Back to top

In Praise of Peace


1 Lines 236-38: Yet nevertheless the law has been so well established / By man's wit to be reasonable / That even without that (i.e., the help of the Church) they (the kings) can remain stable


ABBREVIATIONS: CA: Gower, Confessio Amantis; CT: Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales; 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]; 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 to the Minor Latin Works.

2 glade fortune is befalle. Gower carefully presents a passive verb to open up his initial stanzas on Henry's still-fresh attainment of the crown. The obvious implication is that Henry did not choose the throne for himself. Quite to the contrary, it fell to him through a turn of glade fortune for England. Gower's initial defense of Henry is thus set up in Boethian terms: the final years of Richard's reign were both a literal and metaphorical downturn of the realm ("this lond, which was doun falle" -- line 5), when ill fortune caused so much ruin. Henry, then, is placed in the role of one who will "raise up" England as he himself is raised up upon the ever-turning wheel of Fortune, a role already alluded to in the sixth of the Latin verses that precede the poem (Succedent). That the wheel will not stop turning at the height of Henry's good fortune is not given explicit voice, but the possibility nevertheless looms over the remainder of the poem. Things are good for you now, Gower seems to say, but you must rule well in order to keep a longer grip on the heights of joy. As he says in O deus immense, line 68: "Fortune is stable at least in not remaining the same."

4 God hath thee chose. Gower reiterates in these opening lines that Henry is not himself responsible for having attained the crown. He is not a conqueror by right of martial arms but a passive tool in the active hand of God. Indeed, God's agency is named directly fourteen times in the first fifty lines of the poem, a remarkable tour de force of divine attribution to what many of his critics considered Henry's all-too-human action.

5 worschipe. In addition to the religious import of the term, worschipe also functions within a chivalric context, a dual connotation that is particularly fitting for Henry, whose role as a paragon of English chivalry was well known to both his supporters and detractors alike. The poet who wrote Mum and the Sothsegger, for example, was happy to portray the new king as a "comely knight ycome of the grettist," a "doughtful doer in deedes of armes," and "the graciousist guyer goyng uppon erthe" (lines 211-20). For more on Henry's martial abilities, see Tuck, "Henry IV and Chivalry."

6 grace of thi goodnesse. In crafting a defense of Henry's actions, Gower subtly shifts the king away from being a mere man. Rather, the king belongs to a separate realm of authority, judgment, and respect, a characterization marked by his personal graciousness, but also by the greater grace that is the purveyance of God, that potency beyond mere fortune. See also the note to lines 26-27, below.

12 uppon thin ancestrie. The call to ancestry as right of inheritance was often cited among supporters of the Lancastrian claim to the crown. The recollection of family would have particular weight for Henry himself, who had seen his own family lands and rights taken away by Richard. Gower notes in line 13 that the people of England have that "riht affermed." See note to line 14.

14 thi regne of God and man confermed. Gower carefully builds up a threefold Lancastrian claim to the throne. The first stanza introduced the notion of divine election and blessing, that Henry was the chosen instrument of God in taking the crown from the ineffectual and unworthy Richard. The second stanza builds upon this, adding to it first the notion of Henry's royal descent from Henry III, and second the fact that he had been chosen by the people. This latter notion, developed as a core trope of the third stanza, probably relates to the assembly's election of Henry on 30 September 1399 (see Fisher, John Gower, p. 132). Also of note for Gower, however, would be the wider aspect of the people, the"common" populace who, weary from the rule of Richard, turn to Henry with fresh hope for the future. While appropriate to Gower's unfolding purpose, these three rationales of blessing, lineage, and election are not the standard Lancastrian claims of justification for the usurpation. Quite prominently missing is the undeniable fact of Henry's conquest of England. Compare, for example, the threefold right to the throne cited by Chaucer in his "Complaint of Chaucer to His Purse": "O conquerour of Brutes Albyon, / Which that by lyne and free eleccion / Been verray kyng" (lines 23-24). Chaucer is clearly less reticent to highlight an admirable martial quality of Henry's prowess.

17-18 the lond . . . Which for defalte of help hath longe cared. Gower transfers his perception of the suffering of the people of England onto the land, claiming that England itself suffered under Richard II. Henry's usurpation will heal the realm in body (land) and soul (people).

23 if it be wel governed. A none-too-subtle plea on Gower's part, informing Henry that God will provide grace under the condition that the king follow his advice.

24-25 thei whiche olde bookes conne, / Whereof, my lord, Y wot wel thow art lerned. Grady observes that this "forcefully recalls the bookish Confessio Amantis, dedicated (sometimes) to the bookish Henry Bolingbroke" ("Lancastrian Gower," p. 560). The implied connection between the two known English works is no small thing. Yeager posits the possibility that "Gower judged Henry a more pragmatic and conventionally moral ruler than Richard, one as susceptible to didactic argument as . . . he believed Richard was to fictions" (John Gower's Poetic, p. 268). If so, there is a clear association between the two works dedicated to the king, both of which present themselves as written for a primary audience of one: the king who must rule rightly in his role as sovereign (compare, in particular, CA 7, 8.2109-20, and 8.3080-3105). Gower, it would seem, expects Henry to have the good-rule ethics of the Confessio upon his mind as he reads (or hears) In Praise of Peace. This fact becomes pertinent as Gower begins to recall and then alter exempla cited in his earlier English poem. See Peck, "Politics and Psychology," especially pp. 235-37.

26-27 Axe of thi God . . . resonable. Just as he did earlier in the poem (see note to line 6), Gower places Henry in the realm of grace. Here, he claims that God will do the will of Henry, a statement that parallels Martha's witness to Christ in John 11:22: "But now also I know that whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee." What saves Gower from heresy is his placing a limit upon the parallel. Henry will, like Christ, get from God what he asks for, providing he is resonable (line 27). Gower's trust is primarily in the order of God's universe.

29-35 Kyng Salomon . . . gat him pees and reste into the laste. Solomon also plays a prominent role in Book 7 of CA, where his wisdom (7.3891-3942) is counterbalanced by his downfall (7.4469-4545); but here the story ends quite differently, as the counterbalance to Solomon's successes is not the fall of Solomon, which is ignored, but the fall of Alexander, which had itself been largely set aside in the Confessio (see note to lines 36-42). Yet if we are to assume Henry's familiarity with the Confessio (see note to lines 24-25), we must also assume that the mention of Solomon carries with it its own intrinsic blessings and warnings. For all his own personal wisdom, despite all the gifts bestowed upon him by God, in the end Solomon fell for lack of right counsel within and without.

36-70 Six of these thirty-five lines begin with the adversative Bot. Having defended Henry's right to rule and further established the complete worthiness of Henry's usurpation, Gower moves quickly through a sequence of negations that serve as counterpoint to Henry's successes and a warning for his reign.

36-42 Bot Alisaundre . . . had it of conqweste. Alexander is clearly a negative example here (on the adversatives, see note to lines 36-70), his failure being that he was a man of the sword, one who won his lands through conquest. Forni (Chaucerian Apocrypha, p. 140) notes comparison with the Tale of Alexander and the Pirate (CA 3.2361-2480), where the difference between the conqueror and the pirate is one of degree, not kind. Even more, the tale is there utilized against the vice of Homicide, and it is followed by Genius' explication of Alexander's ignominious demise. Chaucer's Manciple uses a story of Alexander and an outlaw to similar effect (CT IX[H]223-39), and the comparison is even found in Augustine's Civ. Dei IV.4. Book 7 of the Confessio may seem to be more kind to Alexander, portraying the relationship between Aristotle and Alexander in a fairly benign light, but that is because we see the soon-to-be conqueror only as audience to the great teacher. Perhaps Gower hoped that the rising star of English politics, Bolingbroke, might emulate Alexander as one who appears to listen. But the comparison goes scarcely beyond that. Gower certainly did not wish for the young aristocrat to adopt the ways of the Macedonian and set about trying to conquer the world: quite to the contrary, Gower condemns Alexander repeatedly as a tyrant. The same conditions and uses of Alexander are in play here, as the poet focuses on Alexander's failures rather than his successes: as we have seen, Gower plays down the role of conquest in his praise of Henry. One reason may have been tact (see the Introduction), but Gower also hoped to see Henry as a peacemaker, as a good king ought to be (lines 70 ff.) rather than as a fool who sets out to conquer the world or become Holy Roman Emperor (as Richard had apparently desired).

