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4. THE REEVE’S TALE

Prologue

3855 Whan folk hadde laughen at this nyce cas
3856 Of Absolon and hende Nicholas,
3857 Diverse folk diversely they seyde,
3858 But for the moore part they loughe and pleyde.
3859 Ne at this tale I saugh no man hym greve,
3860 But it were oonly Osewold the Reve.
3861 By cause he was of carpenteris craft,
3862 A litel ire is in his herte ylaft;
3863 He gan to grucche, and blamed it a lite.
3864 “So theek,” quod he, “ful wel koude I thee quite
3865 With bleryng of a proud milleres ye,
3866 If that me liste speke of ribaudye.
3867 But ik am oold; me list not pley for age;
3868 Gras tyme is doon; my fodder is now forage;
3869 This white top writeth myne olde yeris;
3870 Myn herte is also mowled as myne heris,
3871 But if I fare as dooth an open-ers —
3872 That ilke fruyt is ever lenger the wers,
3873 Til it be roten in mullok or in stree.
3874 We olde men, I drede, so fare we:
3875 Til we be roten, kan we nat be rype;
3876 We hoppen alwey whil that the world wol pype.
3877 For in oure wyl ther stiketh evere a nayl,
3878 To have an hoor heed and a grene tayl,
3879 As hath a leek; for thogh oure myght be goon,
3880 Oure wyl desireth folie evere in oon.
3881 For whan we may nat doon, than wol we speke;
3882 Yet in oure asshen olde is fyr yreke.
3883 “Foure gleedes han we, which I shal devyse —
3884 Avauntyng, liyng, anger, coveitise;
3885 Thise foure sparkles longen unto eelde.
3886 Oure olde lemes mowe wel been unweelde,
3887 But wyl ne shal nat faillen, that is sooth.
3888 And yet ik have alwey a coltes tooth,
3889 As many a yeer as it is passed henne
3890 Syn that my tappe of lif bigan to renne.
3891 For sikerly, whan I was bore, anon
3892 Deeth drough the tappe of lyf and leet it gon,
3893 And ever sithe hath so the tappe yronne
3894 Til that almoost al empty is the tonne.
3895 The streem of lyf now droppeth on the chymbe.
3896 The sely tonge may wel rynge and chymbe
3897 Of wrecchednesse that passed is ful yoore;
3898 With olde folk, save dotage, is namoore!”
3899 Whan that oure Hoost hadde herd this sermonyng,
3900 He gan to speke as lordly as a kyng.
3901 He seide, “What amounteth al this wit?
3902 What shul we speke alday of hooly writ?
3903 The devel made a reve for to preche,
3904 Or of a soutere a shipman or a leche.
3905 Sey forth thy tale, and tarie nat the tyme.
3906 Lo Depeford, and it is half-wey pryme!
3907 Lo Grenewych, ther many a shrewe is inne!
3908 It were al tyme thy tale to bigynne.”
3909 “Now, sires,” quod this Osewold the Reve,
3910 “I pray yow alle that ye nat yow greve,
3911 Thogh I answere, and somdeel sette his howve;
3912 For leveful is with force force of-showve.
3913 “This dronke Millere hath ytoold us heer
3914 How that bigyled was a carpenteer,
3915 Peraventure in scorn, for I am oon.
3916 And, by youre leve, I shal hym quite anoon;
3917 Right in his cherles termes wol I speke.
3918 I pray to God his nekke mote to-breke;
3919 He kan wel in myn eye seen a stalke,
3920 But in his owene he kan nat seen a balke.”

The Tale

