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 (see note) at the corresponding line.
1 Listlessness, dull discernment, little schooling and tiniest labor cause me, the least of all, to sing these little things. Nonetheless, in the tongue of Hengist in which the island of Brutus sings, with Carmentis’ aid I will utter English verses. Let then the boneless one that breaks bones with speeches be absent, and let the malicious interpreter (I pray) stand far off.
2 Present-day Fortune has left behind the blessed times of the past, and overturned on her world-wheel the ancient ways. In the old days, harmonious love engendered peace, when a person's face was the messenger of his thought: the unicolored air of those days was aglow with laws, and the paths of justice were broad and even. But now hidden hatred presents a painted face of love, and cloaks under false peace an age at arms. The law carries on like the chameleon, changeable with every varied thing; and new laws are for new kingdoms. Regions that were most steady throughout the world’s orb are unmoored, nor do they possess axis-points of quiet.
3 The laws of yesterday that old Moses and new John — that one — cherished, this day hardly keeps. Thus the church, formerly glittering with double virtue and now disheveled, grows pale on either path. At the word of Christ the sword of Peter, restored to its peaceful sheath, abhorred the way of blood; now, however, with sacred law grown tepid, covetousness vigorously thrusts its blood-stained sword. Thus the wolf is the shepherd, the father the enemy, death the commiserator, the brigand the benefactor, and the peace on earth is fear.
4 So long as the commonfolk lies subjugated by royal law, it will bear its burden as meek as a ewe lamb; if its head should come up and the law release its reins on it, as desire demands, it becomes like a tiger [or, like the Tigris River]. Fire, domination by water are two things lacking mercy, but the wrath of the commoners is still more violent.
5 Fortunate and adverse, turning through its mazy trail, the unclean, disordered world deceives every sort. The world's outcomes are tossed by chance like a die, as quickly as the covetous hand throws at the games. Like an image of man do the ages of the world vary, and nothing but the love of God stands firm.
Abbreviations: Anel.: Chaucer, Anelida and Arcite; BD: Chaucer, Book of the Duchess; CA: Gower, Confessio Amantis; CT: Chaucer, Canterbury Tales; HF: Chaucer, House of Fame; LGW: Chaucer, Legend of Good Women; Mac: Macaulay (4 vol. Complete Works); MED: Middle English Dictionary; Met.: Ovid, Metamorphoses; MO: Gower, Mirour de l’Omme; MS(S): manuscript(s); OED: Oxford English Dictionary; PF: Chaucer, Parliament of Fowls; PL: Patrologia Latina; RR: Lorris and de Meun, Roman de la Rose; TC: Chaucer, Troilus and Criseyde; Tilley: Tilley, Dictionary of Proverbs in England; Vat. Myth.: Vatican Mythographer I, II, or III; VC: Gower, Vox Clamantis; Whiting: Whiting, Proverbs, Sentences, and Proverbial Phrases. For manuscript abbreviations, see Textual Notes, below.
Latin verses i (before line 1). Lines 1–2: Opening protestations of literary modesty were legion in medieval Latin poetry. This verse parallels in brief outline the longer, preliminary sections of the popular twelfth-century school-text, Johannes de Hauvilla’s Architrenius, which inveighs against Sloth, Lechery, Sleep, Detraction, Mockery, Error, etc. (lines 1–40), asserts the poet’s modest abilities yet confidence in success (lines 55–56), and exhorts envious detractors to remain far off (lines 213–15). Behind the modesty trope, Gower challenges his audience to read his work sympathetically, even though it is written in English. The implication is that English, Hengist’s language (line 3), is inferior as a literary language. To counteract its insularity he alludes to the history of the peoples of the island and the heroic origins of the nation founded by Brutus, the great-grandson of Aeneas. See Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain for the full account of the Trojan descendant’s winning of the island from giants, founding his kingdom, and siring a line of kings that culminates with King Arthur, despite the treachery of Hengist. Hengist was the first Saxon on the island. One anecdote in this mythical history recounts that Hengist’s daughter greeted the reigning British king, Vortiger, with the drinking toast “Wassail!” (“Be healthy!”); according to the fourteenth- and fifteenth-century prose Brut, a popular French and English adaptation and continuation of Geoffrey’s history, this was the first “Englisshe” word spoken in Britain (Brut, ch. 57; ed. Brie, 1.52). Line 4: Carmentis is said by Isidore of Seville to have first brought Latin script to the speakers of ancient Italy (Etymologies 1.4.1). Gower will “utter” but also write his English verses, an event implicitly as foundational as Hengist’s and Carmentis’ founding contributions to linguistic history. See Echard, “With Carmen’s Help,” pp. 3–10, on Carmen as Gower’s muse and one who makes tongues. Line 5: The tongue, whose lack of bones yet had “bone-breaking” power, was the subject of many Latin proverbs (ed. Echard and Fanger, pp. xxxvii and 3). See also VC 5.921–22: “Res mala lingua loguax, res peior, pessima res est, / Que quamuis careat ossibus, ossa terit” (“An evil thing is a talkative tongue . . . / which although it lack bones, destroys bones”); and CA 3.462–65: “the harde bon . . . [a] tunge brekth it al to pieces.” Line 6: The Architrenius also concludes its introductory sections with the same ritual apotropaicism: “Let the slanderous razor of envy, keen only in treachery, remain far off, and far off too be that viper whose venom is harmful only to noteworthy achievements” (lines 213–15).
On the subject of CA as a bilingual poem with distinct functions for each language, see Yeager, “‘Oure englisshe’ and Everyone’s Latin”; Minnis, Medieval Theory of Authorship, pp. 274–75n45; and Olsen, “Betwene Ernest and Game,” pp. 5–18 (on likenesses between its bilingual structure and that of Dante’s Vita Nuova). Pearsall suggests that the vernacular author who nearest approaches Gower in his extensive use of Latin in diverse ways (vatic verse headings, scholastic apparatus of prose commentaries, Latin speech prefixes, and elaborate Latin apparatus at the end of the poem including a long colophon and various Latin poems) is Boccaccio (“Gower’s Latin in the Confessio Amantis,” p. 15). For further discussion of Gower’s Latin verses see Echard and Fanger, Latin Verses, especially pp. xiii–lviii, and sundry notes. On Gower’s shorter Latin poems see the edition by Yeager (Minor Latin Works). On tensions between Latin and English texts see Batchelor, “Feigned Truth and Exemplary Method.”
2 bokes duelle. Gower positions books as the repository of moral values and history, against which he encourages the reader to judge present behavior. Books provide examples from “olde wyse” (line 7); that wisdom of the past enables people to see what is new, whether in method, topic, or circumstance.
7 Essampled. For discussion of Gower’s use of narrative exempla see Yeager, “John Gower and the Exemplum Form”; Shaw, “Gower’s Illustrative Tales”; Simpson, Sciences and the Self; Runacres, “Art and Ethics”; and Mitchell, Ethics and Exemplary Narrative. For his use of Ovid see Harbert, “Lessons from the Great Clerk.” See also note to Book 1, line 79.
