John Gower on Astronomy

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

Confessio Amantis, Book VII, 625-1506





































































































































The science of Astronomie 
I thinke forto specefie, 
Withoute which, to telle plein, 
Alle othre science is in vein 
Toward the scole of erthli thinges: 
For as an Egle with his winges 
Fleth above alle that men finde, 
So doth this science in his kinde. 

Benethe upon this Erthe hiere
Of alle thinges the matiere, 
As tellen ous thei that ben lerned,
Of thing above it stant governed, 
That is to sein of the Planetes. 
The cheles bothe and ek the hetes
The chances of the world also, 
That we fortune clepen so, 
Among the mennes nacion 
Al is thurgh constellacion, 

Wherof that som man hath the wele, 
And som man hath deseses fele 
In love als wel as othre thinges; 
The stat of realmes and of kinges 
In time of pes, in time of werre 
It is conceived of the Sterre: 
And thus seith the naturien
Which is an Astronomien. 

Bot the divin seith otherwise,
That if men weren goode and wise 
And plesant unto the godhede, 
Thei scholden noght the sterres drede; 
For o man, if him wel befalle, 
Is more worth than ben thei alle 
Towardes him that weldeth al. 
Bot yit the lawe original, 
Which he hath set in the natures, 
Mot worchen in the creatures, 
That therof mai be non obstacle, 
Bot if it stonde upon miracle 
Thurgh preiere of som holy man. 

And forthi, so as I began 
To speke upon Astronomie, 
As it is write in the clergie,
To telle hou the planetes fare, 
Som part I thenke to declare, 
Mi Sone, unto thin Audience. 

Astronomie is the science 
Of wisdom and of hih connynge,
Which makth a man have knowlechinge 
Of Sterres in the firmament, 
Figure, cercle and moevement 
Of ech of hem in sondri place, 
And what betwen hem is of space, 
Hou so thei moeve or stonde faste, 
Al this it telleth to the laste. 

Assembled with Astronomie 
Is ek that ilke Astrologie
The which in juggementz acompteth 
Th'effect, what every sterre amonteth, 
And hou thei causen many a wonder 
To tho climatz that stonde hem under.
And forto telle it more plein, 
These olde philosphres sein 
That Orbis, which I spak of err,
Is that which we fro th'erthe a ferr
Beholde, and firmament it calle, 
In which the sterres stonden alle, 
Among the whiche in special 
Planetes sefne principal
Ther ben, that mannes sihte demeth, 
Bot th'orizonte, as to ous semeth. 

And also ther ben signes tuelve, 
Whiche have her cercles be hemselve
Compassed in the zodiaque, 
In which thei have here places take. 
And as thei stonden in degre, 
Here cercles more or lasse be, 
Mad after the proporcion 
Of th'erthe, whos condicion 
Is set to be the foundement 
To sustiene up the firmament. 
And be this skile a man mai knowe, 
The more that thei stonden lowe, 
The more ben the cercles lasse;
That causeth why that some passe 
Here due cours tofore an other. 

Bot nou, mi lieve dere brother, 
As thou desirest forto wite 
What I finde in the bokes write, 
To telle of the planetes sevene, 
Hou that thei stonde upon the hevene 
And in what point that thei ben inne, 
Tak hiede, for I wol beginne, 
So as the Philosophre tauhte 
To Alisandre and it betauhte, 
Wherof that he was fulli tawht 
Of wisdom, which was him betawht. 

Benethe alle othre stant the Mone,
The which hath with the See to done: 
Of flodes hihe and ebbes lowe 
Upon his change it schal be knowe;
And every fissh which hath a schelle 
Mot in his governance duelle, 
To wexe and wane in his degre, 
As be the Mone a man mai se; 
And al that stant upon the grounde 
Of his moisture it mot be founde. 
Alle othre sterres, as men finde, 
Be schynende of here oghne kinde 
Outake only the monelyht,
Which is noght of himselve bright, 
Bot as he takth it of the Sonne. 
And yit he hath noght al fulwonne
His lyht, that he nys somdiel derk; 
Bot what the lette is of that werk
In Almageste it telleth this: 
The Mones cercle so lowe is, 
Wherof the Sonne out of his stage 
Ne seth him noght with full visage, 
For he is with the ground beschaded, 
So that the Mone is somdiel faded 
And may noght fully schyne cler. 

