Confessio Amantis, by John Gower


Torpor, ebes sensus, scola parua labor minimusque

     Causant quo minimus ipse minora canam:

Qua tamen Engisti lingua canit Insula Bruti

     Anglica Carmente metra iuuante loquar.

Ossibus ergo carens que conterit ossa loquelis

     Absit, et interpres stet procul oro malus.

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,

10Beleve 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,

20That 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 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,

30That 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 ije

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;

40For 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,

50Right 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,

60So 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

70The 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

80Which 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.

90So woll I now this werk embrace

With hol trust and with hol believe;

God grante I mot it wel achieve.

If I schal drawe in to my mynde

The tyme passed, thanne I fynde

The world stod thanne in al his welthe:

Tho was the lif of man in helthe,

Tho was plente, tho was richesse,

Tho was the fortune of prouesse,

Tho was knyhthode in pris be name,

100Wherof the wyde worldes fame

Write in Cronique is yit withholde;

Justice of lawe tho was holde,

The privilege of regalie

Was sauf, and al the baronie

Worschiped was in his astat;

The citees knewen no debat,

The poeple stod in obeissance

Under the reule of governance,

And pes, which ryhtwisnesse keste,

110With charite tho stod in reste:

Of mannes herte the corage

Was schewed thanne in the visage;

The word was lich to the conceite

Withoute semblant of deceite:

Tho was ther unenvied love,

Tho was the vertu sett above

And vice was put under fote.

Now stant the crop under the rote,

The world is changed overal,

120And therof most in special

That love is falle into discord.

And that I take to record

Of every lond for his partie

The comun vois, which mai noght lie;

Noght upon on, bot upon alle

It is that men now clepe and calle,

And sein the regnes ben divided,

In stede of love is hate guided,

The werre wol no pes purchace,

130And lawe hath take hire double face,

So that justice out of the weie

With ryhtwisnesse is gon aweie:

And thus to loke on every halve,

Men sen the sor withoute salve,

Which al the world hath overtake.

Ther is no regne of alle outtake,

For every climat hath his diel

After the tornynge of the whiel,

Which blinde fortune overthroweth;

140Wherof the certain noman knoweth:

The hevene wot what is to done,

Bot we that duelle under the mone

Stonde in this world upon a weer,

And namely bot the pouer

Of hem that ben the worldes guides

With good consail on alle sides

Be kept upriht in such a wyse,

That hate breke noght thassise

Of love, which is al the chief

150To kepe a regne out of meschief.

For alle resoun wolde this,

That unto him which the heved is

The membres buxom scholden bowe,

And he scholde ek her trowthe allowe,

With al his herte and make hem chiere,

For good consail is good to hiere.

Althogh a man be wys himselve,

Yit is the wisdom more of tuelve;

And if thei stoden bothe in on,

160To hope it were thanne anon

That god his grace wolde sende

To make of thilke werre an ende,

Which every day now groweth newe:

And that is gretly forto rewe

In special for Cristes sake,

Which wolde his oghne lif forsake

Among the men to yeve pes.

But now men tellen natheles

That love is fro the world departed,

170So stant the pes unevene parted

With hem that liven now adaies.

Bot forto loke at alle assaies,

To him that wolde resoun seche

After the comun worldes speche

It is to wondre of thilke werre,

In which non wot who hath the werre;

For every lond himself deceyveth

And of desese his part receyveth,

And yet ne take men no kepe.

180Bot thilke lord which al may kepe,

To whom no consail may ben hid,

Upon the world which is betid,

Amende that wherof men pleigne

With trewe hertes and with pleine,

And reconcile love ayeyn,

As he which is king sovereign

Of al the worldes governaunce,

And of his hyhe porveaunce

Afferme pes betwen the londes

190And take her cause into hise hondes,

So that the world may stonde apppesed

And his godhede also be plesed.

To thenke upon the daies olde,

The lif of clerkes to beholde,

Men sein how that thei weren tho

Ensample and reule of alle tho

Whiche of wisdom the vertu soughten.

Unto the god ferst thei besoughten

As to the substaunce of her Scole,

200That thei ne scholden noght befole

Her wit upon none erthly werkes,

Which were ayein thestat of clerkes,

And that thei myhten fle the vice

Which Simon hath in his office,

Wherof he takth the gold in honde.