7–8 wyse . . . wyse. Gower’s verse thrives on rime riche, the rhyming of homophones (words with the same sound but different meanings or functions). The device catches the ear off-guard and provokes double, more careful reading, the way riddles do. Single glosses (e.g., wyse as both “wise” [men or books] and “manner”) can scarcely do justice to the device which, like puns, flourishes on multiplicity of meanings and function, such as adjective versus noun, etc. The device reminds us that glosses are starting points only, not simple equations or “facts.” See note to Prol.237–38.
11-18 An inkblot in the middle of the first column obliterates a portion of the text. The blot apparently was made sometime after the page had been copied and bound, for two streaks extend toward the center, as if running down the page. A corresponding blot occurs on the facing page, a mirror image of the first blot. If this MS was in fact corrected by Gower, as Macaulay suggested, the poet himself could be the culprit (2:cxxx). More likely, the accident occurred at some later date after the presentation of the copy.
17 The middel weie is both a rhetorical and an ethical proposition. Gower would see his poem as a mediator between social issues and personal moral choices. See Middleton (“Idea of Public Poetry,” pp. 101–02) on the public dimensions of Gower’s methodological agenda. By striking a medial position between wisdom and delight, with English as his medium, the poet would make fictive paradigms from which moral therapy might be achieved. See Introduction.
19 Somwhat of lust, somewhat of lore. See Zeeman on Gower’s appropriation of “Amans, his love, his text and all texts of courtly love into an exemplum of worldly uncertainty and deceit” (“Framing Narrative,” p. 223). Lust, she suggests, denotes desire, the feeling of pleasure and delight, but also the object of desire and something causing pleasure. The shift of the narrator from auctor to Amans engages the reader in the pleasure of narrative, while the conversion of the lover into the old man in Book 8 brutally subverts the courtly narrative as a deceit from which there is no “recoverir” (pp. 231–32, with reference to 8.2443).
22 ff. Latin marginalia: Hic in principio declarat qualiter in anno Regis Ricardi secundi sexto decimo Iohannes Gower presentem libellum composuit et finaliter compleuit, quem strenuissimo domino suo domino Henrico de Lancastria tunc Derbeie Comiti cum omni reuerencia specialiter destinauit. [Here in the beginning he declares how in the sixteenth year of King Richard II John Gower composed and ultimately completed the present little book, which he especially directed with all reverence to the most vigorous lord, his lord Henry of Lancaster, at that time Earl of Derby.] This Latin inscription is found in only five MSS, and appears to be a late addition, after the establishing of the third recension, though not necessarily in third recension copies. It does not occur, however, in Fairfax 3. Olsson points out that what is important here is the fact that the note replaces a gloss at Prol.34 of the first recension, which read: “John Gower . . . most zealously compiled the present little book, like a honeycomb gathered from various flowers” (see full text of the gloss below, at the end of the following note). Olsson suggests that the shift from compilauit to compleuit (from compilation to composition) may indicate a shift in Gower’s conception of his work as he puts aside the earlier sense of himself as a compilator gathering flowers of wisdom from the past to consider himself more confidently in the role of auctor (Structures of Conversion, pp. 5–11). Nicholson (“Dedications,” pp. 171–74), on the other hand, suggests that the Latin note was added by Gower or a scribe long after the original presentation to Henry, and thus the gloss gives a misleading account of the history of CA.
24 A bok for Engelondes sake. Aers (“Reflections on Gower as ‘Sapiens in Ethics and Politics’”) sees in the phrase an epitome of Gower’s attack on ecclesiastical failure. Aers suggests that Gower is attempting to persuade lay power, especially that of the sovereign (line 25), that what was destructive of the church was also subversive of royal power, and that “the sovereign needed the wholehearted support of the church. . . . The auctor of the Prologue and Genius in Book II [with his attack on the papacy] develop a radical critique of the actually existing church combined with a defence of the secular sovereign’s role in challenging the ecclesiastical hierarchy when it is judged to be in serious error” (p. 196).
24-92 These lines are found only in third recension MSS. That is, they must have been written c. 1392 when Gower rededicated the poem to Henry of Lancaster, count of Derby. Nicholson (“Dedications”) argues that the change in text represents the honoring of a patron, not some disenchanted transfer of allegiance from Richard to the count of Derby; others have seen evidences of disappointment in Richard (e.g., Peck, Kingship and Common Profit, pp. 7–9; “Politics and Psychology,” pp. 224–38; Ferster, Fictions of Advice, pp. 109–10; and Simpson, Sciences and the Self, pp. 297–99). The majority of the MSS include the Richard citation here marked as *24–*92, rather than the dedication to Henry that was introduced in 1392 as in the carefully corrected Fairfax 3 MS. But the earlier dedication continued to be copied after 1392, almost certainly with Gower’s approval. Thus I have placed the first dedication as a parallel text in this edition. For further comment see note to Prol.25, below. On Gower as a Lancastrian advocate, see Staley, Languages of Power, pp. 351–55.
[The Ricardian recension of the poem reads as follows:]
[Here ends the passage for which Gower substituted new lines in Fairfax 3.]
*24-*25 book . . . bilongeth. N.b. spelling differences here as juxtaposed to the spelling of the Fairfax scribe. Macaulay uses Bodley 294 as the text for the Ricardian version, as do I. He allows that the spelling in his edition has been “slightly normalized” (2:457), which is an understatement. I have followed the spelling of Bodley 294 as an antidote to any notion that the spelling of the Fairfax 3 scribe necessarily equates with Gower’s.
25 The yer sextenthe of Kyng Richard. Gower completed his first version of CA during or prior to the fourteenth year of Richard’s reign. Although some portions of the poem may have been written four or five years or perhaps even seven years earlier, when Chaucer was working on TC and beginning LGW, the Prologue of CA may have been completed later. In that first version, lines *24–*92 tell of Gower’s boarding of the royal barge and the king’s requesting that he write the poem, which the poet agrees to do despite ill health (*79–*80), out of “ligeance” and “obeissance” (lines *25–*26) to his king. By 1392, the sixteenth year of Richard’s reign, Gower rewrote this beginning and conclusion of the poem, deleting the king’s commission here and the ending of the poem in praise of Richard’s worthiness, and dedicated the poem to Henry of Lancaster (see Prol. 81–92 and the Latin postscript to Book 8), even as much as seven years before Henry would become king. (See Mac 2:cxxvii–clxx, for a description of most of the known MSS and an account of the revisions; see Fisher, John Gower, pp. 116– 17, for discussion of the revisions in their historical setting.) The politics underlying the revision are not known. Perhaps Gower became disenchanted with Richard’s behavior as king at the time of the king’s harsh treatment of London officials earlier in 1392. That he sees hope for England in a man like Henry of Lancaster so long before he would return from exile to “save” England seems clairvoyant, though it is quite possible that Gower meant only for the Fairfax 3 version of CA to be a compliment to Henry and that recopying of the earlier recensions continued with the poet’s approval.
