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3109 Whan that the Knyght had thus his tale ytoold,
3110 In al the route nas ther yong ne oold
3111 That he ne seyde it was a noble storie
3112 And worthy for to drawen to memorie,
3113 And namely the gentils everichon.
3114 Oure Hooste lough and swoor, “So moot I gon,
3115 This gooth aright; unbokeled is the male.
3116 Lat se now who shal telle another tale;
3117 For trewely the game is wel bigonne.
3118 Now telleth ye, sir Monk, if that ye konne,
3119 Somwhat to quite with the Knyghtes tale.”
3120 The Millere, that for dronken was al pale,
3121 So that unnethe upon his hors he sat,
3122 He nolde avalen neither hood ne hat,
3123 Ne abyde no man for his curteisie,
3124 But in Pilates voys he gan to crie,
3125 And swoor, “By armes, and by blood and bones,
3126 I kan a noble tale for the nones,
3127 With which I wol now quite the Knyghtes tale.”
3128 Oure Hooste saugh that he was dronke of ale,
3129 And seyde, ” Abyd, Robyn, my leeve brother;
3130 Som bettre man shal telle us first another.
3131 Abyd, and lat us werken thriftily.”
3132 “By Goddes soule,” quod he, “that wol nat I;
3133 For I wol speke or elles go my wey.”
3134 Oure Hoost answerde, “Tel on, a devel wey!
3135 Thou art a fool; thy wit is overcome.”
3136 “Now herkneth,” quod the Millere, “alle and some!
3137 But first I make a protestacioun
3138 That I am dronke; I knowe it by my soun.
3139 And therfore if that I mysspeke or seye,
3140 Wyte it the ale of Southwerk, I you preye.
3141 For I wol telle a legende and a lyf
3142 Bothe of a carpenter and of his wyf,
3143 How that a clerk hath set the wrightes cappe.”
3144 The Reve answerde and seyde, “Stynt thy clappe!
3145 Lat be thy lewed dronken harlotrye.
3146 It is a synne and eek a greet folye
3147 To apeyren any man, or hym defame,
3148 And eek to bryngen wyves in swich fame.
3149 Thou mayst ynogh of othere thynges seyn.”
3150 This dronke Millere spak ful soone ageyn
3151 And seyde, “Leve brother Osewold,
3152 Who hath no wyf, he is no cokewold.
3153 But I sey nat therfore that thou art oon;
3154 Ther been ful goode wyves many oon,
3155 And evere a thousand goode ayeyns oon badde.
3156 That knowestow wel thyself, but if thou madde.
3157 Why artow angry with my tale now?
3158 I have a wyf, pardee, as wel as thow;
3159 Yet nolde I, for the oxen in my plogh,
3160 Take upon me moore than ynogh,
3161 As demen of myself that I were oon;
3162 I wol bileve wel that I am noon.
3163 An housbonde shal nat been inquisityf
3164 Of Goddes pryvetee, nor of his wyf.
3165 So he may fynde Goddes foyson there,
3166 Of the remenant nedeth nat enquere.”
3167 What sholde I moore seyn, but this Millere
3168 He nolde his wordes for no man forbere,
3169 But tolde his cherles tale in his manere.
3170 M’ athynketh that I shal reherce it heere.
3171 And therfore every gentil wight I preye,
3172 For Goddes love, demeth nat that I seye
3173 Of yvel entente, but for I moot reherce
3174 Hir tales alle, be they bettre or werse,
3175 Or elles falsen som of my mateere.
3176 And therfore, whoso list it nat yheere,
3177 Turne over the leef and chese another tale;
3178 For he shal fynde ynowe, grete and smale,
3179 Of storial thyng that toucheth gentillesse,
3180 And eek moralitee and hoolynesse.
3181 Blameth nat me if that ye chese amys.
3182 The Millere is a cherl; ye knowe wel this.
3183 So was the Reve eek and othere mo,
3184 And harlotrie they tolden bothe two.
3185 Avyseth yow, and put me out of blame;
3186 And eek men shal nat maken ernest of game.

The Tale

