John Gower in Love

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 I, 93-202























Upon the point that is befalle 
Of love, in which that I am falle, 
I thenke telle my matiere: 
Now herkne, who that wol it hiere, 
Of my fortune how that it ferde. 

This enderday, as I forthferde
To walke, as I yow telle may, -- 
And that was in the Monthe of Maii, 
Whan every brid hath chose his make
And thenkth his merthes forto make 
Of love that he hath achieved; 
Bot so was I nothing relieved, 
For I was further fro my love 
Than Erthe is fro the hevene above, 
As forto speke of eny sped:
So wiste I me non other red, 
Bot as it were a man forfare
Unto the wode I gan to fare, 
Noght forto singe with the briddes, 
For whanne I was the wode amiddes, 
I fond a swote grene pleine, 
And ther I gan my wo compleigne 
Wisshinge and wepinge al myn one,
For other merthes made I none. 

So hard me was that ilke throwe,
That ofte sithes overthrowe 
To grounde I was withoute breth; 
And evere I wisshide after deth, 
Whanne I out of my peine awok, 
And caste up many a pitous lok 
Unto the hevene, and seide thus: 
"O thou Cupide, O thou Venus, 
Thou god of love and thou goddesse, 
Wher is pite? wher is meknesse? 
Now doth me pleinly live or dye, 
For certes such a maladie 
As I now have and longe have hadd, 
It myhte make a wisman madd, 

If that it scholde longe endure. 
O Venus, queene of loves cure, 
Thou lif, thou lust, thou mannes hele,
Behold my cause and my querele, 
And yif me som part of thi grace, 
So that I may finde in this place 
If thou be gracious or non." 

And with that word I sawh anon 
The kyng of love and qweene bothe; 
Bot he that kyng with yhen wrothe 
His chiere aweiward fro me caste, 
And forth he passede ate laste. 
Bot natheles er he forth wente 
A firy Dart me thoghte he hente
And threw it thurgh myn herte rote: 
In him fond I non other bote,
For lenger list him noght to duelle. 

Bot sche that is the Source and Welle 
Of wel or wo, that schal betide 
To hem that loven, at that tide 
Abod, bot forto tellen hiere 
Sche cast on me no goodly chiere: 
Thus natheles to me sche seide, 
"What art thou, Sone?" and I abreide
Riht as a man doth out of slep, 
And therof tok sche riht good kep 
And bad me nothing ben adrad: 
Bot for al that I was noght glad, 
For I ne sawh no cause why. 
And eft scheo asketh, what was I: 

I seide, "A Caitif that lith hiere: 
What wolde ye, my Ladi diere? 
Schal I ben hol or elles dye?" 

Sche seide, "Tell thi maladie: 
What is thi Sor of which thou pleignest? 
Ne hyd it noght, for if thou feignest, 
I can do the no medicine." 

"Ma dame, I am a man of thyne, 
That in thi Court have longe served, 
And aske that I have deserved, 
Some wele after my longe wo."

And sche began to loure tho, 
And seide, "Ther is manye of yow 
Faitours, and so may be that thow
Art riht such on, and be feintise
Seist that thou hast me do servise." 
And natheles sche wiste wel, 
Mi world stod on an other whiel 
Withouten eny faiterie:
Bot algate of my maladie 
Sche bad me telle and seie hir trowthe. 

"Ma dame, if ye wolde have rowthe," 
Quod I, "than wolde I telle yow." 

"Sey forth," quod sche, "and tell me how; 
Schew me thi seknesse everydiel." 

"Ma dame, that can I do wel, 
Be so my lif therto wol laste." 

With that hir lok on me sche caste, 
And seide: "In aunter if thou live,
Mi will is ferst that thou be schrive; 
And natheles how that it is 
I wot miself, bot for al this 
Unto my prest, which comth anon, 
I woll thou telle it on and on,
Bothe all thi thoght and al thi werk. 

"O Genius myn oghne Clerk, 
Com forth and hier this mannes schrifte," 
Quod Venus tho; and I uplifte 
Min hefd with that, and gan beholde 
The selve Prest, which as sche wolde 
Was redy there and sette him doun 
To hiere my confessioun. 

other day fared forth



gone wrong

all by myself

that same time

health, salvation



started, moved suddenly

good, happiness

pretense, trickery

pretense, trickery

if by chance

every bit


In what follows, Genius, Love's priest, questions Gower about his sins (against love, at least at the beginning) and instructs him by telling illustrative stores, exempla of the various sins and their remedies. As the work progresses, the concern develops from courtly love to matters of morals, politics, and religion.

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