Quicquid Homo Scribat (In fine)

JOHN GOWER, THE MINOR LATIN WORKS: NOTES

ABBREVIATIONS: CA: Gower, Confessio Amantis; CB: Gower, Cinkante Ballades; Cronica: Gower, Cronica Tripertita; CT: Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales; CVP: Gower, Carmen super multiplici viciorum pestilencia; IPP: Gower, In Praise of Peace; Mac: Macaulay edition; MO: Gower, Mirour de l'Omme; TC: Chaucer, Troilus and Criseyde; Thynne: William Thynne, printer, The Works of Geffray Chaucer (1532) [prints IPP from Tr]; Traitié: Gower, Traitié pour essampler les amantz marietz; VC: Gower, Vox Clamantis.

All biblical citations are to the Vulgate text, and, unless otherwise noted, all biblical translations are from the Douai-Rheims. For a list of manuscript abbreviations, please see Manuscripts in the Introduction.

10. QUICQUID HOMO SCRIBAT (IN FINE): NOTES

The marginal Latin glosses, identified by a capital L in the left margin next to the text, are transcribed and translated in the notes and can be accessed by clicking on the L at the corresponding line.

Quicquid homo scribat (In fine): This poem -- or is it three? -- survives in three versions in five manuscripts: S, C (also surviving in H and G), and Tr versions. Tr and C are sufficiently different from S -- which alone begins Quicquid homo scribat -- that they are sometimes identified as In fine, the title being taken from the prose note which accompanies the version in C. (But since a nearly identical prose note appears in S, but not in Tr, which lacks a note altogether, In fine as a title for Tr and C would seem only to add to the confusion.) Macaulay posited S as the "final" version because Gower included it in the manuscript presented to Archbishop Arundel ca. 1402 or later, and for this reason grouped all three under a single title derived from the (unique) first line of S -- a choice with complications of its own, as one can search in vain for those words in the texts of Tr and C. In support of Macaulay's ordering are statements in Tr and C that they were composed in 1400 and 1401, respectively (i.e., the first and second year of Henry IV's reign). The difficulty proceeds from the relationship of the three versions: Tr and C are the closest to each other, while S shares lines, phrases and words with both, an additional factor pointing toward S as the latest version. However, commonalities between S and Tr, and S and C, are not shared by Tr and C: Gower, it would appear, had either copies of, or memory of, both Tr and C available when he wrote S, and drew on both. Quicquid homo scribat is retained here as a title for all three, in deference to the familiarity of Macaulay's edition.

That there are three versions of what Stockton (Major Latin Works, p. 36) has called "Gower's farewell to writing" lacks neither interest nor irony. Despite his protests of lost eyesight, Gower seems to have kept writing, indicating perhaps some latitude in what he meant by his "blindness" (a claim, after all, discoverable in his work for some years) and consequent inability to write. The question of whether age and blindness were a conscious pose for literary purposes is raised by Yeager ("Gower in Winter"). All three versions are in elegiac distichs, rhyming erratically and possibly coincidentally, the second version (at line 15) and the third (at line 17) with unusual pentameters (see Carlson, "Rhyme").

[All Souls version]

2 velud. So S. Mac reads velut.

11 Quamuis exterius. Mac reads Quamuis ad exterius, but ad is clearly marked for deletion in the MS.

 
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Quicquid Homo Scribat (In fine)

by: John Gower (Author), R. F. Yeager (Editor, Translator)









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10. Quicquid homo scribat (In fine)

[Trentham version]

Henrici quarti primus regni fuit annus
   Quo michi defecit visus ad acta mea.
Omnia tempus habent; finem natura ministrat,
   Quem virtute sua frangere nemo potest.
Ultra posse nichil, quamvis michi velle remansit;
   Amplius ut scribam non michi posse manet.
Dum potui scripsi, set nunc quia curua senectus
   Turbavit sensus, scripta relinquo scolis.
Scribat qui veniet post me discrecior alter,
   Ammodo namque manus et mea penna silent.
Hoc tamen, in fine verborum queso meorum,
   Prospera quod statuat regna futura Deus. Amen.
10. To Whatever a Man Writes



It was in the first year of the reign of King Henry IV
   When my sight failed for my deeds.
All things have their time; nature applies a limit,
   Which no man can break by his own power.
I can do nothing beyond what is possible, though my will has remained;
   My ability to write more has not stayed.
While I was able I wrote, but now because stooped old age
   Has troubled my senses, I leave writing to the schools.
Let someone else more discreet who comes after me write,
   For from this time forth my hand and pen will be silent.
Nevertheless I ask this one final thing, the last of my words:
   That God make our kingdoms prosperous in the future. Amen.
(see note)




















pr5




pr10


[Cotton, Harleian, Glasgow version]

Nota hic in fine qualiter a principio illius cronice que Vox Clamantis dicitur, una
cum sequenti cronica que Tripertita est, tam de tempore regis Ricardi secundi
usque in ipsius deposicionem, quam de coronacione illustrissimi domini regis
Henrici quarti usque in annum regni sui secundum, ego licet indignus inter alios
scribentes scriptor a diu solicitus, precipue super hiis que medio tempore in
Anglia contingebant, secundum varias rerum accidencias varia carmina, que ad
legendum necessaria sunt, sub compendio breviter conscripsi. Et nunc, quia tam
gravitate senectutis quam aliarum infirmitatum multipliciter depressus, ulterius
de cronicis scribere discrete non sufficio; excusacionem meam necessariam, prout
patet, consequenter declarare intendo.