45 This sinful world was al paiene tho. Grady argues that Gower is simply "incapable of condemning Alexander" here ("Lancastrian Gower," p. 563), but that is scarcely true. That Alexander provides the occasion for Aristotle's teaching in the Confessio is evident, but in Gower's work occasion is no guarantee of success. Genius teaches Amans for eight long books in the Confessio without the lover learning much at all, and Alexander throughout stands firmly as Gower's supreme example of the vanity of earthly conquest (n.b. the tales of Diogenes and Alexander, CA 3.1201 ff., and Alexander and the Pirate, CA 3.2363 ff. -- tales told, respectively, as exempla against Discord and Homicide). Whereas Grady regards the poet's shift here from Alexander himself to the mode of Alexander's times as one designed to obscure attention from the problem of Alexander's successes, akin to a magician who gestures with one hand while the other retrieves the card hidden in his sleeve, I rather think the shift is more specifically focused on explaining Alexander's results. That is, Gower does not deny that Alexander achieved glorious conquests. By the same token, he acknowledges that Henry, too, has had success. The difference is that Alexander lived in a pagan world in which he had little insight but to wage war. Certainly he had little precedence for other courses of action in achieving his ends. But the same quite clearly does not apply to Henry, who has "the feith of Crist" (line 50) as a model for (at the least) temperate behavior. The aim is not to obscure Alexander's guilt (he is implicitly called a tyrant in line 48), but to hold Henry to a higher standard.

49 infortune of sinne. The Boethian model of Fortune presented in the opening paragraph is here set aside (or, perhaps more properly, modified) by a more theological consideration of the rise and fall of men. The import is that Henry is not a simple subject to the whim of Fortune; rather, as a Christian king (see lines 50-52) he has the means to keep some measure of control over his own destiny by rightly ruling both himself and his country. Peace, not war, should be his métier.

53 Bot yit it mot be tempred. Here Gower, writing a poem praising peace, begins to provide an excuse for Henry's clearly unpeaceful actions. Pity can be tempered (a nice way of saying"set aside") at certain times under certain conditions. Such a time, he says a few lines later, was the end of Richard's reign. And such a condition was Henry's right to the throne. See the notes to lines 56 and 57-59, below.

56 The lawe of riht schal noght be leid aside. The lawe of riht echoes across the poem in various ways. Fisher (John Gower, p. 132) sees it as a direct reminder to Henry that he had notified Parliament on 30 September 1399 that he would not deprive anyone of his or her rights as a part of his usurpation (see note to lines 57-59). It is not difficult, too, to see in this a reference to the vein of natural law that pulses so strongly through the corpus of Gower's works. More topically, however, the lawe of riht also refers to the proper laws of inheritance which Richard leid aside when he took Bolingbroke's lands and cast him into exile; after all, it was the disinheriting of Henry, the canceling of what was rightfully his, that most justified, in the eyes of the realm, his precipitous return.

57-59 So mai a kyng of werre the viage / Ordeigne . . . To cleime . . . his rightful heritage. Skeat observes that this "obviously refers to Bolingbroke's invasion, when he came, as he said, to claim his inheritance" (CA 7.496), and it certainly does conform with the support that Gower gave to this claim in the opening lines of the poem (see note to line 14). Most important, however, is the fact and the means of the reference. That is, it is only here, after commending the king and then setting the broad terms of the proper workings of the world, that Gower makes mention of the conquest. And even still, the poet is oblique in his approach, presenting it as advice for any king. There is a correlation between Gower's stipulation of acceptable conquest here and Henry's "reassuring" remarks to Parliament on 30 September 1399:
Sires, I thanke god and yow Spirituell and Temporell and alle the States off the lande. And I do yow to vndirstone that hit is nat my wille that no man thynk that by wey off conquest I wolde disherite eny man off his heritage, ffraunchises, or other Rihtes that him ouht to have, ne to putte him oute off that he hath and hath by goode lawes and custumes off the Rewme: excepte thes persones that haue ben ageyns the goode purpos and the comvne profyte off the Rewme. (Chronicles of London, ed. Kingsford, p. 46)
On the volumes that Henry's "excepte" speaks (and the corresponding vagueness of"thes persones"), see Grady, "Lancastrian Gower," pp. 557-58. On the law of right and its topicality as an excuse for Henry's own actions, see note to line 56, above.

61-62 if God Himsilve wolde / Afferme love and pes betwen the kynges. The idea is at once topical, with Gower surely having in mind the internecine conflicts of the fourteenth century (a topic he will revisit later in the poem), and also historical. In particular, Gower might well be thinking of the biblical precedent of Ephesians 2:11-22, in which Paul describes how gentiles and Jews have become of one body, as Christ brought peace to them both.

66 For of bataile the final ende is pees. Yeager ("Pax Poetica") rightly notes that such an opinion is Augustinian, though Grady amusingly points out that it borders on the Orwellian to modern ears ("Lancastrian Gower," p. 565).

69 Bot if so were that he myghte chese. The final Bot in the long string of adversatives beginning at line 36 (see note to lines 36-70, above) gives way to the notion of choice, which is the ultimate arbiter between the twin exempla of Solomon and Alexander as they have been presented in the poem: the former chose wisdom, the latter the sword. Gower's not-too-subtle implication is that Henry, too, faces a choice in the rule of his new-won kingdom. In Book 3 of the Confessio, Gower places the blame for Alexander's death on Alexander's own choices (line 2461). See Peck, Kingship and Common Profit, pp. 87-89, for Gower's views on fate, which"connects directly to the behavior of will" (p. 88). Peck cites parallel observations in VC II.iv.203-08.

70 Betre is the pees, of which may no man lese. Though he presumably does not fully change subject until line 106, where the first paragraph mark occurs, Gower clearly sets off the first seventy lines of the poem as a unit in and of themselves, marking the division by the internal rhymes that form a triplet of rhyme between lines 69 and 70 and put a full stop to the preceding train of thought. The internally rhymed word, pees, is simultaneously established as the subject of the subsequent three stanzas.

71-72 Sustene pes . . . to sette his liege lord in reste. If In Praise of Peace was written in the last months of 1399, then these lines would have taken on deeper meaning in the succeeding years as the men of the realm most assuredly did not keep the peace in order to set their king in reste. Like Daniel at Belshazzar's Feast, perhaps Gower wisely saw the writing on the wall, just as he had earlier in changing the dedication of his Confessio to the young Bolingbroke. If so, he probably met the news of the various rebellions against Henry with a mixture of sorrow and sigh, disturbed to be right once again. Aside from this, Gower's phrase Sustene pes (line 71) is interesting in that it might imply that peace was the original status of Creation, a balance disturbed by the fall of the angels and of man. Lack of peace thus implies the presence of sin, a theological position that well accords, for example, with that proposed by Aquinas in Summa Theologica II.ii.q29.a3.

73 these othre men. Gower's these seems directed, as if he means some particular men who are not of a mind to give the same advice as the poet. While this is surely possible, it is more likely that Gower means that most other men do not pursue peace; thus he needs advise the king to do so.

