Rex Celi Deus


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.


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.

Rex celi deus: Of the three poems Fisher (John Gower, p. 99; and see further Carlson, "Gower's Early Latin") deemed the "laureate group" (along with O recolende and H. aquile pullus) probably the earliest, and likely Gower's tribute to Henry IV on or just after his "election," 30 September 1399. As Macaulay (4.416) observed, thirty-four of the fifty-six lines are "an adaptation of the original version" of VC VI.xviii, facilitating the swift composition required in the brief period between the deposition on 30 September and the coronation on 13 October. That the borrowed lines originally praised Richard II adds irony perhaps not lost on Henry and his supporters. The form is predominantly unrhymed elegiac distichs, although internal rhyme is present in lines 21-22 and unisonant internal and end-rhyme in "-a" appear in lines 36-37. More interesting are the final lines 51-56, clearly late: three unisonant couplets with internal and end-rhyme in "-i."

The text here is based on S, read against variants in C, H, G, H3, and Tr.

Prose: Sequitur carmen . . . glorificetur. This heading generally precedes Rex celi deus in manuscripts including Cronica. In G and Tr, where Cronica is absent, Rex celi deus follows IPP, and an alternative heading is used: Explicit carmen de pacis commendacione, quod ad laudem et memoriam serenissimi principis domini Regis Henrici quarti suus humilis orator Iohannes Gower composuit. Et nunc sequitur epistola, in qua idem Iohannes pro statu et salute dicti domini sui apud altissimum devocius exorat. ("Here ends the poem about the excellence of peace, which in praise and memory of the most serene prince of God, King Henry IV, his humble orator John Gower composed. And now follows an epistle, in which with the highest devotion the same John entreats for the health and well-being of his said lord.") On the connection between IPP and Rex celi deus, see note to line 39, below.

1-8 Rex celi . . . ligavit ea. Verbatim VC VI.xviii.1159*-66*. Compare Boethius, De cons. III.met.9, the most familiar statement of God as prime mover who, eternally stable himself, initiates motion elsewhere. Boethius' source is Aristotle; compare Metaphysics 12.6-10, Physics 8.6-10, and On the Heavens 3.2.

9 Ipse caput regum. That the godhead provides the model for the king as head of state is an idea frequently found in Gower's work; see Yeager, "Body Politic," and (on kingship generally) Peck, Kingship.

11 Grata superveniens . . . nobis. Compare the so-called Record and Process of the Renunciation of 30 September 1399, the official version of Henry's public "challenge" for the crown: "that god off his grace hath sent to me"; see Chronicles of London, p. 43. That Henry's accession resulted from divine grace was a cornerstone of Lancastrian propaganda. See lines 19, 21-25, and notes, below.

12 O sine . . . fuit. Compare Acts 15:16-17: "Post haec revertar, Et reaedificabo tabernaculum David, quod decidit: / Et diruta eius reaedicicabo, Et erigam illud: Ut requirant caeteri hominum Dominum, Et omnes gentes, super quas invocatum est nomen meum, Dicit Dominus faciens haec" ("After these things I will return and will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down: and the ruins thereof I will rebuild. And I will set it up: That the residue of men may seek after the Lord, and all nations upon whom my name is invoked, saith the Lord, who doth these things"). See line 40, below.

12-15 O sine . . . ab ymo. As a description of the time prior to Henry's accession, when there was"no safety without disaster," these lines echo in all its hyperbole the Lancastrian version of the last two years of Richard's reign, 1397-99.

17-18 Ex probitate . . . regit. Compare Isaias 9:2: "Populus qui ambulabat in tenebris, Vidit lucem magnam; Habitantibus in regione umbrae mortis, Lux orta est eis" ("The people that have walked in darkness have seen a great light: to them that dwelt in the region of the shadow of death, light is risen"). Isaias 9 foretells the coming of Christ: compare 9:6: "Et factus est principatus super humerum eius" ("the government shall be upon his shoulder"), etc. See further lines 48-50, below.

25-26 Qui tibi . . . frui. Based on VC VI.xviii.1187*-88*: "Qui tibi prima dedit, confirmet Regna future, / Ut poteris magno magnus honore frui" ("May He Who gave you your first realms give you assurance of your future realms, in order that you as a great man can enjoy great honor" -- trans. Stockton).

27-28 Sit tibi progenies . . . solum. In 1399 Henry IV had four living sons -- Henry (eventually Prince of Wales and later Henry V), Thomas (eventually duke of Clarence), John (eventually duke of Bedford), Humphrey (eventually duke of Gloucester) -- and two daughters, Blanche and Philippa. The sentiment is traditional for a poem of this type, but the abundance of Henry's grown children made it especially apt.