3187 Whilom ther was dwellynge at Oxenford
3188 A riche gnof, that gestes heeld to bord,
3189 And of his craft he was a carpenter.
3190 With hym ther was dwellynge a poure scoler,
3191 Hadde lerned art, but al his fantasye
3192 Was turned for to lerne astrologye,
3193 And koude a certeyn of conclusiouns,
3194 To demen by interrogaciouns,
3195 If that men asked hym, in certein houres
3196 Whan that men sholde have droghte or elles shoures,
3197 Or if men asked hym what sholde bifalle
3198 Of every thyng; I may nat rekene hem alle.
3199 This clerk was cleped hende Nicholas.
3200 Of deerne love he koude and of solas;
3201 And therto he was sleigh and ful privee,
3202 And lyk a mayden meke for to see.
3203 A chambre hadde he in that hostelrye
3204 Allone, withouten any compaignye,
3205 Ful fetisly ydight with herbes swoote;
3206 And he hymself as sweete as is the roote
3207 Of lycorys or any cetewale.
3208 His Almageste, and bookes grete and smale,
3209 His astrelabie, longynge for his art,
3210 His augrym stones layen faire apart,
3211 On shelves couched at his beddes heed;
3212 His presse ycovered with a faldyng reed;
3213 And al above ther lay a gay sautrie,
3214 On which he made a-nyghtes melodie
3215 So swetely that all the chambre rong;
3216 And Angelus ad virginem he song;
3217 And after that he song the Kynges Noote.
3218 Ful often blessed was his myrie throte.
3219 And thus this sweete clerk his tyme spente
3220 After his freendes fyndyng and his rente.
3221 This carpenter hadde wedded newe a wyf,
3222 Which that he lovede moore than his lyf;
3223 Of eighteteene yeer she was of age.
3224 Jalous he was, and heeld hire narwe in cage,
3225 For she was wylde and yong, and he was old
3226 And demed hymself been lik a cokewold.
3227 He knew nat Catoun, for his wit was rude,
3228 That bad man sholde wedde his simylitude.
3229 Men sholde wedden after hire estaat,
3230 For youthe and elde is often at debaat.
3231 But sith that he was fallen in the snare,
3232 He moste endure, as oother folk, his care.
3233 Fair was this yonge wyf, and therwithal
3234 As any wezele hir body gent and smal.
3235 A ceynt she werede, barred al of silk,
3236 A barmclooth as whit as morne milk
3237 Upon hir lendes, ful of many a goore.
3238 Whit was hir smok, and broyden al bifoore
3239 And eek bihynde, on hir coler aboute,
3240 Of col-blak silk, withinne and eek withoute.
3241 The tapes of hir white voluper
3242 Were of the same suyte of hir coler;
3243 Hir filet brood of silk, and set ful hye.
3244 And sikerly she hadde a likerous ye;
3245 Ful smale ypulled were hire browes two,
3246 And tho were bent and blake as any sloo.
3247 She was ful moore blisful on to see
3248 Than is the newe pere-jonette tree,
3249 And softer than the wolle is of a wether.
3250 And by hir girdel heeng a purs of lether,
3251 Tasseled with silk and perled with latoun.
3252 In al this world, to seken up and doun,
3253 There nys no man so wys that koude thenche
3254 So gay a popelote or swich a wenche.
3255 Ful brighter was the shynyng of hir hewe
3256 Than in the Tour the noble yforged newe.
3257 But of hir song, it was as loude and yerne
3258 As any swalwe sittynge on a berne.
3259 Therto she koude skippe and make game,
3260 As any kyde or calf folwynge his dame.
3261 Hir mouth was sweete as bragot or the meeth,
3262 Or hoord of apples leyd in hey or heeth.
3263 Wynsynge she was, as is a joly colt,
3264 Long as a mast, and upright as a bolt.
3265 A brooch she baar upon hir lowe coler,
3266 As brood as is the boos of a bokeler.
3267 Hir shoes were laced on hir legges hye.
3268 She was a prymerole, a piggesnye,
3269 For any lord to leggen in his bedde,
3270 Or yet for any good yeman to wedde.
3271 Now, sire, and eft, sire, so bifel the cas
3272 That on a day this hende Nicholas
3273 Fil with this yonge wyf to rage and pleye,
3274 Whil that hir housbonde was at Oseneye,
3275 As clerkes ben ful subtile and ful queynte;
3276 And prively he caughte hire by the queynte,
3277 And seyde, “Ywis, but if ich have my wille,
3278 For deerne love of thee, lemman, I spille.”
3279 And heeld hire harde by the haunchebones,
3280 And seyde, “Lemman, love me al atones,
3281 Or I wol dyen, also God me save!”
3282 And she sproong as a colt dooth in the trave,
3283 And with hir heed she wryed faste awey,
3284 And seyde, “I wol nat kisse thee, by my fey!
3285 Why, lat be!” quod she. “Lat be, Nicholas,
3286 Or I wol crie ‘out, harrow’ and ‘allas’!
3287 Do wey youre handes, for youre curteisye!”
3288 This Nicholas gan mercy for to crye,
3289 And spak so faire, and profred him so faste,
3290 That she hir love hym graunted atte laste,
3291 And swoor hir ooth, by Seint Thomas of Kent,
3292 That she wol been at his comandement,
3293 Whan that she may hir leyser wel espie.
3294 “Myn housbonde is so ful of jalousie
3295 That but ye wayte wel and been privee,
3296 I woot right wel I nam but deed,” quod she.
3297 “Ye moste been ful deerne, as in this cas.”
3298 “Nay, therof care thee noght,” quod Nicholas.