3921 At Trumpyngtoun, nat fer fro Cantebrigge,
3922 Ther gooth a brook, and over that a brigge,
3923 Upon the whiche brook ther stant a melle;
3924 And this is verray sooth that I yow telle:
3925 A millere was ther dwellynge many a day.
3926 As any pecok he was proud and gay.
3927 Pipen he koude and fisshe, and nettes beete,
3928 And turne coppes, and wel wrastle and sheete;
3929 Ay by his belt he baar a long panade,
3930 And of a swerd ful trenchant was the blade.
3931 A joly poppere baar he in his pouche;
3932 Ther was no man, for peril, dorste hym touche.
3933 A Sheffeld thwitel baar he in his hose.
3934 Round was his face, and camus was his nose;
3935 As piled as an ape was his skulle.
3936 He was a market-betere atte fulle.
3937 Ther dorste no wight hand upon hym legge,
3938 That he ne swoor he sholde anon abegge.
3939 A theef he was for sothe of corn and mele,
3940 And that a sly, and usaunt for to stele.
3941 His name was hoote deynous Symkyn.
3942 A wyf he hadde, ycomen of noble kyn;
3943 The person of the toun hir fader was.
3944 With hire he yaf ful many a panne of bras,
3945 For that Symkyn sholde in his blood allye.
3946 She was yfostred in a nonnerye;
3947 For Symkyn wolde no wyf, as he sayde,
3948 But she were wel ynorissed and a mayde,
3949 To saven his estaat of yomanrye.
3950 And she was proud, and peert as is a pye.
3951 A ful fair sighte was it upon hem two;
3952 On halydayes biforn hire wolde he go
3953 With his typet wounde aboute his heed,
3954 And she cam after in a gyte of reed;
3955 And Symkyn hadde hosen of the same.
3956 Ther dorste no wight clepen hire but “dame”;
3957 Was noon so hardy that wente by the weye
3958 That with hire dorste rage or ones pleye,
3959 But if he wolde be slayn of Symkyn
3960 With panade, or with knyf, or boidekyn.
3961 For jalous folk ben perilous everemo —
3962 Algate they wolde hire wyves wenden so.
3963 And eek, for she was somdel smoterlich,
3964 She was as digne as water in a dich,
3965 And ful of hoker and of bisemare.
3966 Hir thoughte that a lady sholde hire spare,
3967 What for hire kynrede and hir nortelrie
3968 That she hadde lerned in the nonnerie.
3969 A doghter hadde they bitwixe hem two
3970 Of twenty yeer, withouten any mo,
3971 Savynge a child that was of half yeer age;
3972 In cradel it lay and was a propre page.
3973 This wenche thikke and wel ygrowen was,
3974 With kamus nose and eyen greye as glas,
3975 With buttokes brode and brestes rounde and hye.
3976 But right fair was hire heer; I wol nat lye.
3977 This person of the toun, for she was feir,
3978 In purpos was to maken hire his heir,
3979 Bothe of his catel and his mesuage,
3980 And straunge he made it of hir mariage.
3981 His purpos was for to bistowe hire hye
3982 Into som worthy blood of auncetrye;
3983 For hooly chirches good moot been despended
3984 On hooly chirches blood, that is descended.
3985 Therfore he wolde his hooly blood honoure,
3986 Though that he hooly chirche sholde devoure.
3987 Greet sokene hath this millere, out of doute,
3988 With whete and malt of al the land aboute;
3989 And nameliche ther was a greet collegge
3990 Men clepen the Soler Halle at Cantebregge;
3991 Ther was hir whete and eek hir malt ygrounde.
3992 And on a day it happed, in a stounde,
3993 Sik lay the maunciple on a maladye;
3994 Men wenden wisly that he sholde dye.
3995 For which this millere stal bothe mele and corn
3996 An hundred tyme moore than biforn;
3997 For therbiforn he stal but curteisly,
3998 But now he was a theef outrageously,
3999 For which the wardeyn chidde and made fare.
4000 But therof sette the millere nat a tare;
4001 He craketh boost, and swoor it was nat so.
4002 Thanne were ther yonge povre scolers two,
4003 That dwelten in this halle, of which I seye.
4004 Testif they were, and lusty for to pleye,
4005 And, oonly for hire myrthe and revelrye,
4006 Upon the wardeyn bisily they crye
4007 To yeve hem leve, but a litel stounde,
4008 To goon to mille and seen hir corn ygrounde;
4009 And hardily they dorste leye hir nekke
4010 The millere sholde not stele hem half a pekke
4011 Of corn by sleighte, ne by force hem reve;
4012 And at the laste the wardeyn yaf hem leve.
4013 John highte that oon, and Aleyn highte that oother;
4014 Of o toun were they born, that highte Strother,
4015 Fer in the north; I kan nat telle where.
4016 This Aleyn maketh redy al his gere,
4017 And on an hors the sak he caste anon.
4018 Forth goth Aleyn the clerk, and also John,
4019 With good swerd and with bokeler by hir syde.
4020 John knew the wey — hem nedede no gyde —
4021 And at the mille the sak adoun he layth.
4022 Aleyn spak first: ” Al hayl, Symond, y-fayth!
4023 Hou fares thy faire doghter and thy wyf?”
4024 ” Aleyn, welcome,” quod Symkyn, “by my lyf!
4025 And John also, how now, what do ye heer?”
4026 “Symond,” quod John, “by God, nede has na peer.