76 oure dedly werre cesse. That Gower is talking directly about the long war with France and its various satellites is hardly in doubt. Though the period from the death of Edward III in 1377 to the ascension of Henry V in 1413 is often termed the "interim" period of the Hundred Years' War, it was hardly a time without conflict between the two great powers. And though tensions between England and France had remained high throughout Gower's life, Henry's military successes at home in England would have naturally raised the thought in some quarters that he might make a second move against France. Gower's negative opinion on such an idea is clear.

78 Pes is the chief of al the worldes welthe. Macaulay points out an echo of CA 3.2264- 65:"pes comended, / Which is the chief of mannes welthe"; cf. VC VI.xiii.971.

84 withoute Goddis sonde. This recalls Alexander, who could not properly achieve peace given the fact that he was a pagan living in a pagan time (see note to line 45). At the same time, however, it recalls Christ, who was God's message made flesh, the God-man of the divine Word.

87 Above alle othre good. The term good does double work here, indicating that peace is better than any other possible good (idea) and any other actual good (object).

90 Pes is of al charité the keie / Which hath the lif and soule for to weie. Compare Aquinas, in Summa Theologica II.ii.q29.a3, who writes that peace "is the work of charity directly, since charity, according to its very nature, causes peace." That peace stands in judgment speaks to Christ as Prince of Peace.

95 werre turneth into noght. Whereas God creates out of nothing through His peace (compare line 22), war unmakes creation into nothing. Gower expresses the idea in very similar terms in CA 3.2273-74: "For alle thing which God hath wroght / In erthe, werre it bringth to noght."

96 these olde bokes. Gower presumably means books of history, which time and again speak of the dangers of war and the impulse to conquer. But it is difficult not to think that Gower is thinking more specifically of the eight books (and prologue) that he himself had given the king: Confessio Amantis, which had "essamples" (line 93) enough for any occasion. See the note to lines 25-26.

102-05 Gower reminds Henry of the looming and lasting threat of mortality, a threat for which he will provide specific examples at lines 281-87.

107-08 It sleth the prest in Holi Chirche at Masse, / Forlith the maide and doth here flour to falle. While it is tempting to see a reference here to Becket and Henry II, or Langton and John, such specifics are unlikely. Gower is echoing back to lines he wrote in the Confessio Amantis on the sin of homicide: "The cherche is brent, the priest is slain, / The wif, the maide is ek forlain" (CA 3.2275-76). These lines of the Confessio immediately precede the Tale of Alexander and the Pirate (see note to lines 36-42, above).

109 werre makth the grete citee lasse. Gower could have in mind London, or even Paris, but also might be thinking in Augustinian terms of the greater city in which all men partake.

113 The werre bringth in poverté at hise hieles. Macaulay hears an echo of CA 3.2294-95: "And ek thei [werres] bringen in poverte / Of worldes good, it is merveile."

115 The werre hath set his cart on thilke whieles. Macaulay points out an echo of CA Prol.444-45, where Gower writes about those who follow on the heels of Simon Magus, "Whos carte goth upon the whieles / Of coveitise and worldes Pride." Here Gower seems to shift the concept of the wheels quickly into a Boethian sphere, where Fortune (line 116) seems to dictate much of what occurs. A pun thereby results, warning the reader to be wary of setting his cart upon the wheels of Fortune.

122 Leie to this olde sor a newe salve. Compare Amans' supplication at the end of the Confessio, where Amans asks (also in rhyme royal) for salve upon the wound of Cupid's fiery dart (CA 8.2287-90). The earlier prayer, followed as it is by the poet's apocalyptic self-realization of identity (8.2321) and prayer for England (8.2971-3172), thus finds its parallel in the present poem as Gower's plea for healing on behalf of that same England ultimately leads to a realization of the country's place within the broader context of Christendom and humanity (lines 379-85). The wounds, whether from lack of love or lack of love's cousin, pity, similarly stand in the way of health, security, and proper rule.

134-38 Wher nedeth most . . . the werste is for to doute. The loke of line 134 is here tied directly to the se of line 137: Henry's greatest need should be his kingdom, so it is there that he most needs to take care -- foreign concerns must always come second to the communal needs that should be seen, and met without hesitation, at home.

134 nedeth most, behoveth most. Proverbial. See Whiting, N61.

155 O kyng fulfild of grace and of knyghthode. Macaulay observes that the address to Henry closely echoes that in the revised Prologue to the Confessio, which describes the future king as "Ful of knyhthode and alle grace" (CA Prol.89). The compliment to Henry's chivalric qualities would have met with approval from a king who liked to think himself the flower of English chivalry.

157-58 If pes be profred unto thi manhode, / Thin honour sauf. Macaulay points out that "Peace with honor" is a theme that appears commonly in Gower's work (e.g., VC VII.xxiv.1415). The question of what constitutes proper manhood comes up again at line 200, where Gower posits that while good knights should selflessly defend the Holy Church, contemporary knights are more interested in personal fame. It is interesting to note that manhood also appears once again between these parallels, at line 173, where it is in reference to Christ's acceptance of flesh, the ultimate example of humility and peace.

170-71 Among the Ten Comandementz . . . manslaghtre schulde be forbore. The Ten Commandments received by Moses in the theophany at Sinai were widely regarded in Christian circles as the mark of the "old" laws superseded by Christ's coming. They are listed twice in the Bible, at Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:1-21.

174 Pes was the ferste thing He let do crie. Gower probably has in mind the Beatitudes, which are among the first teachings of Christ in the Gospel of Matthew. Specific among them for the present purpose is Matthew 5:9 "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God."

176-80 And er Crist wente out . . . He beqwath to His disciples . . . charité. The reference is to the Last Supper, especially John 14:27: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you: not as the world giveth, do I give unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid."

190-96 On wars against the pagans, see note to line 250.

197-200 to kepe of Holy Chirche . . . stant to his manhode. Theoretically, it was a defining characteristic of knights that they were to defend the Christian faith (see, e.g., Piers Plowman, where the idea of a Christ-knight becomes literal when Jesus takes up arms to joust with the Devil). Practically, however, Gower observed something less savory in contemporary knights. He accuses them here of seeking only fame (line 201). Gower also berates contemporary chivalric practices at VC VII.i.31-40 and in De lucis scrutinio, lines 49-54.

208 Popes bulle. Gower seems to be referring to some particular papal bull ordering Christians to make pagans "obeie" (line 209), and the two most probable originators would be Pope Boniface IX in Rome (1389-1404) or the rival Anti-pope Benedict XIII in Avignon (1394-1417). Boniface's 1394 call for a renewed crusade against the continuing Islamic threat in the East, a call that resulted in the "crusade" that ended so disastrously with the Battle of Nicopolis on 25 September 1396 (for more on which, see below, note to line 267), is one possible referent. More likely, however, are Boniface's later pleas for crusade in April 1398 and in March 1399 (see Setton, History of the Crusades 3.85). These calls for action ultimately went unanswered, but Gower's very present concern about them would seem to indicate that answering them was still a possibility. This topicality would thus argue for an earlier (1399-1400) dating for the composition of In Praise of Peace rather than a later one (i.e., 1402-04). By 1401, it was clear that the West was more interested in internal disputes than in external ones.

216-17 Crist bad . . . His evangile teche. Probably a reference to the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20.

218 More light it is to kepe than to make. Proverbial. See Whiting K3; compare C518, H412, the latter of which cites Trevisa's translation of Higden (1.235[1-3]): "That this is lasse maistrie, to wynne and to conquere, than it is to kepe and to save that that is conquered and i-wonne."

225-31 Bot thogh the Heved of Holy Chirche above . . . It lith in hem that barge for to stiere. Gower in essence disowns the papacy to focus all the more on the responsibility of secular leaders when Petres schip as now hath lost his stiere (line 230). Gower's assertion of royal dominion apart from even the Roman papacy (much less that in Avignon) seems almost reform-minded, though mainly it reasserts his basic proposition that a king should rule his own land well, rather than attempting to meddle in foreign policies (see CA 8.2109-20).