Bot what man under his pouer 
Is bore, he schal his places change 
And seche manye londes strange: 
And as of this condicion 
The Mones disposicion 
Upon the lond of Alemaigne
Is set, and ek upon Bretaigne, 
Which nou is cleped Engelond; 
For thei travaile in every lond. 

Of the Planetes the secounde
Above the Mone hath take his bounde, 
Mercurie, and his nature is this, 
That under him who that bore is, 
In boke he schal be studious 
And in wrytinge curious, 
And slouh and lustles to travaile
In thing which elles myhte availe: 
He loveth ese, he loveth reste, 
So is he noght the worthieste; 
Bot yit with somdiel besinesse 
His herte is set upon richesse. 
And as in this condicion, 
Th'effect and disposicion 
Of this Planete and of his chance 
Is most in Burgoigne and in France. 

Next to Mercurie, as wol befalle,
Stant that Planete which men calle 
Venus, whos constellacion 
Governeth al the nacion 
Of lovers, wher thei spiede or non,
Of whiche I trowe thou be on: 
Bot whiderward thin happes wende, 
Schal this planete schewe at ende, 
As it hath do to many mo, 
To some wel, to some wo. 

And natheles of this Planete 
The moste part is softe and swete; 
For who that therof takth his berthe, 
He schal desire joie and merthe, 
Gentil, courteis and debonaire, 
To speke his wordes softe and faire, 
Such schal he be be weie of kinde, 
And overal wher he may finde 
Plesance of love, his herte boweth 
With al his myht and there he woweth. 
He is so ferforth Amourous, 
He not what thing is vicious 
Touchende love, for that lawe 
Ther mai no maner man withdrawe, 
The which venerien is bore 
Be weie of kinde, and therefore 
Venus of love the goddesse 
Is cleped: bot of wantounesse 
The climat of hir lecherie 
Is most commun in Lombardie.

Next unto this Planete of love
The brighte Sonne stant above, 
Which is the hindrere of the nyht 
And forthrere of the daies lyht, 
As he which is the worldes ye, 
Thurgh whom the lusti compaignie 
Of foules be the morwe singe, 
The freisshe floures sprede and springe, 
The hihe tre the ground beschadeth, 
And every mannes herte gladeth. 
And for it is the hed Planete, 
Hou that he sitteth in his sete, 
Of what richesse, of what nobleie, 
These bokes telle, and thus thei seie. 

Of gold glistrende Spoke and whiel 
The Sonne his carte hath faire and wiel, 
In which he sitt, and is coroned 
With brighte stones environed; 
Of whiche if that I speke schal, 
Ther be tofore in special 
Set in the front of his corone 
Thre Stones, whiche no persone 
Hath upon Erthe, and the ferste is 
Be name cleped Licuchis; 
That othre tuo be cleped thus, 
Astrices and Ceramius. 
In his corone also behinde, 
Be olde bokes as I finde, 
Ther ben of worthi Stones thre 
Set ech of hem in his degre: 
Wherof a Cristall is that on, 
Which that corone is set upon; 
The seconde is an Adamant; 
The thridde is noble and avenant, 
Which cleped is Ydriades. 
And over this yit natheles 
Upon the sydes of the werk, 
After the wrytinge of the clerk, 
Ther sitten fyve Stones mo: 
The smaragdine is on of tho, 
Jaspis and Elitropius 
And Dendides and Jacinctus. 
Lo, thus the corone is beset, 
Wherof it schyneth wel the bet; 
And in such wise his liht to sprede 
Sit with his Diademe on hede 
The Sonne schynende in his carte. 

