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Ecce Patet Tensus


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

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


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

6. Ecce patet tensus:

Found only in Tr, where it follows CB and, despite an open-ended but nonetheless credible last line, has been taken by Macaulay and others following his lead to be incomplete. (A leaf is missing from the MS after line 36.) Rigg (History of Anglo-Latin Literature, p. 290) projects "a prayer for grace to avoid sin" as a likely finish, and suggests a date "before 1399." Carlson ("Rhyme") also considers it early work, based on the form -- unrhymed elegiac distichs throughout, a number of its lines also turning up in VC (see below); but with nothing solid textually to indicate when Gower recombined them into a separate poem, nothing precludes his doing so in his late years, when demonstrably he was revising VC. Tr itself is datable ca. 1400; and pairing Ecce patet with Est amor as poems composed around 1398, the year of his marriage, achieves an interesting resonance. Many of the lines of this poem draw upon VC V.iii.147-92, a discussion of the wonder and danger of love; see the notes below.

3 Omnia vincit amor. Ultimately from Virgil, Eclogues 10.16; and compare VC V.iii.147, VI.xiv.999; and Chaucer, CT I(A)162.

10 cunta. So Tr. Mac reads cuncta.

15-17 Sic amor . . . resoluit. Verbatim VC V.iii.147-49.

21 Sampsonis vires. Judges 16:4-31. gladius . . . David. 2 Kings (2 Samuel) 11:2-12:24.

22 laudis. Clarified in the margin by a later hand.
sensus . . . Salomonis. 3 Kings (1 Kings) 11:1-14.

23-24 O natura . . . malum! Verbatim VC V.iii.199-200.

25-26 O natura . . . agi! Verbatim VC V.iii.205-06.

27-28 O natura . . . sequi! Verbatim VC V.iii.201-02.








6. Ecce patet tensus

Ecce, patet tensus ceci Cupidinis arcus;
   Unde sagitta volans ardor amoris erit.
Omnia vincit amor; cecus tamen errat ubique,
   Quo sibi directum carpere nescit iter.
Ille suos famulos ita cecos ducit amantes.
   Quod sibi quid deceat non videt ullus amans.
Sic oculus cordis carnis caligine cecus
   Decidit, et racio nil racionis habet.
Sic amor ex velle vivit, quem ceca voluptas
   Nutrit, et ad placitum cunta ministrat ei;
Subque suis alis mundus requiescit in umbra,
   Et sua precepta quisquis ubique facit.
Ipse coronatus inopes simul atque potentes
   Omnes lege pari conficit esse pares.
Sic amor omne domat, quicquid natura creavit,
   Et tamen indomitus ipse per omne manet:
Carcerat et redimit, ligat atque ligata resoluit,
   Vulnerat omne genus, nec sibi vulnus habet.
Non manet in terris qui prelia vincit amoris,
   Nec sibi quis firme federa pacis habet.
Sampsonis vires, gladius neque David -- in istis
   Quid laudis -- sensus aut Salomonis habent.
O natura viri, poterit quam tollere nemo,
   Nec tamen excusat quod facit ipsa malum!
O natura viri, que naturatur eodem
   Quod vitare nequit nec licet illud agi!
O natura viri, duo que contraria mixta
   Continet, amborum nec licet acta sequi!
O natura viri, que semper habet sibi bellum
   Corporis ac anime, que sua iura petunt!
Sic magis igne suo Cupido perurit amantum
   Et, quasi de bello corda, subacta tenet.
Qui vult ergo sue carnis compescere flammam,   
   Arcum prevideat unde sagitta volat.
Nullus ab innato valet hoc euadere morbo,
   Sit nisi quod sola gracia curet eum . . .    
6. Lo, the Taut Bow

Lo, here is the taut bow of the blind Cupid,
   From which the flying arrow is the flame of Love.
Love conquers all, but, being blind he strays to all places
   And knows not whither his trail will lead.
Thus does he lead lovers, his blind servants.
   No lover sees what is fitting for him;
Thus their eye, blinded by the fleshly heart,
   Yields, and their reason has nothing of reason about it.
Thus Love lives on will, and blind desire fosters it,
   And bestows everything on him at his whim,
And under the shadow of his wings the world lies at rest.
   And everyone obeys his precepts.
He is the crowned king who makes all,
   Poor and powerful alike, to be equals under an equal law.
Thus Love subdues everything that Nature has created
   While he himself remains unsubdued by all.
He imprisons and sets free, binds and releases the bound,
   He wounds every nation, but receives no wound himself.
In the wars of Love there is no victor on earth,
   Nor has anyone concluded with him a firm treaty of peace.
The strength of Samson and the sword of David
   Have nothing praiseworthy in them, nor the intelligence of Solomon.   
O human nature, which no one can abolish,
   Nor yet excuse the evils it does!
O human nature, irresistibly disposed
   To that unlawful thing which it cannot shun!
O human nature, that contains two mixed contraries
   But is not allowed to follow the deeds of both!
O human nature, which always has war within itself
   Of body and soul, both seeking the same authority!
Thus all the more Cupid assaults the hearts of lovers with his fire,
   And holds them subject as if defeated in war.
Therefore, whoever wishes to hold in check the fire of his flesh
   Let him look out for the bow from which the arrow flies.
No one is strong enough to evade this inborn malady,
   Unless grace provides a cure . . .
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