Home > Uncategorized > John Gower: Peace is chief of all world’s wealth, war is mother of all wrongs

John Gower: Peace is chief of all world’s wealth, war is mother of all wrongs


Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

British writers on peace and war


John Gower
In Praise of Peace

Pes is the chief of al the worldes welthe,
And to the Heven it ledeth ek the weie;
Pes is of soule and lif, the mannes helthe
Of pestilence, and doth the werre aweie.
My liege lord, tak hiede of that Y seie:
If werre may be left, tak pes on honde,
Which may noght be withoute Goddis sonde.

With pes stant every creature in reste;
Withoute pes ther may no lif be glad;
Above alle othre good, pes is the beste;
Pes hath himself whan werre is al bestad;
The pes is sauf, the werre is ever adrad:
Pes is of al charité the keie,
Which hath the lif and soul forto weie.

My liege lord, if that thee list to seche
The sothe essamples that the werre hath wroght,
Thow schalt wiel hiere of wisemennes speche,
That dedly werre turneth into noght;
For if these olde bokes be wel soght,
Ther myght thou se what thing the werre hath do,
Bothe of conqueste and conquerer also.

For vein honour or for the worldes good,
Thei that whilom the stronge werres made,
Wher be thei now? Bethenk wel in thi mod,
The day is goon, the nyght is derk and fade;
Her crualté, which mad hem thanne glade,
Thei sorwen now and yit have noght the more;
The blod is schad which no man mai restore.

The werre is modir of the wronges alle:
It sleth the prest in Holi Chirche at Masse,
Forlith the maide and doth here flour to falle;
The werre makth the grete citee lasse,
And doth the Lawe his reules overpasse.
There is no thing wherof meschef mai growe,
Which is noght caused of the werre, Y trowe.

The werre bringth in poverté at hise hieles,
Wherof the comon poeple is sore grieved.
The werre hath set his cart on thilke whieles
Wher that Fortune mai noght be believed;
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 th’Olde Lawe, er Crist Himself was bore,
Among the Ten Comandementz Y rede
How that manslaghtre schulde be forbore;
Such was the will that time of the Godhede.
And aftirward, whanne Crist tok His manhede,
Pes was the ferste thing He let do crie
Agein the worldes rancour and envie.

And er Crist wente out of this erthe hiere,
And stigh to hevene, He made His testament,
Wher He beqwath to His disciples there
And gaf His pes, which is the foundement
Of charité, withouten whos assent
The worldes pes mai never wel be tried,
Ne love kept, ne lawe justefied.


To give ous pes was cause whi Crist dide;
Withoute pes may no thing stonde availed;
Bot now a man mai sen on everi side
How Cristes feith is every dai assailed,
With the paiens destruid, and so batailed
That for defalte of help and of defence,
Unethe hath Crist His dewe reverence.


The worldes cause is waited overal;
Ther ben the werres redi to the fulle.
Bot Cristes oghne cause in special,
Ther ben the swerdes and the speres dulle;
And with the sentence of the popes bulle
As forto do the folk paien obeie,
The chirche is turned al an other weie.

It is to wondre above a mannys wit,
Withoute werre, how Cristes feith was wonne;
And we that ben uppon this erthe yit,
Ne kepe it noght as it was first begonne.
To every creature undir the sonne
Crist bad Himself how that we schulden preche,
And to the folk His evangile teche.


Of that the heved is siek, the limes aken:
These regnes that to Cristes pes belongen,
For worldes good, these dedly werres maken,
Whiche helpples as in balance hongen;
The heved above hem hath noght undirfongen
To sette pes, bot every man sleth other,
And in this wise hath charité no brother.

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