Carmen Super Multiplici Viciorum Pestilencia
JOHN GOWER, THE MINOR LATIN WORKS: NOTESABBREVIATIONS: 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.
2. CARMEN SUPER MULTIPLICI VICIORUM PESTILENCIA: 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.
Carmen super multiplici viciorum pestilencia: Written probably mid-1396, although possibly as late as mid-1397 (see note to Prose 6, below), Carmen super multiplici viciorum pestilencia is, after VC and Cronica, Gower's longest Latin poem. It has close connections with VC VII.ix-xvi, sharing a central metaphor of physical decay and disease as emblematic of spiritual corruption, either of the individual (VC) or, as here, of the Church and State. The poem particularly utilizes "plague" as a stand-in for Lollardy. Fisher (John Gower, p. 128) associates it with "the outbreak of Lollard activity" of 1395, and may be correct, at least about Gower's inspiration: in January of that year, during parliament session, twelve-point manifestoes were posted on the doors of Westminster Hall and St. Paul's by Lollards; a journey to the king in Ireland by Archbishop Arundel and the bishop of London in February may have been to discuss the situation. In any case, the king came home (compare Walsingham, Chronica Monasterii S. Albani, p. 173, and Historia Anglicana 2.216-17). Parliament took matters seriously enough to grant the king a tenth (i.e., a tenth part of the taxes raised that year) on 17 February for use against the Lollards (Chronica Monasterii S. Albani, p. 173, and Rotuli Parliamentorum 3.329). The 1381 Rising provoked a near-immediate response from Gower -- the so-called Visio as a new first book for VC; conditions, and a similar responsiveness, seem analogous here. The suggestion (by Coffman, "John Gower, Mentor," p. 955) that the poem is unfinished because only three of the cardinal sins (Pride, Lust, and Avarice) are mentioned seems a logical conclusion, but in the end must be dismissed as conjecture, in the absence of evidence (Fisher, John Gower, p. 128). The structure has been called "experimental" (Carlson, "Rhyme") for its mixing of disyllabic couplet-rhyme Leonine hexameters characteristic of Cronica and unrhymed elegiac distichs, the latter in several instances borrowed verbatim from VC II.ix. Notable too is the "marking" of sections start and finish with disyllabic-rhyming Leonine hexameters ending with a similarly rhymed pentameter.
Carmen super multiplici viciorum pestilencia has the widest distribution of the minor poems, being attached as follows to manuscripts of CA: T2, B, u, P2, F, H2, K; and of VC: S, G, C, H, E1, L, L2. The text presented here is based on S.
8 continuatur. So Mac, emending from C, E, H, L, F, and B. S: continiatur.
11 variatur. Septicemia causes the skin of plague victims to become covered with bruises at the end stages of the disease. Compare O Deus immense, line 31, below.
Prose 1 Putruerunt . . . insipiencie. Macaulay (4.417) compares the passage to Vulgate Psalm 37:6: "Putruerunt et corruptae sunt cicatrices meae, A facie insipientiae meae" ("My sores are putrefied and corrupted, because of my foolishness").
Prose 4 procurator. S: at added above the line.
Prose 6-7 Anno . . . vicesimo. The twentieth year of Richard II's reign spanned 22 June 1396 to 21 June 1397. The date is also given in line 313, below.
Prose 8 demonis. See note to line 20, below.
13 ad. So Mac, emending from C, E, H, L, F, and B. S omits.
15 plebs . . . resignat. I.e., the Rising of 1381. Fisher remarks (John Gower, p. 129) that "order, not theology, is the real concern of the poet" here. See following note.
16 laicus. I.e., the Lollards. Although "Lollards" were from every social class, the dual assumptions, as here, of their being both commoners and rebels were widely held. See Chronicon Angliae, pp. 310-11, 320-21. The accusations were enhanced by the revolt of 1381, which Walsingham attributed to Archbishop Sudbury's failure to suppress Wyclif and his followers adequately, even claiming that John Ball himself was a Wycliffite. As Aston notes, "opinions once lodged are themselves historical facts: and, as such, may influence events" (Lollards and Reformers, p. 7).
20-23 Lollia . . . fidem. Compare Matthew 13:24-25 (and following): "Aliam parabolam proposuit illis, dicens: Simile factum est regnum caelorum homini, qui seminavit bonum semen in agro suo: cum autem dormirent homines, venit inimicus eius, et superseminavit zizania in medio tritici, et abiit" ("Another parable he proposed to them saying: The kingdom of heaven is likened to a man that sowed good seed in his field. But while the men were asleep, his enemy came and oversowed cockle among the wheat and went his way"). "Zizania" was understood as "lolium"; compare Isidore, Etymologiae XVII.9.106: "Zizania, quam poetae . . . lolium dicunt" ("Zizania, which the poets call . . . lolium" -- my trans.); and VC IV.xxii.1083: "Sub triciti specie zizannia sepe refundunt" ("They frequently repay one with tares [cockle] under the guise of wheat" -- trans. Stockton). Christ explains the parable, Matthew 13:37-39: "Qui seminat bonum semen, est Filius hominis. Ager autem est mundus. Bonum vero semen, hi sunt filii regni. Zizania autem, filii sunt nequam. Inimicus autem, qui seminavit ea, est diabolus" ("He that soweth the good seed is the Son of Man. And the field is the world. And the good seed are the children of the kingdom. And the cockle are the children of the wicked one. And the enemy that sowed them is the devil" -- my italics). Compare prose heading, "demonis," above, line 29, below, and following note.
24 apostata primus. By "apostates" Gower means those who (Luke 8:13) "ad tempus credunt, et in tempore tentationis recendunt" ("believe for a while and in time of temptation they fall away"); hence, the devil, here conceived as Lucifer, the "first apostate": compare CA 8.10-12: "Bot Lucifer he putte aweie, / With al the route apostazied / Of hem that ben to him allied"; and VC IV.xxii.1019-20: "Est deus, est mundus, est demon apostate, cuius / Ordine transgressus fert sibi frater onus" ("There is God, there is the world, and there is the Devil Apostate, / In whose ranks the friar bears the burden of sin" -- trans. Stockton). Here Lollards receive accusations aimed at friars in VC: see note to lines 36-37, below.
29 lollia. See note to lines 20-23, above.
30 novam sectam. The Lollards.
