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O Recolende


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.

O recolende: Suggested as an acknowledgment for two pipes of Gascon wine awarded Gower by Henry on 21 November 1399 (see Fisher, John Gower, pp. 68-69), but more likely composed for the coronation on 13 October 1399, for which occasion its advice on how to govern shows particular pertinence. The complexity of its structure -- Leonine hexameters in stanzas of seven lines with four unisonant rhymes throughout, broken by elegiac distichs -- also indicates a special occasion. In order of composition, therefore, probably the second of the three "laureate" poems.

The text here is based on S, read against C, H, G, and H3.

1-7 Raby (History of Secular Latin Poetry 2.343) notes a formal similarity of the verse with "the literary atmosphere of Peter Riga and Alexander Neckham," from both of whose works Gower frequently borrows lines to use centonically. On Gower's use of cento, see Yeager, "Did Gower Write Cento?"

2 Pharaone. Compare Exodus 1-14. The allusion to Henry IV as Moses (and thus here Richard II as pharaoh) continues a typological association of Henry with Christ begun in Rex celi deus; see notes to lines 12, 17-18 in that poem, above.

4 Regni persone. An odd recommendation, considering Henry's vow to be ruled by appropriate counsel, and the central charge against Richard II that "He seyd opynly, with a sterne chere and ouertwert, that his lawes weren in his mouthe, and other while in his breste, And that he allone myht chaunge the Lawes off his Rewme and make newe" (Chronicles of London, p. 31). More likely Gower has in mind here that Henry (in contrast to Richard who, in the habit of tyrants, was portrayed as whimsical and erratic) should maintain rational moderation in his personal affairs, as an example to all. Some additional awkwardness no doubt springs from the demand on persone to carry the difficult rhyming pattern.

5 Pacem compone. See note to Rex celi deus, line 39.

8 Rex confirmatus, licet. Obviously issues of large import to a usurper; references undoubtedly to Henry's "parliamentary election" 30 September 1399.

9 Sub Cristo . . . inmaculatus. Equally, if not more, significant was the issue of Henry's supplanting Richard, a ruler anointed and chosen by God. Henry's apparent concerns over his "maculate" action prompted his vows to make pilgrimage to Jerusalem and to lead a crusade, both of which his turbulent kingdom and ill health (also reckoned God's judgment, apparently by Henry himself: see Kirby, Henry IV, p. 256) ultimately prevented. See further H. aquile pullus, below.

10-11 Est . . . moderatus. The two parts of the complete main verb here enclose all of the social classes Gower calls to be restrained by law; a similar construction is used in line 1 of Virgil's first Eclogue.

14 ad omne latus. A contrast to Richard, whom Lancastrian writers portray as autocratic and secretive.

15-19 pie / pietas / pius / pietatis. Gower applies similar designations to Henry at the end of Cronica (III.462-73); they are here translated as forms of "mercy," following Macaulay (4.415-16):
The epithet "pius," which Gower attaches to Henry's name in this passage, means in his mouth "merciful," and in the margin [of S] the "pietas" of the new king is contrasted with the "cruelty" of Richard, the vice to which Gower chiefly attributes his fall. There is no doubt that the execution of Arundel and the murder of Gloucester (or the popular opinion that he had been murdered) produced a very sinister impression, and caused a general feeling of insecurity which was very favourable to Henry's enterprise.
It is clear, however, that a traditional translation as "dutiful in belief" would apply equally well in the passage, and to Henry himself. See note to line 21, below.

17-21 Qui bene . . . bibit. These lines are written over erasure in S, C, and G. H and H3 read:
Dum pia vota bibit, tua fama satire nequibit,
Plena set exhibit, cum laudeque plena redibit:
Non sic transibit, vbicumque tirannus abibit;
Cum nimis ascribit sibi magna, minora subibit;
Vt meritum querit, sors sua fata gerit.

[Whenever one drinks with a solemn vow, he cannot thirst for popular opinion,
But will show himself satisfied, when he fully attains glory:
Not thus it happens, whenever a tyrant dies;
When he makes great claims for himself, he departs smaller by half;
Wherever merit is questionable, chance determines a man's fate.]
17 Qui bene describit . . . subibit. Proverbial: "Know thyself;" see Whiting, K100.

18 Set pius . . . redibit. Proverbial (Whiting, M510); compare Matthew 5:7: "beati misericordes quia ipsi misericordiam consequentur" ("Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy").