And forto lede him swithe and smarte 
After the bryhte daies lawe, 
Ther ben ordeined forto drawe 
Foure hors his Char and him withal, 
Wherof the names telle I schal: 
Eritheus the ferste is hote, 
The which is red and schyneth hote, 
The seconde Acteos the bryhte, 
Lampes the thridde coursier hihte, 
And Philogeus is the ferthe, 
That bringen lyht unto this erthe, 
And gon so swift upon the hevene, 
In foure and twenty houres evene 
The carte with the bryhte Sonne 
Thei drawe, so that overronne 
Thei have under the cercles hihe 
Al Middelerthe in such an hye. 

And thus the Sonne is overal 
The chief Planete imperial, 
Above him and benethe him thre: 
And thus betwen hem regneth he, 
As he that hath the middel place 
Among the Sevene, and of his face 
Be glade alle erthly creatures, 
And taken after the natures 
Here ese and recreacion. 

And in his constellacion 
Who that is bore in special, 
Of good will and of liberal 
He schal be founde in alle place, 
And also stonde in mochel grace 
Toward the lordes forto serve 
And gret profit and thonk deserve. 
And over that it causeth yit 
A man to be soubtil of wit 
To worche in gold, and to be wys 
In every thing which is of pris. 
Bot forto speken in what cost 
Of al this erthe he regneth most 
As for wisdom, it is in Grece, 
Wher is apropred thilke spiece. 

Mars the Planete bataillous
Next to the Sonne glorious 
Above stant, and doth mervailes 
Upon the fortune of batailes. 
The conquerours be daies olde 
Were unto this planete holde: 
Bot who that his nativite 
Hath take upon the proprete 
Of Martes disposicioun 
Be weie of constellacioun, 
He schal be fiers and folhastif 
And desirous of werre and strif. 
Bot forto telle redely 
In what climat most comunly 
That this planete hath his effect, 
Seid is that he hath his aspect 
Upon the holi lond so cast, 
That there is no pes stedefast. 

Above Mars upon the hevene,
The sexte Planete of the sevene, 
Stant Jupiter the delicat, 
Which causeth pes and no debat. 
For he is cleped that Planete 
Which of his kinde softe and swete 
Attempreth al that to him longeth; 
And whom this planete underfongeth 
To stonde upon his regiment, 
He schal be meke and pacient 
And fortunat to Marchandie
And lusti to delicacie 
In every thing which he schal do. 

This Jupiter is cause also 
Of the science of lyhte werkes, 
And in this wise tellen clerkes 
He is the Planete of delices. 
Bot in Egipte of his offices 
He regneth most in special: 
For ther be lustes overal 
Of al that to this lif befalleth; 
For ther no stormy weder falleth, 
Which myhte grieve man or beste, 
And ek the lond is so honeste 
That it is plentevous and plein, 
Ther is non ydel ground in vein; 
And upon such felicite 
Stant Jupiter in his degre. 

The heyeste and aboven alle
Stant that planete which men calle 
Saturnus, whos complexion 
Is cold, and his condicion 
Causeth malice and crualte 
To him the whos nativite 
Is set under his governance. 
For alle hise werkes ben grevance 
And enemy to mannes hele,
In what degre that he schal dele. 
His climat is in Orient,
Wher that he is most violent. 

Of the Planetes by and by, 
Hou that thei stonde upon the Sky, 
Fro point to point as thou myht hiere, 
Was Alisandre mad to liere. 
Bot overthis touchende his lore, 
Of thing that thei him tawhte more 
Upon the scoles of clergie 
Now herkne the Philosophie. 

He which departeth dai fro nyht,
That on derk and that other lyht, 
Of sevene daies made a weke, 
A Monthe of foure wekes eke 
He hath ordeigned in his lawe, 
Of Monthes tuelve and ek forthdrawe 
He hath also the longe yeer. 
And as he sette of his pouer 
Acordant to the daies sevene 
Planetes Sevene upon the hevene, 
As thou tofore hast herd devise, 
To speke riht in such a wise, 
To every Monthe be himselve 
Upon the hevene of Signes tuelve 
He hath after his Ordinal 
Assigned on in special,
Wherof, so as I schal rehersen, 
The tydes of the yer diversen. 
Bot pleinly forto make it knowe 
Hou that the Signes sitte arowe, 
Ech after other be degre 
In substance and in proprete 
The zodiaque comprehendeth 
Withinne his cercle, as it appendeth. 