32 Ioviniani. Jovinian (d. ca. 405), condemned for heresy in 390, was bitterly attacked by Jerome in Adversus Jovinianum (ca. 393), which now, ironically enough, is the best source of Jovinian's ideas, which apparently opposed such basic tenets of Christian doctrine as the superiority of virginity, the hierarchy of sins, and the meritorious inequalities of punishment and heavenly reward; Jovinian also did not maintain the perpetual virginity of the Virgin Mary. But it is unlikely that any of these ideas specifically are meant here, or that Gower intends a one-to-one correspondence to Wyclif (whom Gower never names in any known work). More probable is Jovinian's service here and elsewhere in Gower's writing as a prototypical schismatic who gained a following (for which he was condemned), in that way resembling Lucifer and Lollards, sowers of bad seed: another such heretic for Gower is Arius. Compare VC VI.xix.1267: "Nunc nouus est Arius, nouus est quasi Iouinianus; / Dum plantant heresim, dant dubitare fidem" ("Now there is a new Arius, now there is a new Jovinian, so to speak; / since they both sow heresy, they cause faith to doubt" -- trans. Stockton).
35 palleat. So S, C, H, L, and B. Mac emends to palliet based on F.
36-37 Sub grossa lana . . . tegit. Verbatim from VC IV.xxii.1047-48, where the lines describe the fraudulence of friars. The passage is identified by Beichner ("Gower's Use of the Aurora," p. 592) as verbatim from Peter of Riga's Aurora (his Biblia versificata), Deut. 89-90. "Coarse wool" probably refers to the Lollards' simple clothing, as in VC it did to friars' habits; hiding "fine linen" underneath, however appropriate a critique for friars, strikes some (e.g., Stockton, Major Latin Works, p. 34) as "far-fetched" and -- given their abhorrence of worldly wealth -- hardly Lollard practice. Gower was borrowing a metaphor here, not a snapshot; see note to line 24, above.
38 Fermento veteri . . . acervum. Compare Matthew 16: 11-12: "Quare non intelligitis, quia non de pane dixi vobis: Cavete a fermento pharisaeorum et sadducaeorum? Tunc intellexerunt quia non dixerit cavendum a fermento panum, sed a doctrina pharisaeorum et sadducaeorum" ("Why do you not understand that it was not concerning bread I said to you: Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees? Then they understood that he said not that they should beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees"); and 1 Corinthians 5:6-8: "Nescitis quia modicum fermentum totam massam corrumpit? Expurgate vetus fermentum, ut sitis nova conspersio, sicut estis azymi. Etenim Pascha nostrum immolatus est Christus. Itaque epulemur: non in fermento veteri, neque in fermento malitiae et nequitiae: sed in azymis sinceritatis et veritatis" ("Know you not that a little leaven corrupteth the whole lump? Purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new paste, as you are unleavened. For Christ our pasch is sacrificed. Therefore, let us fast not with the old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness: but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth").
40 Dum magis incantat . . . aures. Gower has in mind the serpent "Aspidis" which covers its ears to escape "enchantement" by its hunter (CA 1.463-80); the "Sirenes," against whose singing Ulysses stopped the ears of his mariners lest they take for "Paradys, / Which after is to hem an helle" (CA 1.502-03); or both, since in CA one tale directly precedes the other, and incantat implies enchantment through (hypnotic) song.
52-53 Argumenta fides . . . capi. Compare Luke 1:52: "Deposuit potentes de sede, / Et exaltavit humiles" ("He hath put down the mighty from their seat, / And exalted the humble"); and Aquinas, Summa Theologica II.ii.Q.1.Art.4.
56-57 Ut solus . . . opus. Verbatim from VC II.ix.439-40; the larger subject of the chapter from which these and the following excerpts were taken is "quilibet debet firmiter credere, nec ultra quam decet argumenta fidei investigare" ("everyone ought firmly to believe, and not investigate the grounds of faith more than is proper" -- trans. Stockton). The immediate subject of lines 439-40 is the Creation; see notes to lines 60-75, 76-77, below.
60-75 Leticiam luctus . . . fidem. Verbatim from VC II.ix.445-60.
64 sacri flatus. Compare "spiritus vitae" Genesis 2:7, 6:17, 7:15.
66 Cum . . . nosse. Compare Mark 13:33: "Videte, vigilate, et orate: nescitis enim quando tempus sit" ("Take heed, watch and pray. For ye know not when the time is").
76-77 Committat fidei . . . fides. Verbatim from VC II.ix.465-66.
84-85 Sic incarnatum . . . homo. For Gower, this is the crowning example of miracle accessible only through faith; there is no suggestion, however, that Gower thought Lollards denied the Virgin Birth.
85-86 Virginis . . . revereri. Identified by Beichner ("Gower's Use of the Aurora," p. 593) as verbatim from Aurora, Exod. 85-86.
86 Pete, crede, stude, revereri. Compare Vulgate Psalm 36:3-5 and note to line 87, below.
87 lex: Compare line 86, above, and Matthew 22:37: "Diliges Dominum Deum tuum ex toto corde tuo, et in tota anima tua, et in tota mente tua" ("Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart and with thy whole soul and with thy whole mind").
90 Tempore Ricardi. Compare Coffman, "John Gower, Mentor," p. 958: "Gower, after expressing grave concern over the decay of orthodoxy in religion through Lollardy, exhorts Richard to accept the authority and assume the responsibility to suppress this heresy."
96 Radix peccati . . . scelerati. Compare CA 1.580-81: "The ferste of hem thou schalt believe / Is Pride, which is principal"; MO, line 1045: "Orguil, des autres capiteine" ("Pride, the leader of the others" -- trans Wilson); and Aquinas, Summa Theologica II.i.Q.84,Art.2.
97 Ex quo dampnati. Compare Apocalypse 12:9: "et proiectus est in terram, et angeli eius cum illo missi sunt" ("And [Satan] was cast unto the earth: and his angels were thrown down with him").
98-99 Michaelis / Ensis. Compare Apocalypse 12:7: "Michael et angeli eius praeliabantur cum dracone" ("Michael and his angels fought with the dragon"); and MO, lines 3733-45. For the sword, compare Genesis 3:24.
108-9 Laus ibi non . . . eorum. Richard's court was criticized for following continental fashions: compare Richard the Redeless 3.110-225. That pride led kings and courts to extravagant dress was, however, a commonplace: compare Hoccleve's criticism of court fashion under Henry IV, Regiment of Princes, lines 414-511.
120-21 Elatas mentes . . . amavit. No psalm of David contains precisely this statement; however, compare Vulgate Psalm 34, in which David writes against the injustice of those who persecute him.
124-25 Acherontis, / Unde bibunt vani mortem. No tradition links Acheron with either a deadly fountain or, specifically, with the vain; compare Virgil's Aeneid 6.295-330 and Dante's Inferno 3.71-81, 124. As the boundary river of hell it may figure here to indicate hell in general; also, "fontis / Acheronitis" completes a couplet and so may have been linked for rhyming purposes: compare CA 5.1109-12:"Be Lethen and be Flegeton, / Be Cochitum and Acheron, / The whiche, after the bokes telle, / Ben the chief flodes of helle."
126 stat. So Mac, adding from C, E, H, L, F, and B. S omits.
