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Chaucerian and Other Pieces/Piece4

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IV. JOHN GOWER

UNTO THE WORTHY AND NOBLE KINGE HENRY THE FOURTH.

O noble worthy king, Henry the ferthe,
In whom the gladde fortune is befalle
The people to governe here upon erthe,
God hath thee chose, in comfort of us alle;
The worship of this land, which was doun falle,       5
Now stant upright, through grace of thy goodnesse,
Which every man is holde for to blesse.

The highe god, of his justyce alone,
The right which longeth to thy regalye
Declared hath to stande in thy persone;       10
And more than god may no man justifye.
Thy title is knowe upon thyn auncestrye;
The londes folk hath eek thy right affermed;
So stant thy regne, of god and man confermed.

Ther is no man may saye in other wyse       15
That god him-self ne hath the right declared;
Wherof the land is boun to thy servyse,
Which for defaute of helpe hath longe cared.
But now ther is no mannes herte spared
To love and serve, and worche thy plesaunce;       20
And al this is through goddes purveyaunce.
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In alle thing which is of god begonne
Ther foloweth grace, if it be wel governed;
Thus tellen they whiche olde bokes conne,
Wherof, my lord, I wot wel thou art lerned.       25
Aske of thy god; so shalt thou nat be werned
Of no request [the] whiche is resonable;
For god unto the goode is favorable.

King Salomon, which hadde at his askinge
Of god, what thing him was levest to crave,       30
He chees wysdom unto the governinge
Of goddes folk, the whiche he wolde save;
And as he chees, it fil him for to have;
For through his wit, whyl that his regne laste,
He gat him pees and reste, unto the laste.       35

But Alisaundre, as telleth his historie,
Unto the god besoughte in other weye,
Of al the worlde to winne the victorie,
So that under his swerde it might[e] obeye;
In werre he hadde al that he wolde preye.       40
The mighty god behight[e] him that behest;
The world he wan, and hadde it of conquest.

But though it fil at thilke tyme so,
That Alisaundre his asking hath acheved,
This sinful world was al[le] payën tho;       45
Was noon whiche hath the highe god beleved;
No wonder was, though thilke world was greved.
Though a tyraunt his purpos mighte winne,
Al was vengeaunce, and infortune of sinne.

But now the faith of Crist is come a-place       50
Among the princes in this erthe here,
It sit hem wel to do pitè and grace,
But yet it mot be tempred in manere.
For as they fynden cause in the matere
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Upon the poynt, what afterward betyde,       55
The lawe of right shal nat be layd a-syde.

So may a king of werre the viage
Ordayne and take, as he therto is holde,
To clayme and aske his rightful heritage
In alle places wher it is with-holde.       60
But other-wyse, if god him-selve wolde
Afferme love and pees bitween the kinges,
Pees is the beste, above alle erthly thinges.

Good is t'eschewe werre, and nathelees
A king may make werre upon his right;       65
For of bataile the fynal ende is pees;
Thus stant the lawe, that a worthy knight
Upon his trouthe may go to the fight.
But-if so were that he mighte chese,
Betre is the pees of which may no man lese.       70

To stere pees oughte every man on-lyve,
First, for to sette his liege lord in reste,
And eek these othre men, that they ne stryve;
For so this land may standen atte beste.
What king that wolde be the worthieste,       75
The more he mighte our deedly werre cese,
The more he shulde his worthinesse encrese.

Pees is the cheef of al the worldes welthe,
And to the heven it ledeth eek the way;
Pees is of soule and lyfe the mannes helthe       80
Of pestilence, and doth the werre away.
My liege lord, tak hede of that I say,
If werre may be left, tak pees on honde,
Which may nat be withoute goddes sonde.

With pees stant every crëature in reste,       85
Withoute pees ther may no lyf be glad;
Above al other good, pees is the beste;
Pees hath him-self, whan werre is al bestad;
The pees is sauf, the werre is ever adrad.
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Pees is of al[le] charitè the keye,       90
Whiche hath the lyf and soule for to weye.

My liege lord, if that thee list to seche
The sothe ensamples, what the werre hath wrought,
Thou shalt wel here, of wyse mennes speche,
That deedly werre tourneth in-to nought.       95
For if these olde bokes be wel sought,
Ther might thou see what thing the werre hath do
Bothe of conquest and conquerour also.