20 Deus ascribit. On God the bookkeeper, compare Apocalypse 3:5: "non delebo nomen eius de libro vitae" ("I will not blot out his name out of the book of life"), and also Apocalypse 13:8. That God will help the elect and keep them safe is proverbial (Whiting, G211), based in part on John 6:35-40.
ab hoste perire nequibit. Following O recolende in Tr are written lines from two Psalms: Vulgate Psalm 88:23: "Nichil proficiet inimicus in eo, et filius iniquitatis non apponet nocere ei" ("The enemy shall have no advantage over him: nor the son of iniquity have power to hurt him"); and Vulgate Psalm 40:3: "Dominus conseruet eum, et vivificet eum, et beatum faciat eum in terra, et non tradat eum in animam inimicorum eius" ("The Lord preserve him and give him life, and make him blessed upon the earth: and deliver him not up to the will of his enemies"). In G, H, and H3 these passages follow H. aquile pullus; see below.

21 pia. So Mac, emending from C, H, G, and H3. S: pita. Here translated as "mercy."
pia vota bibit. Compare Numbers 6:1-21, describing the process of purification leading to consecration and sanctification: "Ista est lex nazaraei, cum voverit oblationem suam Domino tempore consecrationis suae, exceptis his, quae invenerit manus eius: iuxta quod mente devoverat, ita faciet ad perfectionem sanctificationis suae" ("This is the law of the Nazarite, when he hath vowed his oblation to the Lord in the time of his consecration. Besides those things which his hand shall find according to that which he had vowed in his mind, so shall he do for the fulfilling of his sanctification"). Immediately follows (6:24-27) the Lord's blessing for Moses and Aaron, promising mercy, protection, and peace.

8. O recolende

Epistola brevis, unde virtutes regie morales ad sanum regimen ampliori memoria dirigantur.
8. O Venerable

A brief letter, in which the moral virtues worthy of a king for healthy governance will be laid out, the better to keep in memory.
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O recolende, bone, pie rex, Henrice, patrone,
Ad bona dispone quos eripis a Pharaone.
Noxia depone, quibus est humus hec in agone,
Regni persone quo vivant sub racione.
Pacem compone, vires moderare corone,
Legibus impone frenum sine condicione,
Firmaque sermone iura tenere mone.
Rex confirmatus, licet undique magnificatus,
Sub Cristo gratus vivas tamen inmaculatus.
Est tibi prelatus, comes et baro, villa, Senatus,
Miles et armatus sub lege tua moderatus.
Dirige quosque status, maneas quo pacificatus;
Invidus, elatus nec avarus erit sociatus;
Sic eris ornatus, purus, ad omne latus.
Hec, ut amans quibit Gower, pie rex, tibi scribit:
Quo pietas ibit, ibi gracia nulla peribit;
Qui bene describit semet mala nulla subibit,
Set pius exibit, que Dei pietate redibit.
Sic qui transibit opus et pietatis adibit,
Hunc Deus ascribit: quod ab hoste perire nequibit;
Et sic finibit qui pia vota bibit.
Quanto regalis honor est tibi plus generalis,
Tanto moralis virtus tibi sit specialis.
Sit tibi carnalis in mundo regula qualis
Est tibi mentalis in Cristo spiritualis.
Si fueris talis, tua cronica perpetualis
Tunc erit equalis perfectaque materialis.
   Rex inmortalis te regat absque malis!
O venerable, good and pious King Henry, our patron,
Set up for good things those whom you rescue from Pharaoh
Remove from them what is harmful, for whom this land is in conflict,
So that the people of the realm may live under the rule of reason.
Establish peace, moderate the powers of the crown,
Bridle the laws unconditionally,
Confirm rights by your command, admonish your people to keep them.
Although you are confirmed king and glorified on all sides,
Still you must live pleasing to Christ without blemish.
Restrained is prelate, earl and baron, city, senate,
Knight and man-at-arms under your law.
Govern every class so that you maintain a state of peace.
The envious will not be your companion, nor the avaricious;
And so you will be adorned and pure on every side.
These things, pious king, Gower writes to you as one who loves you:
Where mercy will go, there no grace will perish;
He who describes himself well will undergo no evil,
But will pass away proudly and return to the mercy of God.
Thus, one who passes through this life and approaches the work of mercy
God marks him; which can be undone by no enemy;
Thus will he end who drinks in the deeds of mercy.
The more abounding your royal honor is,
The more should moral virtue be made your own.
Let the rule of fleshly life in the world be such to you
As is the spiritual rule of Christ in your mind.
If you are such, your lasting record
Will then match it and be perfect in substance.
   Let the Immortal King guide you free from evil!
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Go To H. aquile pullus