*33 That his corone longe stonde. This line, especially, resonates in its omission from the third recension, where Gower speaks of time reversing itself as it yearns for the good rule of one like Henry of Lancaster. In the Tripartite Chronicle, Gower, perhaps anachronistically, sees Richard’s misbehavior reaching back to 1392 and earlier as he quite boldly speaks of not only shortening but ending Richard’s reign.
*34–*35 Latin marginalia: Inserted between lines *34–*35 in MS Bodley 294, a second recension MS which has been my copy-text for lines *24–*92, is a Latin summary: Hic declarat in primis qualiter ob reuerenciam serenissimi principis domini sui [Regis Anglie Ricardi secundi] totus suus humilis Iohannes Gower, licet graui infirmitate a diu multipliciter fatigatus, huius opusculi labores suscipere non recusauit, sed tanquam fauum ex variis floribus recollectum, presentem libellum ex variis cronicis, historiis, poetarum philosophorumque dictis, quatenus sibi infirmitas permisit, studiosissime compilauit. [Here he declares particularly how, because of reverence of the most serene prince, his lord king of England Richard II, his own and humble John Gower, although long wearied in many ways by grave illness, did not refuse to take up the labors of this little work, but instead has most zealously compiled the present little book from various chronicles, histories, and sayings of poets and philosophers, like a honeycomb gathered from various flowers, to the extent that his infirmity allowed him.] In some first and second recension MSS, e.g., Cambridge University Library Mm 2.21, the Latin note appears in the margin, though the practice of inserting marginal prose summaries into the text itself, just as the Latin verse epigrams appear in the text, is common in many of the later MSS, even though the insertion disrupts the sense and syntax of the English verse. Usually the Latin insertions are written in a different colored ink, as here. On the variis floribus trope as evidence of Gower’s initial regard for his work as compilatio, a sort of anthology of purposeful writing from former days, see Olsson, Structures of Conversion, pp. 5–11.
*37 newe Troye. Gower flatters Richard and the kingdom with the allusion to London as the “new Troye,” as if to identify a renaissance of ancient culture of which they are the heart. The designation was encouraged by Edward III and Richard II, as part of the celebration of the new vernacular culture surpassing that of France or even Italy. The term evolves from the mythography of Geoffrey of Monmouth, since the Trojan descendant Brutus founded his kingdom on the happy island. Contemporary romances based on Geoffrey, such as The Alliterative Morte Arthure, impress their audience with the superiority of Arthur’s culture to that of Rome or France. See note to Latin verses i, above.
*45 He bad me come into his barge. For speculation against the historicity of the meeting on the Thames, see Grady, “Gower’s Boat.” But see Staley, Languages of Power, pp. 16–17.
52 burel clerk. Literally, one dressed in coarse clothing — hence common or ignorant; possibly a lay clerk, though more likely an oxymoron (secular-religious). See Galloway, “Gower in His Most Learned Role,” on the unusual posture of secular learnedness that Gower cultivates.
59 neweth every dai. See Olsson, Structures of Conversion, pp. 10 ff., on Gower’s concept of the value of reading and of the past as new ideas come out of old works. The idea is intimately linked to his technique of compilatio, which becomes a means of invention rather than encyclopedic accumulation. The retelling converts dead ideas to living ones for the audience as well as for Amans. Olsson goes on to suggest that this process of perpetual renewal provides an interconnectedness between Gower’s earlier writings and CA (pp. 16 ff.). Compare Chaucer’s “For out of olde feldes, as men seyth, / Cometh al this newe corn from yer to yere” (PF lines 22–23).
60 So as I can, so as I mai. Proverbial: “As I am able, so will I do.” Not in Whiting, though Tilley, Dictionary of Proverbs, offers the variant: “Men must do as they may (can), not as they would” (M554).
61-62 Although the allusion to the poet’s illness enhances the Prologue’s theme of the degenerating world and thus anticipates the conclusion to the poem where the poet rejects mundane love because of his decrepitude, biographers generally agree that Gower was in fact in ill health during his later years. He had retired from public life some fifteen years earlier and was now over sixty years old. It is noteworthy that this couplet alone is found in both the first and third recensions (compare *79–*80). Gower changed the dedication, but not the reference to his illness.
67 to wisdom al belongeth. Simpson argues that the branch of wisdom to which Gower is referring is that of the stoic and moral philosophers (Socrates, Seneca, and Boethius), who, according to Robert Holcot’s third kind of sapientia in his Commentum super librum sapientiae, define sapientia as “the collection of intellectual and moral powers” (“Ironic Incongruence,” pp. 618–19).
72 bot the god alone. Conceivably the sense might be “God alone.” But Macaulay (2:459) notes the preeminence of locutions such as “the god” (i.e., the good) in 2:594, and “the vertu” (Prol.116), “the manhode” (Prol.260), “the man” (Prol.546, 582), and “[t]he charité” (Prol.319), etc. See also “the vertu and the vice” (Prol.79). The placement of the article reflects a French affectation. The implication seems deterministic, as if the good know by virtue of their goodness. See Mark 4:11–12, where the good see and hear the mysteries of God, but to others (those outside the faith) things happen in parables.
77 ff. Macaulay suggests that in lines 77 ff. Gower alludes to Book 7, which deals with the instruction of great men. He glosses the lines to read: “I shall make a discourse also with regard to those who are in power, marking the distinction between the virtues and the vices which belong to their office” (2:459). Certainly the sense of the lines is complex with respect to authority and submission (see marginal gloss to lines 77–80). Book 7 provides one context; but the lines might also be understood in terms of CA 8.2109–20, where the focus shifts from great men as power figures now to kingship as a psychological phenomenon. That is, in writing about love which has upset so many men he will in this “wise” (that is, in the mode of courtly romance) consider virtues and vices which have general significance to “great” men of all times. See Peck’s discussion of 8.2109 ff. in Kingship and Common Profit, pp. 173–74, and his earlier edition (1967), pp. xxi–xxii.
81-87 Bot for my wittes . . . amendement . . . is Henri named. The modesty trope with deference to the patron is common in late fourteenth- and early-fifteenth-century literature, as the author presents his work as receptive to criticism.
*86–*88 in proverbe. See Whiting W646.