For thilke tyme I understonde

The Lumbard made non eschange

The bisschopriches forto change,

Ne yet a lettre for to sende

210For dignite ne for Provende,

Or cured or withoute cure.

The cherche keye in aventure

Of armes and of brygantaille

Stod nothing thanne upon bataille;

To fyhte or for to make cheste

It thoghte hem thanne noght honeste;

Bot of simplesce and pacience

Thei maden thanne no defence:

The Court of worldly regalie

220To hem was thanne no baillie;

The vein honour was noght desired,

Which hath the proude herte fyred;

Humilite was tho withholde,

And Pride was a vice holde.

Of holy cherche the largesse

Yaf thanne and dede gret almesse

To povere men that hadden nede:

Thei were ek chaste in word and dede,

Wherof the poeple ensample tok;

230Her lust was al upon the bok,

Or forto preche or forto preie,

To wisse men the ryhte weie

Of suche as stode of trowthe unliered.

Lo, thus was Petres barge stiered

Of hem that thilke tyme were,

And thus cam ferst to mannes Ere

The feith of Crist and alle goode

Thurgh hem that thanne weren goode

And sobre and chaste and large and wyse.

240Bot now men sein is otherwise,

Simon the cause hath undertake,

The worldes swerd on honde is take;

And that is wonder natheles,

Whan Crist him self hath bode pes

And set it in his testament,

How now that holy cherche is went,

Of that here lawe positif

Hath set to make werre and strif

For worldes good, which may noght laste.

250God wot the cause to the laste

Of every right and wrong also;

But whil the lawe is reuled so

That clerkes to the werre entende,

I not how that thei scholde amende

The woful world in othre thinges,

To make pes betwen the kynges

After the lawe of charite,

Which is the propre duete

Belongende unto the presthode.

260Bot as it thenkth to the manhode,

The hevene is ferr, the world is nyh,

And veine gloire is ek so slyh,

Which coveitise hath now withholde,

That thei non other thing beholde,

Bot only that thei myhten winne.

And thus the werres thei beginne,

Wherof the holi cherche is taxed,

That in the point as it is axed

The disme goth to the bataille,

270As thogh Crist myhte noght availe

To don hem riht be other weie.

In to the swerd the cherche keie

Is torned, and the holy bede

Into cursinge, and every stede

Which scholde stonde upon the feith

And to this cause an Ere leyth,

Astoned is of the querele.

That scholde be the worldes hele

Is now, men sein, the pestilence

280Which hath exiled pacience

Fro the clergie in special:

And that is schewed overal,

In eny thing whan thei ben grieved.

Bot if Gregoire be believed,

As it is in the bokes write,

He doth ous somdel forto wite

The cause of thilke prelacie,

Wher god is noght of compaignie:

For every werk as it is founded

290Schal stonde or elles be confounded;

Who that only for Cristes sake

Desireth cure forto take,

And noght for pride of thilke astat,

To bere a name of a prelat,

He schal be resoun do profit

In holy cherche upon the plit

That he hath set his conscience;

Bot in the worldes reverence

Ther ben of suche manie glade,

300Whan thei to thilke astat ben made,

Noght for the merite of the charge,

Bot for thei wolde hemself descharge

Of poverte and become grete;

And thus for Pompe and for beyete

The Scribe and ek the Pharisee

Of Moises upon the See

In the chaiere on hyh ben set;

Wherof the feith is ofte let,

Which is betaken hem to kepe.

310In Cristes cause alday thei slepe,

Bot of the world is noght foryete;

For wel is him that now may gete

Office in Court to ben honoured.

The stronge coffre hath al devoured

Under the keye of avarice

The tresor of the benefice,

Wherof the povere schulden clothe

And ete and drinke and house bothe;

The charite goth al unknowe,

320For thei no grein of Pite sowe:

And slouthe kepeth the libraire

Which longeth to the Saintuaire;

To studie upon the worldes lore

Sufficeth now withoute more;

Delicacie his swete toth

Hath fostred so that it fordoth

Of abstinence al that ther is.

And forto loken over this,

If Ethna brenne in the clergie,

330Al openly to mannes ije

At Avynoun thexperience

Therof hath yove an evidence,

Of that men sen hem so divided.

