Appendix 1: A Translation Of The Traitié (Quixley)


1 Henry Noble MacCracken edited them under the title “Quixley’s Ballades Royal (? 1402)” for the Yorkshire Archaelogical Journal in 1909.

2 There is one exception: the third stanza of Quixley’s balade IV has eight lines, rhyming ABABAACC.

3 Gower, Complete Works, 1:xvi.

4 E.g., IV.1, IV.12, V.13, VI.12, and VII.3.

5 Also noted by MacCracken, “Quixley’s Ballades Royal,” p. 36.

6 Mise en page, with special attention to Latin in Gower manuscripts, has been studied fruitfully by Yeager, “English, Latin, and the Text”; Echard, “Designs for Reading”; and Coleman, “Lay Readers and Hard Latin.”

7 I.e., I: F3: possidebit, S951: debiat possidere; II: F3: castitatem affectat et corpus, S951: omits (likely scribal); III: F3: consistent, S951: subsistent; and VII: F3: Achelontis, S951: Acheloi.

8 See McIntosh, Samuels, and Bensken, Linguistic Atlas of Late Mediaeval English, p. 646 (LP 526), although n.b.: the entry analyzes only Speculum vitae, locating its origin near Liverpool; Historia trium regum and “Quixley’s” translation, however, are noted simply as “not NM.” A comparison of word-forms with LALME-mapped items (vol. 2), however, places the dialect of the balades in the region of Quixley (now Whixley), Yorkshire.

9 The term is adapted from Ralph Hanna’s description of British Library, MS Additional 59495, the Trentham MS; see London Literature, pp. 223–24.

10 The main proponent of Nassington’s authorship is Peterson, William of Nassington.

11 It is possible the blank pages were left by a scribe aware of the abridgement, in anticipation of later additions to the Historia trium regum text.

12 Interestingly, a hand that seems to be the scribe’s proofed his work, and made corrections in the margins of both Historia trium regum and Speculum vitae. No such corrections are present in the translation.

13 MacCracken, “Quixley’s Ballades Royal,” p. 38.

14 MacCracken, “Quixley’s Ballades Royal,” p. 39.

15 Gower, Complete Works, 1:lxxiii–lxxiv; MacCracken, “Quixley’s Ballades Royal,” p. 39.

16 MacCracken, “Quixley’s Ballades Royal,” p. 39n3; and see further Stevens, “Royal Stanza,” pp. 62–76.

17 Fisher, John Gower, pp. 39–41. MacCracken remarks “While no relationship has been proved between these Gowers [i.e., of Stitenham] and John Gower of Kent and Suffolk . . .” (“Quixley’s Ballades Royal,” p. 39).

18 York Archiepis Reg Arundel, folio 43.

19 After the Dissolution, Nostell was sold, in 1547, to Sir Thomas Gargrave (d. 1579), speaker of the House of Commons (1558–59) and vice-president of the council of the North under Elizabeth I. (Dictionary of Nation Biography 8:875–76). Nothing remains of the original priory: on the property today is “Nostell Priory,” an eighteenth–century house built by Sir Rowland Winn.

20 See Allison, A History of the County of York, pp. 231–35. See also Burrows, “Geography of Monastic Property.”

21 Leeds District Archives MS NP/C1, copied ca. 1489–1505.

22 “Ad exemplum servorum dei, illustrium gesta virorum recitare constat necessarium, quatinus de factis bonorum virtutes imitando colligant, et malorum vitia diligentius deserendo devitent. Quamobrem modum et formam fundationis prioratus sancti Oswaldi de Nostell necnon gesta priorum eiusdem loci in scriptis deo volente ad presens commendare dispono.” Leeds District Archives MS NP/C1, folio 84.

23 Such an attitude toward the positive efficacy of books would not have been unique to Robert de Quixley; rather, it was the standard Augustinian position, as stated in the order’s Rule, to promote reading both at meals and in private; see, e.g., Lawless, Augustine of Hippo, pp. 74–118; and further Robert of Bridlington, Bridlington Dialogue: “Proinde quoniam oratio et lectio potiora sunt quam quelibet exterior actio, ipsa quoque lectio sagina quedam est orationis, potioribus propensiorem curam modo clam, modo palam impendamus. Cum enim oramus, cum Deo lquimur. Cum autem legimus, nobiscum Deus loquitur” [Further, since prayer and reading are to be preferred to any outward activity, and reading is, moreover, the sustenance of prayer, we should devote ourselves more earnestly to those more desirable pursuits, sometimes in private, and sometimes in public. For when we pray, we speak to God; and when we read, God speaks to us], pp. 162, 163a. It was a lasting position in the order: “Codices,” stated Robert Richardson (ca. 1530), “sunt religiosorum armature, contra diaboli tentationem” [Books are the armor of the religious against the temptation of the devil]; see Richardson, Commentary on the Rule of St. Augustine ed. Coulton, p. 146. And see further Dickinson’s description of the “strong studious tendency within the order,” Origins of the Austin Canons, pp. 186–92.

24 When parish churches fell vacant, priories were often granted the right to take over their revenues in exchange for adopting requisite pastoral duties; see Burton, Monastic Order, pp. 238–40.

25 Boffey would seem to be in agreement about Gower’s project: see “‘Cy ensuent trois chaunceons’: Groups and Sequences of Middle English Lyics,” pp. 86–87.

26 Peterson, William of Nassington, summarizes the difficulties, pp. 22–27.

27 “. . . pray specialy / For Freere Johan saule of Waldby, / That fast studyd day and nyght, / And made this tale in Latyne right . . . Prayes also wt deuocion / For William saule of Nassyngtone, / That gaf hym als fulle besyly / Night and day to grete study / And made this tale in Inglys tonge.” For the verses, see London, British Library MS, Royal 17 C.viii and London, British Library MS, Hatton 19.

28 The connection, as well as spurious claims for Richard Rolle’s authorship, was disproved by Hope Emily Allen; see “Authorship of the Prick of Conscience,” pp. 163–70 and “Speculum vitae: Addendum,” p. 136; also Writings Ascribed to Richard Rolle, pp. 371–72.