250 Sarazins. Gower might seem at odds with himself about what one should do with the Saracens, since in the Confessio Amantis he gives the opposite advice: "A Sarazin if I sle schal, / I sle the Soule forth withal, / And that was nevere Cristes lore" (CA 4.1679-81; compare, too, 3.2481-2546). Similarly, his discussion of Homicide in CA 3.2251-2360 is absolute in its condemnation of killing. Yet, as here, Gower blames the pagans for much of the world's unrest in De lucis scrutinio, line 33. Even so, "Let men ben armed agein hem to fighte" (line 251) should not be equated with advocacy of crusades or wholesale bloodshed; rather, it justifies defense. Gower is thus in no way advocating Henry to war, whether it is against France or the East. Peace is his goal from beginning to end in this poem.

251-52 fighte / . . . knyht . . . righte. Just as he did at lines 69-70 (see note to line 70), Gower rounds off a section of his discussion with a slightly more complex internal rhyme scheme.

254 Holy Cherche is in hersilf divided. Gower refers to the Great Schism, which had begun in 1378 when French cardinals, upset at the actions of the Italian Pope Urban VI in Rome, elected Clement VII to a rival papal seat in Avignon. The result was a split within the Catholic Church, as the two halves of Cristendom each excommunicated the other and set off a series of internecine conflicts, many of which underscored the tensions between England and France in particular. Gower finds the schism directly responsible for the rise of the heresy of Lollardy; see, e.g., De lucis scrutinio, lines 4 ff., and CA Prol.328-51, where he writes: "Scisme causeth for to bringe / This newe secte of Lollardie" (lines 348-49). Lollardy becomes an essential part of the"plague" which is destroying England in Gower's Carmen super multiplici viciorum pestilencia.

258-59 reule / . . . reule. Gower often uses rime riche to emphasize ideas, as he does here. Perfected in MO, the technique (in which two homophones are used as the rhyme words in a couplet) is utilized extensively in CA (e.g., 5.79-90, where Gower uses a number in a row -- see Olsen,"Betwene Ernest and Game," pp. 55-56). For general discussion of the technique in Gower, see Itô, "Gower's Use of Rime Riche." Here, Gower deftly uses the homophones to reveal part of his argument in microcosm, as "rule" (reule, line 258) leads to "order" (reule, line 259).

260 On the metaphor of the body politic, compare O deus immense, line 85. Here, the metaphor is prepared in line 167. For a study of the body as microcosm of creation, see Barkan, Nature's Work of Art.

267 The two defaltes bringen in the thridde. That is, Christendom is doubly divided: by the Great Schism and by its own internal conflicts. These double faults have brought upon a third: the Saracen threat. The Ottoman Empire had started its incursions into the West in the middle of the fourteenth century, commencing a series of battles in the Balkans as it pushed back against the shrinking Byzantine Empire (little more than Constantinople and Thessalonica by 1400) and the kingdoms grown in its wake. After a resounding Ottoman victory at Kosovo in 1389, only Hungary remained as a substantial buffer between old Europe and the rising Islamic tide. Calls for crusade soon followed, with negotiations between Richard II in England, Charles VI in France, and Sigismund in Hungary. Though a sizable English force under the command of John of Gaunt had originally been intended to take part, the final English contribution was probably only a thousand men. These joined with Burgundian, Bavarian, and Hungarian forces to mount an army some one hundred thousand strong which marched on Nicopolis, plundering on the way. The Ottoman Sultan Bayezid I met them there and cut the impatient crusaders to ribbons in a tactical ambush. Bayezid beheaded several thousand of the captive crusaders. Nicopolis would seem to be the last gasp of the crusades, as the West never again mounted any sizable expedition despite further papal calls for action (see the note to line 208). And England and France quickly turned to fighting each other once more. Whether"the dedly werre" that Gower refers to in line 271 is Nicopolis or the renewed spirit of cross-Channel conflict that arose in its wake is unclear; compare line 76 and note.

274-75 My worthi noble prince and kyng enoignt, / Whom God hath of His grace so preserved. Gower's laudatory formulas, emphasizing his definition of a good king as one who is worthy, noble, and blessed by God, echoes back to the opening sequences of the poem. Also of note here, however, is the reference to the king's sacred anointing, something that would carry particular weight for Henry: the new king was so concerned about this aspect of his legitimacy that the Lancastrians claimed that the oil of anointment at his coronation was the legendary oil that had been given to Thomas à Becket by the Virgin Mary and intended for a coming king of great worth (see H. aquile pullus, line 3, and O recolende, line 9).

281-83 Alisandre . . . Arthus. These are the nine worthies of medieval convention. Note, however, that the typical religious differentiation between them is not given here; they are not identified as pagans (Alexander, Hector, Caesar), Jews (Judas, David, Joshua), and Christians (Charlemagne, Godfrey, Arthur). Instead, they are presented as nine men who are united in their equality before the ultimate scythe of death (lines 284-87). That their fame abides is thus an exemplum of their futile vanity (line 285), a model to be feared, not followed.

291 ther ben the marches save. A fine example of Gower's perpetual concern with borders, boundaries, and definition, where erosion and decay so often subvert the substance of dominion. Absolutes, both moral and political, are most revealed by their edges.

295-96 Of the tenetz to winne or lese a chace / Mai no lif wite er that the bal be ronne. Gower moves quite abruptly from the broad themes of moral ideas to a concrete exemplum from domestic life. On the metaphor, which is the first known use of the word tennis in the English language according to the OED (though hardly the first reference to the game -- compare Chaucer TC 4.460), Macaulay explains: "The question of winning a 'chase' at tennis is not one which is decided at once by the stroke that is made, but depends on later developments" (554). It is interesting to note that tennis was largely considered an invention of the French during the Middle Ages.

297-98 Al stant in God . . . that it be begonne. Just as quickly as he moved to the domestic example of a tennis game, Gower moves to the level of the divine. At one level, the theological discussion of these two lines is a natural extension of the tennis metaphor: though the tennis players may not know the outcome of the game, God knows the outcome of the game as well as the trajectory of each individual shot. Beyond this, however, the sudden shifts from domestic to divine (and back again in the next two lines) reveals that the workings in each are differences in degree, not kind; what is applicable to the microcosm applies to the macrocosm.

299-301 Men sein the wolle . . . be durable. Having moved from the domestic example of tennis to the large-scale perspective of God, Gower moves back again to the domestic in discussing the making of good cloth. Like tennis, in which a "successful game is built on a foresightful strategy in the early going," "strong durable cloth depends on the proper treatment of its raw material, well-spun wool" (Grady, "Lancastrian Gower," pp. 567-68). As Grady notes, these examples constitute a "neo-Boethian admonition" to Henry that he should "prepare warily and carefully for a world ruled by Fortune" (p. 568). And for Gower in this poem, of course, the best means of preparation is to choose rule by peace. The choice of wool in this proverbial advice is surely no accident, either, as the wool trade was the axle upon which the wheel of the late medieval English economy turned. The exterior fate of England, most assuredly seen in its trade economics, is irrevocably bound up with its internal fate. If Henry rules well within (preparing wel sponne wool), then England will do well without (like durable cloth that is strong and, in so many ways, profitable).

319-22 weie: / . . . weie, / . . . wise, / . . . wise. Gower's placement of two rime riches back to back calls particular attention to these lines in which he argues that the only sure "way" (weie, line 319) is to see that your conscience is "weighed" (weie, line 320) and that you use "wisdom" (wise, line 321) in all your "ways" (wise, line 322).

323-24 Th'apostle seith . . . charité. See Paul, in 1 Corinthians 13:1-13, where the apostle discusses the gift of love (Lat. caritas); Paul begins: "If I speak with the tongues of men, and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass."

