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Confessio Amantis Translations

Page history last edited by Emily 2 years, 7 months ago











Of those that have written before us

The books remain, and we therefore

Have been taught of what was written then:

Therefore it is good that we also

In our time among us here

Do write of some new material,

From the example of these old books

So that it might be in such a manner, 












Present fortune the old blessed time

            Forsakes, and turns round ancient manners on her wheel.

Harmonious love begat aged peace,

            While human’s shape was their mind’s messenger:

With laws of the same kind then time’s light shone,

            Then certain were the paths of justice.

And now lurking hatred love’s face portrays,

            And time under false peace covers for armies;

And out of diverse changeable images like chameleons

            Law carries on, and new laws are to kingdoms new:

Regions undivided and thus through the world

            Release, nor go to have quiet centers.



  [From Latin in the right margin] 

The first shows, how out of respect for his prince King Richard Angelie the whole, his Humble Johannes Gower, although he is twice weary from various illnesses, had small labors to undertake and not refuse, but as the honeycomb from the various flowers collects the present book from various chronicles, histories, poetrys, and philosophies, despite his poor health he diligently compiled [the book]. 


[The State]

Back in time memorial

The world stood in all its wealth:

People were healthy,
It was a time of plenty and riches

And a high time for virtue.

The world's prosperity is chronicled by past writings. 

Justice of the law was upheld,
The privilege of royalty
Was safe, and all the barons
Honored their estates;

The cities knew no debate,
The people stood in obedience
Under the rule of government,

And peace, which righteousness kissed,
With charity stood reassured.

The courage of man's heart

Was shown in the countenance,

Without the semblance of deceit.

There was unenvied loved,
There the truth was set above

And vice was put under foot.

Now the crop stands upside down.

The world is changed now,

And particularly,

Love has fallen into discord. 


And that I take to record

Of every land, from his part,

The voice of the people, which may not lie;

Not upon one, but upon all

What men now make appeal,

And see the kingdom has been divided,

Guided by hate instead of love,

The war gains no peace,

And lawyers have put on their double face,

So that justice out of the way

With righteousness is gone away:

And looking on all sides,

Men see the wound without salve,

Which all the world has ruined.

There is no kingdom of exception,

For every climate has its share

According to the turning of the wheel,

Which blind fortune overthrows.

A fact no one knows.

Heaven knows what is to be done,

But we that duel under the moon

Stand in this world in doubt,

And unless the power

Of them who are the world’s guides—

With good counsel on all sides—

Be kept upright in such a way,

That hate does not break the court

Of love, which is the principle means

To keep a kingdom out of mischief.


He who is the leader

The humble members should bow to,

And he should accept their loyalty,

With all his heart and make them spirited,

For good counsel is good to hear.

Although a man is by himself, 



[The Church]

Those whom ancient Moses honored or new John himself,

            This day hardly honor yesterday’s laws.

Thus doubly before the church virtue polished

            Now wise men uncultured pale at the way.

The sword’s point removed from the peaceable sheath by Peter

            Stood towards the blood of Christ’s words;

Now while swords are constantly wet from blood

            Shake greed, bring together holy rites.

Thus the wolf is the pastor, the father a stranger, death a commiserator,

            And dispensers prey, peace and in the world through fear. 
















602 As I lay asleep in my bed

a clear image entered my head

And in my dream so strange and grand

a giant statue there did stand

who’s head and neck were gold and bright,

glistening in the sun’s strong light.

It’s chest and arms were metal too

But these were silver, that I knew.

His thighs were unique yet again,

Cast of fine brass down to the shin

From there on out his legs were steel

Until my eyes went to his heel

The feet on which this giant lay

Were made entirely of clay

But as I gazed upon this beast

With total worth from most to least

A stone came down from heavens gate

And this statue did decimate.


And then, when he had served his God

He took what he well deserved:

The Diademe, and was crowned

Of Rome, and thus the empire was abandoned

Which, never again, can be put

Into the hands of any Roman

But for a long time it stood so still

Under the will and hand of the French king

Until fortune lead with her wheel

So afterward it had the Lombards

Nought be the sword, but the suffering

Of him that was the King of France

Who was Karle Calvis

And he resigned in the cause

The empire of Rome under Lowis

His Cousin, who was a Lombard. 