29 On Waldeby, see especially Morrin, John Waldeby.

30 See Peterson, William of Nassington, p. 19.

31 On the Premonstratensians, see Colvin, White Canons in England.

32 See especially Confessions IV.ii and VI.xv.

33 Balade XIX.2 reads: “He wrote þat auoutier punysht shal be / To leese a lym, or prisonned ful soure, / Or schame shall hym falle of dishoneste, / Or elles pouert withoute eny socour, / Or sodeyn deeth to his grete dishonour; / Whoo enspyred thus hym to teche suche thyng? / God of heuen, our blys without endyng.” Line 2 apparently takes literally Augustine’s metaphors of the soul imprisoned by lust (variously, but see, e.g., De nuptiis et concupiscentia, I.xxvi, xxx, and xxxi); line 3, see De nuptiis and vii; line 5, see De nuptiis I.i, xxx and xxxi; the refrain seems based on De nuptiis I.iii. For line 4 I find no close equivalent. Interestingly, the Latin commentary, which must be “Quixley’s” product as well, differs considerably from the balade: “Philosophus quidam carnis de labe remorsus Plebis in exemplum verba refert unam de variis penam fortiter adulter eius ut amplexus omnis in orbe luat aut membrum perdet aut carceris antea subibit aut cadet infamis non reputandus homo aut sibi pauperies infortunata resistit. Aut moriens subito transit ab orbe reus.” [A certain philosopher, vexed about the fleshly sin of the people, recounts in an exemplum that an adulterer who, having boldly embraced every manner of sexual sin in the world, must choose one punishment from among various: either lose his member, or go down into prison, or die in infamy, not to be considered a man of repute, or withstand dire poverty. Or, dying swiftly, the sinner passes from the world.] Such disparities between Latin commentary and English verse are not uncommon in Gower’s own work, however, as historically scholars have noted. The ill-constructed Latin of the commentary to XIX may also provide a clue to the awkward references to De nuptiis: “Quixley” may have had a problem construing Augustine’s elegant style. Nor can we be certain of the state of his source text.

34 On the founding of St. Mary Overey and Nostell as Austin priories, see Dickinson, Origins of the Austin Canons, pp. 119–21.

35 Triennial Chapters were required of all English Austin abbots and priors after 1215, and could easily have provided occasion for book exchange. Extant Chapter Acts are incomplete, especially for those held in the south, but Acts from Chapters hosted by northern houses have Nostell several times as a gathering-place. While no known record survives of St. Mary Overey as host, the Acts of the Chapter at Newstead in 1371 have the priors of Southwark and Nostell together in attendance; at the Northampton Chapter in 1404, Southwark is unlisted. But Nostell is present, alongside the priors of Twynham and Southwick; both houses are from the see of Winchester, that of St. Mary Overey. See Salter, Chapters of the Augustinian Canons, pp. 69, 80. Another institutionalized conduit of exchange was through the three-member teams of visitors who annually circulated among houses, to report on their physical and spiritual condition. Visitors were appointed at the Chapter, and the position rotated among houses: e.g., Henry, prior of Southwark, was to oversee throughout the dioceses of Winchester and Salisbury, but gave up the position in 1392 due to failing health (Salter, p. xxix).

36 Again, the testimony of the Chapter Acts is not irrelevant here, by way of illustrating the changing fortunes of French in Austin houses by the mid-fifteenth century: at Northampton in 1325, a statute was passed enjoining canons needing to speak during the hours of silence to use only Latin or French; but by 1443 sermons were delivered at the Oseney Chapter only in English and Latin (Salter, Chapters of the Augustinian Canons, p. 14; xxxi–xxxii). In this, Austin practice mirrors the chronology of the general shift away from French usage in England established by Baugh and Cable; see “Re-Establishment of English,” in History of the English Language, and further Fisher, Emergence of Standard English, especially “Transition from Latin and French to English,” pp. 43–46; but see also Machan, English in the Middle Ages, pp. 71–110, who presents a somewhat more nuanced sociolinguistic process.

37 This edition was prepared by MacCracken (see p. 153n1). He describes his editorial practices: “Words in brackets [ ] are inserted by me; words in parentheses ( ) are in the text, but are considered to be additions by the scribe, and superfluous.” Italics indicate an abbreviation that MacCraken has expanded.

38 [Heading: Exhortacio Contra Vicium Adulterii.]

39 The rubric to this triple ballade (not in Gower’s original version, which limits the whole matter of the philosopher) reads as follows:—
“Philosophus quidam carnis de labe remorsus Plebis in exemplum verba refert unam 
de variis penam fortiter adulter eius ut amplexus omnis in orbe luat aut membrum 
perdet aut carceris antea subibit aut cadet infamis non reputandus homo aut 
sibi pauperies infortunata resistit. Aut moriens subito transit ab orbe 
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Appendix 1: A Translation Of The Traitié (Quixley)

by: R. F. Yeager (Editor)
from: The French Balades  2011

“Quixley’s ballades royal,” as they were termed by their first and only previous modern editor, occupy folios 313–322 of London, British Library MS Stowe 951, and are the final of three works contained therein.1 Described in a rubric in the manuscript as “Exhortacio contra vicium adulterii,” they number nineteen balades plus an extra stanza that serves as an introduction of sorts to the translation proper. Of these poems, one (XIX) is wholly original to “Quixley,” as is the prefatory stanza, where the translator/poet names himself; the others are his translations into Middle English from the eighteen French balades that comprise John Gower’s Traitié — hence one reason for the inclusion of “Quixley’s” work in the present volume. (Another reason — one more worthy, perhaps — is that the uniqueness of these poems as an early example of French-to-English trans­lation deserves wider recognition.) In his introductory stanza, the translator/poet “Quixley” hides nothing, but he packs a good deal of information into a few lines. He makes explicit what he’s done, and pointedly claims credit: “þis litel tretice” (translating, one supposes, Gower’s “Traitié”), he says,
Gower it made in frenshe with grete studie
In balades ryale whos sentence here
Translated hath Quixley in this manere.
A number of things are interesting here. Gower’s name, the lines imply, was sufficiently well known as to require no further identification for the translator’s projected Yorkshire readership — a telling reflection, one can infer, of the spread of the poet’s reputation beyond London in the early fifteenth century. The point would seem strengthened by “Quixley’s” apparent care at the outset to specify his work as translation, rather than original compo­sition. Clearly, he knew and respected the difference, and he projects that sophistication onto his audience as well. Similarly, when he names the verse form as “balades ryale” — i.e., balades in rime royal stanza — “Quixley” demonstrates a technical knowledge of poetics and suggests, again, that this level of information would also matter to his readers.