Latin verses ii (before line 93). Line 2: vertit in orbe has punning implications difficult to translate in brief: vertit may mean “has overturned, destroyed,” but also in context the rotation of Fortune’s orb; in orbe may mean “on [Fortune’s] wheel” or “in the world.” The association between Fortune’s orbis and the world’s orbis is increasingly clear in the verse (as throughout Gower’s poetry). “World-wheel” makes an effort to capture both the global sense and the pun on Fortune’s inexorably turning wheel. Compare Chaucer’s “Lak of Stedfastnesse” and “Fortune: Balade de Visage sanz Peinture.” The idea of a “golden age” is a commonplace of ancient and medieval poetry; for Gower’s likeliest models see Boethius, Consolation 2.m.5, and Jean de Meun, RR, lines 8381–9668. Compare Chaucer’s “The Former Age.” Line 9: For a different comparison to the chameleon, see CA 1.2698–2702.
94 The tyme passed. On Gower’s nostalgic feel for the ancients and former days as an ubi sunt golden age, see Peter, Complaint and Satire, p. 70.
Latin marginalia: De statu regnorum, vt dicunt, secundum temporalia, videlicet tempore regis Ricardi secundi anno regni sui sexto decimo. [Concerning the status of kingdoms, as they say, in regard to worldly matters, particularly in the time of King Richard II in the sixteenth year of his reign.]
113 The word was lich to the conceite. A phrase equivalent to Chaucer’s “The wordes moote be cosyn to the dede” (CT I[A]742), which Chaucer attributes to Plato. The phrase is proverbial. See Whiting W645.
120 in special. “In its specifics, or singularities,” or “in its details, or particularities.” Gower frequently uses the term with philosophical precision, as if it marks features of the minor premise from which causation might be deduced. See Prol.165, 281, 383, 432, 572, 946. Boethius speaks of the confusion of humankind in terms of knowing and not knowing simultaneously: “while the soule is hidd in the cloude and in the derknesse of the membres of the body, it ne hath nat al foryeten itself, but it withholdeth the somme of thinges and lesith the singularites. Thanne who so that sekith sothnesse, he nis in neyther nother habite, for he not nat al, ne he ne hath nat al foryeten; but yit hym remembreth the somme of thinges that he withholdeth, and axeth conseile, and retretith deepliche thinges iseyn byforne (that is to seyn, the grete somme in his mynde) so that he mowe adden the parties that he hath foryeten to thilke that he hath withholden” (Chaucer’s Boece, 5.m.3.43–56; emphasis mine).
124 comune vois. Macaulay emends to comun vois. His emendation improves the meter. In his idealism, Gower imagines an innate voice of truth lying within the people of every society, like a God-given conscience which might be sounded in hard times despite the almost universal corruptions of sin and oppression. See Peck, Kingship and Common Profit (especially pp. xi–xxv), for discussion of the people and the common voice. Compare the proverb vox populi vox dei, which recurs in MO and VC. See Whiting V52–V54.
143 Stonde in this world upon a weer. Weer derives from Old Germanic *warra, meaning “conflict,” “doubt,” “uncertainty.” N.b. OHG werra, MDu, MLG werre, ONF wiere, and OE and ME wer(e). In ME its homonym weir, for a bog or stagnant water, provides a rich pun, as one who stonde in doubt is akin to one who stands on unstable ground or is “bogged down.” A second homonym, were (the past tense of the verb to be), provides a further pun, as if the newness of an idea passes, becomes lost, and the mind falls back into a forgetting. See Chaucer’s HF, lines 970–82, for a similar use of the term. This wordplay is highly Boethian in its sense of place versus lack of steadfastness, a sensibility commonly implicit in the often-repeated main verb to stand, which is used philosophically several hundred times in CA (e.g., “evere stant . . . in doute” [Prol.562] or “stant evere upon debat” [Prol.567]). On uncertainty and mutability as philosophical concepts within the Prologue and Book 1, see Simpson, Sciences and the Self.
152-53 Latin marginalia: Apostolus. Regem honorificate [The Apostle: "Honor the king" — I Peter 2:17]
155 With al his herte and make hem chiere. “And welcome them with all his heart.” Gower commonly places the conjunction in a medial position where we would require its position at the head of the clause. See also Prol.521, 756, and 1014. Macaulay cites Prol.759 as well, which is possible, though I have punctuated the sentence as if the first clause were an instance of enjambment and “wroghte” a transitive verb.
156 ff. Latin marginalia: Salomon. Omnia fac cum consilio [Solomon: “Do all things with counsel”] Fili sine consilio nihil facias, et post factum non paeniteberis [My son, do nothing without counsel, and thou shalt not repent when thou hast done — Vulgate/Douai, Ecclesiasticus 32:24]. Macaulay (2:460) notes that Gower often cites Ecclesiasticus in MO, but the proverb is very common. Compare Chaucer’s Miller’s Tale (CT I[A]3529–30): “For thus seith Salomon, that was ful trewe: / ‘Werk al by conseil, and thou shalt nat rewe’”; and Merchant’s Tale (CT IV[E]1485–86): “Wirk alle thyng by conseil . . . And thanne shaltow nat repente thee.” See Whiting C470. The proverb also occurs in The Tale of Melibee (CT VII[B2]1003) which Benson suggests is due to Albertanus of Brescia, Lib. consolationis et consilii, a source for The Tale of Melibee.
167 Among the men to geve pes. Gower is alluding to the recurrent wars with France, Spain, and Scotland. A three-year truce had been made with France and Scotland in 1389, but, because of profiteering, it was not maintained. An attempt for a truce with Spain in the same year failed. Not until 1396, when Richard married the daughter of the king of France, was a firm truce established with the French.
Latin verses iii (before line 193). Line 4: Macaulay suggests the double virtue to be charity and chastity (2:460).
194-99 Latin marginalia: De statu cleri, vt dicunt, secundum spiritualia, videlicet tempore Roberti Gibbonensis, qui nomen Clementis sibi sortitus est, tunc antipape. [Concerning the status of the clergy, as they say, in regard to spiritual matters, in the time of Robert of Geneva, who took to himself the name Clement, at that time the antipope.] In 1378 the Great Schism began, in which both Pope Urban VI (supported by the English) and Clement VII (supported by the French) were elected popes, in Rome and Avignon respectively; the schism did not end until 1418. Gower attacks the Avignon pope Clement also in VC 3.955–56. It may be a sign of his different anticipated audiences or different kinds of linguistic decorum that, although Gower discusses in English the moral point of the schism (below, lines 360–77), he names names only in Latin.
196 Ensample. The term is a favorite of Gower in defining “a fitting vehicle for his personal philosophy by mirroring the complexities and interrelatedness of the microcosm and the macrocosm in its multileveled construction” (Shaw, “Gower’s Illustrative Tales,” p. 447). See Simpson, Sciences and the Self; Runacres, “Art and Ethics”; and Mitchell, Ethics and Exemplary Narrative, on the diversity of rhetorical functions of “ensamples” in CA as Gower effects the transformation of sources for judiciously particularized situations.