3299 ” A clerk hadde litherly biset his whyle,
3300 But if he koude a carpenter bigyle.”
3301 And thus they been accorded and ysworn
3302 To wayte a tyme, as I have told biforn.
3303 Whan Nicholas had doon thus everideel
3304 And thakked hire aboute the lendes weel,
3305 He kiste hire sweete and taketh his sawtrie,
3306 And pleyeth faste, and maketh melodie.
3307 Thanne fil it thus, that to the paryssh chirche,
3308 Cristes owene werkes for to wirche,
3309 This goode wyf went on an haliday.
3310 Hir forheed shoon as bright as any day,
3311 So was it wasshen whan she leet hir werk.
3312 Now was ther of that chirche a parissh clerk,
3313 The which that was ycleped Absolon.
3314 Crul was his heer, and as the gold it shoon,
3315 And strouted as a fanne large and brode;
3316 Ful streight and evene lay his joly shode.
3317 His rode was reed, his eyen greye as goos.
3318 With Poules wyndow corven on his shoos,
3319 In hoses rede he wente fetisly.
3320 Yclad he was ful smal and proprely
3321 Al in a kirtel of a lyght waget;
3322 Ful faire and thikke been the poyntes set.
3323 And therupon he hadde a gay surplys
3324 As whit as is the blosme upon the rys.
3325 A myrie child he was, so God me save.
3326 Wel koude he laten blood, and clippe and shave,
3327 And maken a chartre of lond or acquitaunce.
3328 In twenty manere koude he trippe and daunce
3329 After the scole of Oxenforde tho,
3330 And with his legges casten to and fro,
3331 And pleyen songes on a smal rubible;
3332 Therto he song som tyme a loud quynyble;
3333 And as wel koude he pleye on a giterne.
3334 In al the toun nas brewhous ne taverne
3335 That he ne visited with his solas,
3336 Ther any gaylard tappestere was.
3337 But sooth to seyn, he was somdeel squaymous
3338 Of fartyng, and of speche daungerous.
3339 This Absolon, that jolif was and gay,
3340 Gooth with a sencer on the haliday,
3341 Sensynge the wyves of the parisshe faste;
3342 And many a lovely look on hem he caste,
3343 And namely on this carpenteris wyf.
3344 To looke on hire hym thoughte a myrie lyf,
3345 She was so propre and sweete and likerous.
3346 I dar wel seyn, if she hadde been a mous,
3347 And he a cat, he wolde hire hente anon.
3348 This parissh clerk, this joly Absolon,
3349 Hath in his herte swich a love-longynge
3350 That of no wyf took he noon offrynge;
3351 For curteisie, he seyde, he wolde noon.
3352 The moone, whan it was nyght, ful brighte shoon,
3353 And Absolon his gyterne hath ytake;
3354 For paramours he thoghte for to wake.
3355 And forth he gooth, jolif and amorous,
3356 Til he cam to the carpenteres hous
3357 A litel after cokkes hadde ycrowe,
3358 And dressed hym up by a shot-wyndowe
3359 That was upon the carpenteris wal.
3360 He syngeth in his voys gentil and smal,
3361 “Now, deere lady, if thy wille be,
3362 I praye yow that ye wole rewe on me,”
3363 Ful wel acordaunt to his gyternynge.
3364 This carpenter awook, and herde him synge,
3365 And spak unto his wyf, and seyde anon,
3366 “What! Alison! Herestow nat Absolon,
3367 That chaunteth thus under oure boures wal?”
3368 And she answerde hir housbonde therwithal,
3369 “Yis, God woot, John, I heere it every deel.”