The ferste of whiche natheles
Be name is cleped Aries, 
Which lich a wether of stature 
Resembled is in his figure. 
And as it seith in Almageste, 
Of Sterres tuelve upon this beste 
Ben set, wherof in his degre 
The wombe hath tuo, the heved hath thre, 
The Tail hath sevene, and in this wise, 
As thou myht hiere me divise, 
Stant Aries, which hot and drye 
Is of himself, and in partie 
He is the receipte and the hous
Of myhty Mars the bataillous. 
And overmore ek, as I finde, 
The creatour of alle kinde 
Upon this Signe ferst began 
The world, whan that he made man. 
And of this constellacioun 
The verray operacioun 
Availeth, if a man therinne 
The pourpos of his werk beginne; 
For thanne he hath of proprete 
Good sped and gret felicite. 

The tuelve Monthes of the yeer 
Attitled under the pouer 
Of these tuelve Signes stonde; 
Wherof that thou schalt understonde 
This Aries on of the tuelve 
Hath March attitled for himselve,
Whan every bridd schal chese his make, 
And every neddre and every Snake
And every Reptil which mai moeve, 
His myht assaieth forto proeve, 
To crepen out ayein the Sonne, 
Whan Ver his Seson hath begonne. 

Taurus the seconde after this
Of Signes, which figured is 
Unto a Bole, is dreie and cold; 
And as it is in bokes told, 
He is the hous appourtienant
To Venus, somdiel descordant.
This Bole is ek with sterres set, 
Thurgh whiche he hath hise hornes knet 
Unto the tail of Aries, 
So is he noght ther sterreles. 
Upon his brest ek eyhtetiene 
He hath, and ek, as it is sene, 
Upon his tail stonde othre tuo. 
His Monthe assigned ek also 
Is Averil, which of his schoures
Ministreth weie unto the floures. 

The thridde signe is Gemini,
Which is figured redely 
Lich to tuo twinnes of mankinde, 
That naked stonde; and as I finde, 
Thei be with Sterres wel bego: 
The heved hath part of thilke tuo 
That schyne upon the boles tail, 
So be thei bothe of o parail;
But on the wombe of Gemini 
Ben fyve sterres noght forthi, 
And ek upon the feet be tweie, 
So as these olde bokes seie, 
That wise Tholomeus wrot.
His propre Monthe wel I wot 
Assigned is the lusti Maii,
Whanne every brid upon his lay 
Among the griene leves singeth, 
And love of his pointure stingeth 
After the lawes of nature 
The youthe of every creature. 

Cancer after the reule and space
Of Signes halt the ferthe place. 
Like to the crabbe he hath semblance, 
And hath unto his retienance 
Sextiene sterres, wherof ten, 
So as these olde wise men 
Descrive, he berth on him tofore, 
And in the middel tuo be bore, 
And foure he hath upon his ende. 
Thus goth he sterred in his kende,
And of himself is moiste and cold, 
And is the propre hous and hold
Which appartieneth to the Mone,
And doth what longeth him to done. 
The Monthe of Juin unto this Signe
Thou schalt after the reule assigne. 

The fifte Signe is Leo hote,
Whos kinde is schape dreie and hote, 
In whom the Sonne hath herbergage.
And the semblance of his ymage 
Is a leoun, which in baillie 
Of sterres hath his pourpartie:
The foure, which as Cancer hath 
Upon his ende, Leo tath
Upon his heved, and thanne nest
He hath ek foure upon his brest, 
And on upon his tail behinde, 
In olde bokes as we finde. 
His propre Monthe is Juyl be name,
In which men pleien many a game. 

