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Short poem

John Gower (1330?-1408)

Confessio Amantis, Book III: The Tale of Apollonius of Tyre


        1021Appolinus his leve tok,
        1022To God and al the lond betok
        1023With al the poeple long and brod,
        1024That he no lenger there abod.
        1025The king and queene sorwe made,
        1026Bot yit somdiel thei weren glade
        1027Of such thing as thei herden tho:
        1028And thus betwen the wel and wo
        1029To schip he goth, his wif with childe,
        1030The which was evere meke and mylde
        1031And wolde noght departe him fro,
        1032Such love was betwen hem tuo.
        1033Lichorida for hire office
        1034Was take, which was a norrice,
        1035To wende with this yonge wif,
        1036To whom was schape a woful lif.
        1037Withinne a time, as it betidde,
        1038Whan thei were in the see amidde,
        1039Out of the north they sihe a cloude;
        1040The storm aros, the wyndes loude
        1041Thei blewen many a dredful blast,
        1042The welkne was al overcast,
        1043The derke nyht the sonne hath under,
        1044Ther was a gret tempeste of thunder:
        1045The mone and ek the sterres bothe
        1046In blake cloudes thei hem clothe,
        1047Wherof here brihte lok thei hyde.
        1048This yonge ladi wepte and cride,
        1049To whom no confort myhte availe;
        1050Of childe sche began travaile,
        1051Wher sche lay in a caban clos:
        1052Hire woful lord fro hire aros,
        1053And that was longe er eny morwe,
        1054So that in anguisse and in sorwe
        1055Sche was delivered al be nyhte
        1056And ded in every mannes syhte;
        1057Bot natheles for al this wo
        1058A maide child was bore tho.

        1059     Appolinus whan he this knew,
        1060For sorwe a swoune he overthrew,
        1061That noman wiste in him no lif.
        1062And whanne he wok, he seide, "Ha, wif,
        1063Mi lust, mi joie, my desir,
        1064Mi welthe and my recoverir,
        1065Why schal I live, and thou schalt dye?
        1066Ha, thou fortune, I thee deffie,
        1067Nou hast thou do to me thi werste.
        1068Ha, herte, why ne wolt thou berste,
        1069That forth with hire I myhte passe?
        1070Mi peines weren wel the lasse."
        1071In such wepinge and in such cry
        1072His dede wif, which lay him by,
        1073A thousend sithes he hire kiste;
        1074Was nevere man that sih ne wiste
        1075A sorwe unto his sorwe lich;
        1076For evere among, upon the lich
        1077He fell swounende, as he that soghte
        1078His oghne deth, which he besoghte
        1079Unto the goddes alle above
        1080With many a pitous word of love;
        1081Bot suche wordes as tho were
        1082Yit herde nevere mannes ere,
        1083Bot only thilke whiche he seide.
        1084The maister schipman cam and preide
        1085With othre suche as be therinne,
        1086And sein that he mai nothing winne
        1087Ayein the deth, bot thei him rede,
        1088He be wel war and tak hiede,
        1089The see be weie of his nature
        1090Receive mai no creature
        1091Withinne himself as forto holde,
        1092The which is ded: forthi thei wolde,
        1093As thei conseilen al aboute,
        1094The dede body casten oute.
        1095For betre it is, thei seiden alle,
        1096That it of hire so befalle,
        1097Than if thei scholden alle spille.

        1098     The king, which understod here wille
        1099And knew here conseil that was trewe,
        1100Began ayein his sorwe newe
        1101With pitous herte, and thus to seie:
        1102"It is al reson that ye preie.
        1103I am," quod he, "bot on al one,
        1104So wolde I noght for mi persone
        1105There felle such adversité.
        1106Bot whan it mai no betre be,
        1107Doth thanne thus upon my word,
        1108Let make a cofre strong of bord,
        1109That it be ferm with led and pich."
        1110Anon was mad a cofre sich,
        1111Al redy broght unto his hond;
        1112And whanne he sih and redy fond
        1113This cofre mad and wel enclowed,
        1114The dede bodi was besowed
        1115In cloth of gold and leid therinne.
        1116And for he wolde unto hir winne
        1117Upon som cooste a sepulture,
        1118Under hire heved in aventure
        1119Of gold he leide sommes grete
        1120And of jeueals a strong beyete
        1121Forth with a lettre, and seide thus:

        1122     "I, king of Tyr Appollinus,
        1123Do alle maner men to wite,
        1124That hiere and se this lettre write,
        1125That helpeles withoute red
        1126Hier lith a kinges doghter ded:
        1127And who that happeth hir to finde,
        1128For charité tak in his mynde,
        1129And do so that sche be begrave
        1130With this tresor, which he schal have."
        1131Thus whan the lettre was full spoke,
        1132Thei have anon the cofre stoke,
        1133And bounden it with yren faste,
        1134That it may with the wawes laste,
        1135And stoppen it be such a weie,
        1136That it schal be withinne dreie,
        1137So that no water myhte it grieve.
        1138And thus in hope and good believe
        1139Of that the corps schal wel aryve,
        1140Thei caste it over bord als blyve.

        1141     The schip forth on the wawes wente;
        1142The prince hath changed his entente,
        1143And seith he wol noght come at Tyr
        1144As thanne, bot al his desir
        1145Is ferst to seilen unto Tharse.
        1146The wyndy storm began to skarse,
        1147The sonne arist, the weder cliereth,
        1148The schipman which behinde stiereth
        1149Whan that he sih the wyndes saghte,
        1150Towardes Tharse his cours he straghte.

        1151     Bot now to mi matiere ayein,
        1152To telle as olde bokes sein,
        1153This dede corps of which ye knowe
        1154With wynd and water was forthrowe
        1155Now hier, now ther, til ate laste
        1156At Ephesim the see upcaste
        1157The cofre and al that was therinne.
        1158Of gret merveile now beginne
        1159Mai hiere who that sitteth stille;
        1160That God wol save mai noght spille.
        1161Riht as the corps was throwe alonde,
        1162Ther cam walkende upon the stronde
        1163A worthi clerc, a surgien,
        1164And ek a gret phisicien,
        1165Of al that lond the wisest on,
        1166Which hihte Maister Cerymon;
        1167Ther were of his disciples some.
        1168This maister to the cofre is come,
        1169He peiseth ther was somwhat in,
        1170And bad hem bere it to his in,
        1171And goth himselve forth withal.
        1172Al that schal falle, falle schal;
        1173They comen hom and tarie noght;
        1174This cofre is into chambre broght,
        1175Which that thei finde faste stoke,
        1176Bot thei with craft it have unloke.
        1177Thei loken in, where as thei founde
        1178A bodi ded, which was bewounde
        1179In cloth of gold, as I seide er,
        1180The tresor ek thei founden ther
        1181Forth with the lettre which thei rede.
        1182And tho thei token betre hiede;
        1183Unsowed was the bodi sone,
        1184And he, which knew what is to done,
        1185This noble clerk, with alle haste
        1186Began the veines forto taste,
        1187And sih hire age was of youthe,
        1188And with the craftes whiche he couthe
        1189He soghte and fond a signe of lif.
        1190With that this worthi kinges wif
        1191Honestely thei token oute,
        1192And maden fyres al aboute;
        1193Thei leide hire on a couche softe,
        1194And with a scheete warmed ofte
        1195Hire colde brest began to hete,
        1196Hire herte also to flacke and bete.
        1197This maister hath hire every joignt
        1198With certein oile and balsme enoignt,
        1199And putte a liquour in hire mouth,
        1200Which is to fewe clerkes couth,
        1201So that sche coevereth ate laste:
        1202And ferst hire yhen up sche caste,
        1203And whan sche more of strengthe cawhte,
        1204Hire armes bothe forth sche strawhte,
        1205Hield up hire hond and pitously
        1206Sche spak and seide, "Ha, wher am I?
        1207Where is my lord, what world is this?"
        1208As sche that wot noght hou it is.
        1209Bot Cerymon the worthi leche
        1210Ansuerde anon upon hire speche
        1211And seith, "Ma dame, yee ben hiere,
        1212Where yee be sauf, as yee schal hiere
        1213Hierafterward; forthi as nou
        1214Mi conseil is, conforteth you:
        1215For trusteth wel withoute faile,
        1216Ther is nothing which schal you faile,
        1217That oghte of reson to be do."