For vayne honóur, or for the worldes good,
They that whylom the stronge werres made,       100
Wher be they now? Bethink wel, in thy mood,
The day is goon, the night is derke and fade;
Hir crueltè, which made hem thanne glade,
They sorowen now, and yet have naught the more;
The blood is shad, which no man may restore.       105

The werre is moder of the wronges alle;
It sleeth the preest in holy chirche at masse,
Forlyth the mayde, and doth her flour to falle.
The werre maketh the grete citee lasse,
And doth the lawe his reules overpasse.       110
Ther is nothing, wherof mescheef may growe
Whiche is not caused of the werre, I trowe.

The werre bringth in póverte at his heles,
Wherof the comun people is sore greved;
The werre hath set his cart on thilke wheles       115
Wher that fortune may not be beleved.
For whan men wene best to have acheved,
Ful ofte it is al newe to beginne;
The werre hath nothing siker, thogh he winne.

For-thy, my worthy prince, in Cristes halve,       120
As for a part whos fayth thou hast to gyde,
Ley to this olde sore a newe salve,
And do the werre away, what-so betyde.
Purchace pees, and sette it by thy syde,
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And suffre nat thy people be devoured;       125
So shal thy name ever after stande honóured!

If any man be now, or ever was
Ayein the pees thy prevy counsaylour,
Let god be of thy counsayl in this cas,
And put away the cruel werreyour.       130
For god, whiche is of man the creatour,
He wolde not men slowe his crëature
Withoute cause of deedly forfayture.

Wher nedeth most, behoveth most to loke;
My lord, how so thy werres be withoute,       135
Of tyme passed who that hede toke,
Good were at home to see right wel aboute;
For evermore the worste is for to doute.
But, if thou mightest parfit pees attayne,
Ther shulde be no cause for to playne.       140

Aboute a king, good counsayl is to preyse
Above al othre thinges most vailable;
But yet a king within him-self shal peyse
And seen the thinges that be resonable.
And ther-upon he shal his wittes stable       145
Among the men to sette pees in evene,
For love of him whiche is the king of hevene.

A! wel is him that shedde never blood
But-if it were in cause of rightwysnesse!
For if a king the peril understood       150
What is to slee the people, thanne, I gesse,
The deedly werres and the hevinesse
Wher-of the pees distourbed is ful ofte,
Shulde at som tyme cesse and wexe softe.

O king! fulfilled of grace and of knighthode,       155
Remembre upon this poynt, for Cristes sake;
If pees be profred unto thy manhode,
Thyn honour sauf, let it nat be forsake!
Though thou the werres darst wel undertake,
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After resoun yet temper thy corage;       160
For lyk to pees ther is non avauntage.

My worthy lord, thenk wel, how-so befalle
Of thilke lore, as holy bokes sayn;
Crist is the heed, and we be membres alle,
As wel the subject as the soverayn.       165
So sit it wel, that charitè be playn,
Whiche unto god him-selve most accordeth,
So as the lore of Cristes word recordeth.

In th'olde lawe, or Crist him-self was bore,
Among the ten comaundëments, I rede,       170
How that manslaughter shulde be forbore;
Such was the wil, that tyme, of the godhede.
But afterward, whan Crist took his manhede,
Pees was the firste thing he leet do crye
Ayenst the worldes rancour and envye.       175

And, or Crist wente out of this erthe here,
And stigh to heven, he made his testament,
Wher he bequath to his disciples there
And yaf his pees, which is the foundement
Of charitè, withouten whos assent       180
The worldes pees may never wel be tryed,
Ne lovë kept, ne lawë justifyed.

The Jewes with the payens hadden werre,
But they among hem-self stode ever in pees;
Why shulde than our pees stonde out of herre,       185
Which Crist hath chose unto his owne encrees?
For Crist is more than was Moÿses;
And Crist hath set the parfit of the lawe,
The whiche shulde in no wyse be withdrawe.

To yeve us pees was causë why Crist dyde,       190
Withoute pees may nothing stonde avayled;
But now a man may see on every syde
How Cristes fayth is every day assayled,
With the payens distroyed, and so batayled
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That, for defaute of helpe and of defence,       195
Unneth hath Crist his dewe reverence.

The righte fayth to kepe of holy chirche
The firste poynt is named of knighthode;
And every man is holde for to wirche
Upon the poynt that stant to his manhode.       200
But now, alas! the fame is spred so brode
That every man this thing [alday] complayneth;
And yet is ther no man that help ordayneth.