After Leo Virgo the nexte
Of Signes cleped is the sexte, 
Wherof the figure is a Maide; 
And as the Philosophre saide, 
Sche is the welthe and the risinge,
The lust, the joie and the likinge 
Unto Mercurie: and soth to seie 
Sche is with sterres wel beseie, 
Wherof Leo hath lent hire on, 
Which sit on hih hir heved upon, 
Hire wombe hath fyve, hir feet also 
Have other fyve: and overmo 
Touchende as of complexion, 
Be kindly disposicion 
Of dreie and cold this Maiden is. 
And forto tellen over this 
Hir Monthe, thou schalt understonde, 
Whan every feld hath corn in honde 
And many a man his bak hath plied, 
Unto this Signe is Augst applied.

After Virgo to reknen evene
Libra sit in the nombre of sevene, 
Which hath figure and resemblance 
Unto a man which a balance
Berth in his hond as forto weie: 
In boke and as it mai be seie, 
Diverse sterres to him longeth, 
Wherof on hevede he underfongeth
Ferst thre, and ek his wombe hath tuo, 
And doun benethe eighte othre mo. 
This Signe is hot and moiste bothe, 
The whiche thinges be noght lothe 
Unto Venus, so that alofte 
Sche resteth in his hous fulofte,
And ek Saturnus often hyed
Is in this Signe and magnefied. 
His propre Monthe is seid Septembre,
Which yifth men cause to remembre, 
If eny Sor be left behinde 
Of thing which grieve mai to kinde. 

Among the Signes upon heighte
The Signe which is nombred eighte 
Is Scorpio, which as feloun 
Figured is a Scorpioun. 
Bot for al that yit natheles 
Is Scorpio noght sterreles; 
For Libra granteth him his ende 
Of eighte sterres, wher he wende, 
The whiche upon his heved assised 
He berth, and ek ther ben divised 
Upon his wombe sterres thre, 
And eighte upon his tail hath he. 
Which of his kinde is moiste and cold 
And unbehovely manyfold; 
He harmeth Venus and empeireth,
Bot Mars unto his hous repeireth,
Bot war whan thei togedre duellen. 
His propre Monthe is, as men tellen, 
Octobre, which bringth the kalende
Of wynter, that comth next suiende.

The nynthe Signe in nombre also,
Which folweth after Scorpio, 
Is cleped Sagittarius, 
The whos figure is marked thus, 
A Monstre with a bowe on honde: 
On whom that sondri sterres stonde, 
Thilke eighte of whiche I spak tofore, 
The whiche upon the tail ben bore 
Of Scorpio, the heved al faire 
Bespreden of the Sagittaire;
And eighte of othre stonden evene 
Upon his wombe, and othre sevene 
Ther stonde upon his tail behinde. 
And he is hot and dreie of kinde: 
To Jupiter his hous is fre,
Bot to Mercurie in his degre, 
For thei ben noght of on assent, 
He worcheth gret empeirement.
This Signe hath of his proprete 
A Monthe, which of duete 
After the sesoun that befalleth 
The Plowed Oxe in wynter stalleth; 
And fyr into the halle he bringeth, 
And thilke drinke of which men singeth, 
He torneth must into the wyn; 
Thanne is the larder of the swyn; 
That is Novembre which I meene,
Whan that the lef hath lost his greene. 

The tenthe Signe dreie and cold,
The which is Capricornus told, 
Unto a Got hath resemblance: 
For whos love and whos aqueintance 
Withinne hise houses to sojorne 
It liketh wel unto Satorne,
Bot to the Mone it liketh noght,
For no profit is there wroght. 
This Signe as of his proprete 
Upon his heved hath sterres thre, 
And ek upon his wombe tuo, 
And tweie upon his tail also. 
Decembre after the yeeres forme,
So as the bokes ous enforme, 
With daies schorte and nyhtes longe 
This ilke Signe hath underfonge. 