204 Simon. Simon Magus, a Samaritan sorcerer mentioned in Acts 8:18–24. Simon offers money for purchasing the power of the Holy Spirit, but Peter rebukes him, condemning his iniquity. Hence, simony, the practice of buying or selling ecclesiastical preferment, benefices, emoluments, or sacred objects for personal gain. Simon’s name became synonymous with ecclesiastical corruption. See also line 241.
207-11 Lumbard . . . withoute cure. Lombardy, especially Milan and Lucca, was the banking center of Europe in the fourteenth century. The Lombards were so notorious as bankers, moneylenders, and pawnbrokers that their name came to denote such behavior in both Old French and Middle English (OED ). Langland links Lombards and Jews to exemplify avarice in Piers Plowman B 5.238, and in C 4.193–94 he yokes merchants, “mytrede bysshopes,” Lombards, and Jews as enemies of Conscience. Lombard bankers were often employed as intermediaries in church and state transactions, which sometimes became confused. The Lombard’s refusal to make eschange alludes to King Richard’s dispute with London when city officials would not lend revenue to the king but would lend to the Lombards. Macaulay notes that “the ‘letter’ referred to [in line 209] is the papal provision, or perhaps the letter of request addressed to the pope in favour of a particular person” (2:461). Gower makes a similar complaint in VC 3.1375 ff. (See also CA 2.2093 ff.) For full discussion of the relationship of the Lombard bankers to English kings in the previous century, see Kaeuper, Bankers to the Crown.
237-38 goode . . . goode. Rime équivoque, where the poet repeats words or portions of words with punning effect (compare rime riche), and metonymic structures are preeminent features of Gower’s rhetoric and the basis of much of its wit and innuendo. For discussion of the devices and their effects upon the poem’s texture see Olsen, “Betwene Ernest and Game,” pp. 33–69. For a tour de force example of the device see 5.79–90.
247 lawe positif. Positive law refers to any law which is arbitrarily instituted; it is customarily classified as distinct from divine law and natural law. Gower’s point is that the church has departed from its own regulation. It is perhaps noteworthy that under positive law fell the selling of indulgences, pardons, trentals, and the like, a jurisdiction that was much abused. Chaucer satirizes the manipulations of such laws in The Friar’s Tale, The Summoner’s Tale, and The Pardoner’s Tale. See also Piers Plowman B 7.168–95 and VC 3.227 ff.
266-77 “The allusion is to the circumstances of the campaign of the Bishop of Norwich in 1385; cf. Vox Clam. iii. 373 (margin), and see Froissart (ed. Lettenhove [Brussels, 1879]), vol. x. p. 207” (Mac 2:461–62).
284 Gregoire. The allusion is to Gregory I’s Pastoral Care 1.8, 9. (See PL 76.1128.)
298-305 Latin marginalia: Gregorius. Terrenis lucris inhiant, honore prelacie gaudent, et non vt prosint, set vt presint, episcopatum desiderant. [Gregory: "They gulp down worldly riches, rejoice in the honor of the prelacy and desire a bishopric, not to be useful but to be in control."] Macaulay observes that the passage is taken loosely from Gregory's Homilies on the Gospel, printed in PL 76:1128 and Regula Pastoralis 2.6. See his note (2.462).
329 Ethna. Mt. Etna, the Sicilian volcano (the highest in Europe, over 10,000 feet), frequently cited in classical sources from Thucydides to Lucretius and repeatedly used in Gower as a metaphor of the explosive fires of Envy. See CA 2.20, 163, 2337, 5.1289, and so on. Perhaps Gower takes the figure from Ovid, Met. 8.868, though references abound in all mythographers.
331 Gower refers to the papal dispute between Clement VII at Avignon and Boniface IX at Rome, both of whom claimed the allegiance of Christendom. He sees the schism in the head of the church as responsible for schismatic heresies such as Lollardry throughout the clergy.
349 Lollardie. A derogatory term implicating Christian fundamentalists who, following the views of Wyclif and promulgating the first straight translation of the Bible into English since the Norman Conquest, challenged the authority of the priesthood and the efficacy of the sacraments.
369 For trowthe mot stonde ate laste. Proverbial. See Whiting T509.
389 ther I love, ther I holde. Proverbial. See Whiting L571. The sense is that one is loyal to what one loves and that that may be the best "defence" (line 388).
434-36 Latin marginalia: Qui vocatur a deo tanquam Aaron. ["Who is called by God, as was Aaron" — Hebrews 5:4.] Aaron was the articulate priest, chosen by God to assist his brother Moses in guiding the children of Israel out of Egypt and through the desert. The full passage (Hebrews 5:1-6) refers to those who choose themselves for the priesthood versus those chosen by God. See Exodus 4:14. In Gower's day, Hebrews was thought to have been written by St. Paul.
462 ff. betwen ernest and game. Gower's objection is to evasiveness by ecclesiasts who turn moral issues into word games with which to advantage their worldly estates. They use fiction ("holy tales") for harm rather than common profit.
484 made ferst the mone. I.e., created the first sphere, beneath which is the chaos of the world (see line 142), the sublunar realm of shadows, doubts, sloth, greed, and such confusions that so afflict the church these days.
491–92 For every man hise oghne werkes / Schal bere. Proverbial. See Whiting M79.
496 mirour of ensamplerie. Good “clerkes” (line 492) reflect the “goodnesse” of “the hyhe God” (line 485), and, thus, though in the realm of sublunar chaos, provide good example of ordinances between “the men and the Godhiede” (line 498).
Latin verses iv (before line 499). Line 1: Vulgaris populus. . . . The tone of these verses is akin to that of the first book of VC, where Gower assails the people for becoming destructively willful during the Rising of 1381.
504-07 Latin marginalia: De statu plebis ut dicunt, secundum accidencium mutabilia. [Concerning the status of the people, as they say, in regard to the changeability of conditions and circumstances.]
511 Wher lawe lacketh, errour groweth. Proverbial. See Whiting L109.
518–19 And therupon his jugement / Gifth every man in sondry wise. “And thereupon every man gives his judgment in diverse ways.”
529-43 Latin marginalia: Nota contra hoc, quod aliqui sortem fortune, aliqui influenciam planetarum ponunt, per quod, vt dicitur, rerum euentus necessario contingit. Set pocius dicendum est, quod ea que nos prospera et aduersa in hoc mundo vocamus, secundum merita et demerita hominum digno dei iudicio proveniunt. [Note against this, that some posit the chance of fortune, some the influence of planets, as the means by which, as is said, the outcome of things happens by necessity. But it should rather be said that those things we call prosperity and adversity in this world come to be according to the merit or demerits of human beings, by the worthy judgment of God.]
567-71 Latin marginalia: Boicius. O quam dulcendo humane vite multa amaritudine aspersa est. [Boethius: "O how much the sweetness of human life is stained by bitterness."] See Consolation 2.pr.4. Gower's rendition simplifies the wording.