1021] A poem in eight books first completed in 1390, revised in the following year, and again revised in the 16th year of Richard II, June 1392-June 1393. Extant in about forty MSS. of the late 14th and the 15th centuries, and printed by Caxton in 1483. Confessio Amantis is a collection of over one hundred stories illustrative of the vices and virtues. The poet, as a lover, confesses his shortcomings to Genius, the priest of Venus, who absolves him and relates tales suitable to counteract each type of sin. The tale of Apollonius of Tyre is the principal tale of the final book. The play of Pericles, Prince of Tyre (partly by Shakespeare) is based principally on Gower's version, and Gower himself appears as the "presenter", or speaker of the prologues.

Having been shipwrecked in Pentapolis, Apollonius, exiled prince of Tyre, has married the king's daughter and subsequently is recalled to Tyre.

1022] betok. Gave out. He announced before God and the whole land.

1024] abod. Would abide.

1026] somdiel Some deal, somewhat.

1027] tho. Then.

1034] norrice. Nurse.

1036] schape. Shaped, foreordained.

1039] sihe. Saw.

1042] welkne. Welkin, sky.

1047] lok. Look.

1060] a swoune. In a swoon.
overthrew. Was overthrown, fell over.

1063] lust. Pleasure.

1064] recoverir. Remedy.

1073] sithes. Times.

1075] rich. Like.

1076] evere among. Every little while, at intervals.
lich. Dead body.

1078] oghne. Own.

1086-87] And say that he may in no way avoid death unless they advise him: let him be very alert and take heed that ...

1089-94] The see . . . casten oute. The sea will not receive a dead body but will cast it ashore. Therefore if the dead body remains in the ship, the ship will be cast ashore and wrecked.

1097] spille. Perish.

1098] here. Their.

1113] enclowed. Nailed.

1118] in aventure. In case (any one should find her).

1120] A great amount of property (in the form) of jewels.

1123] Cause all manner of men to know.

1125] red. Advice.

1129] begrave. Buried.

1132] stoke. Closed.

1133] yren. Iron.

1134] wawes. Waves.

1136] dreie. Dry.

1137] grieve. Injure.

1138-39] good believe of that. Good belief in the supposition that.

1144] As thanne. At that particular time (the as helps to emphasize thanne).

1145] Tharse. Tarsus. Apollonius had saved this city from famine before he was shipwrecked at Pentapolis.

1146] skarse. Diminish.

1147] arist. Contraction of ariseth.

1149] saghte. Reconciled. at peace.

1150] Straghte. Extended.

1154] forthrowe. Thrown about, tossed about.

1156] Ephesim. Ephesus.

1166] hihte. Was called.

1169] peiseth. Feels by its weight.

1170] in. Abode.

1172] Whatever must happen shall happen.

1176] unloke. Unlocked.

1181] Forth with. Together with.

1182] hiede. Heed.

1186] taste. Feel.

1187] sih. Saw.

1188] couthe. Knew.

1191] Honestely. Honourably, respectfully.

1196] flacke. Flutter, palpitate.

1200] couth. Known.

1201] coevereth. Recovers.

1202] yhen. Eyes.

1203] cawhte. Caught.

1204] strawhte. Stretched.

1205] Hield. Held.

1206-07] Cf. Shakespeare's Pericles, III.ii.106:

O dear Diana,
Where am I? Where's my lord? What world is this?

1209] leche. Physician (O.E. lœce).

1214] Conforteth you. Comfort yourself.

1217] do. Done. She becomes a priestess in the service of Diana at Ephesus, but is ultimately reunited to her husband and daughter.

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: unspecified.
First publication date: 1483
Publication date note: Westminster: William Caxton, 1483. inc/ff Fisher Rare Book Library
RPO poem editor: N. J. Endicott
RP edition: 2RP.1.4; RPO 1996-2000.
Recent editing: 2:2002/4/24

Composition date: 1392 - 1393
Form: couplets

Other poems by John Gower