327 thilke vertu which is seid pité. This stands against Aquinas who, in Summa Theologica II.ii.q29.a4, argues that "virtue is not the last end, but the way thereto. But peace is the last end, in a sense, as Augustine says (De Civ. Dei xix.11). Therefore peace is not a virtue."

330-31 Cassodre . . . Seith, wher that pité regneth, ther is grace. I.e., Cassiodorus (ca. 490-583), a one-time powerful Roman statesman who established the monastery of Vivarium on his own estate and took orders himself. He translated and edited the Bible in various forms, began a school of critical scribes, and wrote a number of books of his own, including Institutiones divinarum et saecularium litterarum (which establishes a plan of biblical study for the scribes at his monastery), Historia tripartita (an ecclesiastical history from the combined writings of Theodoret, Sozomen, and Socrates), and Variarum. The latter, a collection of his letters, some short writings, and even some bits of philosophy, was strangely popular. Chaucer uses it six times in his Tale of Melibee (CT VII[B2]1196, using Variarum 10.18; 1348, using 1.17; 1438, using 1.4; 1528, using 1.30; 1564, using 2.13; 1642, using 1.4); on Melibee as a poem advising Richard on behalf of peace, see Stillwell, "Political Meaning," and Scattergood, "Chaucer and the French War." Gower seems here to be quoting Variarum 11.40, "pietas est, quae regit et caelos," which he also utilizes in CA 7.3161-62*: "Cassiodore in his aprise telleth, / 'The regne is sauf, where pité dwelleth.'" For more on Cassiodorus, see Jones, "Influence of Cassiodorus."

337-57 To se what pité . . . be preised evermore. Compare Gower's earlier Tale of Constantine and Silvester (CA 2.3187-3496), which is given as an example of how Charity,"the moder of Pité" (2.3174), stands against the vice of Envy (for discussion of the Confessio text, see Olsson, John Gower and the Structures of Conversion, pp. 102-06). Grady notes that "once again some of the details of the Confessio's version have been suppressed." In this shorter version, for example, Constantine no longer needs to hear the cries of the infants and their mothers in order to feel pity. And, even more interesting, the account here mentions neither Constantine's earlier role as "fo to Cristes lay" (2.3354), nor the fact that the conversion of all Rome occurred on "peine of deth" (2.3469), nor that the earlier story ends with an angelic pronouncement cursing Constantine's Donation to the papacy (2.3490-92). As with the earlier "sanitized" account of Solomon, we probably ought not to see Gower as stumbling through his sources here. Quite to the contrary, Gower surely anticipates Henry's awareness of Constantine's faults. They need not be elucidated. Solomon did well, only to end badly. So, too, with Constantine. Gower dwells on the positives in their stories because Henry has, so far, done well. The ending of the king's story, however, has not yet been written.

339 Constantin. Constantine the Great; see the note to lines 337-57.

365-78 My lord . . . In worschipe of thi sceptre and of thi throne. These two stanzas bring the poem full circle, as Gower returns to the lauds and approbation with which he had commenced his lettre (line 375). The poet makes the circularity clear in repeating key words and phrases between the opening and closing stanzas: e.g., "worschipe" (lines 5, 378), and "every man is holde" (lines 7, 373). This movement back to the beginning point sets the stage for the final stanza, in which Gower turns from England to Christendom; see note to lines 379-85.

365-66 My lord, in whom hath ever yit be founde / Pité withoute spot of violence. Gower's praise of Henry IV is a revision of praise he had given to Richard II in the First Recension of CA: "In whom hath evere yit be founde / Justice medled with pité" (8.2988-89*). This is not the only instance of Gower's revising praise for the earlier king in order to apply it to the latter. The poem Rex celi deus, which follows In Praise of Peace in the Trentham MS, does the same -- e.g., Rex celi deus, line 39, asks Henry to establish peace, using lines originally from VC VI.xviii.1179*, which were addressed to Richard. Gower might well have expected Henry to be aware of this kind of literally revisionist history; indeed, the poet's concern with good kingship posits that the same basic choices are ultimately set before all kings: it is how they make their way among those choices that determines their fate. Henry, to his benefit, is thus at an advantage over Richard not necessarily because of any greater personal qualifications for sovereignty, but because he has, at the very least, the good fortune of knowing Richard's past choices and their sometimes disastrous outcomes. Kings, in other words, are by nature interchangeable, an opinion that Henry no doubt needed simultaneously to accept and fear.

379-85 Noght only to my king . . . so the pes schal stonde. Gower moves from addressing Henry to all the princes of Christendom. By thus broadening his scope after bringing this subtle poem full circle (see note to lines 365-78), Gower reveals that his advice should not be viewed as particular to the present king or present moment alone; his is a system of ethics, whether viewed piecemeal or across the whole of his writing career, that is meant to be natural to man. His concern is, and has always been, less with Henry than with the "worschipe of thi sceptre and of thi throne" (line 378). That is, Gower is focused on the institution of kingship, not the individual king (compare CA 7.1751-74, where Gower remarks on the crown as symbol for proper rule). Gower's voice may indeed be a voice crying out in the wilderness -- but that is its virtue and its strength. The movement from England to Christendom thus parallels Gower's movement from self-absorption to a prayer for England at the conclusion of the Confessio Amantis; in both the movement is one that reveals a new, more universal human experience whose macrocosmic implications are always rooted in the individual microcosm.

In De lucis scrutinio, lines 29-30, Gower similarly suggests that the Christian kings, lacking a papal head to unite them, must unite themselves. Compare, too, the note to lines 225-31, above.

380 these othre princes Cristene alle. Skeat notes: "viz. in particular, Charles VI, king of France, and Robert III, king of Scotland" (7.498).

383 Sette ek the rightful pope uppon his stalle. Gower does not specify who such a person would be (see the note to line 254, on the Great Schism), though he is elsewhere clear in his support of the Roman claim over the French. See, for example, the Latin marginalia to CA Prol.194-99, where Gower names names and casts his lot squarely with Rome. In De lucis scrutinio, lines 27-28, Gower complains that the world is so far fallen that the rightful pope is not chosen by the will of God, but of men. This detraction is here posed as optimism: men must work together in order to fulfill the will of God and hold but one vicar over the Christian Church.


ABBREVIATIONS: See Explanatory Notes.

27 whiche. So MS. Mac: which, from Thynne.

35 into. So MS. Mac: unto, from Thynne.

39 it. MS: itt, with the second t canceled.

71 Sustene. So Mac. MS: S, followed by an erasure. Thynne reads To stere.

89 ever. So MS, Thynne. Mac: evere.

90 al. So MS, Thynne. Mac: alle.

108 here. So MS. Mac: hire, from Thynne.

122 Leie. So MS. Mac: ley, from Thynne.

126 ever. So MS, Thynne. Mac: evere.

127 ever. So MS, Thynne. Mac: evere.

129 Lete. So MS. Thynne: Lette. Mac: Let.

130 putte. So MS. Mac: put, from Thynne.

162 thenke. So MS. Thynne: thynke. Mac: thenk.

169 The larger initial here is unnoted by Mac.

181 never. So MS, Thynne. Mac: nevere.

229 redresce. So MS. Mac: redresse, from Thynne.

241 ever. So MS, Thynne. Mac: evere.

254 hersilf. So MS. Thynne: herselfe. Mac: hirsilf.

263 helpples. So MS. Thynne: helplesse. Mac: helpeles.

265 sleth. So MS. Mac: sleeth, from Thynne.

269 Betwene. So MS, Thynne. Mac: betwen.

272 Kyng. So MS. Mac: King, from Thynne.

276 Beholde. So MS, Thynne. Mac: behold.

301 never. So MS, Thynne. Mac: nevere.

329 here. So MS. Thynne: her. Mac: hire.

331 regneth. So MS. Mac: reigneth, from Thynne.

