucer and the Subject of History (1991), p. 38.
  9. ^ Robert T. Lambdin, Laura C. Lambdin, Encyclopedia of Medieval Literature (2000), pp. 104-5.

Further reading[edit]

  • V. J, Scattergood (1975), The Works of Sir John Clanvowe
  • David Wallace (editor), The Cambridge History of Medieval English Literature (2002), pp. 571–2.