3370 This passeth forth; what wol ye bet than weel?
3371 Fro day to day this joly Absolon
3372 So woweth hire that hym is wo bigon.
3373 He waketh al the nyght and al the day;
3374 He kembeth his lokkes brode, and made hym gay;
3375 He woweth hire by meenes and brocage,
3376 And swoor he wolde been hir owene page;
3377 He syngeth, brokkynge as a nyghtyngale;
3378 He sente hire pyment, meeth, and spiced ale,
3379 And wafres, pipyng hoot out of the gleede;
3380 And, for she was of town, he profred meede;
3381 For som folk wol ben wonnen for richesse,
3382 And somme for strokes, and somme for gentillesse.
3383 Somtyme, to shewe his lightnesse and maistrye,
3384 He pleyeth Herodes upon a scaffold hye.
3385 But what availleth hym as in this cas?
3386 She loveth so this hende Nicholas
3387 That Absolon may blowe the bukkes horn;
3388 He ne hadde for his labour but a scorn.
3389 And thus she maketh Absolon hire ape,
3390 And al his ernest turneth til a jape.
3391 Ful sooth is this proverbe, it is no lye,
3392 Men seyn right thus: ” Alwey the nye slye
3393 Maketh the ferre leeve to be looth.”
3394 For though that Absolon be wood or wrooth,
3395 By cause that he fer was from hire sight,
3396 This nye Nicholas stood in his light.
3397 Now ber thee wel, thou hende Nicholas,
3398 For Absolon may waille and synge “allas.”
3399 And so bifel it on a Saterday,
3400 This carpenter was goon til Osenay;
3401 And hende Nicholas and Alisoun
3402 Acorded been to this conclusioun,
3403 That Nicholas shal shapen hym a wyle
3404 This sely jalous housbonde to bigyle;
3405 And if so be the game wente aright,
3406 She sholde slepen in his arm al nyght,
3407 For this was his desir and hire also.
3408 And right anon, withouten wordes mo,
3409 This Nicholas no lenger wolde tarie,
3410 But dooth ful softe unto his chambre carie
3411 Bothe mete and drynke for a day or tweye,
3412 And to hire housbonde bad hire for to seye,
3413 If that he axed after Nicholas,
3414 She sholde seye she nyste where he was;
3415 Of al that day she saugh hym nat with ye;
3416 She trowed that he was in maladye,
3417 For, for no cry hir mayde koude hym calle,
3418 He nolde answere for thyng that myghte falle.
3419 This passeth forth al thilke Saterday,
3420 That Nicholas stille in his chambre lay,
3421 And eet and sleep, or dide what hym leste,
3422 Til Sonday, that the sonne gooth to reste.
3423 This sely carpenter hath greet merveyle
3424 Of Nicholas, or what thyng myghte hym eyle,
3425 And seyde, “I am adrad, by Seint Thomas,
3426 It stondeth nat aright with Nicholas.
3427 God shilde that he deyde sodeynly!
3428 This world is now ful tikel, sikerly.
3429 I saugh today a cors yborn to chirche
3430 That now, on Monday last, I saugh hym wirche.
3431 “Go up,” quod he unto his knave anoon,
3432 “Clepe at his dore, or knokke with a stoon.
3433 Looke how it is, and tel me boldely.”
3434 This knave gooth hym up ful sturdily,
3435 And at the chambre dore whil that he stood,
3436 He cride and knokked as that he were wood,
3437 “What, how! What do ye, maister Nicholay?
3438 How may ye slepen al the longe day?”
3439 But al for noght; he herde nat a word.
3440 An hole he foond, ful lowe upon a bord,
3441 Ther as the cat was wont in for to crepe,
3442 And at that hole he looked in ful depe,
3443 And at the laste he hadde of hym a sight.
3444 This Nicholas sat evere capyng upright,
3445 As he had kiked on the newe moone.
3446 Adoun he gooth, and tolde his maister soone
3447 In what array he saugh this ilke man.
3448 This carpenter to blessen hym bigan,
3449 And seyde, “Help us, Seinte Frydeswyde!
3450 A man woot litel what hym shal bityde.
3451 This man is falle, with his astromye,
3452 In some woodnesse or in som agonye.
3453 I thoghte ay wel how that it sholde be!
3454 Men sholde nat knowe of Goddes pryvetee.
3455 Ye, blessed be alwey a lewed man
3456 That noght but oonly his bileve kan!
3457 So ferde another clerk with astromye;
3458 He walked in the feeldes for to prye
3459 Upon the sterres, what ther sholde bifalle,
3460 Til he was in a marle-pit yfalle;
3461 He saugh nat that. But yet, by Seint Thomas,
3462 Me reweth soore of hende Nicholas.
3463 He shal be rated of his studiyng,
3464 If that I may, by Jhesus, hevene kyng!
3465 Get me a staf, that I may underspore,
3466 Whil that thou, Robyn, hevest up the dore.
3467 He shal out of his studiyng, as I gesse.”
3468 And to the chambre dore he gan hym dresse.
3469 His knave was a strong carl for the nones,
3470 And by the haspe he haaf it of atones;
3471 Into the floor the dore fil anon.
3472 This Nicholas sat ay as stille as stoon,
3473 And evere caped upward into the eir.
3474 This carpenter wende he were in despeir,
3475 And hente hym by the sholdres myghtily,
3476 And shook hym harde, and cride spitously,
3477 “What! Nicholay! What, how! What, looke adoun!