138-39 Sunt que maiores humilis . . . minores. On Humility as the virtue balancing Pride, compare MO, lines 10177-12614; CA 1.3284 ("Humilite most worth of alle") and 1.3296-97 ("What lest is worth of alle thinges, / And costeth most . . . is Pride").
147 nec ibi sua debita soluit. Compare 1 Corinthians 7:2-4: "propter fornicationem autem unusquisque suam uxorem habeat, et unaquaeque suum virum habeat. Uxori vir debitum reddat: similiter autem et uxor viro. Mulier sui corporis potestatem non habet, sed vir. Similiter autem et vir sui corporis potestatem non habet, sed mulier" ("But for fear of fornication, let every man have his own wife: and let every woman have her own husband. Let the husband render the debt to his wife: and the wife also in like manner to the husband. The wife hath not power of her body: but the husband. And in like manner the husband also hath not power of his own body: but the wife"). The idea of a sexual "debt" owed each other by husbands and wives was a common notion: see, for example, the opinion of Chaucer's Wife of Bath (CT III[D]152-61), or his Parson's lecture on the three fruits of marriage -- procreation, satisfaction of nature, and avoiding fornication (CT X[I]939-42).
151 Philosophus quidam. It is unlikely any specific "philosopher" is intended here; compare Traitié VI-XVI, where the succession of ballades recounts a similar list of bad ends resulting from adultery.
175-76 Libera set racio . . . Deo. Reason and Conscience act together in MO, lines 10032- 176, inducing God to marry his seven daughters, the Virtues, to Reason, to engender more virtues and combat the seven Vices and their offspring.
180-81 Appetit in carne . . . fugiendus. Verbatim from VC VI.xii.861-62.
182 facta David. I.e., his adultery with Bethsabee; compare 2 Kings (2 Samuel) 11-12.
183 Consilio Balaam. Compare Numbers 31:16: "Nonne istae sunt, quae deceperunt filios Israel ad suggestionem Balaam, et praevaricari vos fecerunt in Domino super peccato Phogor, unde et percussus est populus?" ("Are these not they, that deceived the children of Israel, by the counsel of Balaam, and made you transgress against the Lord by the sin of Phogor for which also the people was punished?"). The"sin of Phogor" was fornication: compare Numbers 25:1, 25:8, 25:14-15, 25:18.
193 fictilis etas. Compare VC VII.iii.135-74, where the sin of the age is said to be sexual excess (e.g., "Sic sacra scripta caro conscribitur undique mundo" ["The world everywhere inscribes carnal lust as holy writ" -- trans. Stockton]). The larger image is the statue of Nebuchadnezzar's dream: compare CA Prol. 585-662; Daniel 2:31-45.
197-98 Cecus amor . . . amans. Compare Ecce patet tensus. Blind Cupid, with the power to blind his disciples, is common in Gower. E.g., CA Prol.47, 4.1732, 8.2268, and, especially, 8.2788-2808, where the blind god "which may noght se" gropes the wound of the stupified Amans to remove the fiery dart, whereupon the protagonist regains his vision and "John Gower" identity.
199 Pendula . . . dolore. Compare Ovid, Metamorphoses 7.826: "Credula res amor est: subito conlapsa dolore" ("Love is a credulous thing: struck suddenly with pain," used verbatim VC V.iii.165).
203-4 Cum viciis . . . homo. Compare 1 Corinthians 6:18: "Fugite fornicationem" ("Fly fornication").
210 mortis. So Mac, emending from C, E, H, L, F, and B. S: cordis.
211-14 Oscula fetor . . . madet. Compare VC VII.x.765-78; here, however, and throughout VC VII, Gower's concern is with bodily corruption post mortem.
213-14 Occupat . . . madet. Compare Proverbs 14:13: "Risus dolore miscebitur, / Et extrema gaudii luctus occupant" ("Laughter shall be mingled with sorrow, / And mourning taketh hold of the end of joy").
215 voluptas. So Mac, emending (unnoted), from C, E, H, L, F, and B. S: vluptas.
217 statutum. S: tu added above the line by a later hand.
218-19 Quo caro . . . vorabit. Compare Genesis 3:19: "In sudore vultus tui vesceris pane, donec revertaris in terram de qua sumptus es: quia pulvis es et in pulverem reverteris" ("In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread till thou return to the earth, out of which thou wast taken: for dust thou art, and into dust thou shalt return").
231 Ex vicio . . . mali. Compare 1 Timothy 6:10: "Radix enim omnium malorum est cupiditas" ("For the desire of money is the root of all evils"). Chaucer's Pardoner takes this as the text for his exhortation; see Chaucer's CT VI(C)333-34.
232-34 Nemo Dei nomen . . . statuit. Compare Exodus 20:7: "Non assumes nomen Domini Dei tui in vanum" ("Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain"); and 20:16: "Non loqueris contra proximum tuum falsum testimonium" ("Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor"). These are two of the Ten Commandments, the "Old Law" of Moses.
246-65 Vendere iusticiam . . . fidem. Compare VC VI.vi.445-62, especially 445: "Vendere iusticiam quid id est nisi vendere Cristum" ("What is it to sell justice but to sell Christ" -- trans. Stockton). See also note to lines 79-80, above.
265 Nunc modus . . . fidem. This may be an oblique reference to Richard II's "cartes blanches involving admission of debt and guilt which he forced members of the opposition to sign" (Stockton, Major Latin Works, p. 40). See also Cronica III.67-72.
266 Vox leuis . . . nuper. Compare Genesis 27:22: "Accessit ille ad patrem, et palpato eo, dixit Isaac: Vox quidem, vox Iacob est: sed manus, manus sunt Esau" ("He came near to his father, and when he had felt him, Isaac said: The voice indeed is the voice of Jacob; but the hands are the hands of Esau"). By impersonating his brother, Jacob deprived Esau of his father's blessing; see note to lines 270-72, below.
270-72 Ex dampno fratris . . . annos. The allusion to the Jacob and Esau story continues here; see note to line 266, above.
276-77 Quid modo . . . / Dicam? Compare Matthew 6:3: "Te autem faciente eleemosynam, nesciat sinistra tua quid faciat dextera tua" ("And when thou dost alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doth"). The play here is archly skilfull: because the right hand now takes bribes instead of giving alms, it has moved to (become) the left. The idea becomes proverbial. See Whiting, H61.
295 Cum se nemo . . . sibi? Not even a man's body belongs to him, for it too will decay after death. Compare Orate pro anima, below.
298 Mammona. Compare Matthew 6:24: "Non potestis Deo servire et mammonae" ("You cannot serve God and mammon"); and Luke 6:9-14.
302 ff. Latin marginalia in S: Salomon: Memorare novissima et inteternum non peccabis. ("Solomon: Remember the newest [i.e., the last] things and you will not sin by the temporal.") The allusion is to the "Four Last Things": death, judgment, heaven, and hell. See Dicunt scripture, note to line 1.