And yit the cause is noght decided;

Bot it is seid and evere schal,

Betwen tuo Stoles lyth the fal,

Whan that men wenen best to sitte:

In holy cherche of such a slitte

Is for to rewe un to ous alle;

340God grante it mote wel befalle

Towardes him which hath the trowthe.

Bot ofte is sen that mochel slowthe,

Whan men ben drunken of the cuppe,

Doth mochel harm, whan fyr is uppe,

Bot if somwho the flamme stanche;

And so to speke upon this branche,

Which proud Envie hath mad to springe,

Of Scisme, causeth forto bringe

This newe Secte of Lollardie,

350And also many an heresie

Among the clerkes in hemselve.

It were betre dike and delve

And stonde upon the ryhte feith,

Than knowe al that the bible seith

And erre as somme clerkes do.

Upon the hond to were a Schoo

And sette upon the fot a Glove

Acordeth noght to the behove

Of resonable mannes us:

360If men behielden the vertus

That Crist in Erthe taghte here,

Thei scholden noght in such manere,

Among hem that ben holden wise,

The Papacie so desguise

Upon diverse eleccioun,

Which stant after thaffeccioun

Of sondry londes al aboute:

Bot whan god wole, it schal were oute,

For trowthe mot stonde ate laste.

370Bot yet thei argumenten faste

Upon the Pope and his astat,

Wherof thei falle in gret debat;

This clerk seith yee, that other nay,

And thus thei dryve forth the day,

And ech of hem himself amendeth

Of worldes good, bot non entendeth

To that which comun profit were.

Thei sein that god is myhti there,

And schal ordeine what he wile,

380Ther make thei non other skile

Where is the peril of the feith,

Bot every clerk his herte leith

To kepe his world in special,

And of the cause general,

Which unto holy cherche longeth,

Is non of hem that underfongeth

To schapen eny resistence:

And thus the riht hath no defence,

Bot ther I love, ther I holde.

390Lo, thus tobroke is Cristes folde,

Wherof the flock withoute guide

Devoured is on every side,

In lacke of hem that ben unware

Schepherdes, whiche her wit beware

Upon the world in other halve.

The scharpe pricke in stede of salve

Thei usen now, wherof the hele

Thei hurte of that thei scholden hele;

And what Schep that is full of wulle

400Upon his back, thei toose and pulle,

Whil ther is eny thing to pile:

And thogh ther be non other skile

Bot only for thei wolden wynne,

Thei leve noght, whan thei begynne,

Upon her acte to procede,

Which is no good schepherdes dede.

And upon this also men sein,

That fro the leese which is plein

Into the breres thei forcacche

410Her Orf, for that thei wolden lacche

With such duresce, and so bereve

That schal upon the thornes leve

Of wulle, which the brere hath tore;

Wherof the Schep ben al totore

Of that the hierdes make hem lese.

Lo, how thei feignen chalk for chese,

For though thei speke and teche wel,

Thei don hemself therof no del:

For if the wolf come in the weie,

420Her gostly Staf is thanne aweie,

Wherof thei scholde her flock defende;

Bot if the povere Schep offende

In eny thing, thogh it be lyte,

They ben al redy forto smyte;

And thus, how evere that thei tale,

The strokes falle upon the smale,

And upon othre that ben grete

Hem lacketh herte forto bete.

So that under the clerkes lawe

430Men sen the Merel al mysdrawe,

I wol noght seie in general,

For ther ben somme in special

In whom that alle vertu duelleth,

And tho ben, as thapostel telleth,

That god of his eleccioun

Hath cleped to perfeccioun

In the manere as Aaron was:

Thei ben nothing in thilke cas

Of Simon, which the foldes gate

440Hath lete, and goth in othergate,

Bot thei gon in the rihte weie.

Ther ben also somme, as men seie,

That folwen Simon ate hieles,

Whos carte goth upon the whieles

Of coveitise and worldes Pride,

And holy cherche goth beside,

Which scheweth outward a visage

Of that is noght in the corage.