Yet for all that, it is Gower’s “sentence” — his moral instruction, or perhaps just his literal meaning — that here in these opening lines “Quixley” says he makes his focus. This decision is not without implications for the translation he produced. It isn’t possible to identify “Quixley’s” translation principles with anything like precision, since he left no known description of them. Placed side by side, however, “Quixley’s” versions of Gower’s originals divulge an assortment of priorities. As he suggests himself in the lines quoted above, getting across Gower’s “sentence” must have held the top of “Quixley’s” list, followed closely by sticking to the form of his original as faithfully as he could. Or at least to some elements of Gower’s form: what he could see, “Quixley” copied; but as will be discussed in due course, his ear and Gower’s were hearing different drums.

As much as possible, “Quixley” translates line by line, each of his own replicating in English the form and sense of Gower’s corresponding line in French. Thus, like Gower’s, “Quixley’s” balades are three stanzas of rime royal (ABABBCC), with the seventh line of the first stanza repeating as the final line of the second and third, providing a refrain.2 Where his English vocabulary and Gower’s French corresponded, “Quixley” appears to have elected transliteration. His version of balade V is a prime example: in stanza 1, Gower’s rhymes are “reson/eslire/eleccion/desdire/desire/beste/honeste” while “Quixley” has “reson/wyve/ eleccion/believe/alive/beste/honeste”; in stanza 2, Gower has “profession/descrire/incarnacion/ Sire/remire/geste/honeste” and “Quixley” “profession/descryve/incarnacion/arrive/dryve/geste/honeste”; and in stanza 3, Gower has “beneiçoun/enspire/dissolucioun/lisre/dire/ moleste/honeste” and “Quixley” “beneison/mysselve/devocion/lyve/active/arreste/ honeste.”

Not all cases are this close, of course. “Quixley” has it easier when Gower’s rhymes are not, for example, on French infinitives (although he tries, as in the match of “descrire/ descryve,” above) or on words which for “Quixley” offered only equivalents derived from Anglo-Saxon: “pour quoi” (“why,” XIII.15) or “ghemir” (“groaning,” XIV.18), to name two. But it is surprising, on close examination, how readily so many of Gower’s French rhymes could be turned, with a shift of letter here or there, into recognizable English — an observation as valuable linguistically, perhaps, about Gower’s Anglo-French as it is about the state of “Quixley’s” vernacular. Indeed as a result, where “Quixley’s” rhymes most stray from Gower’s, his sense does, too — as in stanza 2 of balade I. First Gower (with a literal translation), then “Quixley”:
En dieu amer celle alme ad sa droiture,
Tant soulement pour fermer le corage
En tiel amour u nulle mesprisure
De foldelit la poet mettre en servage
De frele char, q’est toutdis en passage:
Mais la bone alme est seinte et permanable;
Dont sur le corps raison ert conestable.
[This soul in its rectitude loves God, / Exclusively to firm the heart / In such love that no misdeed / Of foul delight is able to put it in service / Of the weak flesh, which is always passing away: / But the good soul is holy and eternal; / Therefore reason is constable over the body.]
* * * *

For to þe soule þat is so clene & pure
Parteneth to loue god in stedfastnesse;
And nat encline to foule delite vnsure,
Be which it myght deserue peynful duresse;
Thassent is perilleus, as þat I gesse,
Therfore schuld be þe soules mocion
The flesche to holde vnder be reson.
Guessing at “Quixley’s” motives for the changes he inserts is futile, of course, and — even were it possible to know — unlikely to repay the effort. The main point to be taken, probably, is that while “Quixley” for the most part renders Gower closely, he also goes his own way from time to time, enough to require a caveat: accept “Quixley” with caution, if perceiving Gower accurately is one’s brief.

As noted above, however, “Quixley’s” labors to replicate the look of Gower’s balades did not extend to echoing their sound — an observation that might at first seem superfluous, given Gower’s Anglo-French and “Quixley’s” English as starting points. Metrical regularity, it seems fair to say, was one of Gower’s poetical strengths, even in French — but it was not among “Quixley’s.” (Either that, or he invented a system of his own that eludes us still.) Too often “Quixley’s” product resembles the first stanza of balade III:
God bonde vs nat to þe moost parfitenesse,
But wolde þat we euer parfite schuld be.
Who þat to god voweth withoute excesse
His body for to lyve in chastite,
Myche is his mede; Who list nat this degree,
Bot take a wyf to haue lawful issue; —
God it plesyth al suche matrimoyne due.
Gower, in contrast, in the words of G. C. Macaulay, “is extremely regular. He does not allow himself any of those grosser licences of suppression or addition of syllables which have been noticed in Anglo-Norman verse of the later period.”3 Here is Gower’s stanza that “Quixley” translated:
Au plus parfit dieus ne nous obligea,
Mais il voet bien qe nous soions parfitz.
Cist homme a dieu sa chasteté dona,
Et cist en dieu voet estre bons maritz:
S’il quiert avoir espouse a son avis,
Il plest a dieu de faire honeste issue
Selonc la loi de seinte eglise due.
It would seem that Gower intended a symbiotic metricality, combining French syllabic counting (ten per line) with English measures based on stress. The lines above scan readily as iambic pentameter, with general suppression or elision of the final “–e” (a likely exception being “eglise” in the refrain). “Quixley,” however, again appears to have approached his poetry visually: he counted his syllables, aiming at ten per line (although he often allows himself nine),4 but seemingly paid scant heed to stress placement. Nor did “Quixley” pronounce, or at least regularly pay attention to, final “–e.”5 The result, in any event, is a metrical rough-and-tumble, when read aloud.