305 ff. Latin marginalia in S: Idem: Omnia fac cum consilio et ineternum non penitebis. ("Do all things with counsel and you will not repent the temporal.")
307 Tempore presenti . . . genti. By "the present time" Gower may have in mind precisely the twentieth year of Richard II (June 1396 to June 1397), when he says he is writing CVP (line 312, below, and Prose, line 6, above), or he may be speaking more generally, as he does elsewhere: compare VC II.Pro.83-84: "Vox clamantis erit nomenque voluminis huius, / Quod sibi scripta novi verba doloris habet" ("And the name of this volume shall be The Voice of One Crying, because the work contains a message of the sorrow of today" -- trans. Stockton). VC II was probably composed before 1381. See also note to line 314, below.
314 Vox sonat in populo. Compare Isaias 40:3: "Vox clamantis in deserto: / Parate viam Domini, / Rectas facite in solitudine semitas Dei nostri" ("The voice of one crying in the desert: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the wilderness the paths of our God"). See also note to line 307, above.
316 Quem peperit . . . sacro. Compare Luke 1:35: "Spiritus sanctus superveniet in te, et virtus Altissimi obumbrabit tibi" ("The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee"). The tradition of the "Holy Breath" is not biblical, but developed from two sources: linguistic (Spiritus / inspirare, "to breathe" [compare the General Prologue of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, I(A)5-6] and metaphoric (Christ as the Divine Logos, the Word of God, who in that way entered Mary through her ear at the angel's greeting).
|2. Carmen super multiplici viciorum pestilencia||2. A Poem on the Manifold Plague of Vices||(see note)|
Nota consequenter carmen super multiplici viciorum pestilencia, unde tempore
Ricardi Secundi partes nostre specialius inficiebantur.
Attend to the following poem on the manifold plague of vices, by which our realms
were especially infected during the reign of Richard II.
Non excusatur qui verum non fateatur,
Ut sic ponatur modus unde fides recolatur.
Qui magis ornatur sensu sua verba loquatur,
Ne lex frangatur qua Cristus sanctificatur.
Hoc res testatur: virtus ita nunc viciatur
Quod vix firmatur aliquis quin transgrediatur.
Hinc contristatur mea mens que sepe gravatur,
Dum contemplatur vicium quod continuatur;
Set quia speratur quod vera fides operatur,
Quod Deus hortatur, michi scribere penna paratur,
Ut describatur cur mundus sic variatur:
Ecce, malignatur que modo causa datur.
He who does not confess the truth is not excused
From finding a way to act in good faith.
Let the man more gifted with reason speak in his own words,
That no law be broken by which Christ is sanctified.
Fact bears witness to this: virtue is now so turned to vice
That scarcely anyone is protected from trespass.
At this my mind is saddened and is often weighed down,
While it contemplates the vice that is ongoing;
But because I hope that the good faith is still efficacious,
That God enjoins, my pen is prepared to write,
To describe why the world is so plague-spotted.
Behold, the cause that is now given is shown to be evil.
Putruerunt et corrupte sunt cicatrices a facie insipiencie,1 set priusquam mors ex
morbo finem repente concludat, sapiencie medicinam detectis plagis cum omni
diligencia sapienter investigare debemus. Unde ego, non medicus set medicine
procurator,2 qui tanti periculi gravitatem deplangens intime contristor; quedam
vulnera maiori corrupcione putrida euidenti distinccione, ut inde medicos pro
salute interpellam consequenter declarare propono. Anno regni Regis Ricardi
Contra demonis astuciam in causa Lollardie.4
The wounds have rotted and been aggravated in the face of stupidity, but before
the disease ends in sudden death, we ought to investigate the medicine of wisdom
once we have uncovered all the injuries wisely with all diligence. Whence I, not a
doctor but a dispenser of medicine, am deeply saddened in my heart, lamenting
the seriousness of such great danger; and I propose to identify by clear distinction
the wounds that are seriously diseased with rottenness in order to direct the
doctors to cure them. In the twentieth year of King Richard.
Against the subtlety of the devil in the case of Lollardy.
Quod patet ad limen instanti tempore crimen
Describam primo, quo pallent alta sub ymo.
Nescio quid signat: plebs celica iura resignat
Dum laicus clausas fidei vult solvere causas:
Que Deus incepit et homo servanda recepit:
Iam magis enervant populi quam scripta reservant,
Unde magis clarum scribere tendo parum.
Lollia messis habens granum perturbat et ips
Talia qui patitur horrea sepe gravat.
Semina perfidie sacros dispersa per agros
Ecclesie, turbant subdola, sicque fidem.
Inventor sceleris, sceleratus apostata primus
Angelicas turmas polluit ipse prius;
Postque ruit nostros paradisi sede parentes
Morteque vitales fecerat esse reos.
Callidus hic serpens nec adhuc desistit in orbe,
Quin magis in Cristi lollia messe serit.
Ecce novam sectam mittit, que plebis in aures
Ad fidei dampnum scandala plura canit.
Sic vetus insurgit heresis quasi Ioviniani,
Unde moderna fides commaculata dolet.
Usurpando fidem, vultum mentitur honestum
Caucius ut fraudem palleat inde suam.
Sub grossa lana linum subtile tenetur,
Simplicitas vultus corda dolosa tegit.
Fermento veteri talis corrumpit acervum
Qui nova conspergit et dubitanda movet;
Dum magis incantat, obtura tu magis aures
Forcius et cordis ostia claude tui.
Simplicitate tua ne credas omne quod audis;
Que docet ambiguus auctor aborta cave.
Nil novitatis habens tua mens fantastica cedat;
Ut pater ante tuus credidit, acta cole.
Vera fides Cristi non hesitat, immo fideles
Efficit ut credant cordis amore sui:
Nil valet illa fides ubi res dabit experimentum,
Spes tamen in Cristo sola requirit eum:
Recta fides quicquid rectum petit, omne meretur,
Quicquid possibile creditur, ipsa potest.
Argumenta fides dat rerum que neque sciri,
Nec possunt verbo nec racione capi.
Subde tuam fidei mentem, quia mortis ymago
Iudicis eterni mistica scire nequit:
Ut solus facere voluit, sic scire volebat
Solus, et hoc nulli participavit opus.
Una quid ad solem sintilla valet, vel ad equor
Gutta, vel ad celum quid cinis esse potest?
Leticiam luctus, mors vitam, gaudia fletus
Non norunt, nec que sunt Deitatis homo.
Non tenebre solem capiunt, non lumina cecus,
Infima mens hominis nec capit alta Dei:
Nempe, sacri flatus archanum nobile nunquam
Scrutari debes, quod penetrare nequis.
Cum non sit nostrum vel mundi tempora nosse,
Unde creaturas nosse laborat homo?