For if men loke in holy cherche,

450Betwen the word and that thei werche

Ther is a full gret difference:

Thei prechen ous in audience

That noman schal his soule empeire,

For al is bot a chirie feire

This worldes good, so as thei telle;

Also thei sein ther is an helle,

Which unto mannes sinne is due,

And bidden ous therfore eschue

That wikkid is, and do the goode.

460Who that here wordes understode,

It thenkth thei wolden do the same;

Bot yet betwen ernest and game

Ful ofte it torneth other wise.

With holy tales thei devise

How meritoire is thilke dede

Of charite, to clothe and fede

The povere folk and forto parte

The worldes good, bot thei departe

Ne thenken noght fro that thei have.

470Also thei sein, good is to save

With penance and with abstinence

Of chastite the continence;

Bot pleinly forto speke of that,

I not how thilke body fat,

Which thei with deynte metes kepe

And leyn it softe forto slepe,

Whan it hath elles al his wille,

With chastite schal stonde stille:

And natheles I can noght seie,

480In aunter if that I misseye.

Touchende of this, how evere it stonde,

I here and wol noght understonde,

For therof have I noght to done:

Bot he that made ferst the Mone,

The hyhe god, of his goodnesse,

If ther be cause, he it redresce.

Bot what as eny man accuse,

This mai reson of trowthe excuse;

The vice of hem that ben ungoode

490Is no reproef unto the goode:

For every man hise oghne werkes

Schal bere, and thus as of the clerkes

The goode men ben to comende,

And alle these othre god amende:

For thei ben to the worldes ije

The Mirour of ensamplerie,

To reulen and to taken hiede

Betwen the men and the godhiede.

Now forto speke of the comune,

500It is to drede of that fortune

Which hath befalle in sondri londes:

Bot often for defalte of bondes

Al sodeinliche, er it be wist,

A Tonne, whanne his lye arist,

Tobrekth and renneth al aboute,

Which elles scholde noght gon oute;

And ek fulofte a litel Skar

Upon a Banke, er men be war,

Let in the Strem, which with gret peine,

510If evere man it schal restreigne.

Wher lawe lacketh, errour groweth,

He is noght wys who that ne troweth,

For it hath proeved ofte er this;

And thus the comun clamour is

In every lond wher poeple dwelleth,

And eche in his compleignte telleth

How that the world is al miswent,

And ther upon his jugement

Yifth every man in sondry wise.

520Bot what man wolde himself avise,

His conscience and noght misuse,

He may wel ate ferste excuse

His god, which evere stant in on:

In him ther is defalte non,

So moste it stonde upon ousselve

Nought only upon ten ne twelve,

Bot plenerliche upon ous alle,

For man is cause of that schal falle.

And natheles yet som men wryte

530And sein that fortune is to wyte,

And som men holde oppinion

That it is constellacion,

Which causeth al that a man doth:

God wot of bothe which is soth.

The world as of his propre kynde

Was evere untrewe, and as the blynde

Improprelich he demeth fame,

He blameth that is noght to blame

And preiseth that is noght to preise:

540Thus whan he schal the thinges peise,

Ther is deceipte in his balance,

And al is that the variance

Of ous, that scholde ous betre avise;

For after that we falle and rise,

The world arist and falth withal,

So that the man is overal

His oghne cause of wel and wo.

That we fortune clepe so

Out of the man himself it groweth;

550And who that other wise troweth,

Behold the poeple of Irael:

For evere whil thei deden wel,

Fortune was hem debonaire,

And whan thei deden the contraire,

Fortune was contrariende.

So that it proeveth wel at ende

Why that the world is wonderfull

And may no while stonde full,

Though that it seme wel besein;

560For every worldes thing is vein,

And evere goth the whiel aboute,

And evere stant a man in doute,

Fortune stant no while stille,

So hath ther noman al his wille.

Als fer as evere a man may knowe,

Ther lasteth nothing bot a throwe;

The world stant evere upon debat,

So may be seker non astat,

Now hier now ther, now to now fro,

570Now up now down, this world goth so,

And evere hath don and evere schal:

Wherof I finde in special

A tale writen in the Bible,

Which moste nedes be credible;

And that as in conclusioun

Seith that upon divisioun

Stant, why no worldes thing mai laste,

Til it be drive to the laste.