3478 Awak, and thenk on Cristes passioun!
3479 I crouche thee from elves and fro wightes.”
3480 Therwith the nyght-spel seyde he anon-rightes
3481 On foure halves of the hous aboute,
3482 And on the thresshfold of the dore withoute:
3483 “Jhesu Crist and Seinte Benedight,
3484 Blesse this hous from every wikked wight,
3485 For nyghtes verye, the white pater-noster!
3486 Where wentestow, Seinte Petres soster?”
3487 And atte laste this hende Nicholas
3488 Gan for to sik soore, and seyde, ” Allas!
3489 Shal al the world be lost eftsoones now?”
3490 This carpenter answerde, “What seystow?
3491 What! Thynk on God, as we doon, men that swynke.”
3492 This Nicholas answerde, “Fecche me drynke,
3493 And after wol I speke in pryvetee
3494 Of certeyn thyng that toucheth me and thee.
3495 I wol telle it noon oother man, certeyn.”
3496 This carpenter goth doun, and comth ageyn,
3497 And broghte of myghty ale a large quart;
3498 And whan that ech of hem had dronke his part,
3499 This Nicholas his dore faste shette,
3500 And doun the carpenter by hym he sette.
3501 He seyde, “John, myn hooste, lief and deere,
3502 Thou shalt upon thy trouthe swere me heere
3503 That to no wight thou shalt this conseil wreye,
3504 For it is Cristes conseil that I seye,
3505 And if thou telle it man, thou art forlore;
3506 For this vengeaunce thou shalt han therfore,
3507 That if thou wreye me, thou shalt be wood.”
3508 “Nay, Crist forbede it, for his hooly blood!”
3509 Quod tho this sely man, “I nam no labbe,
3510 Ne, though I seye, I nam nat lief to gabbe.
3511 Sey what thou wolt, I shal it nevere telle
3512 To child ne wyf, by hym that harwed helle!”
3513 “Now John,” quod Nicholas, “I wol nat lye;
3514 I have yfounde in myn astrologye,
3515 As I have looked in the moone bright,
3516 That now a Monday next, at quarter nyght,
3517 Shal falle a reyn, and that so wilde and wood
3518 That half so greet was nevere Noes flood.
3519 This world,” he seyde, “in lasse than an hour
3520 Shal al be dreynt, so hidous is the shour.
3521 Thus shal mankynde drenche, and lese hir lyf.”
3522 This carpenter answerde, ” Allas, my wyf!
3523 And shal she drenche? Allas, myn Alisoun!”
3524 For sorwe of this he fil almoost adoun,
3525 And seyde, “Is ther no remedie in this cas?”
3526 “Why, yis, for Gode,” quod hende Nicholas,
3527 “If thou wolt werken after loore and reed.
3528 Thou mayst nat werken after thyn owene heed;
3529 For thus seith Salomon, that was ful trewe:
3530 ‘Werk al by conseil, and thou shalt nat rewe.’
3531 And if thou werken wolt by good conseil,
3532 I undertake, withouten mast and seyl,
3533 Yet shal I saven hire and thee and me.
3534 Hastow nat herd hou saved was Noe,
3535 Whan that oure Lord hadde warned hym biforn
3536 That al the world with water sholde be lorn?”
3537 “Yis,” quod this Carpenter, “ful yoore ago.”