29 Quicquid . . . alto. Based on VC VI.xviii.1185*: "Que magis eterne sunt laudis summus ab alto."

31-32 Omne quod . . . tuum. Based on VC VI.xviii.1173*-74*: "Omne malum cedat, ne ledere posit, et omne / Est quod in orbe bonum, det deus esse tuum" ("May every evil vanish lest it have the power to do harm, and may God grant that every good which is on earth be yours" -- trans. Stockton).

33 Consilium nullum . . . iniqum. Based on VC VI.xviii.1171*: "Consilium nullum te tangere posit iniquum" ("May no evil counsel have the power to influence you" -- trans. Stockton). Bad advice from pernicious counselors was always a worry with regard to Richard II; here clearly it is a warning for Henry IV, in light of recent events.

35 Absit avaricia. Greed for his people's goods was central to several gravamina charged against Richard II at the deposition on 30 September 1399. On avarice elsewhere in Gower's work, see variously MO, lines 6181-7704; CA 5; CVP, lines 225-306.

36 Nec queat . . . tua. Based on VC VI.xviii.1172*: "Rex nec in hac terra proditor esse tua" ("O king, . . . may no betrayer of yours have the power to exist in this land" -- trans. Stockton).

37-38 Sic tua . . . tuas. Verbatim from VC VI.xviii.1189*-90*.

39 Nuper ut Augusti . . . Rome. Based on VC VI.xviii.1179*: "Qualis et Augusti nuper preconia Rome" ("And may the shoutings of praise such as Augustus once had at Rome be yours anew" -- trans. Stockton). Augusti is Augustus Caesar, whose accession ushered in the Pax Romana. Establishing peace as a goal of the new imperium underlies Gower's early addresses to Henry; compare lines 44, 47. See note to the Prose heading, above; and, further, O recolende and IPP, below.

40 Anglia leta. So S. Gower's Latin orthography allows a pun on laeta ("joyful") and leta (ruin). Both make sense in the context: see line 12, above.

40-41 Concinat in gestis . . . nostro. Verbatim from VC VI.xviii.1175*-76*.

45 Augeat imperium . . . annos. Based on VC VI.xviii.1181*: "Augeat imperium nostri ducis, augeat annos" ("Let the empire of our leader increase, let him increase his years" -- trans. Stockton).

46 Protegat . . . fores. Verbatim from VC VI.xviii.1182*.

47 Sit tibi pax . . . orbe. Based on VC VI.xviii.1183*: "Stes magis, o pie Rex, domito sublimis in orbe" ("O good king, may you stand sublime in a vanquished world" -- trans. Stockton).

48 Cunctaque . . . tuis. Verbatim from VC VI.xviii.1184*.

48-50 Cunctaque sint humeris . . . queant. See note to lines 17-18, above.

51 Cordis amore . . . paravi. Based on VC VI.xviii.1193*: "Hec tibi que, pie Rex, humili de corde paraui" ("Receive these writings, which I have composed with humble heart for you, good king" -- trans. Stockton).

51-54 Cordis amore . . . tuli. Gesture and language here suggest the poem was a gift, perhaps commemorating the coronation, but more likely Henry's "election" on 30 September 1399. Gower may have been under some pressure to write it: Henry, perhaps influenced by his experience in Milan at the Visconti court, where laudatory poetry was valued for the impression it could create, attempted to lure Christine de Pisan to join his service in 1399 (as did Gian Galeazzo Visconti, slightly later), and doubtless Gower -- and Chaucer -- were "encouraged" as well. See Yeager, "Begging," and more broadly, Jones et al., Who Murdered Chaucer?

52 quia. So S, H. Mac: qui. michi. So S, H. Mac: mihi.

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Rex Celi Deus

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

7. Rex celi deus

Sequitur carmen unde magnificus rex noster Henricus prenotatus apud Deum et homines cum omni benediccione glorificetur.
7. King of Heaven