336 weie. So MS, Mac. Thynne: way.

342 crualté. A later hand has inserted a y between the t and e.

350 forever. So MS, Thynne. Mac: forevere.

356 were. So MS, Thynne. Mac: weren.

364 schal. So MS. Mac: shal, from Thynne.

365 ever. So MS, Thynne. Mac: evere.

384 draughe. So MS. Mac: draugh, from Thynne.














































































Electus Cristi, pie Rex Henrice, fuisti,
Qui bene venisti cum propria regna petisti,
Tu mala vicisti que bonis bona restituisti,
Et populo tristi nova gaudia contribuisti.
Est michi spes lata quod adhuc per te renovata
Succedent fata veteri probitate beata,
Est tibi nam grata gracia sponte data.

[Dutiful King Henry, who was chosen by Christ,
Who rightfully came and sought a proper kingdom,
You conquered evil and by good restored the good,
And to the sorrowful people you gave new joys.
I have hope for what you have brought because thus far what you have restored
Will raise up through honest blessing what was said of old,
You have hence given a pleasing grace by your own free will.]

      O worthi noble kyng, Henry the Ferthe,
In whom the glade fortune is befalle
The poeple to governe uppon this erthe,
God hath thee chose in comfort of ous alle:
The worschipe of this lond, which was doun falle,
Now stant upriht thurgh grace of thi goodnesse,
Which every man is holde for to blesse.

The highe God of His justice allone
The right which longeth to thi regalie
Declared hath to stonde in thi persone.
And more than God may no man justefie.
Thi title is knowe uppon thin ancestrie,
The londes folk hath ek thy riht affermed;
So stant thi regne of God and man confermed.

Ther is no man mai seie in other wise,
That God Himself ne hath thi riht declared;
Wherof the lond is boun to thi servise,
Which for defalte of help hath longe cared.
Bot now ther is no mannes herte spared
To love and serve and wirche thi plesance:
And al is this thurgh Godes pourveiance.

In alle thing which is of God begonne
Ther folwith grace, if it be wel governed:
Thus tellen thei whiche olde bookes conne,
Whereof, my lord, Y wot wel thow art lerned.
Axe of thi God, so schalt thou noght be werned
Of no reqweste whiche is resonable;
For God unto the goode is favorable.

Kyng Salomon, which hadde at his axinge
Of God what thing him was levest to crave,
He ches wisdom unto the governynge
Of Goddis folk, the whiche he wolde save:
And as he ches, it fel him for to have;
For thurgh his wit, whil that his regne laste,
He gat him pees and reste into the laste.

Bot Alisaundre, as telleth his histoire,
Unto the God besoghte in other weie:
Of all the world to winne the victoire,
So that undir his swerd it myht obeie.
In werre he hadde al that he wolde preie --
The myghti God behight him that beheste --
The world he wan, and had it of conqweste.

Bot thogh it fel at thilke time so,
That Alisandre his axinge hath achieved,
This sinful world was al paiene tho,
Was non which hath the hihe God believed;
No wondir was thogh thilke world was grieved.
Thogh a tiraunt his pourpos myhte winne:
Al was vengance and infortune of sinne.

Bot now the feith of Crist is come a place
Among the princes in this erthe hiere,
It sit hem wel to do pité and grace.
Bot yit it mot be tempred in manere:
For as thei finden cause in the matiere
Uppon the point, what aftirward betide,
The lawe of riht schal noght be leid aside.

So mai a kyng of werre the viage
Ordeigne and take, as he therto is holde,
To cleime and axe his rightful heritage
In alle places wher it is withholde.
Bot otherwise, if God Himsilve wolde
Afferme love and pes betwen the kynges,
Pes is the beste above alle erthely thinges.

Good is t'eschue werre, and natheles
A kyng may make werre uppon his right,
For of bataile the final ende is pees.
Thus stant the lawe, that a worthi knyght
Uppon his trouthe may go to the fight.
Bot if so were that he myghte chese,
Betre is the pees, of which may no man lese.

Sustene pes oghte every man alyve,
First for to sette his liege lord in reste,
And ek these othre men that thei ne stryve;
For so this world mai stonden ate beste.
What kyng that wolde be the worthieste,
The more he myghte oure dedly werre cesse,
The more he schulde his worthinesse encresse.

Pes is the chief of al the worldes welthe,
And to the Heven it ledeth ek the weie.
Pes is of soule and lif the mannes helthe:
Of pestilence and doth the werre aweie!
Mi liege lord, tak hiede of that Y seie:
If werre may be left, tak pes on honde,
Which may noght be withoute Goddis sonde.

With pes stant every creature in reste;
Withoute pes ther may no lif be glad:
Above alle othre good pes is the beste.
Pes hath himself, whan werre is al bestad;
The pes is sauf, the werre is ever adrad.
Pes is of al charité the keie,
Which hath the lif and soule for to weie.

My liege lord, if that thee list to seche
The sothe essamples that the werre hath wroght,
Thow schalt wiel hiere of wisemennes speche
That dedly werre turneth into noght.
For if these olde bokes be wel soght,
Ther myght thou se what thing the werre hath do,
Bothe of conqueste and conquerour also.

For vein honour or for the worldes good,
Thei that whilom the stronge werres made,
Wher be thei now? Bethenk wel in thi mod.
The day is goon, the nyght is derk and fade,
Her crualté, which mad hem thanne glade,
Thei sorwen now, and yit have noght the more;
The blod is schad, which no man mai restore.

      The werre is modir of the wronges alle;
It sleth the prest in Holi Chirche at Masse,
Forlith the maide and doth here flour to falle.
The werre makth the grete citee lasse,
And doth the Lawe his reules overpasse.
There is no thing wherof meschef mai growe
Which is noght caused of the werre, Y trowe.

The werre bringth in poverté at hise hieles,
Wherof the comon poeple is sore grieved;
The werre hath set his cart on thilke whieles
Wher that Fortune mai noght be believed.
For whan men wene best to have achieved,
Ful ofte it is al newe to beginne:
The werre hath no thing siker, thogh he winne.

Forthi, my worthi prince, in Cristes halve,
As for a part whos feith thou hast to guide,
Leie to this olde sor a newe salve,
And do the werre awei, what so betide.
Pourchace pes, and set it be thi side,
And suffre noght thi poeple be devoured.
So schal thi name ever after stonde honoured.

If eny man be now or ever was
Agein the pes thi prevé counseillour,
Lete God ben of thi counseil in this cas,
And putte awei the cruel werreiour.
For God, which is of man the creatour,
He wolde noght men slowe His creature
Withoute cause of dedly forfeture.

Wher nedeth most, behoveth most to loke.
Mi lord, howso thi werres ben withoute,
Of time passed who that hiede toke,
Good were at hom to se riht wel aboute;
Foreveremor the werste is for to doute.
Bot if thou myghtest parfit pes atteigne,
Ther schulde be no cause for to pleigne.

Aboute a kyng good counseil is to preise
Above alle othre thinges most vailable;
Bot yit a kyng withinne himself schal peise,
And se the thinges that ben resonable,
And theruppon he schal his wittes stable
Among the men to sette pes in evene,
For love of Him which is the Kyng of Hevene.

      Ha, wel is him that schedde nevere blod,
Bot if it were in cause of rihtwisnesse:
For if a kyng the peril undirstod,
What is to sle the poeple, thanne Y gesse,
The dedly werres and the hevynesse,
Wherof the pes distourbid is ful ofte,
Schulde at som time cesse and wexe softe.

O kyng fulfild of grace and of knyghthode,
Remembre uppon this point for Cristes sake,
If pes be profred unto thi manhode,
Thin honour sauf, let it noght be forsake.
Though thou the werres darst wel undirtake,
Aftir reson yit tempre thi corage.
For lich to pes ther is non avantage.