Latin verses v (before line 585). Line 1: Prosper et . . . . The vision of Nebuchadnezzar is frequently depicted at this point in MSS which have miniatures at or near the beginning of CA (see illustrations 2 and 4). Gower's account of the vision is based on Daniel 2:19-45, though Gower expands Daniel's commentary anachronistically (lines 633-821) in order to comment on the decadence of contemporary history. See VC 7, where he uses the same biblical device. For discussion see Introduction, and Peck, “John Gower and the Book of Daniel.”
591-608 Latin marginalia: Hic in prologo tractat de Statua illa, quam Rex Nabugodonosor viderat in sompnis, cuius caput aureum, pectus argenteum, venter eneus, tibie ferree, pedum vero quedam pars ferrea, quedam fictilis videbatur, sub qua membrorum diuersitate secundum Danielis exposicionem huius mundi variacio figurabatur. [Here in the Prologue he discourses about that Statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had seen in dreams, whose head was gold, chest silver, stomach brass, legs iron, but whose feet were some part iron, some part clay, through which diversity of members, according to Daniel's exposition, the variation of this world is figured.] See Daniel 2:31-45. As it is in the book of Daniel itself, the passage was a common locus for medieval historical allegory.
617-24 Latin marginalia: Hic narrat vlterius de quodam lapide grandi, qui, vt in dicto sompnio videbatur, ab excelso monte super statuam corruens ipsam quasi in nichilum penitus contruit. [Here he narrates further concerning the certain great stone, which, as appeared in the said dream, hurtling from a high mountain onto the statue, utterly crushed it almost to nothing.]
619 of sodein aventure. Gower treats fortune (aventure) as a demonstrative component of God’s will, an important counterforce to the classical notion of the degeneration of time.
626-30 Latin marginalia: Hic loquitur de interpretacione sompnii, et primo dicit de significacione capitis aurei. [Here he speaks concerning the interpretation of the dream, and first he speaks concerning the interpretation of the head of gold.]
635-39 Latin marginalia. Brief Latin directors at the appropriate lines: line 635: De pectore argenteo [Concerning the silver chest]; line 637: De ventre eneo [Concerning the brass stomach]; line 639: De tibeis ferreis [Concerning the iron legs].
641 ff. Latin marginalia: De significacione pedum, qui ex duabus materiis discordantibus adinuicem diuisi extiterant. [Concerning the significance of the feet, which exist in division because of the two mutually discordant materials.]
641–42 the werste of everydel / Is last. Proverbial. See variants in Tilley W918 and W911. The saying is congruent with an entropic theory of history, one which Daniel counters with his theory of divine purpose that he proceeds to explicate.
651-54 Latin marginalia: De lapidis statuam confringentis significacione. [Concerning the significance of the stone shattering the statue.]
658 the laste. Gower projects an apocalyptic conclusion to the old world, after which the new age of the Parousia shall begin.
661-69 Latin marginalia: Hic consequenter scribit qualiter huius seculi regna variis mutacionibus, prout in dicta statua figurabatur, secundum temporum distincciones sencibiliter hactenus diminuuntur. [Here consequently he writes how the kingdoms of this world, because of various mutations, just as they are figured in the said statue, are perceptibly diminished in accord with each distinction of historical times right up to the present.]
663 thus expondeth Daniel. Daniel’s explication satisfies Nebuchadnezzar’s concern by providing meaning to the king’s otherwise depressing vision of the degeneration of time, where worse moves to worst.
670-76 Latin marginalia: De seculo aureo, quod in capite statue designatum est, a tempore ipsius Nabugodonosor Regis Caldee vsque in regnum Ciri Regis Persarum. [Concerning the golden age, which is designated in the statue's head, from the time of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Chaldea, up to the kingdom of Cyrus, king of the Persians.]
688-94 Latin marginalia: De seculo argenteo, quod in pectore designatum est, a tempore ipsius Regis Ciri vsque in regnum Alexandri Regis Macedonie. [Concerning the silver age, which is designated in the chest, from the time of king Cyrus up to the kingdom of Alexander, king of Macedonia.]
698 soffre thei that nedes mote. Proverbial. Variant of Whiting N61. See 1.1714 and 8.1020.
699-705 Latin marginalia: De seculo eneo, quod in ventre designatum est, a tempore ipsius Alexandri vsque in regnum Iulii Romanorum Imparatoris. [Concerning the age of brass, which is designated in the belly, from the time of that Alexander up to the kingdom of Julius, emperor of the Romans.]
731-37 Latin marginalia: De seculo ferreo, quod in tibeis designatum est, a tempore Iulii vsque in regnum Karoli magni Regis Francorum. [Concerning the age of iron, which is designated in the legs, from the time of Julius up to the kingdom of Charles the Great, king of the Franks.]
745 ff. "It is hardly necessary to point out that our author's history is here incorrect. Charlemagne was not called in against the Emperor Leo, who died in the year before he was born, but against the Lombards by Adrian I, and then against the rebellious citizens of Rome by Leo III, on which latter occasion he received the imperial crown" (Mac 2:464). Gower is following Brunetto Latini's account in the Trésor.
759 wise; and. See note to line 155.
772 ff. Macaulay notes (2:464) that “Here again the story is historically inaccurate, but it is not worthwhile to set it straight.” Gower’s historicist/ethical point is plainly evident, despite the deficiency of historical accuracy.
779-806 Latin marginalia: De seculo nouissimis iam temporibus ad similitudinem pedum in discordiam lapso et diuiso, quod post decessum ipsius Karoli, cum imperium Romanorum in manus Longobardorum peruenerat, tempore Alberti et Berengarii incepit: nam ob eorum diuisionem contigit, vt Almanni imperatoriam adepti sunt maiestatem. In cuius solium quendam principem theotonicum Othonem nomine sublimari primitus constituerunt. Et ab illo regno incipiente diuisio per vniuersum orbem in posteros concreuit, vnde nos ad alterutrum diuisi huius seculi consummacionem iam vltimi expectamus. [Concerning the age of the most recent times, in the likeness of the feet, fallen and divided in discord, which began after the passing of that Charles, when the Roman Empire fell to the hands of the Lombards, in the time of Albert and Berengar: for on their account division occurred as the Germans seized the imperial majesty. In this throne they caused to be raised up a certain Teutonic prince, Otto by name. And from the inception of this kingdom, division hardened through the whole world for subsequent generations, whence we expect from one or the other of the divisions the end of this present, last age.]
851-52 divisioun . . . moder of confusioun. On divisioun as a moral crux in CA see Introduction. Also see White, “Division and Failure,” p. 600, and Peck, Kingship and Common Profit, pp. 14–22 and 32–35. Right use of memory is the best remedy for division, which is, ultimately, a kind of forgetting. See Chandler on three types of remembering — confession, tales, and spiritual memory — that “work to reunite Amans’ divided self” (“Memory and Unity,” p. 18).
