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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.


By John Gower (1325?–1408)

From the ‘Confessio Amantis’

A KING whilom was yonge and wise,

The which set of his wit great prise.

Of depe ymaginations

And straunge interpretations,

Problemes and demaundès eke

His wisedom was to finde and seke;

Wherof he wolde in sondry wise

Opposen hem that weren wise.

But none of hem it mightè bere

Upon his word to yive answére;

Out taken one, which was a knight:

To him was every thing so light,

That also sone as he hem herde

The kingès wordès he answerde,

What thing the king him axè wolde,

Whereof anone the trouth he tolde.

The king somdele had an envie,

And thought he wolde his wittès plie

To setè some conclusion,

Which shuldè be confusion

Unto this knight, so that the name

And of wisdom the highè fame

Towárd him selfe he woldè winne.

And thus of all his wit withinne

This king began to studie and muse

What straungè matér he might use

The knightès wittès to confounde;

And atè last he hath it founde,

And for the knight anon he sente,

That he shall tellè what he mente.

Upon three points stood the matére,

Of questions as thou shaltè here.

The firstè pointè of all thre

Was this: what thing in his degre

Of all this world hath nedè lest,

And yet men helpe it allthermest.

The second is: what moste is worth

And of costáge is lest put forth.

The thrid is: which is of most cost,

And lest is worth, and goth to lost.

The king these thre demaundès axeth.

To the knight this law he taxeth:

That he shall gone, and comen ayein

The thriddè weke, and tell him pleine

To every point, what it amounteth.

And if so be that he miscounteth

To make in his answére a faile,

There shall none other thinge availe,

The king saith, but he shall be dede

And lese his goodès and his hede.

This knight was sory of this thinge,

And wolde excuse him to the kinge;

But he ne wolde him nought forbere,

And thus the knight of his answére

Goth home to take avisement.

But after his entendement

The more he cast his wit about,

The more he stant thereof in doubte.

Tho wist he well the kingès herte,

That he the deth ne shulde asterte,

And suche a sorroe to him hath take

That gladship he hath all forsake.

He thought first upon his life,

And after that upon his wife,

Upon his children eke also,

Of whichè he had doughteres two.

The yongest of hem had of age

Fourtene yere, and of visage

She was right faire, and of stature

Lich to an hevenlich figure,

And of manér and goodly speche,

Though men wolde all landès seche,

They shulden nought have founde her like.

She sigh her fader sorroe and sike,

And wist nought the causè why,

So cam she to him prively,

And that was wher he made his mone

Within a gardin all him one.

Upon her knees she gan down falle

With humble herte, and to him calle

And saidè:—“O good fader dere,

Why makè ye thus hevy chere,

And I wot nothinge how it is?

And well ye knowè, fader, this,

What ádventurè that you felle

Ye might it saufly to me telle;

For I have oftè herd you saide,

That ye such truste have on me laide,

That to my suster ne to my brother

In all this worlde ne to none other

Ye durstè telle a privete

So well, my fader, as to me.

Forthy, my fader, I you praie

Ne casteth nought that hert awaie,

For I am she that woldè kepe

Your honour.” And with that to wepe

Her eye may nought be forbore;

She wisheth for to ben unbore,

Er that her fader so mistriste

To tellen her of that he wiste.

And ever among mercy she cride,

That he ne shulde his counseil hide

From her, that so wolde him good

And was so nigh flesshe and blood.

So that with weping, atè laste

His chere upon his childe he caste,

And sorroefully to that she praide

He tolde his tale, and thus he saide:—

“The sorroe, doughter, which I make

Is nought all only for my sake,

But for the bothe and for you alle.

For suche a chaunce is me befalle,

That I shall er this thriddè day

Lese all that ever I lesè may,

My life and all my good therto.

Therefore it is I sorroe so.”

“What is the cause, alas,” quod she,

“My fader, that ye shulden be

Dede and destruied in suche a wise?”

And he began the points devise,

Which as the king tolde him by mouthe,

And said her pleinly, that he couthe

Answeren to no point of this.

And she, that hereth howe it is,

Her counseil yaf and saide tho:—

“My fader, sithen it is so,

That ye can se none other weie,

But that ye must nedès deie,

I wolde pray you of o thinge,—

Let me go with you to the kinge,

And ye shall make him understonde,

How ye, my wittès for to fonde,

Have laid your answere upon me,

And telleth him in such degre

Upon my worde ye wol abide

To life or deth, what so betide.

For yet perchaunce I may purchace

With some good word the kingès grace,

Your life and eke your good to save.

For oftè shall a woman have

Thing, whiche a man may nought areche.”

The fader herd his doughters speche,

And thought there was no reson in,

And sigh his ownè life to winne

He couthè done himself no cure.

So better him thought in àventure

To put his life and all his good,

Than in the manner as it stood,

His life incertein for to lese.

And thus thenkend he gan to chese

To do the counseil of this maid,

And toke the purpose which she said.

The day was comen, and forth they gone;

Unto the court they come anone,

Where as the kinge in his jugement

Was set and hath this knight assent.

Arraièd in her bestè wise,

This maiden with her wordès wise

Her fader leddè by the honde

Into the place, where he fonde

The king with other which he wolde;

And to the king knelend he tolde

As he enformèd was to-fore,

And praith the king, that he therfore

His doughters wordès woldè take;

And saith, that he woll undertake

Upon her wordès for to stonde.

