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Confessio Amantis, Volume 1: The Colophons

CONFESSIO AMANTIS, VOL. 1, THE COLOPHONS: FOOTNOTES


1 The colophons generally appear at the end of the manuscripts. Thus in St. John’s 34 the colophon appears directly following CA, while in Fairfax 3 the colophon is separated from CA by Traitié and Carmen super multiplici viciorum pestilencia. See Fisher, John Gower, pp. 88–91.

2 There is an allusion and a pun here: in Luke 16:2, the parable of the unjust steward, the lord asks the steward to “render an account of your stewardship”; but the Latin word for “account” is ratio, which also means “reason, rational ability.” In Gower’s passage God has endowed Gower’s reason with many things, as well as “his account of his stewardship.”

3 Possibly because the third recension was originally added to a copy containing the first rather than the second recension, the initial two paragraphs of those recensions are the same, apart from the Latin title of the Mirour de l’Omme, and the change of “intellectually” to “sensually” to describe the advantages with which God had endowed the poet. The second recension, which introduces those changes, also differs in various other details in those paragraphs. Apart from those parallels or traces of some direct connection in the opening paragraphs, the first and third recensions otherwise differ more widely than the second and third. The three colophons alter the comments on King Richard II most visibly, and they alter the descriptions of Gower’s French and Latin poems somewhat. Only one small change was made in the description of the Confessio Amantis in later recensions: the omission of the next to last sentence describing its various kinds of sources and materials.

4 That is, elegaic couplets. The third recension of the colophon simplifies this notice about the meter of the Vox Clamantis.

5 Fisher observes that the first recension intellectualiter is replaced in the later recensions by sensualiter, “perhaps in recognition of the fortunate physical endowment which carried the poet through nearly eight decades” (John Gower, p. 89). Possibly also he was recording his gratitude for his increasing material wealth as he matured.

6 The phrase, “as well as about the various social degrees of this world,” appearing in the first and third recension but dropped from the second, reflects the turn in the later part of the Mirour de l’Omme toward estates satire.

7 The scathing denunciation of the ruin during Richard II’s reign in the final recension of this passage in the colophon treats the general disruption of society depicted in the survey of estates in the Vox Clamantis as if it were an analysis specifically of the ills of Richard’s reign. The view extends and even hardens the anti-Ricardian revised Prologue of the Confessio Amantis and the changed dedication at beginning and ending of that poem; the three colophons chart the progress of the poet’s condemnation of Richard.
 
John Fisher notes that at least fifteen of the earliest versions of Vox Clamantis and Confessio Amantis conclude with a colophon.1 These are basically alike, consisting of four short paragraphs: 1) In the first John Gower acknowledges the intellectual gifts that God has given him and asserts that in the time allotted him on earth he has composed three books of instructive material for the benefit of others. 2) The first book, written in French (i.e., the Mirour de l’Omme), is in ten parts, treats of the vices and virtues, and would teach the right path for the sinner’s return to God. He then names the book — Speculum Hominis, in the first recension manuscripts, and Speculum Meditantes in the later ones. 3) The second book, written in Latin, tells of the peasants rebellion in the fourth year of young King Richard II and the outrages that fell upon men. This book was titled Vox Clamantis. 4) The third book, written in English, is in eight parts, made at the request of Richard II. It follows the prophecy of Daniel on the mutability of earthly kingdoms and treats of the education of King Alexander. The subject is love and includes many exempla. The book is called Confessio Amantis.

But although the colophons in the several manuscripts are essentially the same, there are some noteworthy variations — enough to warrant printing all three examples: St. John’s 34 (a revised version of the first recension); Bodley 294 (a second recension manuscript of the early fifteenth century); and Bodley Fairfax 3 (a third recension manuscript, end of the fourteenth century, which is the base text of the present edition). Fisher includes the colophon to Bodley 902 rather than St. John’s 34, for which he provides a translation on pp. 88–89. He prints it along with the colophons to Bodley 294 and Fairfax 3 as Appendix B, pp. 311–12.


FIRST RECENSION (St. John’s 34, fols. 214r–214v)

Quia vnusquisque prout a deo accepit aliis impartiri tenetur, Iohannes Gower super hiis que deus sibi intellectualiter donauit, villicacionis sue racionem, dum tempus instat, secundum aliquid alleuiare cupiens, inter labores et ocia ad aliorum noticiam tres libros doctrine causa forma subsequenti propterea composuit.

Primus liber Gallico sermone editus in x diuiditur partes, et tractans de viciis et virtutibus, necnon et de variis huius seculi gradibus, viam qua peccator transgressus ad sui creatoris agnicionem redire debet, recto tramite docere conatur. Titulusque libelli istius Speculum Hominis nuncupatus est.