3538 “Hastou nat herd,” quod Nicholas, “also
3539 The sorwe of Noe with his felaweshipe,
3540 Er that he myghte gete his wyf to shipe?
3541 Hym hadde be levere, I dar wel undertake,
3542 At thilke tyme, than alle his wetheres blake
3543 That she hadde had a ship hirself allone.
3544 And therfore, woostou what is best to doone?
3545 This asketh haste, and of an hastif thyng
3546 Men may nat preche or maken tariyng.
3547 ” Anon go gete us faste into this in
3548 A knedyng trogh, or ellis a kymelyn,
3549 For ech of us, but looke that they be large,
3550 In which we mowe swymme as in a barge,
3551 And han therinne vitaille suffisant
3552 But for a day — fy on the remenant!
3553 The water shal aslake and goon away
3554 Aboute pryme upon the nexte day.
3555 But Robyn may nat wite of this, thy knave,
3556 Ne eek thy mayde Gille I may nat save;
3557 Axe nat why, for though thou aske me,
3558 I wol nat tellen Goddes pryvetee.
3559 Suffiseth thee, but if thy wittes madde,
3560 To han as greet a grace as Noe hadde.
3561 Thy wyf shal I wel saven, out of doute.
3562 Go now thy wey, and speed thee heer-aboute.
3563 “But whan thou hast, for hire and thee and me,
3564 Ygeten us thise knedyng tubbes thre,
3565 Thanne shaltow hange hem in the roof ful hye,
3566 That no man of oure purveiaunce espye.
3567 And whan thou thus hast doon as I have seyd,
3568 And hast oure vitaille faire in hem yleyd,
3569 And eek an ax to smyte the corde atwo,
3570 Whan that the water comth, that we may go
3571 And breke an hole an heigh, upon the gable,
3572 Unto the gardyn-ward, over the stable,
3573 That we may frely passen forth oure way,
3574 Whan that the grete shour is goon away.
3575 Thanne shaltou swymme as myrie, I undertake,
3576 As dooth the white doke after hire drake.
3577 Thanne wol I clepe, ‘How, Alison! How, John!
3578 Be myrie, for the flood wol passe anon.’
3579 And thou wolt seyn, ‘Hayl, maister Nicholay!
3580 Good morwe, I se thee wel, for it is day.’
3581 And thanne shul we be lordes al oure lyf
3582 Of al the world, as Noe and his wyf.
3583 “But of o thyng I warne thee ful right:
3584 Be wel avysed on that ilke nyght
3585 That we ben entred into shippes bord,
3586 That noon of us ne speke nat a word,
3587 Ne clepe, ne crie, but be in his preyere;
3588 For it is Goddes owene heeste deere.
3589 “Thy wyf and thou moote hange fer atwynne,
3590 For that bitwixe yow shal be no synne,
3591 Namoore in lookyng than ther shal in deede.
3592 This ordinance is seyd. Go, God thee speede!
3593 Tomorwe at nyght, whan men ben alle aslepe,
3594 Into oure knedyng-tubbes wol we crepe,
3595 And sitten there, abidyng Goddes grace.
3596 Go now thy wey; I have no lenger space
3597 To make of this no lenger sermonyng.
3598 Men seyn thus, ‘sende the wise, and sey no thyng.’
3599 Thou art so wys, it needeth thee nat teche.
3600 Go, save oure lyf, and that I the biseche.”
3601 This sely carpenter goth forth his wey.
3602 Ful ofte he seide ” Allas and weylawey,”
3603 And to his wyf he tolde his pryvetee,
3604 And she was war, and knew it bet than he,
3605 What al this queynte cast was for to seye.
3606 But nathelees she ferde as she wolde deye,
3607 And seyde, ” Allas! go forth thy wey anon,
3608 Help us to scape, or we been dede echon!
3609 I am thy trewe, verray wedded wyf;
3610 Go, deere spouse, and help to save oure lyf.”
3611 Lo, which a greet thyng is affeccioun!
3612 Men may dyen of ymaginacioun,
3613 So depe may impressioun be take.
3614 This sely carpenter bigynneth quake;
3615 Hym thynketh verraily that he may see
3616 Noees flood come walwynge as the see
3617 To drenchen Alisoun, his hony deere.
3618 He wepeth, weyleth, maketh sory cheere;
3619 He siketh with ful many a sory swogh;
3620 He gooth and geteth hym a knedyng trogh,
3621 And after that a tubbe and a kymelyn,
3622 And pryvely he sente hem to his in,
3623 And heng hem in the roof in pryvetee.
3624 His owene hand he made laddres thre,
3625 To clymben by the ronges and the stalkes
3626 Unto the tubbes hangynge in the balkes,
3627 And hem vitailled, bothe trogh and tubbe,
3628 With breed, and chese, and good ale in a jubbe,
3629 Suffisynge right ynogh as for a day.
3630 But er that he hadde maad al this array,
3631 He sente his knave, and eek his wenche also,
3632 Upon his nede to London for to go.
3633 And on the Monday, whan it drow to nyght,
3634 He shette his dore withoute candel-lyght,
3635 And dressed alle thyng as it sholde be.
3636 And shortly, up they clomben alle thre;
3637 They seten stille wel a furlong way.
3638 “Now, Pater-noster, clom!” seyde Nicholay,
3639 And “Clom!” quod John, and “Clom!” seyde Alisoun.
3640 This carpenter seyde his devocioun,
3641 And stille he sit, and biddeth his preyere,
3642 Awaitynge on the reyn, if he it heere.
3643 The dede sleep, for wery bisynesse,
3644 Fil on this carpenter right, as I gesse,
3645 Aboute corfew-tyme, or litel moore;
3646 For travaille of his goost he groneth soore,
3647 And eft he routeth, for his heed myslay.
3648 Doun of the laddre stalketh Nicholay,
3649 And Alisoun ful softe adoun she spedde;
3650 Withouten wordes mo they goon to bedde,
3651 Ther as the carpenter is wont to lye.
3652 Ther was the revel and the melodye;
3653 And thus lith Alison and Nicholas,
3654 In bisynesse of myrthe and of solas,
3655 Til that the belle of laudes gan to rynge,
3656 And freres in the chauncel gonne synge.
3657 This parissh clerk, this amorous Absolon,
3658 That is for love alwey so wo bigon,
3659 Upon the Monday was at Oseneye
3660 With compaignye, hym to disporte and pleye,
3661 And axed upon cas a cloisterer
3662 Ful prively after John the carpenter;
3663 And he drough hym apart out of the chirche,
3664 And seyde, “I noot; I saugh hym heere nat wirche
3665 Syn Saterday; I trowe that he be went
3666 For tymber, ther oure abbot hath hym sent;
3667 For he is wont for tymber for to go
3668 And dwellen at the grange a day or two;
3669 Or elles he is at his hous, certeyn.
3670 Where that he be, I kan nat soothly seyn.”
3671 This Absolon ful joly was and light,
3672 And thoghte, “Now is tyme to wake al nyght,
3673 For sikirly I saugh hym nat stirynge
3674 Aboute his dore, syn day bigan to sprynge.
3675 “So moot I thryve, I shal, at cokkes crowe,
3676 Ful pryvely knokken at his wyndowe
3677 That stant ful lowe upon his boures wal.
3678 To Alison now wol I tellen al
3679 My love-longynge, for yet I shal nat mysse
3680 That at the leeste wey I shal hire kisse.
3681 Som maner confort shal I have, parfay.
3682 My mouth hath icched al this longe day;
3683 That is a signe of kissyng atte leeste.
3684 Al nyght me mette eek I was at a feeste.
3685 Therfore I wol go slepe an houre or tweye,
3686 And al the nyght thanne wol I wake and pleye.”
3687 Whan that the firste cok hath crowe, anon
3688 Up rist this joly lovere Absolon,
3689 And hym arraieth gay, at poynt-devys.
3690 But first he cheweth greyn and lycorys,
3691 To smellen sweete, er he hadde kembd his heer.
3692 Under his tonge a trewe-love he beer,
3693 For therby wende he to ben gracious.
3694 He rometh to the carpenteres hous,
3695 And stille he stant under the shot-wyndowe —
3696 Unto his brest it raughte, it was so lowe —
3697 And softe he cougheth with a semy soun:
3698 “What do ye, hony-comb, sweete Alisoun,
3699 My faire bryd, my sweete cynamome?
3700 Awaketh, lemman myn, and speketh to me!
3701 Wel litel thynken ye upon my wo,
3702 That for youre love I swete ther I go.
3703 No wonder is thogh that I swelte and swete;
3704 I moorne as dooth a lamb after the tete.
3705 Ywis, lemman, I have swich love-longynge
3706 That lik a turtel trewe is my moornynge.
3707 I may nat ete na moore than a mayde.”
3708 “Go fro the wyndow, Jakke fool,” she sayde;
3709 ” As help me God, it wol nat be ‘com pa me.’
3710 I love another — and elles I were to blame —
3711 Wel bet than thee, by Jhesu, Absolon.
3712 Go forth thy wey, or I wol caste a ston,
3713 And lat me slepe, a twenty devel wey!”
3714 ” Allas,” quod Absolon, “and weylawey,
3715 That trewe love was evere so yvel biset!
3716 Thanne kysse me, syn it may be no bet,
3717 For Jhesus love, and for the love of me.”
3718 “Wiltow thanne go thy wey therwith?” quod she.
3719 “Ye, certes, lemman,” quod this Absolon.
3720 “Thanne make thee redy,” quod she, “I come anon.”
3721 And unto Nicholas she seyde stille,
3722 “Now hust, and thou shalt laughen al thy fille.”
3723 This Absolon doun sette hym on his knees
3724 And seyde, “I am a lord at alle degrees;
3725 For after this I hope ther cometh moore.
3726 Lemman, thy grace, and sweete bryd, thyn oore!”
3727 The wyndow she undoth, and that in haste.
3728 “Have do,” quod she, “com of, and speed the faste,
3729 Lest that oure neighebores thee espie.”
3730 This Absolon gan wype his mouth ful drie.
3731 Derk was the nyght as pich, or as the cole,
3732 And at the wyndow out she putte hir hole,
3733 And Absolon, hym fil no bet ne wers,
3734 But with his mouth he kiste hir naked ers
3735 Ful savourly, er he were war of this.
3736 Abak he stirte, and thoughte it was amys,
3737 For wel he wiste a womman hath no berd.
3738 He felte a thyng al rough and long yherd,
3739 And seyde, “Fy! allas! what have I do?”
3740 “Tehee!” quod she, and clapte the wyndow to,
3741 And Absolon gooth forth a sory pas.
3742 ” A berd! A berd!” quod hende Nicholas,
3743 “By Goddes corpus, this goth faire and weel.”
3744 This sely Absolon herde every deel,
3745 And on his lippe he gan for anger byte,
3746 And to hymself he seyde, “I shal thee quyte.”
3747 Who rubbeth now, who froteth now his lippes
3748 With dust, with sond, with straw, with clooth, with chippes,
3749 But Absolon, that seith ful ofte, ” Allas!”
3750 “My soule bitake I unto Sathanas,
3751 But me were levere than al this toun,” quod he,
3752 “Of this despit awroken for to be.
3753 Allas,” quod he, “allas, I ne hadde ybleynt!”
3754 His hoote love was coold and al yqueynt;
3755 For fro that tyme that he hadde kist hir ers,
3756 Of paramours he sette nat a kers,
3757 For he was heeled of his maladie.
3758 Ful ofte paramours he gan deffie,
3759 And weep as dooth a child that is ybete.
3760 A softe paas he wente over the strete
3761 Until a smyth men cleped daun Gerveys,
3762 That in his forge smythed plough harneys;
3763 He sharpeth shaar and kultour bisily.
3764 This Absolon knokketh al esily,
3765 And seyde, “Undo, Gerveys, and that anon.”
3766 “What, who artow?” “It am I, Absolon.”
