O Deus Immense
JOHN GOWER, THE MINOR LATIN WORKS: NOTES
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.
4. O DEUS IMMENSE: NOTES
The text here is based on S, read against C and H.
Prose 1-2 Two versions of the prose heading exist. S: Carmen quod Iohannes Gower adhuc vivens super principum regimine ultimo composuit ("A poem that John Gower, yet living, recently composed concerning the guidance of rulers"). C, H, G: Carmen quod Iohannes Gower tempore regis Ricardi dum vixit ultimo composuit ("A poem that John Gower recently composed in the time of King Richard, while he lived"). Macaulay, taking the S heading to be in Gower's hand, reads dum vixit and adhuc vivens as equivalents, to mean Gower wrote "with a view to future generations" (compare Quia unusquisque, line 4). Yet it is curious for a living poet to call attention to his own vitality. The fact that the positioning of dum vixit in C, H, and G clearly is applicable to Richard may provide clues to the meaning of S's adhuc vivens, the handwriting of the heading in S (not Gower's), and the date Gower began work on O deus immense.
2 morosi. Macaulay: "opposed here to 'viciosi,'" citing VC Epistle line 57, trans. Stockton as "worthy." Here, however (and in line 57, below), it keeps its antique sense, complementary to viciosi.
5 Quicquid delirant . . . Achivi. Literally, Achivi = "Greeks" but the line, originally from Horace, Epistles I.ii.14, was proverbial in the fourteenth century, where Achivi was equated with the "comun people": compare CA VII.3930, beside which "Quicquid . . . Achivi" appears as a gloss. Compare also MO, lines 22825-48, and VC VI.vii.497 where, as Fisher has noted (John Gower, p. 131), the proverb has a different meaning. Gower's direct knowledge of Horace is doubtful; rather, all of his few Horatian references (sometimes mistaken) indicate his reliance on a compendium.
7-8 A later hand has written nota ["note"] in the margin beside these lines in S.
7 Laus et honor . . . legum. Compare MO, lines 22234-36, 22240, and 22246-48.
8 Ad quas iurati . . . vocati. Presumably the coronation oath (compare MO, lines 22285-91) by which great contemporary store was set: in 1388 at the reconciliatory mass in Westminster Abbey, Richard repeated his oath and the Appellants theirs of homage. Charges that Richard violated his oath figured prominently in the gravamina presented against him in 1399, on which see Green, Crisis of Truth, pp. 234-35. Compare also Hoccleve's Regiment of Princes, lines 2192-98, advising the future Henry V.
10 pax contulit oscula guerris. Compare Vulgate Psalm 84:11: "Misericordia et veritas obviaverunt sibi; Iustitia et pax osculatae sunt" ("Mercy and truth have met each other: justice and peace have kissed"). Compare MO, lines 23082-88.
15-16 Qui regit . . . recedit. Compare MO, lines 22869-72.
19 "Ve qui predaris." Compare Isaias 33:1: "Vae qui praedaris! Nonne et ipse praedaberis? Et qui spernis, nonne et ipse sperneris? Cum consummaveris depraedationem, depraedaberis; Cum fatigatus desieris contemnere, contemneris" ("Woe to thee that spoilest! Shalt not thou thyself also be spoiled? And thou that despisest, shalt thou not thyself also be despised? When thou shalt have made an end of spoiling, thou shalt be spoiled: when being wearied thou shalt cease to despise, thou shalt be despised").
21-22 Rex qui plus aurum . . . repente. Compare MO, lines 22981-92.
28 commune. So Mac, emending from C and H. S: comune.
31-32 pestis . . . crimine multo. Compare CVP, line 11, above.
41 vespere. Vespers, or evensong, is the sixth canonical hour of the breviary. Gower warns against the king taking advice too quickly, which later may prove faulty.
49 Cum laqueatur . . . altera. Compare Traitié XV.7.
54 Plebis et audire . . . redire. Compare "vox populi, vox dei": VC III.Pro.11-13, III.xv.1267, VII.xxv.1470.
61 Nomen regale . . . tibi. Compare Marsilius of Padua (ca. 1324), Defensor Pacis I.18.3 for the same argument that royal authority proceeds from the people.
62 A later hand has written nota ("note") in the margin beside this line in S.
63-64 Rex qui tutus . . . habebis. Compare Job 36:10: "Revelabit quoque aurem eorum, ut corripiat; Et loquetur, ut revertantur ab iniquitate" ("He also shall open their ear to correct them: and shall speak, that they may return from iniquity").
68 Saltem fortuna . . . una. Compare Boethius, De cons. 2.pr.1. Fortune and her wheel are nearly ubiquitous in medieval literature and visual art: see Patch, Goddess Fortuna, and Kolve, Chaucer and the Imagery of Narrative, pp. 32, 327-28.
75-76 Regia precedant . . . superno. Compare Job 36:11-12. (See biblical text below.)
77 Absque. S: corrected from Abque.
Absque Deo . . . cotidiana. Compare MO, lines 23089-100.
79-80 Rex sibi qui . . . carebit. Compare Job 36:11-12: "Si audierint et observaverint, complebunt dies suos in bono, Et annos suos in Gloria: Si autem non audierint, Transibunt per gladium" ("If they [i.e., kings] shall hear, they shall accomplish their days in good, and their years in glory. But if they hear not, they shall pass by the sword").
83-85 A later hand has written nota ["note"] in the margin beside these lines in S.
85 Quo caput . . . firmum. Proverbial in the fourteenth century (compare Whiting, H254). Initially from Paul: compare Colossians 1:1, 1 Corinthians 12:12-28, and see further John of Salisbury, Policraticus V.3. Also compare CA 5.1038-40; IPP, line 260. On Gower's use of the figure generally, see Yeager, "Body Politic."
99 pronus pro tempore . . . thronus. Richard's throne might be said to have "declined" twice, in 1388 and 1399. It is difficult to imagine, if this is in fact a topical allusion, that the line was written in the earlier year; but sometime before Richard's assertion of power in 1397 is possible, however unlikely. On the other hand, it is equally difficult to imagine that the poem was composed entirely between August and September 1399, so the line probably should be seen as a late addition. See note to lines 103-04, below.
101 Rex igitur . . . vadat. Compare Vulgate Psalm 19:8: "Hi in curribus, et hi in equis: Nos autem in nomine Domini Dei nostri invocabimus" ("Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will call upon the name of the Lord our God").
102 ne rota versa cadat. A neat conjunction of wheels: chariots' and Fortune's.
103-4 Celorum regi . . . tegi. That Richard ruled capriciously, without regard to statute, was a charge both in 1388 and 1399.
Carmen quod Iohannes Gower, adhuc vivens, super principum regimine ultimo composuit.
A poem that John Gower, still alive, composed concerning the most recent rule of princes.
Go To Quia unusquisque