4027 Hym boes serve hymself that has na swayn,
4028 Or elles he is a fool, as clerkes sayn.
4029 Oure manciple, I hope he wil be deed,
4030 Swa werkes ay the wanges in his heed;
4031 And forthy is I come, and eek Alayn,
4032 To grynde oure corn and carie it ham agayn;
4033 I pray yow spede us heythen that ye may.”
4034 “It shal be doon,” quod Symkyn, “by my fay!
4035 What wol ye doon whil that it is in hande?”
4036 “By God, right by the hopur wil I stande,”
4037 Quod John, “and se howgates the corn gas in.
4038 Yet saugh I nevere, by my fader kyn,
4039 How that the hopur wagges til and fra.”
4040 Aleyn answerde, “John, and wiltow swa?
4041 Thanne wil I be bynethe, by my croun,
4042 And se how that the mele falles doun
4043 Into the trough; that sal be my disport.
4044 For John, y-faith, I may been of youre sort;
4045 I is as ille a millere as ar ye.”
4046 This millere smyled of hir nycetee,
4047 And thoghte, ” Al this nys doon but for a wyle.
4048 They wene that no man may hem bigyle,
4049 But by my thrift, yet shal I blere hir ye,
4050 For al the sleighte in hir philosophye.
4051 The moore queynte crekes that they make,
4052 The moore wol I stele whan I take.
4053 In stide of flour yet wol I yeve hem bren.
4054 ‘The gretteste clerkes been noght wisest men,’
4055 As whilom to the wolf thus spak the mare.
4056 Of al hir art counte I noght a tare.”
4057 Out at the dore he gooth ful pryvely,
4058 Whan that he saugh his tyme, softely.
4059 He looketh up and doun til he hath founde
4060 The clerkes hors, ther as it stood ybounde
4061 Bihynde the mille, under a levesel;
4062 And to the hors he goth hym faire and wel;
4063 He strepeth of the brydel right anon.
4064 And whan the hors was laus, he gynneth gon
4065 Toward the fen, ther wilde mares renne,
4066 And forth with “wehee,” thurgh thikke and thurgh thenne.
4067 This millere gooth agayn, no word he seyde,
4068 But dooth his note, and with the clerkes pleyde
4069 Til that hir corn was faire and weel ygrounde.
4070 And whan the mele is sakked and ybounde,
4071 This John goth out and fynt his hors away,
4072 And gan to crie “Harrow!” and “Weylaway!
4073 Oure hors is lorn, Alayn, for Goddes banes,
4074 Step on thy feet! Com of, man, al atanes!
4075 Allas, our wardeyn has his palfrey lorn.”
4076 This Aleyn al forgat, bothe mele and corn;
4077 Al was out of his mynde his housbondrie.
4078 “What, whilk way is he geen?” he gan to crie.
4079 The wyf cam lepynge inward with a ren.
4080 She seyde, ” Allas! youre hors goth to the fen
4081 With wilde mares, as faste as he may go.
4082 Unthank come on his hand that boond hym so,
4083 And he that bettre sholde han knyt the reyne!”
4084 ” Allas,” quod John, ” Aleyn, for Cristes peyne
4085 Lay doun thy swerd, and I wil myn alswa.
4086 I is ful wight, God waat, as is a raa;
4087 By Goddes herte, he sal nat scape us bathe!
4088 Why ne had thow pit the capul in the lathe?
4089 Ilhayl! By God, Alayn, thou is a fonne!”
4090 Thise sely clerkes han ful faste yronne
4091 Toward the fen, bothe Aleyn and eek John.
4092 And whan the millere saugh that they were gon,
4093 He half a busshel of hir flour hath take,
4094 And bad his wyf go knede it in a cake.
4095 He seyde, “I trowe the clerkes were aferd.
4096 Yet kan a millere make a clerkes berd,
4097 For al his art; now lat hem goon hir weye!
4098 Lo, wher he gooth! Ye, lat the children pleye.
4099 They gete hym nat so lightly, by my croun.”
4100 Thise sely clerkes rennen up and doun
4101 With “Keep! Keep! Stand! Stand! Jossa, warderere,
4102 Ga whistle thou, and I shal kepe hym heere!”
4103 But shortly, til that it was verray nyght,
4104 They koude nat, though they dide al hir myght,
4105 Hir capul cacche, he ran alwey so faste,
4106 Til in a dych they caughte hym atte laste.
4107 Wery and weet, as beest is in the reyn,
4108 Comth sely John, and with him comth Aleyn.
4109 ” Allas,” quod John, “the day that I was born!