Nos sentire fidem nostra racione probatam
Non foret humanis viribus illud opus;
Humanum non est opus ut transcendat ad astra,
Quod mortalis homo non racione capit.
Ingenium tante transit virtutis in altum,
Transcurrit superos, in Deitate manet.
Qui sapienter agit sapiat moderanter in istis;
Postulet ut rectam possit habere fidem:
Committat fidei quod non poterit racioni,
Quod non dat racio, det tibi firma fides.
Quod docet ecclesia tu tantum crede, nec ultra
Quam tibi scire datur quomodocumque stude.
Sufficit ut credas, est ars ubi nulla sciendi;
Quanta potest Dominus scire nec ullus habet.
Est Deus omnipotens, et qui negat omnipotenti
Credere posse suum denegat esse Deum.
Sic incarnatum tu debes credere Cristum
Virginis ex utero, qui Deus est et homo.
Vis salvus fieri? Pete, crede, stude, revereri;
Absque magis queri, lex iubet ista geri.
Has fantasias aliter que dant heresias
Dampnat Messias, sobrius ergo scias.
Tempore Ricardi, super hiis que fata tulerunt,
Scismata Lollardi de novitate serunt:
Obstet principiis tribulos purgareque vadat
Cultor in ecclesiis, ne rosa forte cadat.
I will first describe the crime that appears at the threshold today
By which the heights, subject to the Deep, grow pale.
I know not what it signifies: the common folk revoke Heaven's laws
While the layman wants to reopen the settled grounds of faith.
The written laws that God instituted and man received to be kept
Now the peoples weaken more than follow,
And thus I will strive to make more clear what is not clear enough.
The harvest with tares harms the grain itself,
And when it suffers such things it often burdens the granaries.
The seeds of faithlessness, scattered across the holy fields
Of the Church, subtly deceptive, disturb it and thus the faith.
The inventor of wickedness, that wicked first apostate,
Previously polluted the angelic throngs;
And then he cast down our first parents from their seat in Paradise
And made those children of life guilty under sentence of death.
Nor does this sly serpent rest in the world even now,
Rather all the more he sows tares in the harvest of Christ.
Behold, he sends a new sect, which into the ears of the people
Sings many scandals to the detriment of their faith.
Thus the old heresy arises like that of Jovinian,
By which our stained modern faith grieves.
In usurping the faith, it feigns an honest countenance
To then cloak its fraud more cautiously.
Beneath coarse wool fine linen is worn,
Simplicity of face hides deceptive hearts.
Such a guise corrupts the lump with old yeast,
Scattering novelties and raising doubts.
The more he sings, the more you must stop up your ears
And close more forcefully the doors of your heart.
In your simplicity do not believe everything you hear;
Beware the maimed doctrines that the author of ambiguity teaches.
Your mind should hold no novelties, and let fantasies fade;
As your father believed before you, take up his deeds.
The true faith of Christ does not doubt: rather,
It makes the faithful believe in the love of their heart.
That faith is worth nothing when experience will supply the facts,
For hope in Christ seeks only Him:
Correct faith seeks whatever is correct, and merits every such thing,
And whatever is believed to be possible, this very faith can do it.
Faith gives proofs of facts that cannot be known,
Nor grasped, not by word nor by reasoning.
Surrender your mind to this faith, because in the image of death
One cannot know the mysteries of the eternal Judge:
As He alone willed to act, so He was willing to know
Alone, and He shared this work with no one.
What does the spark add to the sun, what to the sea
One drop, or what can an ash be against the sky?
Grief does not know happiness, death does not know life, joys
Do not know tears, nor do humans know the things of God.
Shadows do not comprehend the sun, nor a blind man the light,
And the lowly mind of man does not receive the heights of God:
For the noble mystery of the sacred breath
You ought never examine, because you cannot penetrate it.
Since it is not for us to know the times of the world or of ourselves,
Why does man toil to understand creation?
To experience a faith approved by our reason
Would not be a task for human strength;
It is not human to work to cross over to the stars,
Because a mortal man cannot grasp it with his reason.
An intellect of such great power,
It surpasses the angels, it rests in divinity.
Let the man who lives wisely moderate his knowledge in these matters;
Let him pray that he can have true faith;
Let him entrust to faith what he cannot entrust to reason.
What reason does not give you, let a solid faith give.
Believe only what the Church teaches, and do not be eager
In any way at all for what is beyond what is granted you to know.
It is sufficient that you believe, when there is no art of knowledge;
No one knows such great things as the Lord can know.
God is omnipotent, and whoever says that he cannot
Believe in His omnipotence denies that He is God.
Thus you ought to believe that Christ was born incarnate
From a virgin's womb, He who is God and man.
Do you want to be saved? Pray, believe, be zealous, reverent:
Without more being asked, the Law bids such things be done.
These fantasies that otherwise produce heresies
The Messiah condemns, therefore understand soberly.
In the time of Richard, concerning the things the fates have brought,
The Lollards sow schisms of novelty:
Let the gardener obstruct their beginnings and come
To purge the thistles in the churches, so that the rose will not die.
|Contra mentis seuiciam in causa Superbie.||
Against harshness of mind in matters of Pride.
Deficit in verbo sensus, quo cuncta superbo
Scribere delicta nequeo, que sunt michi dicta.
Radix peccati fuit ille prius scelerati,
Ex quo dampnati perierunt prevaricati:
Desuper a celis deiecit eum Michaelis
Ensis ad inferni tenebras de luce superni;
Nec paradisus ei prebere locum requiei
Spondet ubi vere sibi gaudia posset habere.
Sic, quia deceptus alibi nequit esse receptus,
Mundum deposcit, ut in illo vivere possit.
Sic adhibendo moram venit ille superbus ad horam,
Quem mea mens tristis in partibus asserit istis.
Hunc ubi ponemus, hostem quem semper habemus?
Nam magis infecta veniens facit omnia tecta.
Laus ibi non lucet ubi vana superbia ducet,
Regna superborum; docet hoc vestitus eorum:
Cum valet ornatum sibi vanus habere paratum
Non quasi mortalis, set ut angelus evolat alis.
Militis ad formam modo pauper habet sibi normam,
Vana sit ut vestis erit inde superbia testis,
Exterius signum cor signat habere malignum,
Cordis et errore fortuna carebit honore.
Nos igitur talem non consociare sodalem
Expedit, ut tuti reddamur in orbe saluti.
Quod Deus odivit reprobos David hoc bene scivit,
Ipseque psalmista scripsit de talibus ista:
"Elatas mentes posuit de sede potentes,
Et sublimauit humiles, quos semper amavit."
Vanus non durat, quem vana superbia curat,
Hec set eum ducit ubi gracia nulla reducit.
Culpa quidem fontis latices dabit hec Acherontis,
Unde bibunt vani mortem quasi cotidiani.
Omne quod est natum stat ab hoc vicio viciatum,
Quo magis inmundum vir vanus habet sibi mundum.