And fro the ferste regne of alle

580Into this day, hou so befalle,

Of that the regnes be muable

The man himself hath be coupable,

Which of his propre governance

Fortuneth al the worldes chance.

The hyhe almyhti pourveance,

In whos eterne remembrance

Fro ferst was every thing present,

He hath his prophecie sent,

In such a wise as thou schalt hiere,

590To Daniel of this matiere,

Hou that this world schal torne and wende,

Till it be falle to his ende;

Wherof the tale telle I schal,

In which it is betokned al.

As Nabugodonosor slepte,

A swevene him tok, the which he kepte

Til on the morwe he was arise,

For he therof was sore agrise.

To Daniel his drem he tolde,

600And preide him faire that he wolde

Arede what it tokne may;

And seide: “Abedde wher I lay,

Me thoghte I syh upon a Stage

Wher stod a wonder strange ymage.

His hed with al the necke also

Thei were of fin gold bothe tuo;

His brest, his schuldres and his armes

Were al of selver, bot the tharmes,

The wombe and al doun to the kne,

610Of bras thei were upon to se;

The legges were al mad of Stiel,

So were his feet also somdiel,

And somdiel part to hem was take

Of Erthe which men Pottes make;

The fieble meynd was with the stronge,

So myhte it wel noght stonde longe.

And tho me thoghte that I sih

A gret ston from an hull on hyh

Fel doun of sodein aventure

620Upon the feet of this figure,

With which Ston al tobroke was

Gold, Selver, Erthe, Stiel and Bras,

That al was in to pouldre broght,

And so forth torned into noght.”

This was the swevene which he hadde,

That Daniel anon aradde,

And seide him that figure strange

Betokneth how the world schal change

And waxe lasse worth and lasse,

630Til it to noght al overpasse.

The necke and hed, that weren golde,

He seide how that betokne scholde

A worthi world, a noble, a riche,

To which non after schal be liche.

Of Selver that was overforth

Schal ben a world of lasse worth;

And after that the wombe of Bras

Tokne of a werse world it was.

The Stiel which he syh afterward

640A world betokneth more hard:

Bot yet the werste of everydel

Is last, whan that of Erthe and Stiel

He syh the feet departed so,

For that betokneth mochel wo.

Whan that the world divided is,

It moste algate fare amis,

For Erthe which is meynd with Stiel

Togedre may noght laste wiel,

Bot if that on that other waste;

650So mot it nedes faile in haste.

The Ston, which fro the hully Stage

He syh doun falle on that ymage,

And hath it into pouldre broke,

That swevene hath Daniel unloke,

And seide how that is goddes myht,

Which whan men wene most upryht

To stonde, schal hem overcaste.

And that is of this world the laste,

And thanne a newe schal beginne,

660Fro which a man schal nevere twinne;

Or al to peine or al to pes

That world schal lasten endeles.

Lo thus expondeth Daniel

The kynges swevene faire and wel

In Babiloyne the Cite,

Wher that the wiseste of Caldee

Ne cowthen wite what it mente;

Bot he tolde al the hol entente,

As in partie it is befalle.

670Of gold the ferste regne of alle

Was in that kinges time tho,

And laste manye daies so,

Therwhiles that the Monarchie

Of al the world in that partie

To Babiloyne was soubgit;

And hield him stille in such a plit,

Til that the world began diverse:

And that was whan the king of Perse,

Which Cirus hyhte, ayein the pes

680Forth with his Sone Cambises

Of Babiloine al that Empire,

Ryht as thei wolde hemself desire,

Put under in subjeccioun

And tok it in possessioun,

And slayn was Baltazar the king,

Which loste his regne and al his thing.

And thus whan thei it hadde wonne,

The world of Selver was begonne

And that of gold was passed oute:

690And in this wise it goth aboute

In to the Regne of Darius;

And thanne it fell to Perse thus,

That Alisaundre put hem under,

Which wroghte of armes many a wonder,

So that the Monarchie lefte

With Grecs, and here astat uplefte,

And Persiens gon under fote,

So soffre thei that nedes mote.

And tho the world began of Bras,

700And that of selver ended was;

Bot for the time thus it laste,

Til it befell that ate laste

This king, whan that his day was come,

With strengthe of deth was overcome.

