My father, I am amorous;
And for this reason I beseech
Some instance from yout that may teach
Me how love stands in this affair.
My son, I make thee now aware
That both in loving and in all,
If any surquidry befall,
Then ill indeed it may betide
That man who knows this vice of pride,
Which can make dreamers of the wise
And turn straightforwardess to lies,
Through folly of imagination.
And for thy further information,
That as I have advised thee thou
Mayst shun this vice, I tell thee now
A tale that comes from days of old,
One that learned Ovid told.
(Penguin Books, 1963, translated into modern English by Terence Tiller)
John Gower was a friend of Chaucer. His Confessio Amantis (The Lover’s Shrift), though it purports to be moral in tone, principally illustrates the medieval conventions of love with a vast collection of stories which are quaintly displayed within a framework of the Seven Deadly Sins. Longer even than the ‘ Canterbury Tales’, this great work remains a rare museum of medieval life.
I bought this little book when I was a student in 1968, at the University of Leuven, Belgium. Strange though it may sound, but I was fascinated by the dim and distant past revealed in dust collecting writings like this Confessio, and, simultaniously, I was raving about Rudi Dutschke, the Sorbonne, SDS and the likes.
Are we much younger than that now?