Set qui mentali de pondere iudiciali
Istud libraret, puto quod meliora pararet.
Hoc nam mortale vicium stat sic generale
Quod mundum fregit, ubi singula regna subegit;
Hec etenim cedes nostras, ut dicitur, edes
Vertit, et insana dat tempora cotidiana.
O Deus eterne, culpe miserere moderne,
Facque pias mentes sub lege tua penitentes!
Corpus, opes, vires sapiens non sic stabilires,
Dumque superbires, subita quin sorte perires.
Sunt que maiores humilis paciencia mores
Nutrit et errores vicii facit esse minores:
Ergo tuam vera mentem moderare statera;
Sit laus vel labes, pectore pondus habes.
Words are inadequate to describe all the failings
Of the proud man that have been related to me.
Pride was the root of the sin of the first wicked person,
On whose account those who went astray were condemned and perished:
The sword of Michael hurled him down from the heavens
To the darkness infernal, from the light supernal;
Nor did the Garden give him assurance of a place to rest
Where he could truly have joys for himself.
Thus, because he was deceived and could not elsewhere be received,
He demanded the world, in order to live in it.
By taking up residence, that proud one has lasted to this hour,
And my mind grieves to assert that he is present in these realms.
Where will we put him, whom we hold as our constant enemy?
For by his coming he makes all dwellings more infected.
Praise does not shine where vain pride is at the head,
The kingdoms of the proud; their clothing demonstrates this:
When the vain man esteems his apparel as having been furnished
For him not as a mortal, but as an angel who flies with wings.
Sometimes the poor man makes his measure the image of the soldier,
And pride will serve as witness how vainglorious a costume can be,
As his outward appearance signals that he has a wicked heart,
And by the sin of his heart his lot will lack honor.
Therefore it serves us well not to associate with such a companion,
That we may be restored safely to health in this world.
David knew well that God hates those who are false,
And the psalmist wrote these things about such men:
"He has cast down the lofty minds from the seats of power,
And He has raised up the humble, whom He has always loved."
The vain man will not endure, whom vain pride oversees,
But his pride will lead him to a place from which no grace can return him.
Indeed, this sin will give him the waters of the fountain of Acheron,
From which the vain drink death almost daily.
Everything born has been vitiated by this vice,
And by it the vain man pollutes his world all the more.
But if one in his mind with a judicious weight
Were to weigh this vice, I think he would act for the better.
For this mortal vice is so pervasive
That it has shattered the world, brought kingdoms down one after another;
It even causes our deaths, as is said, overturns our homes,
And gives rise to seasons of madness day after day.
O eternal God, pity our sin of these times,
And make our minds devout and penitent under Your law!
Although wise, you cannot make your health, wealth, and strength so stable,
To keep you from meeting a swift fate, as long as you are proud.
The character that humble patience nurtures is a greater one
And humble patience makes the errors of pride lesser:
Therefore balance your mind with the scales of truth,
And you have a counterbalance in your heart, be it praise or blame.
|Contra carnis lasciviam in causa Concupiscencie.||
Against the wantonness of the flesh in the case of Lust.
O sexus fragilis, ex quo natura virilis
Carnea procedit, anime que robora ledit!
O natura viri carnalis, que stabiliri
Non valet, ut pura carnalia sint sibi iura!
Federa sponsorum que sunt sacrata virorum,
Heu! caro dissoluit, nec ibi sua debita soluit.
Tempore presenti de carne quasi furienti,
Turpia sunt plura, que signant dampna futura:
Hec desponsatis sunt metuenda satis.
Philosophus quidam, carnis de labe remorsus,
Plebis in exemplum talia verba refert:
"Unam de variis penam sortitur adulter,
Eius ut amplexus omnis in orbe luat;
Aut membrum perdet, aut carceris antra subibit,
Aut cadet insanus non reputandus homo,
Aut sibi pauperies infortunata resistet,
Aut moriens subito transit ab orbe reus."
Et sic luxuries fatuis sua dona refundit,
Vertit et econtra quicquid ab ante tulit.
Quod prius est dulce, demonstrat finis amarum,
Quo caro non tantum, spiritus immo cadit.
Sic oculus cordis, carnis caligine cecus,
Errat, et in dampnum decidit ipse suum.
Sic iubar humani sensus fuscatur in umbra
Carnis, et in carnem mens racionis abit.
Dum carnalis amor animum tenet illaqueatum,
Sensati racio fit racionis egens;
Stans hominis racio, calcata per omnia, carni
Servit, et ancille vix tenet ipsa locum.
Non locus est in quo maneant consueta libido
Et racio pariter; quin magis una vacat.
Bella libido movet, favet et vecordia carnis,
Et sua dat fedo colla premenda iugo;
Libera set racio mentem de morte remordet
Carnis in obsequio, statque pudica Deo.
Nil commune gerunt luxus sibi cum racione;
Ista Deum retinet, illa cadaver habet:
Sic patet ut nichil est quicquid peritura voluptas
Appetit in carne, que velut umbra fugit.
Pluribus exemplis tibi luxus erit fugiendus:
Biblea que docuit, respice facta David:
Consilio Balaam luxus decepit Hebreos,
Quos caro commaculat; carnea culpa premit.
Discat homo iuvenis celeri pede labitur etas,
Nuncia dum mortis curua senecta venit:
Ecce, senilis yemps tremulo venit horrida passu,
Et rapit a iuvene quod reparare nequit:
Vir sapiens igitur sua tempora mente revoluat,
Erigat et currum, quam prius inde cadat.
Heu, set in hoc vicio plebis quasi tota propago
Carnis in obsequio stat viciata modo:
Ex causa fragili causatur fictilis etas,
Quo nunc de facili frangitur omnis homo.
Carnis enim vicia sunt sic communiter acta,
Quod de continuis vix pudet usus eis;
Cecus amor fatuos cecos sic ducit amantes,
Quod sibi quid deceat non videt ullus amans.
Pendula res amor est, subito collapsa dolore,
Ordine precipiti miraque facta parat;
Sique tuam velles flammam compescere tutus,
Artem prevideas, quam prius inde cadas.
Cum viciis aliis pugna, iubet hec tibi Paulus,
Carnis et a bello tu fuge, solus homo;
Et quia vulnifico fixurus pectora telo
Vibrat amor, caute longius inde fuge.
Vinces si fugias, vinceris sique resistas;
Ne leo vincaris, tu lepus ergo fuge.
Mente tui cordis memorare novissima carnis.
Et speculo mortis respice qualis eris:
Oscula fetor erunt, amplexus vermis, et omne
Quod fuerat placidum, pena resolvet opus.
Occupat extrema stultorum gaudia luctus,
Et risum lacrima plena dolore madet:
Vana salus hominis; quam terminat egra voluptas,
Tollit et eternum vivere vita brevis.