881–83 Th’apostel writ . . . Th’ende of the world. Macaulay (2:465) sees an allusion here to St. Paul, 1 Corinthians 10:11–12: “These things . . . are written for our correction, upon whom the ends of the world are come . . . let him take heed lest he fall.”
881-85 Latin marginalia: Hic dicit secundum apostolum, quod nos sumus in quos fines seculi deuenerunt. [Here he speaks in accord with the Apostle, that we are "those upon whom the end of the world has come."] See 1 Corinthians 10:11–12: “these things . . . are written for our correction, upon whom the ends of the world are come. . . . [L]et him take heed lest he fall.” N.b. the apocalyptic overtones of the various references to the world divided against itself in wars, especially lines 883–904 and 1029–44.
904 Wher dedly werre is take on honde. The first of Gower’s antiwar assertions, which remain prominent to the end of his life. See his last English poem In Praise of Peace (ed. Livingston).
910 ff. See MO, lines 26605 ff. and VC 7.509 ff. on the corruption of all creation due to man’s fall.
918-23 Latin marginalia: Hic scribit quod ex diuisionis passione singula creata detrimentum corruptibile paciuntur. [Here he writes that from the suffering of and desire for division, all created things suffer a corrupting diminishment.] "Suffering of and desire for division" seeks to translate divisionis passione. "Suffering" is the routine sense of passio elsewhere to mean, like ME "passioun," both "desire to sin" as well as "suffering" (see e.g., the marginal Latin at line 9). Thus it is likely that an ambiguous sense of "sinful desire for" as well as "suffering of" obtains in the Latin as in the corresponding English here: "man hath passioun / Of seknesse" (Prol.915-16). This ambiguity, however, is absent from the verb for the second Latin clause, paciuntur, as from the corresponding English: "So soffren othre creatures" (Prol.917).
945 Gregoire in his Moral. Moralia VI.16 (PL 75.740). Macaulay (2:465) notes that this idea of man as a microcosm is one of Gower’s favorite citations. Gregory is commenting on Job 5:10 (“Who giveth rain upon the earth, and sendeth waters upon the fields” — Douai), where he gives the sensus mysticus of universa as “man.” See MO, lines 26869 ff., which attributes the “man as a microcosm” idea to Aristotle (see especially line 26929), and VC 7.639 ff. Gregory’s passage is also quoted in RR, lines 19246 ff. See Fox, Mediaeval Sciences, pp. 18–19.
949 ff. Following Gregory's elaboration of Job 5:10 (see note above), Gower delineates the medieval concept of a triparte soul, with intelligence akin to the divine, feeling akin to that of the animal, and growth to that of the vegetable.
967-70 Latin marginalia: Hic dicit secundum euangelium, quod omne regnum in se diuisum desolabitur. [Here he speaks in accord with the Evangile, that "every kingdom divided against itself will be devastated."] See Luke 11:17, with the present tense changed to future.
971–72 Division aboven alle / . . . makth the world to falle. On division as the primary effect of the Fall that leaves the psyche stranded amidst contingencies, see Introduction, pp. 11–13, and White (“Division and Failure,” pp. 601–03, 607 ff.) on such bifurcations as soul and body, reason and its antagonists (sex, desire, appetite, complexion, need, etc.), and other forms of fragmentation both social and personal.
974-77 Latin marginalia: Quod ex sue complexionis materia diuisus homo mortalis existat. [That, divided because of the components of his constitution, every human being is mortal.]
975–79 complexioun / Is mad upon divisioun . . . the contraire of his astat. Macaulay: “That is, the opposite elements in his constitution (‘complexioun’) are so much at variance with one another” (2:465).
978 He mot be verray kynde dye. Gower’s theory of death and the corruptibility of mixed elements is in agreement with medical theories of his day. Averroës, following Aristotle’s thesis that all living things consist of mixtures of the primal elements, argues that if bodies were one and the same there would be no contrariety corrupting them. But unlike stones, which have one nature and are permanent, the body is composed of various natures and thus decays (Avicennae Cantica cum Averrois Commentariis, I.19. See Fox, Mediaeval Sciences, p. 34.) Plato explains this idea of corruptibility fully in Timaeus 81c–82b. The Timaeus was the one Platonic dialogue that was well known and honored in the Latin West during the Middle Ages. Although Gower probably did not know the Timaeus firsthand, he certainly knew of it.
982 no final pes be nome. The line anticipates Gower’s conclusion where Venus gives Amans a “peire of bedes” upon which is written “Por reposer” (8.2904–07), putting to rest his internal conflict, giving him back his true name “John Gower,” and restoring his quiet vision of “pes” (see below, 8.2913 ff.).
989–90 he may noght laste, / That he ne deieth ate laste. “He may not survive / But that he dies in the end.” The noght . . . That . . . ne idiom occurs repeatedly in Gower, where ne functions not as a negative but as a calque with That to form a relative conjunction “But that,” “Than that.” See MED that conj. 2c on that ne constructions that the MED glosses as “lest.” Gower’s additional noght alters the sense somewhat. See notes to 1.786–88, 1.2046–47, and 1.2091–93.
991-96 Latin marginalia: Quod homo ex corporis et anime condicione diuisus, sicut saluacionis ita et dampnacionis aptitudinem ingreditur. [That every human being, divided because of the condition of body and soul, is capable of salvation as much as damnation.]
1001 The fieble hath wonne the victoire. In sin, beginning with the fall from Paradise (Prol.1005), the proverb “the weaker has the worse” becomes inverted (so it seems). See Whiting W131 and F110.
1002-06 Latin marginalia: Qualiter Adam a statu innocencie diuisus a paradiso voluptatis in terram laboris peccator proiectus est. [How Adam, divided from a state of innocence, was cast as a sinner from a paradise of pleasure into a world of labor.]
1005 ferst began in Paradis. Sin began in Paradise, but it is noteworthy that Gower does not place the blame for divisiveness on Eve. The Latin marginalia at 1002 mentions Adam’s division from innocence, but the Fall is not otherwise linked to gender problems.
1011-17 Latin marginalia: Qualiter populi per vniuersum orbem a cultura dei diuisi, Noe cum sua sequela dumtaxat exceptis, diluuio interierunt. [How the populace of the entire earth, divided from the worship of God, was destroyed in the flood, except for Noah with his following.]
1013 sende. A preterit form. Macaulay cites 1.851, 992, 1452, etc., as parallel examples (2:466).
1018-26 Latin marginalia: Qualiter in edificacione turris Babel, quam in dei contemptum Nembrot erexit, lingua prius hebraica in varias linguas celica vindicta diuidebatur. [How in the building of the Tower of Babel, which Nembrot erected in contempt of God, the first language, Hebrew, was divided by heavenly retribution into many languages.]
