This poem is a classic example of a chivalric romance from the Medieval era. A man aspires to become worthy of the object of the princess he loves, however, what sets this apart from a child’s bedtime story is the social, emotional, and personal obstacles that the protagonist must overcome. As is common with Medieval romances, the white knight figure must prove himself, but what modern audiences often fail to recognize, is not that the protagonist must prove their Wirth in order to deserve love, what they are actually being asked to do, is to begin a journey of self-discovery and personal development. The narrative style dictates, that the protagonist must change in some way either. From a modern perspective, it may seem as if this plot is superficial and that it is wrong for a man to have to prove himself rather than being loved for who he is, but that is not the medieval perspective as the goal of the heroic journey is not to gain affection, but conversely to discover oneself in the process of encountering strange and challenging things.
Another aspect of this poem that is hard to overlook is the presence of the natural world in the poem. The poet goes on and on about the garden that the squire retires to when he is feeling sad about his position and inability to be with his love. In this way, nature is treated as a respite. However, it is not just a garden, it is an escape from the pressures of society. The garden is a place where each bird, whether a “swalowe”, “larke”, or “sparowe”, contributes to the ambiance (bird song) and each tree, whether a “cyresse”, “sykamoure”, or “fygge-tre”, contributes to the visual beauty of the overall atmosphere (Copeland). If we compare this garden to the outside world we see how in nature, but not in the strict hierarchical society of medieval England, each creature under the sun has something valuable to contribute, even if they are not the same and equal.
something to contribute. This then represents the theme that runs throughout the poem that a virtuous person, despite a lack of funds or noble status, can achieve their goals. The story then becomes less about deserving good things, but that chivalric actions and mindsets will win out over villainy (even when that villain is richer and has a higher position in society).
“The Squire of Low Degree.” Edited by Eric Cooper and William Copeland, Robbins Library Digital Projects, University of Rochester, 2005, d.lib.rochester.edu/teams/text/kooper-sentimental-and-humorous-romances-squire-of-low-degree.