Crede, satis tutum tenet hoc natura statutum:
Quo caro pollutum reddet ad yma lutum;
Cum fera mors stabit et terram terra vorabit,
Tunc homo gustabit quid sibi culpa dabit.
Est ubi mundicia carnis sine labe reatus,
Casta pudicicia gaudet ad omne latus:
Stat nota bina solo quo luxus non dominatur;
Pax manet absque dolo, longaque vita datur.
O fragile sex, from which man's fleshly nature
Proceeds, which wounds his soul's strength!
O carnal nature of man, which lacks the strength
Of stability, so that its laws are sheer fleshliness!
The consecrated unions of spouses,
Alas! the flesh has dissolved, and does not pay its debts there.
Nowadays the flesh is raging
With much foulness that bodes harm to come:
Married folk must be on the alert against it.
A certain philosopher, remorseful over a carnal fault,
Gives the people this exemplum with these words:
"The adulterer draws as his lot one punishment from many,
So that he may atone for all his embraces in the world;
Either he will lose his member, or he will enter a prison cell,
Or die insane without repute,
Or encounter poverty and ill fortune
Or die suddenly and pass guiltily from the world."
And thus lechery pours out its gifts on the foolish,
Then turns and takes away whatever it gave before.
What is sweet at first proves bitter in the end,
When not only the flesh, but even the spirit lapses.
Thus the eye of the heart, blinded by the haze of the flesh,
Goes astray, and falls to its harm.
Thus the piercing light of human sense is dimmed in the shade
Of the flesh, and the rational mind sinks into the flesh.
While fleshly love holds the mind in its webs,
Sensible reason turns into the lack of reason;
Man's standing reason, downtrodden by everything, serves
The flesh, and scarcely holds its place as a handmaiden.
There is no place in which ingrained lust
And reason can remain on equal terms without one yielding place.
Lust moves wars, and the madness of the flesh favors them,
And bows its neck beneath the foul yoke;
But reason when free stings the conscience with thoughts of death
In the service of the flesh, and reason stands chaste before God.
Lechery shares no common ground with reason:
Reason holds on to God, lechery to a cadaver:
Thus is it clear that whatever perishable desire
Hungers for in the flesh is nothing, and flees like a shadow.
You can see from many examples that lust should be fled:
Regard the deeds of David, which the Bible has taught:
By the counsel of Balaam wantonness deceived the Hebrews,
Flesh stained them; fleshly guilt weighed them down.
Let the young man learn that life slips by at a swift pace,
While bent old age comes as a harbinger of death:
Behold, old shaggy winter comes in with a trembling step,
And steals from the young what they cannot regain:
Therefore let the wise man meditate on his life and times,
And let him direct his chariot on high, before he falls from it.
But alas, in this vice nearly the entire human race
Now stands vitiated, in the service of the flesh:
Our age of clay is grounded on a fragile foundation,
So that now every man is easily broken.
For the crimes of the flesh are so commonly committed
That scarcely does their continuous use cause any shame:
Blind love so leads stupid blind lovers
That no lover sees what is decent for him.
The business of love is a pendulum, now crumpled in sudden grief,
Now in headlong preparation it marshals miraculous deeds;
And if you want to be safe and temper the flame of your love,
Consider the methods in advance, before you fall.
Wage war with the other vices, as Paul bids you,
And flee from a war with the flesh, you who are only human;
Since love is brandishing a deadly weapon
Fixed on your heart, be cautious, flee far away.
You will win if you flee, and you will be conquered if you resist;
Lest you be conquered like a lion, be a hare and flee.
In the mind of your heart remember flesh's fate,
And regard in death's mirror what you will be:
Your kisses will be a stench, your embraces worms, and every
Task that was pleasing will turn painful.
Mourning overtakes the final joys of fools,
Tears of sorrow drown out laughter:
A man's welfare is worthless if sick pleasure ends it,
A short life that precludes eternal life.
Take heed: nature maintains this law quite securely:
Flesh will return its polluted clay to the earth below;
When savage death looms, and dust consumes dust,
Then man will taste what sin gives him.
And where there is purity of flesh without stain of guilt,
There modest chastity rejoices on every side.
This dual distinction belongs to him alone over whom lechery holds no sway:
Peace without deceit and a long life.
|Contra mundi fallaciam in causa Periurii et Avaricie.||
Against the falseness of the world in the matters of Perjury and Greed.
Sunt duo cognati viciorum consociati
Orbem qui ledunt pariter, nec ab orbe recedunt:
Iste fidem raram periurat, et alter avarum
Causam custodit. Socios tales Deus odit.
Primo periurum describam, postque futurum,
Est ubi ius rarum, scriptura remordet avaram:
Ex vicio tali fertur origo mali.
Nemo Dei nomen assumere debet inane,
Falsa nec ut iuret, os perhibere malo:
Lex vetus hoc statuit, set, prothdolor, ecce modernus
Munere corruptos iam novus error agit.
Nil nisi dona videt dum se periurat Avarus,
Eius enim sensum census ubique regit.
Sic non liber homo librum sine pondere librat,
Servit et ad libras quas sua libra trahit.
Set quia periurus defraudat iura superni,
Iurat eum dominus iure perire suo.
Sic lucrum siciens laqueos incurrit, et eius
Lingua prius mendax premia mortis habet;
Sic vendens et emens vacuus non transiet, immo
Munera que capiet sulphur et ignis erunt.
Vendere iusticiam nichil est nisi vendere Cristum,
Expectat dampnum qui facit inde forum.
Testis erit Iudas quid erit sibi fine doloris;
Dum crepuit medius, culpa subibat onus.
Penituit culpam, que semel nisi fecerat illam,
Quod tulit et lucrum reddidit ipse statim;
Set nec eo veniam meruit nec habere salutem;
Iam valet exemplum tale movere virum.
Vendidit ipse semel iustum, nos cotidianum
Ob lucri precium vendimus omne malum;
Ille restauravit, set nos restringimus aurum;
Penituit, set nos absque pavore sumus.
Sic et avaricia, tanta feritate, perurget
Corda viri, quod ab hoc vix homo liber abit.
Cessat iusticia, cessatque fides sociata,
Fraus dolus atque suum iam subiere locum.
Plebs sine iure manet, non est qui iura tuetur;
Non est qui dicat, "Iura tenere decet."
Omnibus in causis, ubi gentes commoda querunt,
Nunc modus est que fides non habuisse fidem.
Vox levis illa Iacob, Esau manus hispida nuper,
Que foret ista dies, signa futura dabant:
Alterius casu stat supplantator, et eius
Qui fuerat socius fraude subintrat opes.
Ex dampno fratris frater sua commoda querit;
Unus si presit, invidet alter ei.
Filius ante diem patruos iam spectat in annos,
Nec videt ex oculis ceca cupido suis.