The worldes cause is wayted over-al;
Ther be the werres redy, to the fulle;       205
But Cristes owne cause in special,
Ther ben the swerdes and the speres dulle.
And with the sentence of the popes bulle
As for to doon the folk payën obeye,
The chirche is tourned al another weye.       210

It is wonder, above any mannes wit,
Withoute werre how Cristes fayth was wonne;
And we that been upon this erthë yit
Ne kepe it nat as it was first begonne.
To every crëature under the sonne       215
Crist bad him-self, how that we shulde preche,
And to the folke his evangely teche.

More light it is to kepe than to make;
But that we founden mad to-fore the hond
We kepe nat, but lete it lightly slake;       220
The pees of Crist hath al to-broke his bond.
We reste our-self, and suffren every lond
To slee eche other as thing undefended;
So stant the werre, and pees is nat amended.

But though the heed of holy chirche above       225
Ne do nat al his hole businesse
Among the men to sette pees and love,
These kinges oughten, of hir rightwysnesse,
Hir owne cause among hem-self redresse.
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Thogh Peters ship, as now, hath lost his stere,       230
It lyth in hem that barge for to stere.

If holy chirche after the dewetè
Of Cristes word ne be nat al avysed
To make pees, accord, and unitè
Among the kinges that be now devysed,       235
Yet, natheles, the lawë stant assysed
Of mannes wit, to be so resonable
Withoute that to stande hem-selve stable.

Of holy chirche we ben children alle,
And every child is holde for to bowe       240
Unto the moder, how that ever it falle,
Or elles he mot reson disalowe.
And, for that cause, a knight shal first avowe
The right of holy chirche to defende,
That no man shal the privilege offende.       245

Thus were it good to setten al in evene
The worldes princes and the prelats bothe,
For love of him whiche is the king of hevene;
And if men shulde algate wexen wrothe,
The Sarazins, whiche unto Crist ben lothe,       250
Let men be armed ayenst hem to fighte,
So may the knight his dede of armes righte.

Upon three poynts stant Cristes pees oppressed;
First, holy chirche is in her-self devyded;
Which oughte, of reson, first to be redressed;       255
But yet so high a cause is nat decyded.
And thus, whan humble pacience is pryded,
The remenaunt, which that they shulde reule,
No wonder is, though it stande out of reule.

Of that the heed is syk, the limmes aken;       260
These regnes, that to Cristes pees belongen,
For worldes good, these deedly werres maken,
Which helpelees, as in balaunce, hongen.
The heed above hem hath nat underfongen
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To sette pees, but every man sleeth other;       265
And in this wyse hath charitè no brother.

The two defautes bringen in the thridde
Of miscreants, that seen how we debate;
Between the two, they fallen in a-midde
Wher now al-day they fynde an open gate.       270
Lo! thus the deedly werre stant al-gate.
But ever I hopë of king Henries grace,
That he it is which shal the pees embrace.

My worthy noble prince, and king anoynt,
Whom god hath, of his grace, so preserved,       275
Behold and see the world upon this poynt,
As for thy part, that Cristes pees be served.
So shal thy highe mede be reserved
To him, whiche al shal quyten atte laste;
For this lyf herë may no whyle laste.       280

See Alisandre, Hector, and Julius,
See Machabeus, David, and Josuë,
See Charlemayne, Godfray, and Arthus
Fulfild of werre and of mortalitee!
Hir fame abit, but al is vanitee;       285
For deth, whiche hath the werres under fote,
Hath mad an ende, of which ther is no bote.

So may a man the sothe wite and knowe,
That pees is good for every king to have;
The fortune of the werre is ever unknowe,       290
But wher pees is, ther ben the marches save.
That now is up, to-morwe is under grave.
The mighty god hath alle grace in honde;
Withouten him, men may nat longe stonde.

Of the tenetz to winne or lese a chace       295
May no lyf wite, or that the bal be ronne;
Al stant in god, what thing men shal purchace:
Th'ende is in him, or that it be begonne;
Men sayn, the wolle, whan it is wel sponne,
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Doth that the cloth is strong and profitable,       300
And elles it may never be durable.

The worldes chaunces upon aventure
Ben ever set; but thilke chaunce of pees
Is so behovely to the crëature
That it above al other is peerlees.       305
But it may nat †be gete, nathelees,
Among the men to lasten any whyle,
But wher the herte is playn, withoute gyle.

The pees is as it were a sacrament
To-fore the god, and shal with wordes playne       310
Withouten any double entendëment
Be treted; for the trouthe can nat feyne.
But if the men within hem-self be vayne,
The substaunce of the pees may nat be trewe,
But every day it chaungeth upon newe.       315

But who that is of charitè parfyte,
He voydeth alle sleightes fer aweye,
And set his word upon the same plyte
Wher that his herte hath founde a siker weye;
And thus, whan conscience is trewly weye,       320
And that the pees be handled with the wyse,
It shal abyde and stande, in alle wyse.