Secundus enim liber, sermone Latino versibus exametri et pentametri compositus, tractat super illo mirabili euentu qui in Anglica tempore domini Regis Ricardi secundi anno regni sui quarto contigit, quando seruiles rustici impetuose contra nobiles et ingenuos regni insurexerunt. Innocenciam tamen dicti domini Regis tunc minoris etatis causa inde excusabilem pronuncians, culpas aliunde, ex quibus et non a fortuna talia inter homines contingunt enormia, euidencius declarat. Titulusque voluminis huius, cuius ordo vii continet paginas, Vox Clamantis nominatur.

Tercius liber iste Anglico sermone in viii partes diuisus, qui ad instanciam serenissimi principis dicti domini Regis Anglie Ricardi secundi conficitur, secundum Danielis propheciam super huius mundi regnorum mutacione a tempore Regis Nabugodonosor usque nunc tempora distinguit. Tractat eciam secundum Nectanabum et Aristotilem super hiis quibus Rex Alexander tam in sui regimen quam aliter eorum disciplina edoctus fuit. Principalis tamen huius libri materia super amorem et amantum condiciones fundamentum habet. Ubi variarum cronicarum historiarumque sentencie necnon Poetarum Philosophorumque scripture ad exemplum distinccius inseruntur. Nomenque presentis opusculi Confessio Amantis specialiter intitulatur.



[Since each man is obliged to impart to others as he has received from God, John Gower, desiring, while time allows, to mitigate somewhat the account of his stewardship concerning those things with which God has intellectually endowed him,2 has composed between labors and leisure for the notice of others three books, for the sake of doctrine, in the following form:3

The first book, produced in the French language, is divided into ten parts and, discoursing about vices and virtues as well as about the various social degrees of this world, it strives to teach by the straight path the way by which a sinner, having transgressed, ought to return to a recognition of his Creator. The title of this book is declared to be the Mirror of Man.

The second book, composed in Latin hexameter and pentameter verses,4 discourses about that astonishing event that occurred in England in the time of the lord King Richard II, in the fourth year of his reign, when rustic bondsmen impetuously rebelled against the nobles and magnates of the kingdom. Noting, however, the innocence of the said lord king at that time because of his tender years, wherefore it was excusable, he declares that the guilt for these things (for such terrible things do result from transgressions not fortune) comes from other sources. And the title of this volume, whose structure includes seven sections, is named the Vox Clamantis (Voice of One Crying).

The third book in the English language, divided into eight parts, which was fashioned at the insistence of the most serene ruler the said lord king of England, Richard II, diistinguishes the ages according to Daniel's prophecy concerning the transformations of the world's kingdoms, from the period of King Nebuchadnezzar up to our own. It also discourses following Nectabanus and Aristotle about those matters in which King Alexander was taught, both for his governance of himself and for the instruction of others elsewhere. But the p rincipal subject of this book has its basis in love and the circumstances of lovers. There, the information of various chronicles and histories as well as the writings of poets and philosophers are inserted as more particular examples. And the name of this present small work is specifically entitled the Confessio Amantis (Confession of a Lover).]


SECOND RECENSION (Bodley 294, fol. 199v)

Quia vnusquisque prout a deo accepit aliis impartiri tenetur, Iohannes Gower, super hiis que deus sibi sensualiter donauit villicacionis sue racionem secundum aliquid alleuiare cupiens, tres precipue libros per ipsum, dum vixit, doctrine causa compositos ad aliorum noticiam in lucem seriose produxit.

Primus liber Gallico sermone editus in decem diuiditur partes, et tractans de viciis et virtutibus viam precipue qua peccator in penitendo Cristi misericordiam assequi poterit, tota mentis deuocione finaliter contemplatur. Titulusque libelli istius Speculum Meditantis nuncupatus est.

Secundus liber versibus exametri et pentametre sermone latino componitur. Tractat de variis infortuniis tempore Regis Ricardi secundi in Anglia multiplicitur contingentibus, vbi pro statu regni compositor deuocius exorat. Nomenque volumina huius, quod in septem diuiditur partes, Vox Clamantis intitulat.

Tercius iste liber qui in octo partes ob reuerencia serenissimi domini sui domini Henrici de Lancastria tunc Derbie Comitis Anglico sermone conficitur secundum Danielis propheciam super huius mundi regnorum mutacione a tempore Regis Nabugodonosor usque nunc tempora distinguit. Tractat eciam secundum Aristotilem super hiis quibus Rex Alexander tam in sui regimen quam aliter eius disciplina edoctus fuit. Principalis tamen huius operis materia super amorem et infatuatas amantum passiones fundamentum habet. Nomenque sibi appropriatum Confessio Amantis specialiter sortitus est.