My worthi lord, thenke wel, how so befalle,
Of thilke lore. As holi bokes sein,
Crist is the heved, and we ben membres alle,
Als wel the subgit as the sovereign.
So sit it wel that charité be plein,
Which unto God Himselve most acordeth,
So as the lore of Cristes word recordeth.

      In th'Olde Lawe, er Crist Himself was bore,
Among the Ten Comandementz Y rede
How that manslaghtre schulde be forbore.
Such was the will that time of the Godhede.
And aftirward, whanne Crist tok His manhede,
Pes was the ferste thing He let do crie
Agein the worldes rancour and envie.

And er Crist wente out of this erthe hiere
And stigh to Hevene, He made His testament,
Wher He beqwath to His disciples there
And gaf His pes, which is the foundement
Of charité, withouten whos assent
The worldes pes mai never wel be tried,
Ne love kept, ne lawe justefied.

The Jewes with the paiens hadden werre,
Bot thei among hemself stode evere in pes.
Whi schulde thanne oure pes stonde out of herre,
Which Crist hath chose unto His oghne encres?
For Crist is more than was Moises,
And Crist hath set the parfit of the Lawe,
The which scholde in no wise be withdrawe.

To give ous pes was cause whi Crist dide;
Withoute pes may no thing stonde availed:
Bot now a man mai sen on everi side
How Cristes feith is every dai assailed,
With the paiens destruid, and so batailed
That for defalte of help and of defence
Unethe hath Crist His dewe reverence.

      The righte feith to kepe of Holy Chirche
The firste point is named of knyghthode;
And everi man is holde for to wirche
Uppon the point which stant to his manhode.
Bot now, helas, the fame is sprad so broode,
That everi worthi man this thing compleigneth,
And yit ther is no man which help ordeigneth.

The worldes cause is waited overal,
Ther ben the werres redi to the fulle;
Bot Cristes oghne cause in special,
Ther ben the swerdes and the speres dulle;
And with the sentence of the Popes bulle,
As for to do the folk paien obeie,
The Chirche is turned al another weie.

It is to wondre above a mannys wit
Withoute werre how Cristes feith was wonne;
And we that ben uppon this erthe yit
Ne kepe it noght, as it was first begonne.
To every creature undir the sonne
Crist bad Himself how that we schulden preche,
And to the folk His evangile teche.

More light it is to kepe than to make;
Bot that we founden mad tofore the hond
We kepe noght, bot lete it lightly slake.
The pes of Crist hath altobroke His bond,
We reste ourselve and soeffrin every lond
To slen ech other as thing undefendid:
So stant the werre, and pes is noght amendid.

Bot thogh the Heved of Holy Chirche above
Ne do noght al His hole businesse
Among the men to sette pes and love,
These kynges oughten of here rightwisnesse
Here oghne cause among hemself redresce.
Thogh Petres schip as now hath lost his stiere,
It lith in hem that barge for to stiere.

If Holy Cherche after the dueté
Of Cristes word ne be noght al avysed
To make pes, acord, and unité
Among the kinges that ben now devised,
Yit natheles the lawe stant assised
Of mannys wit to be so resonable,
Withoute that to stonde hemselve stable.1

Of Holy Chirche we ben children alle,
And every child is holden for to bowe
Unto the modir, how that ever it falle,
Or elles he mot reson desalowe:
And for that cause a knyght schal ferst avowe
The right of Holi Chirche to defende,
That no man schal the previlege offende.

Thus were it good to setten al in evene
The worldes princes and the prelatz bothe,
For love of Him which is the King of Hevene:
And if men scholde algate wexe wrothe,
The Sarazins, whiche unto Crist be lothe,
Let men ben armed agein hem to fighte;
So mai the knyht his dede of armes righte.

      Uppon thre pointz stant Cristes pes oppressed:
Ferst, Holy Cherche is in hersilf divided,
Which oughte of reson first to be redresced;
Bot yit so highe a cause is noght decided.
And thus, whan humble pacience is prided,
The remenant, which that thei schulden reule,
No wondir is though it stonde out of reule.

Of that the heved is siek, the limes aken:
These regnes that to Cristes pes belongen
For worldes good these dedly werres maken,
Whiche helpples as in balance hongen.
The heved above hem hath noght undirfongen
To sette pes, bot every man sleth other;
And in this wise hath charité no brother.

The two defaltes bringen in the thridde,
Of mescreantz that sen how we debate;
Betwene the two thei fallen in amidde,
Wher now aldai thei finde an open gate.
Lo, thus the dedly werre stant algate;
Bot evere Y hope of Kyng Henries grace
That he it is which schal the pes embrace.

My worthi noble prince and kyng enoignt,
Whom God hath of His grace so preserved,
Beholde and se the world uppon this point,
As for thi part that Cristes pes be served:
So schal thin highe mede be deserved
To him which al schal qwiten ate laste,
For this lif hiere mai no while laste.

See Alisandre, Ector, and Julius,
See Machabeu, David, and Josue,
See Charlemeine, Godefroi, Arthus,
Fulfild of werre and of mortalité.
Here fame abit, bot al is vanité;
For deth, which hath the werres under fote,
Hath mad an ende of which ther is no bote.

So mai a man the sothe wite and knowe,
That pes is good for every king to have:
The fortune of the werre is evere unknowe,
Bot wher pes is, ther ben the marches save.
That now is up, tomorwe is under grave;
The mighti God hath alle grace in honde,
Withouten Him pes mai nought longe stonde.

      Of the tenetz to winne or lese a chace,
Mai no lif wite er that the bal be ronne:
Al stant in God, what thing men schal pourchace,
Th'ende is in Him er that it be begonne.
Men sein the wolle, whanne it is wel sponne,
Doth that the cloth is strong and profitable,
And elles it mai never be durable.

The worldes chaunces uppon aventure
Ben evere sett, bot thilke chaunce of pes
Is so behoveli to the creature,
That it above alle othre is piereles:
Bot it mai noght be gete natheles
Among the men to lasten eny while,
Bot wher the herte is plein withoute guyle.

The pes is, as it were, a sacrement
Tofore the God, and schal with wordes pleine
Withouten eny double entendement
Be treted, for the trouthe can noght feine:
Bot if the men withinne hemself be veine,
The substance of the pes may noght be trewe,
Bot every dai it chaungeth uppon newe.

Bot who that is of charité parfit,
He voideth alle sleightes ferr aweie,
And sett his word uppon the same plit,
Wher that his herte hath founde a siker weie:
And thus whan conscience is trewly weie,
And that the pes be handlid with the wise,
It schal abide and stonde in alle wise.

Th'apostle seith, ther mai no lif be good
Which is noght grounded uppon charité,
For charité ne schedde nevere blod.
So hath the werre as ther no proprité:
For thilke vertu which is seid pité
With charité so ferforth is aqweinted,
That in here may no fals semblant be peinted.

      Cassodre, whos writinge is auctorized,
Seith, wher that pité regneth, ther is grace,
Thurgh which the pes hath al his welthe assised,
So that of werre he dredeth no manace.
Wher pité dwelleth, in the same place
Ther mai no dedly cruelté sojorne,
Wherof that merci schulde his weie torne.

To se what pité forth with mercy doth,
The croniqe is at Rome in thilke empire
Of Constantin, which is a tale soth;
Whan him was levere his oghne deth desire
Than do the yonge children to martire.
Of crualté he lafte the querele;
Pité he wroghte and pité was his hele.

For thilke mannes pité which he dede
God was pitous and mad him hol at al;
Silvestre cam, and in the same stede
Gaf him baptisme first in special,
Which dide awai the sinne original,
And al his lepre it hath so purified
That his pité forever is magnified.

Pité was cause whi this emperour
Was hol in bodi and in soule bothe,
And Rome also was set in thilke honour
Of Cristes feith, so that the lieve of lothe,
Whiche hadden be with Crist tofore wrothe,
Resceived were unto Cristes lore:
Thus schal pité be preised evermore.