[Division and Evil] line 967


Division, the Gospel said,

One house upon another lies,

Until that realm is all overthrown,

And thus may every man well know,

Division above all

Is a thing which makes the world fall,

And ever has done since it began.

It may first prove upon man,

The which, for his complexion

Is made division

Of cold, hot, moist, dry,

He right by his very nature die,

for his contrariness



Stand ever in debate,

Until that part be overcome,

There will be no lasting peace.

But otherwise, if a man were

Made of one material

Without interruption,

There should be no corruption

Engendered upon that unity. 


The body and the soul also
Among them been divided so
That whatever thing the body hates
The soul loves and debates;
But nonetheless it often is seen
Of war which is them between
The feeble having won the victory.
And whoever draw into memory
What has become of old and new,
He may that war sore rue,
Which first began in Paradise:
For there it was proved what it is,
And what disease there it wrought;
For ilk war though forth brought
The vice of all deadly sin
Through which division came in
Among the men in earth here
And was the cause and the matter
Why god the great floods send
Of all the world and made an end























The Tale of Florent (from Book I)  









[The Tale of Florent]

There was once in the days of old  

A worthy night, and as men told,

He was nephew to the emperor  

And of his court a courtier

Wifeless he was, Florent he was called,

He was a man who possessed great power,

Of armies he was desirous,

Chivalrous and amorous, 

And sought fame around the world

And adventures to foreign lands. 

He rode in the borderlands all about.

There were times where 

Fortune severed and tied every thread of man's success

Like when this knight rode through a pass 

Where he was forcibly captured

And to a castle they him led,

Where that he few friends had

And at that time,


Though he had a deadly wound,

He fought and because of his skill in combat

He defeated Branchus, who was the heir to the governor of the castle,

And angered Branchus's father and mother both.


Ln. 1442

There was a lady, as sly

As any men knew then,

So old she could barely move,

Who was grandmother to the dead:

And with that she began to scheme,

And said that she would do him (Florent) in,

That she would deliver him to death

But only through his own consent,

Through strength of binding covenant

So that no other man could be blamed.

She sent for the knight,

And of her son she alleged

His death, and said to him:

“Florent, even though you are to blame

For Brachus’ death, men shall delay  

Their vengeance for the time being,

Provided that you stand in judgment

Upon certain condition,

That you should answer a question

Which I will ask you:

And over this you should swear,

That if you get the wrong answer,

There won’t be anything else that can avail,

Ln. 1465



That you shall not your death receive.

So that men shall not you deceive,

In order that you be advised,

You shall have your day in court

And permission to leave safely, 


Provided that at this days end

You come again with your opinion."

This knight, which was worthy and wise,

This lady prayed that he may know,

And have it sealed officially,

What question it should be

For which he shall in that degree

Stand of his life in jeopardy.

With that she feigned company,

And said: "Florent, on love it depends


All that to mine question pertains:

What all women most desire

This intention I ask, and in the empire

Whereas you have much knowledge

Take counsel upon this question."


Florent this thing did undertake,

The day was set, the time take,

Beneath his seal, he wrote his oath,

In such a manner and forth he went

Home to his Uncle's court again;


Fully to his fate settled

He told, of that him befell.

And upon that they were all

The wisest of the land assent,

But nonetheless of a consent


They might not agree completely,

One said this, and the other that.

After the disputation

Of natural temperament

To some woman it is delight,


That to another is grievance;

But such a thing is special,

Which to them all in general

Is most pleasant, and most desired

Above all other and most conspired,





















Is most pleasant, and most desired

Above all others, and most craved,

Such a thing cannot be found

By the stars nor the earth:

And thus Florent without hope

May embrace his adventure,

All in the shape of loss,

As in default of his answer.

This knight hath liking to die

Rather than break his oath and lie

In the place there as he was sworn,

And he shapeth himself to return again to there.









(1671) This old woman had awaited him     

Where he had left her.

Florent lifted his woeful head                        Florent raised up his woeful head

And saw this hag where she sat,                   And saw this hag where she sat,

Who was the loathliest creature                    Who was the most loathsome thing

That any man had ever seen:                         That ever a man laid eyes on:

Her nose low, her brows arched high,           Her low nose, her high-arched brows,

Her eyes small and deep-set,                        Her eyes small and deep set,

Her cheeks wet with tears                             Her cheeks were wet with tears, 

And shriveled like an empty skin                  And wrinkled like empty skin

Hanging down toward her chin,                    Hanging down onto her chin.