[Since each man is obliged to impart to others as he has received from God, John Gower, desiring, while he lives, to mitigate somewhat the account of his stewardship concerning those things with which God has sensually endowed him,5 has in particular brought forth into the light three books by him, fashioned for the sake of doctrine for the notice of others.

The first book, produced in the French language, is divided into ten parts, and, discoursing about vices and virtues, it contemplates at the end the path especially by which a penitent sinner with total devotion of mind might be able to follow Christ’s mercy, and the title of this book is declared to be the Mirror of the Contemplator.

The second book is composed in the Latin language in hexameter and pentameter. It treats the various misfortunes occurring in England in the time of King Richard II, where the maker devoutly prays on behalf of the realm’s condition. And the name of this book, which is divided into seven parts, is entitled Vox Clamantis (Voice of One Crying).

The third book which is fashioned in eight parts in the English language, on account of the reverence of the most serene lord of his lord, Henry of Lancaster, then count of Derby, distinguishes the ages according to Daniel's prophecy concerning the transformations of the world's kingdoms, from the period of King Nebuchadnezzar up to our own. It also discourses following Aristotle about those matters in which King Alexander was taught, both for his governance and for his instruction elsewhere. But the principal subject of this book has its basis in love and the infatuated passions of lovers. And the name specifically chosen to be applied to it as a title is the Confessio Amantis (Confession of a Lover).]


THIRD RECENSION (Fairfax 3, fol. 194v)

Quia vnusquisque, prout a deo accepit, aliis impartiri tenetur, Iohannes Gower super hiis que deus sibi sensualiter donauit villicacionis sue racionem, dum tempus instat, secundum aliquid alleuiare cupiens, inter labores et ocia ad aliorum noticiam tres libros doctrine causa forma subsequenti propterea composuit.

Primus liber Gallico sermone editus in decem diuiditur partes, et tractans de viciis et virtutibus, necnon et de variis huius seculi gradibus, viam qua peccator transgressus ad sui creatoris agnicionem redire debet, recto tramite docere conatur. Titulusque libelli istius Speculum Meditantis nuncupatus est.

Secundus enim liber sermone latino metrice compositus tractat de variis infortuniis tempore Regis Ricardi Secundi in Anglia contingentibus. Vnde non solum regni proceres et communes tormenta passi sunt, set et ipse crudelissimus rex suis ex demeritis ab alto corruens in foueam quam fecit finaliter proiectus est. Nomenque voluminis huius Vox Clamantis intitulatur.

Tercius iste liber qui ob reuerenciam strenuissimi domini sui domini Henrici de Lancastria, tunc Derbeie Comitis, Anglico sermone conficitur, secundum Danielis propheciam super huius mundi regnorum mutacione a tempore regis Nabugodonosor vsque nunc tempora distinguit. Tractat eciam secundum Aristotilem super hiis quibus rex Alexander tam in sui regimen quam aliter eius disciplina edoctus fuit. Principalis tamen huius operis materia super amorem et infatuatas amantum passiones fundamentum habet. Nomenque sibi appropriatum Confessio Amantis specialiter sortitus est.



[Since each man is obliged to impart to others as he has received from God, John Gower, desiring, while time allows, to mitigate somewhat the account of his stewardship concerning those things with which God has materially endowed him, has composed, between labors and leisure for the notice of others three books, for the sake of doctrine, in the following form:

The first book, produced in the French language, is divided into ten parts and, discoursing about vices and virtues as well as about the various social degrees of this world,6 it strives to teach by the straight path the way by which a sinner, having transgressed, ought to return to a recognition of his Creator. The title of this book is declared to be the Mirror of the Contemplator.

The second book, composed metrically in Latin, discourses about the various misfortunes occurring in England in the time of King Richard II. Wherefore not only the nobility of the kingdom and the commons suffered torments, but even the most unfit king himself, because of his own shortcomings rushing down from on high, was thrown into the pit that he had made;7 and this volume is entitled the Vox Clamantis (Voice of One Crying).

The third book, which is fashioned in the English language on account of the reverence to the most vigorous lord Henry of Lancaster, then count of Derby, distinguishes the ages according to Daniel's prophecy concerning the transformations of the world's kingdoms, from the period of King Nebuchadnezzar up o our own. It also discourses following Aristotle about those matters in which King Alexander was taught, both for his governance of himself and for his instruction elsewhere. But the principal subject of this book has its basis in love and the infatuated passions of lovers. And the name specifically chosen to be applied to it as a title is the Confessio Amantis (Confession of a Lover).]

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