And natheles yet er he dyde,

He schop his Regnes to divide

To knyhtes whiche him hadde served,

And after that thei have deserved

Yaf the conquestes that he wan;

710Wherof gret werre tho began

Among hem that the Regnes hadde,

Thurgh proud Envie which hem ladde,

Til it befell ayein hem thus:

The noble Cesar Julius,

Which tho was king of Rome lond,

With gret bataille and with strong hond

Al Grece, Perse and ek Caldee

Wan and put under, so that he

Noght al only of thorient

720Bot al the Marche of thoccident

Governeth under his empire,

As he that was hol lord and Sire,

And hield thurgh his chivalerie

Of al this world the Monarchie,

And was the ferste of that honour

Which tok the name of Emperour.

Wher Rome thanne wolde assaille,

Ther myhte nothing contrevaille,

Bot every contre moste obeie:

730Tho goth the Regne of Bras aweie,

And comen is the world of Stiel,

And stod above upon the whiel.

As Stiel is hardest in his kynde

Above alle othre that men finde

Of Metals, such was Rome tho

The myhtieste, and laste so

Long time amonges the Romeins

Til thei become so vileins,

That the fals Emperour Leo

740With Constantin his Sone also

The patrimoine and the richesse,

Which to Silvestre in pure almesse

The ferste Constantinus lefte,

Fro holy cherche thei berefte.

Bot Adrian, which Pope was,

And syh the meschief of this cas,

Goth in to France forto pleigne,

And preith the grete Charlemeine,

For Cristes sake and Soule hele

750That he wol take the querele

Of holy cherche in his defence.

And Charles for the reverence

Of god the cause hath undertake,

And with his host the weie take

Over the Montz of Lombardie;

Of Rome and al the tirandie

With blodi swerd he overcom,

And the Cite with strengthe nom;

In such a wise and there he wroghte,

760That holy cherche ayein he broghte

Into franchise, and doth restore

The Popes lost, and yaf him more:

And thus whan he his god hath served,

He tok, as he wel hath deserved,

The Diademe and was coroned.

Of Rome and thus was abandoned

Thempire, which cam nevere ayein

Into the hond of no Romein;

Bot a long time it stod so stille

770Under the Frensche kynges wille,

Til that fortune hir whiel so ladde,

That afterward Lombardz it hadde,

Noght be the swerd, bot be soffrance

Of him that tho was kyng of France,

Which Karle Calvus cleped was;

And he resigneth in this cas

Thempire of Rome unto Lowis

His Cousin, which a Lombard is.

And so hit laste into the yeer

780Of Albert and of Berenger;

Bot thanne upon dissencioun

Thei felle, and in divisioun

Among hemself that were grete,

So that thei loste the beyete

Of worschipe and of worldes pes.

Bot in proverbe natheles

Men sein, ful selden is that welthe

Can soffre his oghne astat in helthe;

And that was on the Lombardz sene,

790Such comun strif was hem betwene

Thurgh coveitise and thurgh Envie,

That every man drowh his partie,

Which myhte leden eny route,

Withinne Burgh and ek withoute:

The comun ryht hath no felawe,

So that the governance of lawe

Was lost, and for necessite,

Of that thei stode in such degre

Al only thurgh divisioun,

800Hem nedeth in conclusioun

Of strange londes help beside.

And thus for thei hemself divide

And stonden out of reule unevene,

Of Alemaine Princes sevene

Thei chose in this condicioun,

That upon here eleccioun

Thempire of Rome scholde stonde.

And thus thei lefte it out of honde

For lacke of grace, and it forsoke,

810That Alemans upon hem toke:

And to confermen here astat,

Of that thei founden in debat

Thei token the possessioun

After the composicioun

Among hemself, and therupon

Thei made an Emperour anon,

Whos name as the Cronique telleth

Was Othes; and so forth it duelleth,

Fro thilke day yit unto this

820Thempire of Rome hath ben and is

To thalemans. And in this wise,

As ye tofore have herd divise

How Daniel the swevene expondeth

Of that ymage, on whom he foundeth

The world which after scholde falle,

Come is the laste tokne of alle;

Upon the feet of Erthe and Stiel

So stant this world now everydiel

Departed; which began riht tho,

830Whan Rome was divided so:

And that is forto rewe sore,

For alway siththe more and more

The world empeireth every day.