1022-25 On the “poetic Babel” that Gower, a master at multiple voicing, introduces in this passage — a babel of voices that oppose and even contradict, so that the mind can scarcely contain the contradictions — see Echard, “With Carmen’s Help,” p. 30. Elsewhere in her essay Echard stresses Gower’s awareness of “the uncontrollable nature of text, in both its intellectual complexities and physical manifestations” (p. 10). Throughout the Confessio “language — all language — is shown to be radically unreliable” (p. 9).
1031-41 Latin marginalia: Qualiter mundus, qui in statu diuisionis quasi cotidianis presenti tempore vexatur flagellis, a lapide superueniente, id est a diuina potencia vsque ad resolucionem omnis carnis subito conterentur. [How the world, which, in a state of division, is ravaged almost daily by punishments in the present age, will, by the stone descending onto it (that is, by divine power), be suddenly crushed, destroying all flesh.]
1045–52 One reason love is so powerful in Gower’s scheme is that it has the capacity, when experienced wholesomely, to heal division. See lines 967–1044.
1047 loveday. A day set for making peaceful settlement of deadlocked disputes.
1053-54 wolde God . . . An other such as Arion. Echard, “With Carmen’s Help,” pp. 29–30, notes the conditional tense as part of her argument that Gower is keenly aware of the inability of language, even that of the poet, to contain authority in any stable way. Echard agrees with Yeager (John Gower’s Poetic) that Gower may be in search of a new Arion, but that Gower knows how difficult it will be to find him. The story of Arion first appears in Herodotus 1.24. Also see Ovid, Fasti, 2.79–118 ff., Hyginus, Fables 194, and Solinus, cap. 11, for a third-century account of Arion as a dolphin. The story is well known in the later Middle Ages and appears in collections of Latin moralized tales such as those described in the British Museum Catalogue of Romances and in some versions of the Gesta Romanorum (for example, see Oesterley, cap. 148). Gower ignores that part of the story which deals with the dolphin and concentrates on Arion the peacemaker to create an effect appropriately reminiscent of the peaceable kingdom in Isaias 11:1–10. See VC 1.i.1–124, for a description of what England might be like if it were to find its Arion. The figure of Arion, with his harp and sense of good measure, becomes a metaphor for the poet himself. See Yeager (John Gower’s Poetic) for an extended analysis of Gower’s Arion poetic. See also Peck, Kingship and Common Profit, pp. 22–23; and Simpson, Sciences and the Self, p. 289.
1053-72 Latin marginalia: Hic narrat exemplum de concordia et vnitate inter homines prouocanda; et dicit qualiter quidam Arion nuper Citharista ex sui cantus cithareque consona melodia tante virtutis extiterat, ut ipse non solum virum cum viro, set eciam leonem cum cerua, lupum cum agno, canem cum lepore, ipsum audientes vnanimiter absque vlla discordia adinvicem pacificauit. [Here he tells a story about the stimulating of concord and unity among human beings: and he says how a certain Arion, a harper in recent times, was of such power and virtue because of the harmonious melody of his song and his harp that he pacified those hearing him unanimously and without any discord, not only making mutual peace between man and man, but even lion and deer, wolf and sheep, and hound and hare.]
1056 good mesure. The idea is Pythagorean and could allude to the harmonic ratio of sounds to each other in a well-tempered instrument, though more likely the sense is that the performer kept good rhythm.
1088 In his revisions of the first recension, Gower may have added ten lines. Macaulay (2:466) notes that Sidney College MS concludes the Prologue as follows:
So were it gode at þis tide
Þat eueri man vpon his side
besowt and preied for þe pes
wiche is þe cause of al encres
of worschep and of werldis welþe
of hertis rest of soule helþe
withouten pes stant no þing gode
forthi to crist wiche sched his blode
for pes beseketh alle men
Amen amen amen amen.
Macaulay observes that the Sidney College MS is related to the Stafford MS, which is missing the conclusion to the Prologue. Had they been found in the Stafford MS, Macaulay suggests, “the authority of S would be conclusive in their favour.” The lines were printed by Caxton and Berthelet, with some variation in spelling.
Abbreviations: A: Bodleian Library MS Bodley 902 (SC 27573), fols. 2r–183r; B: Bodleian Library MS Bodley 294 (SC 2449), fols. 1r–197r; C: Corpus Christi College, Oxford MS 67, fols. 1r–209r; F: Bodleian Library MS Fairfax 3 (SC 3883; copy text for this edition), fols. 2r–186r; J: St. John’s College, Cambridge MS B.12 (34), fols. 1r–214r; Mac: G. C. Macaulay; S: Stafford, now Ellesmere 26, fols. 1r–169v; T: Trinity College, Cambridge MS R.3.2 (581), fols. 1r–147v.
1 Of. F: Off. The scribe usually writes ff to indicate a capital letter, as in the first letter of the first words of lines 4, 66, 89, etc., which I have simply transcribed as F. But he occasionally writes -ff for -f in medial and terminal positions. Here, as in line 93, where the words begin sections of the poem, the point is, perhaps, to capitalize the whole word as a section marker — i.e., OF and IF.
29–30 Omitted in S.
*34–*35 Latin marginalia: line 2: Regis Anglie Ricardi secundi. So Mac. B omits.
*65 onwrong every. So Mac. B: outkrong eny. J: outkrong euery.
*75 Which. MS: What. Most other good MSS, including J and F, read Which, so I have followed Mac's emendation here.
*77 may. So B. J: myht. Mac emends to myhte, as in F, though several other manuscripts read may. So I have left the subjunctive in the idiom of the Bodley 294 scribe.
80 office. So S, Mac. F: officie.
83 amendement. So S, F. Mac: amendment.
113 word. So F, J, Mac. S, B: world.
147–320 Omitted in S (missing leaf).
149 whiche. So F. B, Mac: which. J: wheche.
173 resoun. So B, Mac. F, J: reson.
201 erthly. So J, Mac. F: ertly. B: eorþely.
249 which. So B, Mac. F: wich. J: wheche.
280 pacience. So B, J, Mac. F: paciencie.
370 argumenten. So S, B, J, Mac. F: argumeten.
419 com. So F, S, J. B, Mac: come.
495–98 Omitted in S, B, J.
579–84 Omitted in S, B, J.
581 ben. So F. Mac: be.
588 sent. So S, B, J, Mac. F: send.
592 Til. So F, S, B. J: Tyl. Mac: Till.
723 chivalrie. So F. J: cheualrie. Mac emends to chivalerie from S, B for purposes of meter. The stress would fall on the second syllable.
772 Lombardy. F, S: Lombardõ. B: Lumbards. J: Lombardi. Mac: Lombardz.
865 Omitted in B.
957 mistorneth. So S, Mac. F: mistornieth (or, perhaps, mistormeth). B, J: mystorneþ.
1046 ful. So F, S, B. J: foll. Mac: full.
1055–end Omitted in S (lost leaf).
1078 waxeth. So J, Mac. F: waxed. B: wexeþ.