Th'apostel sayth, ther may no lyf be good
Whiche is nat grounded upon charitè;
For charitè ne shedde never blood.       325
So hath the werre, as ther, no propertè;
For thilke vertue which is sayd 'pitè'
With charitè so ferforth is acquaynted
That in her may no fals sembla[u]nt be paynted.

Cassodore, whos wryting is authorysed       330
Sayth: 'wher that pitè regneth, ther is grace';
Through which the pees hath al his welthe assysed,
So that of werre he dredeth no manace.
Wher pitè dwelleth, in the same place
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Ther may no deedly crueltè sojourne       335
Wherof that mercy shulde his wey[e] tourne.

To see what pitè, forth with mercy, doth,
The cronique is at Rome, in thilke empyre
Of Constantyn, which is a tale soth,
Whan him was lever his owne deth desyre       340
Than do the yonge children to martyre.
Of crueltee he lefte the quarele;
Pitè he wroughte, and pitè was his hele.

For thilke mannes pitè which he dede
God was pitous, and made him hool at al;       345
Silvester cam, and in the same stede
Yaf him baptyme first in special,
Which dide away the sinne original,
And al his lepre it hath so purifyed,
That his pitè for ever is magnifyed.       350

Pitè was cause why this emperour
Was hool in body and in soule bothe;
And Rome also was set in thilke honour
Of Cristes fayth, so that the leve, of lothe
Whiche hadden be with Crist tofore wrothe,       355
Receyved werë unto Cristes lore.
Thus shal pitè be praysed evermore.

My worthy liege lord, Henry by name,
Which Engëlond hast to governe and righte,
Men oughten wel thy pitè to proclame,       360
Which openliche, in al the worldes sighte,
Is shewed, with the helpe of god almighte,
To yeve us pees, which long hath be debated,
Wherof thy prys shal never be abated.

My lord, in whom hath ever yet be founde       365
Pitè, withoute spotte of violence,
Keep thilke pees alway, withinne bounde,
Which god hath planted in thy conscience.
So shal the cronique of thy pacience
Among the saynts be take in-to memórie       370
To the loënge of perdurable glorie.
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And to thyn erthely prys, so as I can,
Whiche every man is holde to commende,
I Gower, which am al thy liege man,
This lettre unto thyn excellence I sende,       375
As I, whiche ever unto my lyves ende
Wol praye for the stat of thy persone,
In worshipe of thy sceptre and of thy trone.

Nat only to my king of pees I wryte,
But to these othre princes Cristen alle,       380
That eche of hem his owne herte endyte
And cese the werre, or more mescheef falle.
Set eek the rightful pope upon his stalle;
Keep charitè, and draw pitè to honde,
Maynteyne lawe; and so the pees shal stonde.       385


Explicit carmen de pacis commendacione, quod ad laudem
et memoriam serenissimi principis domini Regis Henrici
quarti, suus humilis orator Johannes Gower composuit.

Electus Christi,pie rex Henrice, fuisti,
Qui bene venisti,cum propria regna petisti;
Tu mala vicisti-que bonis bona restituisti,
Et populo tristinova gaudia contribuisti.

Est mihi spes lata,quod adhuc per te renovata       390
Succedent fataveteri probitate beata;
Est tibi nam gratagratia sponte data.

Henrici quarti primus regni fuit annus
Quo mihi defecit visus ad acta mea.
Omnia tempus habent, finem natura ministrat,       395
Quem virtute sua frangere nemo potest.
Ultra posse nihil, quamvis mihi velle remansit,
Amplius ut scribam non mihi posse manet.
Dum potui, scripsi, sed nunc quia curua senectus
Turbauit sensus, scripta relinquo scolis.       400
Scribat qui veniet post me discretior alter,
Ammodo namque manus et mea penna silent.
Hoc tamen in fine verborum queso meorum,
Prospera quod statuat regna futura deus.

Explicit.


From Th. (Thynne, ed. 1532.); corrected by T. (Trentham MS.) I give the rejected spellings of Th. (Thynne), except where they are corrected by the MS.

1. T. worthi noble. 3. T. om. here. 4. Both the. T. chose; Th. chosen. 9. T. regalie; Th. regaly. 11. T. iustifie; Th. iustify. 12. T. ancestrie; Th. auncestry. 17. T. boun; Th. bounde. 20. T. wirche.