In one respect “Quixley” may have altered his practice of replicating in his translations what he saw in Gower’s original — but then again, perhaps not. Throughout the Confessio Amantis, Gower added Latin prose commentaries to his tales, and in the Traitié he did the same. (Indeed, because most known copies of the Traitié are found preceded in their manu­scripts by the Confessio, Gower at one time may have come to consider these balades a kind of coda to his English poem.) All eighteen of Gower’s balades have at least one Latin prose commentary; some have two — and in one case (X) there are three, one attached to each stanza. In the manuscripts of the Confessio, these Latin commentaries appear variously: some are in black ink, some in red, some are in the margin, and some are incorporated into the column of text.6 Similar variation occurs with the commentaries in versions of the Traitié. Because Macaulay elected to use as the base manuscript for his definitive edition of both the Confessio and the Traitié London,British Library, MS Fairfax 3, which locates the Latin commentaries in the margins, in black, this has seemed the norm for generations of readers. British Library, MS Stowe 951, our only extant copy of “Quixley’s” translation, rubricizes the Latin prose commentaries and installs them in line with the balades. Perhaps this was “Quixley’s” preference — but it might easily have been what he saw in his working copy. (London, British Library, MS Harley 7184 presents the Latin of the Confessio like this, for example.) With what we know presently, we cannot be certain. In any case, “Quixley” copied Gower’s original Latin commentaries faithfully: there are only four minor variations between what appears in British Library, MS Stowe 951 and British Library, MS Fairfax 3, and all are of the kind that could — again — reflect not “Quixley” but an exemplar differing in these instances from British Library, MS Fairfax 3, or even simple scribal error.7 More important, perhaps, is that “Quixley” continued the practice by adding a prose Latin commentary to his own balade XIX, the final poem he seems not to have translated, but rather written himself, in conscious imitation of Gower. This suggests that “Quixley” considered the Latin prose commentaries at the very least stylistically integral to the Traitié as a whole work. Even more interesting perhaps is that, while translating the French, “Quixley” apparently saw no urgency also to make English of Gower’s Latin commentaries — a clue, conceivably, to the language skills of “Quixley’s” intended readership and, as will be addressed below, perhaps to his own identity as well.

The Manuscript

London, British Library, MS Stowe 951 is a product of the first half of the fifteenth century; judging from its single hand, probably first quarter. From its language its copyist hailed from north-central Yorkshire, an area including the village of Quixley (modern Whixley).8 It approximates quarto size (14 x 20.3 cm), and contains 322 folios, employing the same paper throughout, save the first and final leaf of each quire, which are vellum. The backing is leather and a later addition (c. 1700s), but the boards, originally fastened by straps now lost, are of rough oak, .6 cm at their thickest, tapering toward the edges, and are clearly con­temporary with the manuscript. Boards and leaves are cut flush. In overall appearance British Library, MS Stowe 951 is “squarish,”9 rustic, homespun: not of profes­sional manufacture.

In addition to Quixley’s translations, the manuscript contains (folios1–29r) an abridged Three Kings of Cologne — an English prose version of John of Hildesheim’s (d. 1375) Historia trium regum by an anonymous translator — and (folios 32–312) the Speculum vitae (Mirror of Life), in English verse, sometimes attributed to William of Nassington (d. 1359).10 There is no indication of other works having been included, or intended, although blank pages exist from the top third of folio 29r , where the Historia trium regum concludes, through folio 32r, where the Speculum vitae begins.11 Three inks were used throughout the manuscript: a dark brown-black for all entries, red for the Latin commentaries in the translation, and a blue for enlarged capitals (randomly) in all three works. MS Stowe 951 thus appears to have been executed as a single piece, by a single copyist.12 “Quixley’s” translation is rendered in a large script in a single column, each page holding on average three stanzas plus a Latin com­mentary — that is, about a poem per page.

The Translation: Its Date and Author

Until now, the sole appearance of “Quixley’s ballades royal” in print was the 1909 edition of Henry Noble MacCracken. MacCracken argued for a composition year of 1402, on the grounds that, for him, the best candidate for the identity of “Quixley” was one “John Quixley of Quixley, lord of the manor of Quixley, armiger, whose daughter Alice, on the 18th of September in 3 Henry IV (1402) married Thomas Banke, attorney of the Duchy of Lancaster.”13 Quixley manor stood “twelve miles away from . . . the manor of Stitenham, the home of the Gowers of Yorkshire,” MacCracken wrote, and “it is probable that they took pride in the distinguished poet of their name” — enough perhaps to obtain a copy of “the latest poem of John Gower’s from London.”14 This copy was loaned to neighbor Quixley, who Englished it for his daughter’s nuptials. It was Alice’s marriage that clinched both date and identity for MacCracken, who followed Macaulay’s belief that Gower wrote the Traitié as a wedding gift for his own wife, Agnes Groundolf, on the occasion of their marriage in 1398, and John Quixley — in MacCracken’s view — “prepared this poem for his children, daughter, and son-in-law.”15 Were this true, it would have a host of significant implications, as MacCracken pointed out, not the least of them being that “Quixley’s” identification of Gower’s Traitié as “balades ryale” in his introductory verse would make it the earliest known application of the term, one usually connected (however incorrectly) to James I’s employing the stanza in his Kingis Quair, ca. 1424.16 It would be a significant indication, too, of how far and how quickly Gower’s reputation and work already had spread, six years before his death. Yet as John Fisher proved decisively (and even MacCracken suspected), John Gower was no near relation of the Stittenham family; and while this distant consanguinity does not altogether obviate any possible interest by the Yorkshire Gowers in a London writer of their name, it does dampen the theory a bit.17 Nor does it help that dating the translation so early, in 1402, demands major revisions of both accepted literary history and handwriting dating practices.

An explanation that likely suits the circumstances better can be found, however, if a different “Quixley” were the translator. A Robert de Quixley became prior of Nostell Priory and prebend of Bramham in 1393, posts he held until his death in 1427.18 Nostell was an Augustinian house, dedicated to St. Oswald. Although no building remains visible today, it was situated some twenty-five miles southwest of York, and eight from the great Lancastrian stronghold of Pontefract Castle — hence well within the dialectal province of MS Stowe 951.19 Beyond this long tenure — Robert de Quixley spent 34 years at his post, the longest service in Nostell’s history — about the prior himself little is known. Nonetheless, a good deal may reasonably be inferred from the few facts we possess, beginning, perhaps, with that longevity itself. Prior Robert must, obviously, have been robust, and a steady, efficient admin­istrator, one energetically dedicated to both the fiscal and (more importantly, perhaps) moral refurbishment of his house, battered earlier in the century by insolvency and “disobediences” of various brethren.20 One fact we do have is that de Quixley either wrote, or at the very least closely directed the production of, an act book of Nostell’s priors, De gestis et actibus priorum monasterii sancti Oswaldi.21 Pointedly, in a prefatory statement the author justifies this writing, not simply as an attempt to keep Nostell’s history from beinglost, but rather on moral grounds:
By way of example for the servants of God, it is necessary to recount the deeds of illustrious
men, inasmuch as virtues may be acquired by imitating the acts of good men, and vices
avoided by very diligently forsaking the evil. For this reason I myself propose to commem­
orate in writing the means and the manner of founding the priory of St. Oswald of Nostell,
and as well the acts of the priors of this same place, God willing.22
Implicit here is the writer’s belief in the power of the book to effect moral rectitude.23 The unusually emphatic underscoring of the authorial “I” (“ad presens . . . dispono”) strongly suggests De gestis et actibus priorum to have been the achievement of Robert de Quixley himself; or if not, then that of a designated surrogate over whose shoulder Nostell’s prior must have looked, as his orders were carried out and his vision of the salubrious power of the text made actual.