Nunc amor est solus, nec sentit habere secundum,
Stans odioque tibi diligit ipse tua.
Quid modo, cumque manus mentitur dextra sinistre,
Dicam? Set caveat qui sapienter agit.
Vivitur ex velle, non amplius est via tuta;
Cuncta licent cupido, dum vacat ipse lucro.
Arma, rapina, dolus, amor ambiciosus habendi,
Amplius ad proprium velle sequntur iter.
Lex silet et nummus loquitur; ius dormit et aurum
Pervigil insidiis vincit ubique suis.
Hasta nocet ferri, gladius set plus nocet auri;
Regna terit mundi, nilque resistit ei.
Set quia mors dubium concludit ad omnia finem,
Est nichil hic certum preter amare Deum.
Rebus in humanis semper quid deficit, et sic
Ista nichil plenum fertile vita tenet.
Quod tibi dat proprium mundus, tibi tollit id ipsum,
Deridensque tuum linquit inane forum.
Quam prius in finem mundi devenerit huius,
Nulla potest certo munere vita frui.
Heu, quid opes opibus cumulas, qui propria queris,
Cum se nemo queat appropriare sibi?
Hunc igitur mundum quia perdes, quere futurum;
Est aliter vacuum tempus utrumque tuum.
Mammona transibit, et avara cupido peribit,
In cineres ibit, mors tua fata bibit.
Pauper ab hac vita, sic princeps, sic heremita,
Mortuus, ad merita transiet omnis ita.
Quicquid homo volvit, mors mundi cuncta revolvit,
Nemoque dissolvit quin morti debita solvit.
Hec qui mente capit gaudia raro sapit,
Set sibi viventi qui consilio sapienti
Prouidet ingenti merito placet omnipotenti.
Tempore presenti que sunt mala proxima genti,
Ex oculo flenti, Gower canit ista legenti:
Quisque sue menti qui concipit aure patenti
Mittat, et argenti det munera largus egenti.
Stat nam mortalis terra repleta malis.
Hoc ego bis deno Ricardi regis in anno,
Compaciens, animo carmen lacrimabile scribo.
Vox sonat in populo, fidei iam deficit ordo,
Unde magis solito cessat laus debita Cristo,
Quem peperit virgo, genitum de flamine sacro.
Hic Deus est et homo, perfecta salus manet in quo;
Eius ab imperio processit pacis origo,
Que dabitur iusto paciens qui credit in ipso.
Vir qui vult ideo pacem componere mundo:
Pacificet primo iura tenenda Deo.
There are two vicious cousins and companions
Who savage the world together and never leave it:
One perjures precious truth, and the other the cause
Of greed upholds. God hates allies of such a kind.
First I will describe the perjurer, and afterwards,
Scripture with its fine law rebukes the miser,
Saying that this vice is the origin of evil.
No one ought to take the Lord's name in vain,
Nor to apply his mouth to evil, in order to swear false oaths:
The Old Law established this, but, I'm sorry to say, today
A new error drives men corrupted by gain.
The greedy man sees nothing but rewards while he perjures himself,
His census everywhere rules his sense,
Unfree and unbalanced he balances the free man,
And slaves for the pounds his poundage weighs down.
But because the perjurer defrauds the laws of the Almighty,
The Lord swears that he will perish by his own law.
In his thirst for profit he rushes into the snares, and
His lying tongue will the sooner reap the rewards of death;
Thus buying and selling he will not pass empty-handed,
But his rewards will be fire and brimstone.
Selling justice is nothing other than selling Christ.
Who does such business can expect to lose.
Witness Judas, whose sorrow is without end;
When his body broke in two, his guilt assumed its burden.
He regretted his fault as soon as he had done it,
And the money that he took he returned immediately;
But in so doing he did not merit forgiveness nor salvation;
Now he serves as a warning example.
Judas only once sold a just man; we daily
Sell every evil for monetary gain;
He gave back his gold, but we hold it tighter;
He was contrite, we feel no fear.
This is how greed, with so much ferocity, goads
The heart of man, so that one can scarcely be free of it.
Justice ceases, and the bonds of faith give way,
And fraud and deception have now taken their place.
The people remain without laws, and there is no one who oversees the laws;
There is no one who says, "It is right to keep the laws."
In all cases, where peoples seek their own advantages,
Our current mode is that trust is not to have had trust.
Not long ago that smooth voice of Jacob, the hairy hand of Esau,
Gave signs of the future, what such a day would be:
The supplantor stands in the stead of another, and he wriggles
Into the wealth of him whose partner he had been.
One brother seeks his profits from his brother's loss;
If one is advanced, the other envies him.
Now a son looks to his father's years before their end,
And blind desire does not see from its own eyes.
Now love is solitary, and desires no other:
It hates you, but loves what is yours.
Since the right hand lies to the left, what now
Can I say? Let the wise man beware.
Desire now drives men's lives, and there is no longer a safe path;
All things are permitted to the greedy man, as long as he wants for money.
Arms, plunder, deceit, ambitious love of gain
More and more plot a path to their own desire.
The law is silent and money speaks; justice sleeps and ever-vigilant gold
Is victorious everywhere with its treachery.
A spear of iron does harm, but a sword of gold does more;
It wears down the kingdoms of this world, and nothing can resist it.
But because death brings a doubtful end to all things,
There is nothing certain here except loving God.
There is lack in all human affairs, and thus
This life holds nothing full and fertile.
Everything worldly the world gives you it takes away.
And mocking you it leaves your office empty.
Until it comes to its end in this world,
No life can enjoy any sure reward.
Alas, why do you heap wealth on wealth, seeking property,
When no one is able to own even himself?
Therefore, since you will lose this world, seek the next;
Otherwise the time you spend in both will be wasted.
Mammon will pass, and desire for gain will perish,
It will proceed into the ashes, and death will drink your fate.
Like the pauper, so the prince, so the hermit, from this life,
Once dead, all will pass in the same way to their rewards.
Whatever man sets in motion, death unwinds everything in the world,
And no one discharges his debts without paying those he owes to death.
Whoever understands this rarely enjoys delights,
But he who provides for himself while alive with wise counsel
Is deservedly pleasing to the great Almighty.
At the present time there are evils that threaten the people:
With weeping eyes, Gower sings them to his reader;
And let each reader who receives these words with open ear
Commit them to his mind, and let him give generously to those lacking silver.
For the mortal earth teems with evils.
In the twentieth year of King Richard,
With compassion, I write this poem, with a woeful heart.
A voice sounds among the people. The rule of fidelity gives way,
And praise owed to Christ is sounded less often,
Whom the Virgin bore, conceived from the Holy Breath.
He is God and man, and perfect salvation remains in Him;
From His kingdom peace began to arise,
Which will be granted to the just man who patiently believes in Him.
Let the man who wants to, have peace in the world in this way:
First make peace by keeping God's laws.
Go To Est amor