John Gower

English writer and poet (c.1330–1408)

John Gower (c. 13301408) was an English poet who wrote in English, French and Latin. His most famous work is the Confessio Amantis.

John Gower
John Gower shooting the world, a sphere of earth, air, and water (from a manuscript of his works ca. 1400). The text reads:
Ad mundum mitto mea iacula dumque sagitto
At ubi iustus erit nulla sagitta ferit
Sed male viventes hos vulnero transgredientes
Conscius ergo sibi se speculetur ibi


  • For whan men wene best to have achieved,
    Ful ofte it is al newe to beginne:
    The werre hath no thing siker, thogh he winne.
    • "In Praise of Peace", line 117.

Confessio Amantis

Quotations are taken from the third recension of the poem, unless otherwise stated.
  • Bot for men sein, and soth it is,
    That who that al of wisdom writ
    It dulleth ofte a mannes wit
    To him that schal it aldai rede,
    For thilke cause, if that ye rede,
    I wolde go the middel weie
    And wryte a bok betwen the tweie,
    Somwhat of lust, somewhat of lore.
    • Prologue, line 12.
  • But in proverbe I have herde say,
    That who that wel his werk beginneth,
    The rather a good end he winneth.
    • Prologue (First recension), line 86.
  • For loves lawe is out of reule.
    • Bk. 1, line 18.
  • It hath and schal ben everemor
    That love is maister wher he wile.
    • Bk. 1, line 34.
  • He hath the sor which no man heleth,
    The which is cleped lack of herte.
    • Bk. 4, line 334.
  • O fol of alle foles,
    Thou farst as he betwen tuo stoles
    That wolde sitte and goth to grounde.
    • Bk. 4, line 625.
  • The beauté faye upon her face
    Non erthly thing it may desface.
    • Bk. 4, line 1321.
  • Nevere yit
    Was non, which half so loste his wit
    Of drinke, as thei of such thing do
    Which cleped is the jolif wo.
    • Bk. 6, line 31.
  • What is a lond wher men ben none?
    What ben the men whiche are alone
    Withoute a kinges governance?
    What is a king in his ligance,
    Wher that ther is no lawe in londe?
    What is to take lawe on honde,
    Bot if the jugges weren trewe?
    • Bk. 7, line 2695.
  • So goth the world, now wo, now wel
    • Bk. 8, line 1738.


  • In the content of his work it is interesting to notice that he is profoundly English. His romanticism, and his choice of the theme of Time and Age – both these look back to the Anglo-Saxons and forward to the nineteenth century. Yet his form is French. The heart is insular and romantic, the head cool and continental: it is a good combination.
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