Unfortunately, no volume once belonging to the library of Nostell has been identified as extant today. Not even the remaining copy of De gestis et actibus priorum can be placed there with certainty. Thus it is difficult to test the theory that, as the preface to De gestis et actibus priorum implies, Prior Robert de Quixley assembled books as edifying bulwarks against an unfortunate repetition of his institution’s errant past. Nonetheless, as a candidate for the “Quixley” behind British Library, MS Stowe 951, he fits rather better than does John Quixley of Quixley manor. This is especially true if, as seems likely, Prior Robert was also the author of De gestis et actibus priorum, with its expressed affirmation of the book as a salvific instrument. For on closer consideration of its contents, British Library, MS Stowe 951 was apparently assembled to be just such an instrument. The Speculum vitae, like Gower’s Traitié, is a patently didactic work composed with moral reform in sight; but so is — albeit to a less obvious degree — John of Hildesheim’s Historia trium regum. Through its narrative of the double reward, both on earth via sanctification and above, with their heavenly ascent, of the three oriental kings who offered, along with their rich material gifts, the first public obeisance to Christ’s divinity, the Historia trium regum powerfully directs its readers toward the meaning and value of unshakable faith and sustained, unrelenting perseverance in life’s journey toward the bright light of God. It also tells the story of the nativity in a manner no doubt useful to Nostell canons who regularly served duty as parish priests — a pastoral task for which the pithy material of the Traitié condemning adultery could have come in handy as well.24 Clearly, “Quixley” added his translation of Gower’s Traitié to the Speculum vitae and the Historia trium regum because he thought it of a piece with these two works for a reason.25 The way it is headed in the manuscript (“Exhortacio contra Vicium Adulterii”) displays a moralizing utility, as do the first four lines of the prefatory stanza “Quixley” penned:
Who þat liste loke in þis litel tretice
May fynde what meschief is of auoutrie
Wherfore he þat will eschewe þat vice
He may see here to beware of folie.

Also pointing toward Robert de Quixley is the Augustinian affiliation of his house. Two of the three texts in MS Stowe 951 — the Speculum vitae and “Quixley’s” Traitié translation — have Austin coloring of various kinds, both internal and external. Precise identification of William of Nassington, widely believed to have composed the Speculum, remains some­thing of a vexed issue — as does, indeed, the Speculum’s authorship. He was perhaps a follower of the Rule of St. Augustine, although the evidence is slight and circumstantial.26 In two of some forty–five whole and fragmentary manuscripts of the Speculum currently known, a prayer is offered for “Willm saule of Nassyngton” who “made þis tale in ynglys tonge” and one as well for a “Freere Johan . . . of Waldby” who “made þis tale in Latyn right.”27 Waldby (or Waldeby) was ruled out as a serious claimant of the Speculum vitae some time ago;28 he was, nevertheless, an English provincial of the Austin friars (d. 1393?), a Yorkshireman and possibly the brother of Robert Waldby (d. 1398), archbishop of York and an Austin friar also.29 The most likely candidate for the William of Nassington named with Waldby from several possibilities (“of Nassington” being merely a toponymic identification, and common practice for religious) died in 1359, apparently after serving, among many posts, as chancellor first to John Grandisson, bishop of Exeter (d. 1369), and subsequently to William Zouche, archbishop of York (d. 1352).30 Neither prelate was an Augustinian, but Grandisson, William of Nassington’s earliest and continuous supporter, elected to be buried in the chapel of St. Radegund at Exeter, she being a patron saint of the Premonstratensians, who also followed the Rule of St. Augustine.31 It is thus possible that the bishop and his chancellor grew close via a shared Austin practice, and that the scribal author of the Speculum vitae’s versified prayer for the Augustinian Waldby and William of Nassington was prompted to write these original verses by a mutual affiliation with the order.

More substantial indications of an Augustinian background for “Quixley,” however, are the allusions he himself makes in the longest bit of writing we can be certain was his. Two of the three stanzas of his balade XIX, the original poem “Quixley” wrote to conclude his translation, evince a familiarity with Augustine’s life and works. The first stanza of XIX thus recalls Augustine’s self-portrayal in the Confessions:32
A philosophre of a grete citee
Whilom þer was, and of ful grete honour;
Which after yhouth thoght þat ryght wele myght he
His body stroonge emploie, as a lichour
In fool delyte, so prykked hym þat stour;
But grace of crist made hym soon repentyng,
God of heuen our blys without endyng.
The stanza following reflects Augustine’s De nuptiis et concupiscentia (On Marriage and Concu­piscence), albeit in a fashion more garbled than one might perhaps hope from an Austin prior.33