Note here in the end how from the beginning of the chronicle that is called Vox
Clamantis, together with the following chronicle, which is the Tripertita, covering
the time of King Richard II up to his deposition, as well as the coronation of the
most illustrious lord King Henry IV up the second year of his reign, according to
the different turns of events I the author, though unworthy in comparison to other
authors, being long concerned especially over what was happening during this
time in England, composed in a brief compendium a series of poems of essential
reading concerning the various events that occurred. And now, weighed down in
many ways as much by the burden of old age as of other ailments, I am not up to
the task of writing distinctly about the chronicles any more and I intend to declare
my recusal, whose necessity is obvious, in what follows.


















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Henrici regis annus fuit ille secundus
   Scribere dum cesso, sum quia cecus ego.
Ultra posse nichil, quamuis michi velle ministrat,
   Amplius ut scribam non meus actus habet.
Scribere dum potui, studiosus plurima scripsi;
   Pars tenet hec mundum, pars tenet illa Deum:
Vana tamen mundi mundo scribenda reliqui,
   Scriboque finali carmine vado mori.
Scribat qui veniet post me discrecior alter,
   Ammodo namque manus et mea penna silent.
Sic quia nil manibus potero conferre valoris,
   Est michi de precibus ferre laboris onus.
Deprecor ergo meis lacrimis, vivens ego cecus,
   Prospera quod statuas regna futura, Deus,
   Daque michi sanctum lumen habere tuum. Amen.
That was the second year of King Henry IV
   When I stopped writing, because I am blind.
My ability serves me no further, although my will does,
   But my physical agency lacks the means to write more.
While I was able to write, I wrote very many things with zeal;
   This part clings to the world, that part clings to God.
Nevertheless I have left to the world its vanities still to be written,
   And with a final poem I write and I go to die.
Let other, wiser men who come after me write on,
   For from this time forth my hand and my pen will be silent.
Thus, because with my hands I can compose nothing of value,
   It is my task to bear the burden of my toil in my prayers.
Therefore I plead with my tears, living and blind,
   That you make our kingdoms prosperous in the future, O God,
   And grant that I receive Your holy light. Amen.
(see note)




















pr5



[All Souls version]

Hic in fine notandum est qualiter, ab illa cronica que Vox Clamantis dicitur usque
in finem istius cronice que Tripertita est, ego inter alios scribentes super hiis que
medio tempore in Anglia contingebant, secundum varias rerum accidencias varia
carmina, prout patet, que ad legendum necessaria sunt, notabiliter conscripsi. Sed
nunc, quia ulterius scribere non sufficio, excusacionis mee causam scriptis
subsequentibus plenius declarabo.



Here in the end it is to be noted how, from the chronicle that is called Vox
Clamantis to the end of the chronicle that is called Tripertita, I notably composed
different poems, which are necessary to read, in the midst of others writing about
the things that happened in England in this intervening time, according to the
different turns of events, as is obvious. But now, because I am not up to the task
of writing any more, I will explain the reason for my recusal more fully in the
following writings.














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Quicquid homo scribat finem natura ministrat,
   Que velud umbra fugit, nec fugiendo redit;
Illa michi finem posuit, quo scribere quicquam
   Ulterius nequio, sum quia cecus ego.
Posse meum transit, quamuis michi velle remansit;
   Amplius ut scribat hoc michi posse negat.
Carmina dum potui, studiosus plurima scripsi;
   Pars tenet hec mundum, pars tenet illa Deum.
Vana tamen mundi mundo scribenda reliqui,
   Scriboque mentali carmine verba Dei.
Quamuis exterius scribendi deficit actus,
   Mens tamen interius scribit et ornat opus.

Sic quia de manibus nichil amodo scribo valoris,
   Scribam de precibus que nequit illa manus.
Hoc ego, vir cecus, presentibus oro diebus,
   Prospera quod statuas regna futura, Deus,
   Daque michi sanctum lumen habere tuum. Amen.
To whatever a man writes, Nature applies a limit
   Which flees like a shadow, nor returns having fled;
She has placed a limit on me, so that I am unable
   To write any longer, because I am blind.
Although my will remains, my ability passes;
   It declines to write any more.
When I was able, I wrote many poems with zeal;
   One part deals with the world, the other with God.
But I have left to the world its vanities still to be written,
   And in a poem of my imagination I write the words concerning God.
Although the act of writing externally now fails me,
   Still my mind writes within me and adorns the work.

Thus because I can write nothing further with my hands,
   I will write with my prayers what my hand cannot.
This is what I, a blind man, pray for in these present days,
   That You make our kingdoms prosperous in the future, O God,
   And grant that I receive your holy light.

(see note)








(see note)








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