Tho was ther great merveile on honde,

That he, which was so wise a knight,

His life upon so yonge a wight

Besettè wolde in jeopartie,

And many it helden for folie.

But at the lastè, netheles,

The king commaundeth ben in pees,

And to this maide he cast his chere,

And saide he wolde her talè here,

And bad her speke; and she began:—

“My legè lord, so as I can,”

Quod she, “the pointès which I herde,

They shull of reson ben answerde.

The first I understonde is this:

What thinge of all the worlde it is,

Which men most helpe and hath lest nede.

My legè lord, this wolde I rede:

The erthe it is, which evermo

With mannès labour is bego

As well in winter as in maie.

The mannès honde doth what he may

To helpe it forth and make it riche,

And forthy men it delve and diche,

And even it with strength of plough,

Wher it hath of him self inough

So that his nede is atè leste.

For every man, birdè, and beste

Of flour and gras and roote and rinde

And every thing by way of kinde

Shall sterve, and erthe it shall become

As it was out of erthè nome,

It shall be therthe torne ayein.

And thus I may by reson sein

That erthè is the most nedeles

And most men helpe it netheles;

So that, my lord, touchend of this

I have answerde how that it is.

That other point I understood,

Which most is worth, and most is good,

And costeth lest a man to kepe:

My lorde, if ye woll takè kepe,

I say it is humilitè,

Through whichè the high Trinitè

As for desertè of pure love

Unto Mariè from above,

Of that he knewe her humble entente,

His ownè Sone adown he sente

Above all other, and her he chese

For that vertu, which bodeth pees.

So that I may by reson calle

Humilitè most worthe of alle,

And lest it costeth to mainteine

In all the worlde, as it is seine.

For who that hath humblesse on honde,

He bringeth no werres into londe,

For he desireth for the best

To setten every man in reste.

Thus with your highè reverence

Me thenketh that this evidence

As to this point is suffisaunt.

And touchend of the remenaunt,

Which is the thridde of your axinges,

What lest is worth of allè thinges,

And costeth most, I telle it pride,

Which may nought in the heven abide.

For Lucifer with hem that felle

Bar pridè with him into helle.

There was pride of to grete cost

Whan he for pride hath heven lost;

And after that in Paradise

Adam for pridè lost his prise

In middel-erth. And eke also

Pride is the cause of allè wo,

That all the world ne may suffice

To staunche of pridè the reprise.

Pride is the heved of all sinne,

Which wasteth all and may nought winne;

Pride is of every mis the pricke;

Pride is the worstè of all wicke,

And costeth most and lest is worth

In placè where he hath his forth.

Thus have I said that I woll say

Of min answére, and to you pray,

My legè lorde, of your office,

That ye such grace and suche justice

Ordeignè for my fader here,

That after this, whan men it here,

The world therof may spekè good.”

The king, which reson understood,

And hath all herde how she hath said,

Was inly glad, and so well paid,

That all his wrath is over go.

And he began to lokè tho

Upon this maiden in the face,

In which he found so mochel grace,

That all his prise on her he laide

In audience, and thus he saide:—

“My fairè maidè, well the be

Of thin answére, and eke of the

Me liketh well, and as thou wilte,

Foryivè be thy faders gilte.

And if thou were of such lignage,

That thou to me were of parage,

And that thy fader were a pere,

As he is now a bachelere,

So siker as I have a life,

Thou sholdest thannè be my wife.

But this I saiè netheles,

That I woll shapè thin encrese;

What worldès good that thou wolt crave

Are of my yift, and thou shalt have.”

And she the king with wordès wise,

Knelende, thanketh in this wise:—

“My legè lord, god mot you quite.

My fader here hath but a lite

Of warison, and that he wende

Had all be lost, but now amende

He may well through you noble grace.”

With that the king right in his place

Anon forth in that freshè hete

An erldome, which than of eschete

Was latè falle into his honde,

Unto this knight with rent and londe

Hath yove, and with his chartre sesed,

And thus was all the noise appesed.

This maiden, which sate on her knees

To-fore the kingès charitees,

Commendeth and saith evermore:—

“My legè lord, right now to-fore

Ye saide, and it is of recorde,

That if my fader were a lorde

And pere unto these other grete,

Ye wolden for nought ellès lette,

That I ne sholdè be your wife.

And thus wote every worthy life

A kingès worde mot nede be holde.

Forthy my lord, if that ye wolde

So great a charitè fulfille,

God wotè it were well my wille.

For he which was a bachelere,

My fader, is now made a pere;

So whan as ever that I cam,

An erlès doughter nowe I am.”

This yongè king, which peisèd all

Her beautè and her wit withall,

As he, which was with lovè hente,

Anone therto gaf his assente.

He might nought the place asterte,

That she nis lady of his herte.

So that he toke her to his wife

To holdè, while that he hath life.

And thus the king towárd his knight

Accordeth him, as it is right.

And over this good is to wite

In the cronique as it is write,

This noble kinge, of whom I tolde,

Of Spainè by tho daiès olde

The kingdom had in governaunce,

And as the boke maketh remembraunce,

Alphonsè was his propre name.

The knight also, if I shall name,

Danz Petro hight, and as men telle,

His doughter wisè Petronelle

Was clepèd, which was full of grace.

And that was sene in thilkè place,

Where she her fader out of tene

Hath brought and made her selfe a quene,

Of that she hath so well desclosed

The points whereof she was opposed.