      My worthi liege lord, Henri be name,
Which Engelond hast to governe and righte,
Men oghten wel thi pité to proclame,
Which openliche in al the worldes sighte
Is schewed with the help of God Almighte,
To give ous pes, which longe hath be debated,
Wherof thi pris schal nevere ben abated.

My lord, in whom hath ever yit be founde
Pité withoute spot of violence,
Kep thilke pes alwei withinne bounde,
Which God hath planted in thi conscience:
So schal the cronique of thi pacience
Among the seintz be take into memoire
To the loenge of perdurable gloire.

And to thin erthli pris, so as Y can,
Which everi man is holde to commende,
I, Gower, which am al thi liege man,
This lettre unto thin excellence Y sende,
As Y which evere unto my lives ende
Wol praie for the stat of thi persone
In worschipe of thi sceptre and of thi throne.

      Noght only to my king of pes Y write,
Bot to these othre princes Cristene alle,
That ech of hem his oghne herte endite,
And see the werre er more meschief falle:
Sette ek the rightful pope uppon his stalle,
Kep charité and draughe pité to honde,
Maintene lawe, and so the pes schal stonde.

On; good fortune has befallen; (see note)

chosen to comfort us; (see note)
honor; had fallen down; (see note)
stands raised; (see note)
meant to bless

judgment alone
attends; royalty
Has declared to belong

founded upon your; (see note)
people of the land have also
stands your reign; (see note)

say to the contrary
has not your right
Therefore; bound; (see note)
lack of aid has long suffered
man's heart
work your pleasure
God's working

(i.e., all Creation)
follows; (see note)
know; (see note)
I know well [that] you are learned
Ask; refused; (see note)
the good

Solomon; asking; (see note)
he most desired to have
people, whom he would
chose, [so] it came down to him to have
reign lasted
won peace; until the end; (t-note)

Alexander [the Great]; (see notes)
another way

might obey [him]; (t-note)
war; desire
[So]; won

though it happened at that time

pagan then; (see note)
[There] was none who; high (i.e., true)
It was no wonder then that the
(see note)

has come [to have] a place
on; here
well befits them (i.e., the princes); pity
Nonetheless it might be tempered in due measure; (see note)
At hand, whatever [may] afterward occur
laid aside; (see note)

war the journey; (see note)
he is made to do
claim and demand
But in other cases; (see note)

to eschew war, and nonetheless

battle; peace; (see note)

But if it happened; choose; (see note)
lose; (see note)

To sustain peace ought; (see note); (t-note)
in rest (at ease)
also; they might not fight; (see note)
would be the most worthy
deadly war cease; (see note)

world's riches; (see note)
Heaven it also leads the way
a man's health in soul and body
[Be rid]; send the war away
take heed of what I say
abandoned; in hand
God's message; (see note)

no life can be happy
other goods; (see note)
itself, whereas war is ever afflicted
safe; dreaded; (t-note)
key; (see note); (t-note)

if you want to seek
true examples
You shall well hear
deadly war results in nothing; (see note)
clearly examined; (see note)
has done

vain; world's goods
great wars
Think well on this in your mind
gone; dark and faded; (see note)
Their cruelty, which made them then
regret; no more chances
blood is shed

slays; (see note)
Violates; causes her flower to fall; (t-note)
city less; (see note)
causes the overthrow of the rules of Law

I believe

its heels; (see note)
Through which the common people are
those wheels; (see note)


sure; even if he wins

Therefore; on Christ's behalf
Apply; old wound; (see note); (t-note)
whatsoever happens (i.e., regardless of the cost)
Purchase peace; by your side
do not allow your people [to] be

Let God be your counsel; (t-note)
warrior; (t-note)

would not [have] men slay
[a just] cause of mortal danger

need is greatest, that needs most attention; (see notes)
regardless of how your foreign wars have gone
From; heed
[It] would be good; [the] right thing done for all
worst is to doubt
you desire to attain perfect peace
for [the land] to complain

are reasonable
establish (found)
(i.e., Christ)

Ah, well
Unless; righteousness

slay the people, then I suppose

very often
grow soft

(see note)

(see note)
Your honor [will be] safe
wars did
temper your courage
For compared; no advantage [to war]

think well; (t-note)
Upon such lore
head and we are all limbs
As well the subjects
it sits well; plain

(i.e., Old Testament), before; born; (t-note)
read; (see note)
murder; forbidden
Godhead (Trinity)
(see note)

before; (see note)


pagans had war
out of order
own increase
no way be withdrawn

died; (see note)


pagans destroyed

Hardly; due

(see note)

meant to work

alas; spread so broad
complains [about] this thing (fame)


There are the swords; spears
Pope's bull; (see note)
to make the pagan folk

man's wisdom
(see note)

easy; keep; make [something]; (see note)
what we found made already in [our] hand
has broken His bonds asunder
slay each other
So it is with war

Head (i.e., Christ); (see note)

their righteousness
Their own causes; themselves; (t-note)
Peter's ship (i.e., the Church); its rudder
fall to them; to steer



intended to bow
mother; (t-note)
else he might disallow reason
shall first swear
The rights

(i.e., Christ)
should in any case grow angry
Saracens (i.e., Muslims); are hateful; (see note)
against them; (see note)

three points Christ's peace stands
(see note); (t-note)
high (worthy, noble)
remnant; rule; (see note)

When the head is sick, the limbs ache; (see note)
worldly good
helpless; hang; (t-note)
head (Church); undertaken
slays another; (t-note)

faults; third; (see note)
miscreants who see
the middle; (t-note)
all day (i.e., always)
war stands assuredly

anointed; (see note)

your land
shall your high reward
leave at last

Alexander, Hector [of Troy], and Julius [Caesar]; (see note)
[Judas] Maccabeus, [King] David; Joshua
Charlemagne, Godfrey [of Bouillon], [King] Arthur
[Who were] filled with war; death
Their fame abides

for which there is no remedy

truth comprehend

there are the borders saved; (see note)

In the [game of] tennis; lose a chase; (see note)
no man know before the ball is run
All is in God's control; get; (see note)
The end
strain the wool; spun; (see note)
So that
otherwise; (t-note)

expected nevertheless
any long amount of time
Unless; open without guile

duplicitous intentions
entreated; dissemble
into [something] new

sure way; (see note)

all ways

The apostle (Paul); (see note)

that virtue which is called pity; (see note)

her may no false seeming; (t-note)

Cassiodorus; authorized [by the Church]; (see note)
Says; reigns; (t-note)
fears no menace

way turn; (t-note)

(see note)
story; that
Constantine [the Great]; true; (see note)
he would rather die himself
young; murder
quarrel; (t-note)

that; did
[Pope] Silvester; place
washed away

that honor
the believers who were once hateful
Who had been angry at Christ before

by name
[hold] upright

reward; (t-note)

(see notes); (t-note)

that peace

saints be taken into memory
praise of eternal glory

your earthly reward

(see note)
(see note)
them his own heart examine
look [to] the war before
Set also; (see note)

Explicit carmen de pacis commendacione, quod ad laudem et memoriam serenissimi principis domini Regis Henrici quarti suus humilis orator Iohannes Gower composuit. Et nunc sequitur epistola in qua idem Ioannes pro statu et salute dicti domini sui apud altissimum devocius exorat.

[Here ends the poem on the praising of peace, which John Gower, the humble envoy to King Henry the Fourth, composed for the praise and the remembrance of that most serene prince of the Lord. And now follows the letter in which the same John pleads through the highest devotion for the state and the health of his aforesaid lord.]

[The "epistle" that follows is the Latin poem Rex celi deus; see John Gower: The Minor Latin Works, ed. R.F. Yeager.]