Wherof the sothe schewe may,

At Rome ferst if we beginne:

The wall and al the Cit withinne

Stant in ruine and in decas,

The feld is wher the Paleis was,

The toun is wast; and overthat,

840If we beholde thilke astat

Which whilom was of the Romeins,

Of knyhthode and of Citezeins,

To peise now with that beforn,

The chaf is take for the corn,

As forto speke of Romes myht:

Unethes stant ther oght upryht

Of worschipe or of worldes good,

As it before tyme stod.

And why the worschipe is aweie,

850If that a man the sothe seie,

The cause hath ben divisioun,

Which moder of confusioun

Is wher sche cometh overal,

Noght only of the temporal

Bot of the spirital also.

The dede proeveth it is so,

And hath do many day er this,

Thurgh venym which that medled is

In holy cherche of erthly thing:

860For Crist himself makth knowleching

That noman may togedre serve

God and the world, bot if he swerve

Froward that on and stonde unstable;

And Cristes word may noght be fable.

The thing so open is at ije,

It nedeth noght to specefie

Or speke oght more in this matiere;

Bot in this wise a man mai lere

Hou that the world is gon aboute,

870The which welnyh is wered oute,

After the forme of that figure

Which Daniel in his scripture

Expondeth, as tofore is told.

Of Bras, of Selver and of Gold

The world is passed and agon,

And now upon his olde ton

It stant of brutel Erthe and Stiel,

The whiche acorden nevere a diel;

So mot it nedes swerve aside

880As thing the which men sen divide.

Thapostel writ unto ous alle

And seith that upon ous is falle

Thende of the world; so may we knowe,

This ymage is nyh overthrowe,

Be which this world was signified,

That whilom was so magnefied,

And now is old and fieble and vil,

Full of meschief and of peril,

And stant divided ek also

890Lich to the feet that were so,

As I tolde of the Statue above.

And this men sen, thurgh lacke of love

Where as the lond divided is,

It mot algate fare amis:

And now to loke on every side,

A man may se the world divide,

The werres ben so general

Among the cristene overal,

That every man now secheth wreche,

900And yet these clerkes alday preche

And sein, good dede may non be

Which stant noght upon charite:

I not hou charite may stonde,

Wher dedly werre is take on honde.

Bot al this wo is cause of man,

The which that wit and reson can,

And that in tokne and in witnesse

That ilke ymage bar liknesse

Of man and of non other beste.

910For ferst unto the mannes heste

Was every creature ordeined,

Bot afterward it was restreigned:

Whan that he fell, thei fellen eke,

Whan he wax sek, thei woxen seke;

For as the man hath passioun

Of seknesse, in comparisoun

So soffren othre creatures.

Lo, ferst the hevenly figures,

The Sonne and Mone eclipsen bothe,

920And ben with mannes senne wrothe;

The purest Eir for Senne alofte

Hath ben and is corrupt fulofte,

Right now the hyhe wyndes blowe,

And anon after thei ben lowe,

Now clowdy and now clier it is:

So may it proeven wel be this,

A mannes Senne is forto hate,

Which makth the welkne to debate.

And forto se the proprete

930Of every thyng in his degree,

Benethe forth among ous hiere

Al stant aliche in this matiere:

The See now ebbeth, now it floweth,

The lond now welketh, now it groweth,

Now be the Trees with leves grene,

Now thei be bare and nothing sene,

Now be the lusti somer floures,

Now be the stormy wynter shoures,

Now be the daies, now the nyhtes,

940So stant ther nothing al upryhtes,

Now it is lyht, now it is derk;

And thus stant al the worldes werk

After the disposicioun

Of man and his condicioun.

Forthi Gregoire in his Moral

Seith that a man in special

The lasse world is properly:

And that he proeveth redely;

For man of Soule resonable

950Is to an Angel resemblable,

And lich to beste he hath fielinge,

And lich to Trees he hath growinge;

The Stones ben and so is he:

Thus of his propre qualite

The man, as telleth the clergie,

Is as a world in his partie,

And whan this litel world mistorneth,

The grete world al overtorneth.