26. T. Axe; Th. Aske. 27. T. reqwest; Th. request. (Perhaps read—Of no request the whiche is resonable.) 29. T. axinge; Th. askyng. 30. Th. om. to. 31. T. ches; Th. chase. Th. om. the. 33. T. ches; Th. chase. 35. T. gat; Th. gate. T. pes; Th. peace. So T.; Th. in-to his last. 36. T. histoire; Th. storie. 39. T. might; Th. myght. 41. Both behight. T. beheste. 42. Th. om. he. Both had. T. conqweste. 44. T. axinge. T. achieued; Th. atcheued. 45. Both al. T. paiene; Th. paynem. 46. T. belieued. 47. T. grieued. 48. T. mihte; Th. might. 50. T. feith; Th. faithe. 53. T. mot; Th. must. 54. Th. om. as.

56. T. leid; Th. layde. 57. T. viage: Th. voyage. 59. T. axe. 61. T. silve; Th. selfe. 62, 63. T. pes; Th. peace. 70. T. Betre; Th. Better. 71. Both peace. T. euery man; Th. eueriche. T. alyue. 74. Th. lande; T. world. 76. T. cesse; Th. cease. 77. T. encresse; Th. encrease. 78. T. chief; Th. chefe. 79, 81, 82. T. weie, aweie, seie. 83. Both lefte.

90. Both al. 92. Both the. 93. T. that; Th. what. 96. T. soght; Th. ysought. 97. Both se. 98. T. conqueste. 101. T. bethenk. 102. Both gone. 103. Both Her. 108. T. om. doth; Th. dothe. 110. Both dothe. T. reules; Th. rules. 111. T. meschef; Th. myschefe. 113. T. bringth; Th. bringeth. 114. T. comon; Th. commen. 121. T. to; Th. be.

129. T. Lete; Th. Lette. 130. Th. crewel warryour. 132. Th. slough. 136. T. than; Th. that. 137. Both se. 146. T. euene; Th. euyn. 147. T. heuene; Th. heuyn. 148. T. Ha. 153. Th. om. the. 155. Th. om. 2nd of.

160. T. reson; Th. reason. 162. T. thenke; Th. thynke. 165. T. the subiit; Th. be subiecte. 169. T. er. 173. T. aftirwards; Th. afterwarde. 174. T. let; Th. lette. 176. T. er. 177. Th. styghed. 183. T. paiens; Th. paynyms. 185. Th. erre (!). 192. T. sen; Th. se. 194. Th. paynems. T. destruied.

200. Th. that; T. which. 201. T. helas; T. sprad. 202. I supply alday. 203. Th. that; T. which. 209. T. do; Th. done. T. paien; Th. payne (for payen). 211. T. to wonder; Th. wonder. For any read a? 216. Th. om. how. 217. T. euangile. 219. Both made. Th. om. the. 222. Th. selfe; T. selue. 227. T. men; Th. people.

231. Th. the (for that). 232. Th. dewte; T. duete. 238. T. hem-selue; Th. him-selfe. 242. Th. must. 246. T. om. good. T. euene; Th. euyn. 248. T. heuene; Th. heuyn. 253. Both thre. 254. Th. om. is. 256. Both highe. 260. T. sick; Th. sicke. 263. Th. helplesse; T. heliples.

269. Both Betwene. 274. T. enoignt. 276. Both Beholde; se. 278. Th. deserved (!). 280. Both lyfe. 281. T. Ector. 282. T. Machabeu. 283. T. Godefroi Arthus. 287. Both made. 288. T. mai; Th. many (!). 289. T. man (for king). 291. Th. is (for ben). 292. T. om. up. 295. T. tenetz; Th. tennes. 296, 298. T. er (for or).

305. Th. is (for it). Th. om. is. T. piereles; Th. peerles. 306. Both begete; read be gete. 316. T. perfit. 318. T. plit. 321. Th. these (for the pees). Th. ben. 326. T. proprite. 329. Both semblant. 330. T. Cassodre. Both writinge. T. auctorized. 331. Th. om. ther.

336. T. wei; Th. way. 337. Both se. 342. T. crualte; Th. creweltie. 347. T. baptisme. 359. Th. England. 370. T. seintz; Th. sayntes. T. memoire; Th. memory. 371. T. loenge; Th. legende (!). T. gloire; Th. glory.

378. Th. om. 2nd of. Both throne. 382. T. sese (for cese); Th. se (!). T. er (for or). T. meschiefe; Th. myschefe. 383. Both Sette. 384. T. draugh. 385. T. Maintene; Th. Maynteyn. 399. Th. curua; T. torua.