Manuscripts and Special Collections

WLC/LM/8, f. 53v: John Gower, ‘Confessio Amantis’, Book 3, lines 783-817 (composed c.1393, English)


%%hebus which makeŝ ŝe daies light
A loue had which ŝo hight
Cornide whome a boue all
He pleseŝ. Bot what shal fall
Of loue ŝer is no man knoweŝ
But as fortune hir happes ŝroweŝ
So it befell vpon a chance
A ȝonge knyght toke hir aquientannce
And had of hir al ŝat he wold
But a fals brid which she haŝ hold
And kepte in chambre of pure ȝouŝe
Discouereŝ all ŝat euer he couŝe
Ŝis briddes name was as ŝo
Coruus ŝe which was ŝan also
Wele more white ŝan eny swanne
And he ŝat shrewe all ŝat he canne
Of his lady to Phebus seide
And he for wraŝe his swerde out breide
Wiŝ which Cornide anon he sloghe
But after . him was wo ynoghe
And toke a full grete repentance
Wher of in token and remembrannce
Of hem which vsen wicke speche
Vpon ŝis bridde he toke ŝis wreche
Ŝat ŝer he was snowe white to fore
Euer afterward col blak ŝerfore
He was transformed as itt sheweŝ
And many a man ȝit him beshreweŝ
And clepen him in to ŝis day
A rauen be whom ȝit men may
Take euidence whan he croyeŝ
Ŝat som mishappe it signifieŝ
Be wer ŝerfore and sei ŝe beste
If ŝou wolt be ŝi self in reste
My gude sonne as I ŝe rede


[The tale of Phebus and Cornide]

Phebus, who makes the days light, had a love called Cornide, whom he loved above all others. But what will happen in love no man knows, as Fortune casts lots. So it befell upon a chance that a young knight took her acquaintance and had of her all that he desired. But a deceitful bird, that she had and kept in her chamber since it was very young, revealed everything that he knew [to Phebus]. This bird, whose name was Corvus, was also then much whiter than any swan. And he, that scoundrel, told Phebus all that he knew of his lady. And he [Phebus] unsheathed his sword in anger, with which he soon killed Cornide.

But afterwards he was extremely woeful and repented of his actions. As a reminder to those who use wicked speech, he took vengeance on this bird. He that was snow-white before, was transformed for ever afterwards to coal-black, as can be seen.

And many men still curse him and call him to this day a raven, by whom men may take as evidence, when he crows, that it signifies some misfortune. Beware, therefore, and speak only the best if you would be yourself1, my good son, as I advise you.

1. possibly meaning ‘at peace with yourself’, or, ‘want a peaceful or quiet life’

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