Her lips shrunken with age –                         Her lips shrunken with age,

There was no beauty in her visage.               There was no grace in her face.

Her forehead was narrow, her hair gray,.      Her forehead was narrow, her hair gray

She looked like a Moor.                                 She looked like a Moor

Her neck was short, her shoulders curved–   Her neck was short, her shoulders                                                                                                           hunched

Such a sight might disturb a man’s desire!    That might disturb a man's lust!

Her body was great and nothing small,         Her body great, and nothing small,

And – to quickly confess all here –                And to briefly describe her all,

She had no limb without a [deficiency],         She has no limb without defect:

But like a sack of wool                                   But like a sack of wool,

She offered herself to this knight,                  She offered herself to this knight

And told him, as he had promised,

That as she had been his supporter,

 She held him bound,

And she seized his horse’s bridle.

God only knows how he felt

As she spoke these words:

He thought his heart would break

For sorrow because he could not flee

Without proving himself untrue.

  The Tale of the Three Questions (from Book I)


A king once was young and wise,

Who set by his wit great price.

Of deep imaginations

And strange interpretations,

Problems and questions alike,

His wisdom was to find and seek;

Whereof he was in many things wise

He question they that were wise.

But none of them it might bear

Upon his word gave answer,

Except one, who was a knight.

To him was everything so light,

That as soon as heard,

The king’s words he answered;

What thing the king would ask him,

Thereof then the truth he told.




The kings sometimes had envy,

And thought he would his wits ply,

To set some conclusion,

Which should be confusion

Unto this knight, so that the name

And of wisdom the high fame

Toward himself he would win

And thus with all his wit within

This kings began to study and muse,

What strange matter he might use

The knight’s wits to confound;

And at last he had found,

And for the knight he sent,

That he shall tell what he meant.

Upon three points stood the matter,

Of questions as you shall hear.

The first point of all three

Was this: “What thing in his degree

Of all this world needs least,

And yet men help it the most?”

The second is: “What is most in worth,

And of cost is least put forth?”

The third is: “Which is of most cost,

And least in worth and goes to loss?”


The king asked these three questions, (3107)

and on the knight this task he imposed, 
That he shall leave and come again
In three weeks, and answer plainly 
To every question what it amounts to.
And if it be so that he miscalculates,
To make of his answer a failure,  
There shall be nothing to avail him, 
The king said, but he shall be dead. 
And he shall lose his goods and his head. 
The knight was fearful of this thing, 
And excused himself from the king,
But nothing could offer him any reprieve 
 And thus the knight of his answers 

  Went home to consider the matter:
but after this purpose 
The more he put his wits to the task, 
The more he doubted himself.
He then knew the king's heart,
That he shall not escape from death,
And such a sorrow he took on,
That gladness he had forsaken. (3128)

That other point I understood,

Which most is worth and most is good,

And costs less a man to keep :

My lord, if you would take keep,

I see it is Humility,

Through which the high trinity

As for justly of pure love

Unto Mary from above,

Of that he knew her humble intent,

His only son down he sent,

Above all others and her he chose

For that virtue which body is :

So that I may be resound call

Humility most worth of all.

And lest it costs to maintain,

In all the world as it is seen ;

For who that has humbleness on hand,

He brings no worries into land,

For he desires for the best

To sentence every man in rest.

Thus with your high reverence

I think that this is evidence

To the sufficiency of this point.


The Tale of Constance (from Book II)



































The Tale of Canace and Machaire (from Book III)



There was a king who was
Called Eolus, and it befell him
That he had two fair children.
The son was named Machaire,
The daughter was called Canace.
By both day and night,
While they were young, of common habitation,
They dwelt together in a chamber,
And as they should plead him often<
Until they were grown up
Into the youths of lusty age,
When nature attacks the heart
With love and when the heart bows,
Which for no reason one can allow,
But halt the laws of nature.
For whoever that love has under control,
Blinds themselves, and rightfully so
He makes his client blind also.
In such a manner as I tell you
As they dwell together all day,





As though it were an insanity,

He fell, like one who knew nothing

How masterful love is in youth.