Of tho that sitte upon the hevene
Of Signes in the nombre ellevene 
Aquarius hath take his place, 
And stant wel in Satornes grace, 
Which duelleth in his herbergage,
Bot to the Sonne he doth oultrage.
This Signe is verraily resembled 
Lich to a man which halt assembled
In eyther hand a water spoute, 
Wherof the stremes rennen oute. 
He is of kinde moiste and hot, 
And he that of the sterres wot 
Seith that he hath of sterres tuo 
Upon his heved, and ben of tho 
That Capricorn hath on his ende; 
And as the bokes maken mende,
That Tholomeus made himselve,
He hath ek on his wombe tuelve, 
And tweie upon his ende stonde. 
Thou schalt also this understonde, 
The frosti colde Janever,
Whan comen is the newe yeer, 
That Janus with his double face 
In his chaiere hath take his place 
And loketh upon bothe sides, 
Somdiel toward the wynter tydes, 
Somdiel toward the yeer suiende, 
That is the Monthe belongende 
Unto this Signe, and of his dole 
He yifth the ferste Primerole.

The tuelfthe, which is last of alle
Of Signes, Piscis men it calle, 
The which, as telleth the scripture, 
Berth of tuo fisshes the figure. 
So is he cold and moiste of kinde, 
And ek with sterres, as I finde, 
Beset in sondri wise, as thus: 
Tuo of his ende Aquarius 
Hath lent unto his heved, and tuo 
This Signe hath of his oghne also 
Upon his wombe, and over this 
Upon his ende also ther is 
A nombre of twenty sterres bryghte, 
Which is to sen a wonder sighte. 
Toward this Signe into his hous
Comth Jupiter the glorious, 
And Venus ek with him acordeth
To duellen, as the bok recordeth. 
The Monthe unto this Signe ordeined 
Is Februer, which is bereined,
And with londflodes in his rage
At Fordes letteth the passage.

Nou hast thou herd the proprete 
Of Signes, bot in his degre 
Albumazar yit over this 
Seith, so as therthe parted is 
In foure, riht so ben divised 
The Signes tuelve and stonde assised, 
That ech of hem for his partie 
Hath his climat to justefie.
Wherof the ferste regiment 
Toward the part of Orient 
From Antioche and that contre 
Governed is of Signes thre, 
That is Cancer, Virgo, Leo: 
And toward Occident also 
From Armenie, as I am lerned, 
Of Capricorn it stant governed, 
Of Pisces and Aquarius: 
And after hem I finde thus, 
Southward from Alisandre forth
Tho Signes whiche most ben worth 
In governance of that doaire,
Libra thei ben and Sagittaire 
With Scorpio, which is conjoint
With hem to stonde upon that point: 
Constantinople the Cite, 
So as the bokes tellen me, 
The laste of this division 
Stant untoward Septemtrion,
Wher as be weie of pourveance 
Hath Aries the governance 
Forth with Taurus and Gemini. 

Thus ben the Signes propreli 
Divided, as it is reherced, 
Wherof the londes ben diversed. 
Lo thus, mi Sone, as thou myht hiere, 
Was Alisandre mad to liere 
Of hem that weren for his lore. 

But nou to loken overmore, 
Of othre sterres hou thei fare 
I thenke hierafter to declare, 
So as king Alisandre in youthe 
Of him that suche thinges couthe 
Enformed was tofore his yhe 
Be nyhte upon the sterres hihe. 


As they tell us



regions (earth or sky)

the celestial sphere
from afar

their by themselves

[The Moon]

his = its

completely won


slow without desire


whether they succeed

[The Sun]


[Aries, the Ram]

[The month of March]


[Taurus, the Bull]

[The month of April]

[Cancer, the Crab]


[The month of June]

[The house of the Sun]

[The month of July]

[The house of Mercury]

[The month of August]

receives, has

[The house of Venus and Saturn]

[The month of Spetember]

[Scorpio, the Scorpion]

unless [The house of Mars]

[The month of October]

[Sagittarius, Monstrous Archer]

[Capricorn, the Goat]

[The 'fall' of the Moon]

[The month of December]

[Aquarius, the Aater Bearer]

[The house of Saturn]
[The 'fall' of the Sun]

gathered, taken

[Pisces, the Fish]

[Now follows a section on the fifteen stars, VII.1281-1438, and a section on the authors of the science of Astronomy, VII.1439-92.]

Text adapted from: The English Works of John Gower, ed. G. C. Macaulay, EETS e.s. 81-82. London. 1900-01.