John Gower

Prologue to The Confessio Amantis


  Use the glossary in the Riverside Chaucer for words not glossed in the margins; see a note on Gower's spellings



































Of hem that writen ous tofore
The bokes duelle, and we therfore
Ben tawht of that was write tho:
Forthi good is that we also
In oure tyme among ous hiere
Do wryte of newe som matiere,
Essampled of these olde wyse
So that it myhte in such a wyse,
Whan we ben dede and elleswhere,
Beleve to the worldes eere
In tyme comende after this.

Bot for men sein, and soth it is,
That who that al of wisdom writ
It dulleth ofte a mannes wit
To him that schal it aldai rede,
For thilke cause, if that ye rede,
I wolde go the middel weie
And wryte a bok betwen the tweie,
Somwhat of lust, somewhat of lore,
That of the lasse or of the more
Som man mai lyke of that I wryte:

And for that fewe men endite
In oure englissh, I thenke make
A bok for king Richardes sake,
To whom belongeth my ligeance
With al myn hertes obeissance
In al that evere a liege man
Unto his king may doon or can:
So ferforth I me recomande
To him which al me may comande,
Preyende unto the hihe regne
Which causeth every king to regne,
That his corone longe stonde.

I thenke and have it understonde,
As it bifel upon a tyde,
As thing which scholde tho betyde, --
Under the toun of newe Troye,
Which tok of Brut his ferste joye,
In Temse whan it was flowende
As I be bote cam rowende,
So as fortune hir tyme sette,
My liege lord par chaunce I mette;
And so befel, as I cam nyh,
Out of my bot, whan he me syh,
He bad me come in_to his barge.
And whan I was with him at large,
Amonges othre thinges seid
He hath this charge unto me leid,
And bad me doo my besynesse
That to his hihe worthinesse,
Som newe thing I sholde boke,
That he himself it mihte loke
After the forme of my writynge,

And thus upon his comandynge
Myn herte is wel the more glad
To write so as he me bad;
And eek my fere is wel the lasse
That non envye schal compasse
Withoute a resonable wite
To feyne and blame that I write.

A gentil herte his tunge stilleth,
That it malice non distilleth,
But preyseth that is to be preised;
But he that hath his word unpeysed
And handleth [onwrong] every thing,
I preye un_to the hevene king
Fro suche tunges he me schilde.
And natheles this world is wilde
Of such jangling, and what befalle,
My kinges heste schal nought falle,
That I, in hope to deserve
His thonk, ne schal his wil observe;
And elles were I nought excused,
For that thing may nought be refused
Which that a king himselve bit.

Forthi the symplesce of my wit
I thenke if that it might avayle
In his service to travaile:
Though I seknesse have upon honde,
And longe have had, yit wol I fonde,
So as I made my beheste,
To make a bok after his heste,
And write in such a maner wise,
Which may be wisdom to the wise
And pley to hem that lust to pleye.

But in proverbe I have herd seye
That who that wel his werk begynneth
The rather a good ende he wynneth;
And thus the prologe of my bok
After the world that whilom tok,
And eek somdel after the newe,
I wol begynne for to newe.

After the accession of Henry IV, Gower suppressed
his dedication of his work to King Richard and
substituted the following lines for lines 24-92

A bok for Engelondes sake,
The yer sextenthe of kyng Richard.

What schal befalle hierafterward
God wot, for now upon this tyde
Men se the world on every syde
In sondry wyse so diversed,
That it welnyh stant al reversed,
As forto speke of tyme ago.
The cause whi it changeth so
It needeth nought to specifie,
The thing so open is at ye
That every man it mai beholde:
And natheles be daies olde,
Whan that the bokes weren levere,
Wrytinge was beloved evere
Of hem that weren vertuous;
For hier in erthe amonges ous,
If noman write hou that it stode,
The pris of hem that weren goode
Scholde, as who seith, a gret partie
Be lost: so for to magnifie
The worthi princes that tho were,
The bokes schewen hiere and there,
Wherof the world ensampled is;
And tho that deden thanne amis
Thurgh tirannie and crualte,
Right as thei stoden in degre,
So was the wrytinge of here werk.

Thus I, which am a burel clerk,
Purpose forto wryte a bok
After the world that whilom tok
Long tyme in olde daies passed:
Bot for men sein it is now lassed,
In worse plit than it was tho,
I thenke forto touche also
The world which neweth every dai,
So as I can, so as I mai.

Thogh I seknesse have upon honde
And longe have had, yit woll I fonde
To wryte and do my bisinesse,
That in som part, so as I gesse,
The wyse man mai ben avised.
For this prologe is so assised
That it to wisdom al belongeth:
What wysman that it underfongeth,
He schal drawe into remembrance
The fortune of this worldes chance,
The which noman in his persone
Mai knowe, bot the god al one.
Whan the prologe is so despended,
This bok schal afterward ben ended
Of love, which doth many a wonder
And many a wys man hath put under.

And in this wyse I thenke trete
Towardes hem that now be grete,
Betwen the vertu and the vice
Which longeth unto this office.
Bot for my wittes ben to smale
To tellen every man his tale,
This bok, upon amendment
To stonde at his commandement,
With whom myn herte is of accord,
I sende unto myn oghne lord,
Which of Lancastre is Henri named:
The hyhe god him hath proclamed
Ful of knyhthode and alle grace.

So woll I now this werk embrace
With hol trust and with hol believe;
God grante I mot it wel achieve.

then, at that time

so advise (i.e., agree)

Brutus (founder of Britain)



desire to play

more quickly




Text adapted from: The English Works of John Gower, ed. G. C. Macaulay, EETS e.s. 81-82 (London, 1900-1901).

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