3767 “What, Absolon! for Cristes sweete tree,
3768 Why rise ye so rathe? Ey, benedicitee!
3769 What eyleth yow? Som gay gerl, God it woot,
3770 Hath broght yow thus upon the viritoot.
3771 By Seinte Note, ye woot wel what I mene.”
3772 This Absolon ne roghte nat a bene
3773 Of al his pley; no word agayn he yaf;
3774 He hadde moore tow on his distaf
3775 Than Gerveys knew, and seyde, “Freend so deere,
3776 That hoote kultour in the chymenee heere,
3777 As lene it me; I have therwith to doone,
3778 And I wol brynge it thee agayn ful soone.”
3779 Gerveys answerde, “Certes, were it gold,
3780 Or in a poke nobles alle untold,
3781 Thou sholdest have, as I am trewe smyth.
3782 Ey, Cristes foo! What wol ye do therwith?”
3783 “Therof,” quod Absolon, “be as be may.
3784 I shal wel telle it thee to-morwe day” —
3785 And caughte the kultour by the colde stele.
3786 Ful softe out at the dore he gan to stele,
3787 And wente unto the carpenteris wal.
3788 He cogheth first, and knokketh therwithal
3789 Upon the wyndowe, right as he dide er.
3790 This Alison answerde, “Who is ther
3791 That knokketh so? I warante it a theef.”
3792 “Why, nay,” quod he, “God woot, my sweete leef,
3793 I am thyn Absolon, my deerelyng.
3794 Of gold,” quod he, “I have thee broght a ryng.
3795 My mooder yaf it me, so God me save;
3796 Ful fyn it is, and therto wel ygrave.
3797 This wol I yeve thee, if thou me kisse.”
3798 This Nicholas was risen for to pisse,
3799 And thoughte he wolde amenden al the jape;
3800 He sholde kisse his ers er that he scape.
3801 And up the wyndowe dide he hastily,
3802 And out his ers he putteth pryvely
3803 Over the buttok, to the haunche-bon;
3804 And therwith spak this clerk, this Absolon,
3805 “Spek, sweete bryd, I noot nat where thou art.”
3806 This Nicholas anon leet fle a fart
3807 As greet as it had been a thonder-dent,
3808 That with the strook he was almoost yblent;
3809 And he was redy with his iren hoot,
3810 And Nicholas amydde the ers he smoot.
3811 Of gooth the skyn an hande-brede aboute,
3812 The hoote kultour brende so his toute,
3813 And for the smert he wende for to dye.
3814 As he were wood, for wo he gan to crye,
3815 “Help! Water! Water! Help, for Goddes herte!”
3816 This carpenter out of his slomber sterte,
3817 And herde oon crien “water!” as he were wood,
3818 And thoughte, ” Allas, now comth Nowelis flood!”
3819 He sit hym up withouten wordes mo,
3820 And with his ax he smoot the corde atwo,
3821 And doun gooth al; he foond neither to selle,
3822 Ne breed ne ale, til he cam to the celle
3823 Upon the floor, and ther aswowne he lay.
3824 Up stirte hire Alison and Nicholay,
3825 And criden “Out” and “Harrow” in the strete.
3826 The neighebores, bothe smale and grete,
3827 In ronnen for to gauren on this man,
3828 That yet aswowne lay, bothe pale and wan,
3829 For with the fal he brosten hadde his arm.
3830 But stonde he moste unto his owene harm;
3831 For whan he spak, he was anon bore doun
3832 With hende Nicholas and Alisoun.
3833 They tolden every man that he was wood;
3834 He was agast so of Nowelis flood
3835 Thurgh fantasie that of his vanytee
3836 He hadde yboght hym knedyng tubbes thre,
3837 And hadde hem hanged in the roof above;
3838 And that he preyed hem, for Goddes love,
3839 To sitten in the roof, par compaignye.
3840 The folk gan laughen at his fantasye;
3841 Into the roof they kiken and they cape,
3842 And turned al his harm unto a jape.
3843 For what so that this carpenter answerde,
3844 It was for noght; no man his reson herde.
3845 With othes grete he was so sworn adoun
3846 That he was holde wood in al the toun;
3847 For every clerk anonright heeld with oother.
3848 They seyde, “The man is wood, my leeve brother”;
3849 And every wight gan laughen at this stryf.
3850 Thus swyved was this carpenteris wyf,
3851 For al his kepyng and his jalousye,
3852 And Absolon hath kist hir nether ye,
3853 And Nicholas is scalded in the towte.
3854 This tale is doon, and God save al the rowte!

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