The Lond, the See, the firmament,

960Thei axen alle jugement

Ayein the man and make him werre:

Therwhile himself stant out of herre,

The remenant wol noght acorde:

And in this wise, as I recorde,

The man is cause of alle wo,

Why this world is divided so.

Division, the gospell seith,

On hous upon another leith,

Til that the Regne al overthrowe:

970And thus may every man wel knowe,

Division aboven alle

Is thing which makth the world to falle,

And evere hath do sith it began.

It may ferst proeve upon a man;

The which, for his complexioun

Is mad upon divisioun

Of cold, of hot, of moist, of drye,

He mot be verray kynde dye:

For the contraire of his astat

980Stant evermore in such debat,

Til that o part be overcome,

Ther may no final pes be nome.

Bot other wise, if a man were

Mad al togedre of o matiere

Withouten interrupcioun,

Ther scholde no corrupcioun

Engendre upon that unite:

Bot for ther is diversite

Withinne himself, he may noght laste,

990That he ne deieth ate laste.

Bot in a man yit over this

Full gret divisioun ther is,

Thurgh which that he is evere in strif,

Whil that him lasteth eny lif:

The bodi and the Soule also

Among hem ben divided so,

That what thing that the body hateth

The soule loveth and debateth;

Bot natheles fulofte is sene

1000Of werre which is hem betwene

The fieble hath wonne the victoire.

And who so drawth into memoire

What hath befalle of old and newe,

He may that werre sore rewe,

Which ferst began in Paradis:

For ther was proeved what it is,

And what desese there it wroghte;

For thilke werre tho forth broghte

The vice of alle dedly Sinne,

1010Thurgh which division cam inne

Among the men in erthe hiere,

And was the cause and the matiere

Why god the grete flodes sende,

Of al the world and made an ende

Bot Noe5 with his felaschipe,

Which only weren saulf be Schipe.

And over that thurgh Senne it com

That Nembrot such emprise nom,

Whan he the Tour Babel on heihte

1020Let make, as he that wolde feihte

Ayein the hihe goddes myht,

Wherof divided anon ryht

Was the langage in such entente,

Ther wiste non what other mente,

So that thei myhten noght procede.

And thus it stant of every dede,

Wher Senne takth the cause on honde,

It may upriht noght longe stonde;

For Senne of his condicioun

1030Is moder of divisioun

And tokne whan the world schal faile.

For so seith Crist withoute faile,

That nyh upon the worldes ende

Pes and acord awey schol wende

And alle charite schal cesse,

Among the men and hate encresce;

And whan these toknes ben befalle,

Al sodeinly the Ston schal falle,

As Daniel it hath beknowe,

1040Which al this world schal overthrowe,

And every man schal thanne arise

To Joie or elles to Juise,

Wher that he schal for evere dwelle,

Or straght to hevene or straght to helle.

In hevene is pes and al acord,

Bot helle is full of such descord

That ther may be no loveday:

Forthi good is, whil a man may,

Echon to sette pes with other

1050And loven as his oghne brother;

So may he winne worldes welthe

And afterward his soule helthe.

Bot wolde god that now were on

An other such as Arion,

Which hadde an harpe of such temprure,

And therto of so good mesure

He song, that he the bestes wilde

Made of his note tame and milde,

The Hinde in pes with the Leoun,

1060The Wolf in pes with the Moltoun,

The Hare in pees stod with the Hound;

And every man upon this ground

Which Arion that time herde,

Als wel the lord as the schepherde,

He broghte hem alle in good acord;

So that the comun with the lord,

And lord with the comun also,

He sette in love bothe tuo

And putte awey malencolie.

1070That was a lusti melodie,

Whan every man with other low;

And if ther were such on now,

Which cowthe harpe as he tho dede,

He myhte availe in many a stede

To make pes wher now is hate;

For whan men thenken to debate,

I not what other thing is good.

Bot wher that wisdom waxeth wod,

And reson torneth into rage,

1080So that mesure upon oultrage

Hath set his world, it is to drede;

For that bringth in the comun drede,

Which stant at every mannes Dore:

Bot whan the scharpnesse of the spore

The horse side smit to sore,

It grieveth ofte. And now nomore,

As forto speke of this matiere,

Which non bot only god may stiere.

Explicit Prologus

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:54