Of course, the works of Augustine were hardly the exclusive property of those pledged to his rule. But books did circulate between Austin houses to be read and copied, and St. Mary Overey in Southwark, notably where Gower lived and wrote the Traitié, was another Augustinian priory.34 On balance it is many times easier to accept Gower’s balades traveling north in the saddlebag of a Nostell canon up from London to be copied in the priory in the 1420s than to envision them reaching Quixley manor courtesy a scarcely related Gower of Stittenham, and finding their way fortuitously into the hands of John Quixley, in the nick of time for his daughter’s wedding in 1402.35 And, with the overbearing terminus ad quem of the Quixley nuptials set aside, placing a copy of the Traitié in Yorkshire for translation in the 1420s brings together received scholarly opinion of the hand, the linguistic features, and the use of “balades ryale” in British Library, MS Stowe 951 into single accord. This is a narrative only enhanced by Prior Robert de Quixley’s concern to provide moral texts for his canons’ reading — something his possible authorship of De gestis et actibus priorum monasterii sancti Oswaldi seems oftlineto suggest. And it helps explain as well both the puzzling retention of the Latin commentaries, and “Quixley’s” original composition of another such for the added balade XIX, when Gower’s French apparently required translation. For what Yorkshire audience was French fading, while Latin (ragged though “Quixley’s” is) main­tained currency, except perhaps among those in orders? Certainly that number included Austin friars and canons, who were taught preaching in both languages, and who regularly received sermons in both at triennial Chapter meetings.36 Ultimately, British Library, MS Stowe 951 may very well be a holograph, at least as far as “Quixley’s” rendering of Gower’s balades is concerned, and the copying of the Historia trium regum and Speculum vitae the work of their translator-poet as well. That that poet-translator was Robert de Quixley, Yorkshireman, canon and prior, of the Augustinian house of Nostell, seems a credible, if not indeed a likely, possibility.



















































































Who þat liste loke in þis litel tretice
May fynde what meschief is of auoutrie
Wherfore he þat will eschewe þat vice
He may see here to beware of folie
Gower it made in frenshe with grete studie
In balades ryale whos sentence here
Translated hath Quixley in this manere.

The hye maker of euery creature,
That sowle of man made vn to his liknesse,
To whiche as by reson of hir nature
God hath yeuen temperate sobrenesse,
The body to rewle and [for] more fulnesse,
Endowed hit hath of discrecion,
The flesche to holde vnder by reson

For to þe soule þat is so clene & pure
Parteneth to loue god in stedfastnesse;
And nat encline to foule delite vnsure,
Be which it myght deserue peynful duresse;
Thassent is perilleus, as þat I gesse,
Therfore schuld be þe soules mocion
The flesche to holde vnder be reson.

In a gode soule is reson and mesure,
Whoos heritage is heuenesse blesse;
The body is ordeyned for engendrure,
As hir gode spouse wedded in sikernesse;
And booth been oon withouten doubilnesse,
So þat mesure take his lawfull seson
The flesche to holde vnder be reson.

The soule in loue desires continence,
And to lyue chaste, euer in goddes syght:
The body by kyndely experience
Desirs a wife, to multiplie aryght:
Blessed soules! þat oon stuffeth heuen bright,
That other erthe, such is goddys auys;
If oon be good, þat othre is more of prys.

For the soule þat maketh prouidence
May nat of goddes rewarde fayle, be ryght;
For in it is mych more intelligence,
And more vnderstondyng of felyng myght
Then in þe body, for his issue bright.
No, forthy! god made all to his seruys;
If oon be good þat othre is more of prys.

To the soule, god hath yheuen science
Of gode and ill, to chese and haue in sight
That þe body haue nat al reuerence,
But for to beye þe soule bothe day & nyght.
Thilk god, þat all nature hath wroght & dyght,
Hath sette booth twoo in state at his devys;
If oon be good þat othre is more of prys.

God bonde vs nat to þe moost parfitenesse,
But wolde þat we euer parfite schuld be.
Who þat to god voweth withoute excesse
His body for to lyve in chastite,
Myche is his mede; Who list nat this degree,
Bot take a wyf to haue lawful issue; —
God it plesyth al suche matrimoyne due.

So first, whan god made of his hye godenesse
Adam and Eue, in paradyse made he
Mariage of hem two in all clennesse;
That of thaire seede al erth schuld haue plentee.
There vndertaken was spousalitee
Of þe oolde lawe first; so to continue,
God it pleseth al suche matrimoyne due.

And sith þat god by his lawe ful expresse
Two persons hath ordeyned in vnitee,
Ryght is þerfore (þat) boothe in oon herte compresse
Theire loue, withouten chaunge or sotiltee,
In welthe to lyue and in aduersitee,
Schee his goode leef, & he hir spous ful trewe;
God it pleseth at suche matrimoyne due.

With loue whan trowth hath his aqueyntance,
Joyful then beon suche mariages alle!
But who þat purposeth by Deceiuance
Or fals semblant, to schewe his loue at alle
To syght, and vnderneth hydeth his galle,
That is as who of hardes maath a corde,
When þe hert to þe semblant list discorde.

Thilk mariage is goode, ful of plesance,
That of a vertuous loue hath his calle,
But who for Auarice, taketh his chance
Of mariage or luste, his loue is thralle;
Neuere schal that gracieusly befalle,
For consciens schal hym euere remorde;
Whan þe hert to þe semblant list descorde.

Honeste loue, þat to trowth dooth obeissance,
Maketh mariages goode and ryalle,
And who his hert in suche a gouernance
Dooth set, nat nedeth from his gode loue falle,
No of perillous chaunge to haue doutance;
For sayde it is, “auenturous balance
Is mariage,” bot loue then is no lorde
When þe hert to þe semblant list discorde.

Grete merueille is, and myche ayhein reson,
That when a man hath taken vnto wyue
A woman, at his owne eleccion;
And after that his trouth breketh belyue,
And dayly, as longe as he is alyue,
Newe loue seketh, as þat he were a beste;
A mans trowth to breke it is not honeste.

Of wedloke þe hooly profession
Myche more worthe is, þen I here can descryue.
Vnder which Criste to incarnacion
And in þe virginel wombe did arriue:
Who this matere lyst ferther for to dryue,
Let hym loke this ordre of holy geste, —
A mans trouth to breke it is not honeste.

Of wedloke þat hye and gode beneison
Of god & of þe holy goost myssyue,
By holy chirche, doon with deuocion
Enspireth þe sacrament terme of lyue;
Nat to be dissolued bot lyf actiue
Tobserue, and ay clennesse in hert arreste;
A mans trouth to breke it is not honeste.

Nectanabus, which of Egipt was kyng,
To defoule Olimpias þat was queene
Of Macedoyn, Philip hir lorde beyng
Absent, did suche labour as þat was seene
That Alisandre was goot hem betweene.
Bot what of ioye thay fonde in þaire errure?
The ende scheweth al the sore auenture.

If synne be nye, grace away gooth rennyng;
That preued wele, for þat synne was so keene
The son þe fadre slowgh withoute knowyng;
Therfore take hede, wittyng, & nothyng weene
That suche auoutrie with grief and teene
Venged wil be, of so grete forfeture;
The ende scheweth all the sore auenture.