And for he was to love distant,

He would not his heart change


To be gentle and favorable

To love, but unmerciful

Between the wave of insanity and rage

Into his daughter’s chamber he went,

And saw the child was late born,


Where of he had his oath swore

That she it shall pay dearly.

And she began mercy to cry,

Upon her bare knees and pride,

And to her father thus she said:


“Have mercy! Father think I am

Your child, and of your blood I came.

That a youthful misdeed I made,

And in the bad flood I wade,

Where that I saw no peril then.


But now it is befallen so,

Merci, my father, do not vengeance!”

And with that word she lost speech

And fell down in a faint at his feet,


(279) Oh, you my sorrow and my gladness

Oh you my health and my sickness.

Oh, my despair and all my trust,

Oh, my disease and all my pleasure,

Oh you my delight, oh you my woe,

Oh you my friend, oh you my foe,

Oh you my love, oh you my hate

For you I must surely be dead.

This end I may not escape,

And yet, with my whole heart,

While any breath lasts in me,

I will love you into my death.

But one thing I shall ask of you,

If my little son dies,

Let him be buried in my grave

Beside me, so you shall have

Remembrance for us both.

For thus it stands of my grievance,

Now at this time, as you will know,

With tears and with ink written

This letter I have in chilling dread: (299)







307 - 327 

The pommel of the sword to ground

She set, and with the point a wound

In her heart she made,

She turned pale and began to fade

She fell down dead from where she stood.

The child lay bathing in her blood

Having rolled out from his mother’s barm,

And because the blood was hot and warm,

He basked about in it.

There was no forgiveness to be gained,

For he, who can know no pity,

The king came in the same moment,

And seeing how his daughter died

And how this baby all bloody cried;

But all that might not satisfy him

So that he would not pass sentence

Upon the child, and threw him out,

And such in the forest about

Some wild place, what it were,

To cast him out of hand there,

So that some beast may devour him. (Translated by Scout Invie)













Whereas no man shall come to his rescue (328)
All that he bade was done in deed.
Hah, who ever heard, sung or declared,
Of such a thing as what was done?
But he who laid his wrath so
Hath only known of love but a little.
But for all that he was to blame,
Through his sudden melancholy,
to do so great a felony.

For thee, my son, how so it stands,
This case thou might understand
That if thou ever in cause of love
Shall judge, and thou be so above,
That thou might lead it at thy will,
Let never through thy wrath destroy
That which should be saved.
For it behooves every man to have
Reward for love and for its might,
Against whose strength succeeds no creature. (246)
  The Tale of Pyramus and Thisbe (from Book III)











  Book VIII

“The mighty God, in the beginning

Stands alone, and creating

All other things at his will,

The heaven his lists to fulfill

Of all joy, where as he

Sits in his throne in his Holy See,

And has his Angels to serve,

Such as he likes to preserve,

So that they would not stray,

But Lucifer he put away

With all who abandoned god

With of them who he led,

Which out of heaven into hell

From angels into fiends fell;

Where there is no joy of light,

But more dark than any night

The pain shall be endless;

And yet nonetheless

There is plenty, but they been pale,

Of no sight may avail.


















































































































But now upon the last of my time,

That this book I have been made to write,

My Muse in me doeth alight,

And sayeth it shall be for the best,

From this day forth my pen to take rest,

That no more I of love shall make,



Which many a heart overtake,

And overturned as the blind,

From reason into nature’s law kind,

When wisdom goeth away,

A man cannot see the right way,

How to govern over his own estate,

But everyday stands in debate

Within himself, and cannot relieve,

And thus I take my final leave,

I take now for evermore,

Without making any more,

Of love and of his deadly reel,

That no physician can heal,

For his nature is so diverse,

That it hath ever to traverse,

Or of much or to the light,

That plainly may no man delight,

But of him fail at that or this.

But like love which that is

Within a man’s heart affirmed,

And stand of charity confirmed,



Such love is good to have,

Such love may the body salve,

Such love may the soul amend,

The high God such love us send,

Forthwith the remnant of grace;

So that above in this place,

Where resides love and all peace,

Our joy will not cease. 
















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