Here follows a poem by which our magnificent King Henry, singled out by God and men with every blessing, will be glorified.
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Rex celi, Deus et dominus, qui tempora solus
   Condidit, et solus condita cuncta regit,
Qui rerum causas ex se produxit, et unum
   In se principium rebus inesse dedit,
Qui dedit ut stabili motu consisteret orbis
   Fixus in eternum mobilitate sua,
Quique potens verbi produxit ad esse creata,
   Quique sue mentis lege ligavit ea,
Ipse caput regum, reges quo rectificantur,
   Teque tuum regnum, Rex pie, queso regat.
Grata superveniens te misit gracia nobis;
   O sine labe salus nulla per ante fuit;
Sic tuus adventus nova gaudia sponte reduxit,
   Quo prius in luctu lacrima maior erat.
Nos tua milicia pavidos relevavit ab ymo,
   Quos prius oppressit ponderis omne malum:
Ex probitate tua, quo mors latitabat in umbra,
   Vita resurrexit clara que regna regit.
Sic tua sors sortem mediante Deo renovatam
   Sanat et emendat, que prius egra fuit.
O pie rex, Cristum per te laudamus, et ipsum
   Qui tibi nos tribuit terra reviva colit;
Sancta sit illa dies qua tu tibi regna petisti,
   Sanctus et ille Deus, qui tibi regna dedit!
Qui tibi prima tulit confirmet regna futura,
   Quo poteris magno magnus honore frui:
Sit tibi progenies ita multiplicata per evum,
   Quod genus inde pium repleat omne solum;
Quicquid in orbe boni fuerit tibi summus ab alto
   Donet, ut in terris rex in honore regas.
Omne quod est turpe vacuum discedat, et omne
   Est quod honorificum det Deus esse tuum.
Consilium nullum pie rex te tangat iniqum,
   In quibus occultum scit Deus esse dolum.
Absit avaricia, ne tangat regia corda,
   Nec queat in terra proditor esse tua.
Sic tua processus habeat fortuna perhennes,
   Quo recolant laudes secula cuncta tuas;
Nuper ut Augusti fuerant preconia Rome;
   Concinat in gestis Anglia leta tuis.
O tibi, rex, evo detur, fortissime, nostro
   Semper honorata sceptra tenere manu:
Stes ita magnanimus, quod ubi tua regna gubernas,
   Terreat has partes hostica nulla manus;
Augeat imperium tibi Cristus et augeat annos,
   Protegat et nostras aucta corona fores;
Sit tibi pax finis; domito domineris in orbe,
   Cunctaque sint humeris inferiora tuis:
Sic honor et virtus, laus, gloria, pax que potestas --
   Te que tuum regnum magnificare queant.
Cordis amore tibi, pie rex, mea vota paravi;
   Est quia servicii nil nisi velle michi:
Ergo tue laudi que tuo genuflexus honori
   Verba loco doni pauper habenda tuli.
Est tamen ista mei, pie rex, sentencia verbi
   Fine tui regni sint tibi regna poli
King of Heaven, God and master, who alone
   Created Time, and alone rules all created things,
Who from Himself produced the causes of things,
   And set a single principle in Himself to inhere in things,
Who set the world to remain with a stable movement,
   Fixed forever in its motion,
And who, powerful in word, brought all creation into being
   And who bound them by the law of His mind,
He, the head of kings, by whom kings are justified,
   I pray that He rule you, pious king, and your kingdom.
Gratifying, supervening grace sent you to us;
   O, before that there was no safety without disaster.
Thus your coming spontaneously brought back new joys,
   Where before there had been mourning and much weeping.
We were cowering, and your knighthood raised us from the depths,
   Who were before oppressed by the weight of every evil:
Because of your worthiness, when death lurked in the shadows,
   The noble life that rules kingdoms arose once more.
Thus your fortune renews and heals ours, with God's help,
   Making whole what was ailing.
O pious king, we praise Christ through you, and Him
   A revived land worships, who gave us to you.
Blessed be that day when you sought the kingship for yourself,
   And blessed be God who gave you the rule!
May He who gave you your first rule confirm your future rule,
   By whom you are great, and able to enjoy great honor:
May your offspring be so multiplied forever
   And may their devout race replenish all the land.
May God on high give to you all the good in the world,
   So that you may rule as king on earth in honor.
May all that is evil disperse harmlessly, and all
   That is honorable may God grant to be yours.
Let no iniquitous counsel touch you, dutiful king,
   In things where God knows evil is hidden.
Let avarice be banished, let it not touch your royal heart,
   Nor allow it to be a traitor in your land.
Thus may your fortune prosper perpetually,
   So that all generations will renew your praise;
As the public criers did of old for Augustus in Rome,
   Let a joyful England sing your deeds in one voice.
O to you, most powerful king, may it be granted in our age
   That you hold the honored scepter always in your hand:
May you stand thus magnanimous, so that where you govern your kingdom
   No enemy hand may strike fear in these lands;
May Christ increase your empire and your years,
   And may He protect our gates with your magnified crown;
May your end be in peace, may you dominate a dominated world,
   And may all things fall beneath your sway:
Thus may honor and strength, praise, glory, peace and might
   Have power to make you and your kingdom great.
I have formed my prayers for you with a loving heart, pious king;
   For I have no desire, save only service:
Therefore on bended knee for your praise and honor
   I a poor man instead of a gift have offered these words for you to keep.
But this, pious king, is the sum of my words:
   At the end of your reign, may the kingdom of heaven be yours!
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