Kyng Vlixes, to plese flesshly likyng,
Fro Penelopee dide hym fast to fleene;
Brak hir his trowth, & toke another yhyng,
Circes, to loue and gat of hir so scheene
Thelegonus, which, as þat storyes meene,
His fader slewe, loo! suche an engendrure
The ende scheweth al the sore auenture.

In þe desert of the hye & grete Inde,
He þat two pylers of brasse did ordeyne,
Hercules, toke his wyf, as I fynde,
The faire Deyanire, þat is to seyne
Of Calidoyne þe kynges doughter soleyne;
Conquerd hir of Achelois by bataille, —
Grete peril is to breke a mans spousaille.

Anoon lewdly after chaunged his mynde
For Eolen, þat he his spouse souuereyne
Hated, that other made hym so foole blynde
That what of hym sche list haue or atteyne
Was his plesir; no thynge wolde he restreyne,
The begynnyng and eende can not euenly faille:
Grete peril is to breke a mans spousaille.

Hit neuer was ne be schal in man kynde,
Bot of suche synne vengeance mot nede be pleyne.
For hercules þat fals was and vn kynde
Of a venymed schert was foul deseyne,
And brent hym self; parched euery veyne,
Of his mysdede he bare þe countre taylle.
Grete peril is to breke a mans spousaille.

The noble knyght Jason, þat fro Colchos
The flees of golde by the helpe of Medee
Conquerd, wherof he (he) had ful mychel loos, —
Thurgh oute þe worlde he gate renommee,
The yhonge lady then praysed of beautee
With hym he toke, and wedded at deuyse;
Brokyn wedloke god will venge & dispise.

When Medee beste truste to haue hir lord cloos
In hir loue, and tweyne childre borne had sche,
Then hir forsoke Jason, and toke purpos
An other to loue, & breke his seuretee: —
That was Creusa kyng Creons doghter free —
Wher of vengance befell of due Justise;
Broken wedloke god will venge & despise.

When Medea this knewe, aanone sche roos
With angry hert, and ayens al pitee
Hir yhonge two sons, as thai had been hire foos,
In a grete raage sche slowgh, þat he myght see
How fals he was to hir, and thus was he
Despised, & his schame gan for tarise.
Broken wedloke god will venge & despise.

That Auoutier þat dooth continuance
In his foule synne, & hath therof delite,
Full litel can he drede goddes vengeance;
Wherof I fynde a Cronyque thus I-write
For ensample, gode is it to recite;
A man may note what it dooth signifie.
Horrible is þe synne of auoutrie.

Agamenon, þat had in gouuernance
Of grekes all þe chosyn floure soubgite
At troye, whan þat he was moost of puissance,
Climestre his wyfe was mychel to wyte;
For Egistus sche loued nat a lite,
And brake wedloke, to hir grete vilenye,
Horrible is þe synne of auoutrie.

Agamenon of deeth suffred penance,
And be treson was slayn, withoute respite,
Of his owne wyfe, þat had no repentance.
What fell þerof? Orestes had despit,
And with [his] hand he slewe hir in þat plite:
And Egist was hanged on galowes hye;
Horrible is þe synne of auoutrie.

Loo, þe fairest worldly creature,
Þe wyfe of kyng of grece Menelay,
Whiche was þe fool synnere ouer mesure,
Helayne, for whom Parys made hym full gay,
After all her lust thoght it was no play,
Whan troye destroyed was, and brent to grounde;
So hye a synne god will of ryght confounde.

Tarquinius þe proude myght not endure
In his synne longe, for he foul did assay
To breke wedloke, be force of his luxure,
Chaste Lucresse Collatyns wyf bylay,
And he þerfore exiled was for ay;
Sche for sorowe slewe hir selfe in þat stounde;
So hye a synne god will of ryght confounde.

A Prince, Mundus, þat Rome had in his cure,
In Ysis Temple, þe moneth of May
Belay Pauline, of chastitee tresure,
By two prestes assent to þat foule play,
Wherof he banysht was withoute delay, —
Hanged were þe prestes as lawe then founde;
So hye a synne god will of ryght confounde.

Albyns, þat was a prince ful batailleus,
And þat first was kyng of all lumbardie,
Slewe his enmye as kyng victorieus,
Gurmund, which þat afore held chiualrie,
His doughter Rosamunde, þe beale cherie,
He weddyd after þat, but what may last?
Who euil doth, he mon be vnderthrast.

A wedloke suche was neuer gracieuse,
Where god lyst not it to senitifie.
The lady, whiche was wroth & yrous
That he hir fader slewe, anoon in hye
Hir owne husband to loue she gan denye,
And to Elmege, straunger, hir hert sche cast.
Who euyl dooth, he mon be vnderthrast.

Of synne spryngeth an ende malicieus,
For by poyson, made by grete sotelee,
Albins was dede, & sche, þat lichereus,
With hir Elmege, was brent for felonye
By þe duc of Rauenne in þe baillye
Of his palays, juggement was past,
Who euill dooth, he mon be vnderthrast.

The noble kyng of Athenes, Pandion,
Twoo doghters begat, Progne & Philomene;
Which bothe were vnder the proteccion
Of kyng Tereus, of Trace where he þe scheen
Lady Progne hath wedded, and made hir queene.
Bot þat other sister loued he myche more;
Wykked lyfe maath a man tabye ful sore.

Of foole delyte, contrarie to reson,
This Tereus kyng, by falshede ther foresene,
The virginite rauysht be treson
Of Philomene, þat no falshede couthe wene;
And brak his wedlok, for whiche son was seene
That fro wele was turned all his lore.
Wykked lyfe maath a man tabye ful sore.

Over cruele was vengeance þerof doon,
For his yhonge son his wyfe there slewe for tene,
And put his flesshe to sere decoccion,
And gafe þe fader to eete all bedeene, —
Therfore anone was he forschapen cleene
To a lapwynk, lo þe vengeance perfore!
Wykked lyfe maath a man tabye ful sore.

Seint Abraham, chief of þe lawe oolde,
Froom Canaan fledde for a grete famine,
And toke with hym his wyfe, and what he wolde,
Vnto Egipte where he dredde of couyne,
When Pharao toke to concubyne
His wyfe Sarrai, he made ful grete murnyng.
Lordes of estate schuld tempre thair lykyng.

This Abraham dred myche þe kyng so bolde,
That he nat durst gaynstande þe said rauyne,
For to haue þees, þerof compleyne he nolde,
Therfore dyd hym þe kyngs fauour encline;
Bot yhit þe synne most haue his discipline,
For god chastiside hit, to be tokynyng,—
Lordes of estate schuld tempre ther lykyng.

Sodeynly or men wyst what befalle scholde
Thurghoute Egipt ther fell such a moryne
That Pharao, when his men hym þat tolde,
And what meschief, noon other medicyne
So astonyed couthe he then ymagyne,
But restored Sarray, with forthynkyng;
Lordes of estat schuld tempre ther lykyng.

Myche is man[ne]s flesshe frele and vileyne;
Withouten grace may no man here do wele.
Therof scheweth þe bible, in certeyne,
Whan kyng Dauid did morther his knyght lele,
Vry, in þe bataille for Bersabee la bele;
A wyfe sche was, bot for þat he ne spared.
Noon is siker þat god hath not in warde.

The beautee þat he see in hir soleyne
Made hym of na poair his lustes frele
For to abstene, so þat of lufe þe peyne
Made hym to fall ayhenis god as rebelle.
Oon syn with another will entermelle.
Manslaght and auoutry had of hym garde.
Noon is siker þat god hath not in warde.

Bot he of his pitee souuereyne
Gafe grace vn to Dauid his prophet lele,
Tamende his gylt, saue þat betwix hem tweyne
The childe getyn deyed, thus did god dele;
For swete a soure; yhit by his prayers fele
Mercy asht he, mercy fande he rewarde.
Noon is siker þat god hath not in warde.

Open been bothe Cronyk and historie
Of Lancelote and of Tristram also,—
And yhit their foly is in þe memorye
For ensampil, yheuyng vn to all tho
That been alyve, nat for to lyuen so.
Beware! I rede, of other mens folye:
O brid by a nother can hym chastie.

Al tyme of yhere þe faire of loue sotie
Is open to all þat lyst choese of two
Cupides tonnes, to which þe peple flye,
That oon is swete, & such is þer no moo;
That other bitter is of peyne & woo;
Betwix hem two god is to modifie.
Oon brid by a nother can hym chastie.

To som pat in fortune will hem affie,
Sche is bothe white and blak, now frend, now foo:
Now lyue in ioye, now in purgatorie,
Withouten rest, withouten rewle: se, lo!
How sche tourneth þe face hir sutoure fro.
Therfore fole is þat in lust wol affie.
Oon brid by a nother can hym chastie.

Men fyndes oft in diuers scripture
Many worthi, þat in armes had renoun;
But few þere were þat of chaste loue were sure,
Ne þat clenly kept thaire condicioun,—
As Valentinian made his sermoun
To þe Romayns, alle be syche auys;
“Who þat his flessh venqueth most haue þe prys.”

For he þat ouercoms al auenture
Of þe worlde, schuld haue a grete guerdoun.
More owe he then, whome pryks þe flesshly cure,
If he holde hit sugit vnder his abandoun,
Heuen to deserue, se this comparisoun,
Whether the world is bet or paradise?
Who þat his flessh venqueth most haue þe prys.

And loue þat hath armes in his tenure,
Ful stronge it is, bot þe professioun
Of verray loue surmonteth al nature,
And maath a man lyve in lawe of resoun.
In mariage is the parfeccioun,
Kepe he his trowth, þat in þis ordre lys.
Who þat his flessh venqueth most haue þe pays.

Trewe loue is betwix twoo þe holy bonde
That all her lyfe stant, withoute departyng,
As was þe trouth yplyght in þe ryght honde
At þe chirche dore; but when other lykyng
From twoo to three maketh a newe changyng
Then loue is non: what is þat auantage?
To oon is oone ynogh in mariage.

No loue þat is comune wil not longe stonde;
A man to haue oone wyfe, — it is plesyng,
But he þat ay chaunges fro londe to loonde
And in oon place, can nat haue his bydyng:
Vnto Gawayn may he be resemblyng,
Curteys of loue, bot he was ouer volage;
To oon is oone ynogh in mariage.

He may be lyke to þe moone nerehond,
That first gode loue schewith in apperyng,
When he a wyfe to haue taketh on honde,
Thof white or broune sche be; & maath changyng
To a newe by morne, trust wele þat suche thyng
Shal he abye ryght sore at his passage;
To oon is oone ynough in mariage.

Whoo þat of goolde hath [gret] aboundance
Grete wroong he dooth þat from a nother wight
His money steeleth, ryght so [þe] meschaunce
Will fall to hym þat preeseth day & nyght,
A nother mans wyfe, to defoule by myght,
And his owene forsaketh for a newe;
Such loue was neuer gode ne may be trewe.

Of three blessed estats of gouuernance,
Wedloke is þe second rewled aryght:
Whoo þat ordre setteth in fool plesance
Miche may be doute, for peyne þat is hym dyght.
Therefore gud is, wedloke in cristes syght
To keþe honeste, waare auoutier untrewe!
Suche loue was neuer goode ne may be trewe.

The conscience schuld weye al in balance,
That when he of his fool delyte hath syght
To haue remors & weue al such foul chance,
For els no doute he shall lake heuens lyght.
O gode wedloke! thi lyfe is faire and bryght;
O avoutier! beware to continewe!
Suche loue was neuer gode ne may be trewe.

A philosophre of a grete citee
Whilom þer was, and of ful grete honour;
Which after yhouth thoght þat ryght wele myght he
His body stroonge emploie, as a lichour
In fool delyte, so prykked hym þat stour;
But grace of crist made hym soon repentyng,
God of heuen, our blys without endyng.

He wrote þat auoutier punysht shal be
To leese a lym, or prisonned ful soure,
Or schame shall hym falle of dishoneste,
Or elles pouert withoute eny socour,
Or sodeyn deeth to his grete dishonour;
Whoo enspyred thus hym to teche suche thyng?
God of heuen, our blys without endyng.

To all þe worldes vniversitee
This balade be ensample and myrrour:
And whoo lyst nat to stonde in this degree,
Rather or þat he fall into errour
Of (flesshly) lust, I reede he chese þat peramour
That is, was, and euer schall be lastyng, —
God of heuen, our blys without endyng.

Go To A Note on Gower's French by Brian Merrilees