4110 Now are we dryve til hethyng and til scorn.
4111 Oure corn is stoln; men wil us fooles calle,
4112 Bathe the wardeyn and oure felawes alle,
4113 And namely the millere, weylaway!”
4114 Thus pleyneth John as he gooth by the way
4115 Toward the mille, and Bayard in his hond.
4116 The millere sittynge by the fyr he fond,
4117 For it was nyght, and forther myghte they noght;
4118 But for the love of God they hym bisoght
4119 Of herberwe and of ese, as for hir peny.
4120 The millere seyde agayn, “If ther be eny,
4121 Swich as it is, yet shal ye have youre part.
4122 Myn hous is streit, but ye han lerned art;
4123 Ye konne by argumentes make a place
4124 A myle brood of twenty foot of space.
4125 Lat se now if this place may suffise,
4126 Or make it rowm with speche, as is youre gise.”
4127 “Now, Symond,” seyde John, “by Seint Cutberd,
4128 Ay is thou myrie, and this is faire answerd.
4129 I have herd seyd, ‘Man sal taa of twa thynges:
4130 Slyk as he fyndes, or taa slyk as he brynges.’
4131 But specially I pray thee, hooste deere,
4132 Get us som mete and drynke, and make us cheere,
4133 And we wil payen trewely atte fulle.
4134 With empty hand men may na haukes tulle;
4135 Loo, heere oure silver, redy for to spende.”
4136 This millere into toun his doghter sende
4137 For ale and breed, and rosted hem a goos,
4138 And boond hire hors, it sholde namoore go loos,
4139 And in his owene chambre hem made a bed,
4140 With sheetes and with chalons faire yspred
4141 Noght from his owene bed ten foot or twelve.
4142 His doghter hadde a bed, al by hirselve,
4143 Right in the same chambre by and by.
4144 It myghte be no bet, and cause why?
4145 Ther was no roumer herberwe in the place.
4146 They soupen and they speke, hem to solace,
4147 And drynken evere strong ale atte beste.
4148 Aboute mydnyght wente they to reste.
4149 Wel hath this millere vernysshed his heed;
4150 Ful pale he was for dronken, and nat reed.
4151 He yexeth, and he speketh thurgh the nose
4152 As he were on the quakke, or on the pose.
4153 To bedde he goth, and with hym goth his wyf.
4154 As any jay she light was and jolyf,
4155 So was hir joly whistle wel ywet.
4156 The cradel at hir beddes feet is set,
4157 To rokken, and to yeve the child to sowke.
4158 And whan that dronken al was in the crowke,
4159 To bedde wente the doghter right anon;
4160 To bedde goth Aleyn and also John;
4161 Ther nas na moore — hem nedede no dwale.
4162 This millere hath so wisely bibbed ale
4163 That as an hors he fnorteth in his sleep,
4164 Ne of his tayl bihynde he took no keep.
4165 His wyf bar hym a burdon, a ful strong;
4166 Men myghte hir rowtyng heere two furlong;
4167 The wenche rowteth eek, par compaignye.
4168 Aleyn the clerk, that herde this melodye,
4169 He poked John, and seyde, “Slepestow?
4170 Herdestow evere slyk a sang er now?
4171 Lo, swilk a complyn is ymel hem alle;
4172 A wilde fyr upon thair bodyes falle!
4173 Wha herkned evere slyk a ferly thyng?
4174 Ye, they sal have the flour of il endyng.
4175 This lange nyght ther tydes me na reste;
4176 But yet, na fors, al sal be for the beste.
4177 For, John,” seyde he, “als evere moot I thryve,
4178 If that I may, yon wenche wil I swyve.
4179 Som esement has lawe yshapen us,
4180 For, John, ther is a lawe that says thus:
4181 That gif a man in a point be agreved,
4182 That in another he sal be releved.
4183 Oure corn is stoln, sothly, it is na nay,
4184 And we han had an il fit al this day;
4185 And syn I sal have neen amendement
4186 Agayn my los, I will have esement.
4187 By Goddes sale, it sal neen other bee!”
4188 This John answerde, ” Alayn, avyse thee!
4189 The millere is a perilous man,” he seyde,
4190 ” And gif that he out of his sleep abreyde,
4191 He myghte doon us bathe a vileynye.”
4192 Aleyn answerde, “I counte hym nat a flye.”
4193 And up he rist, and by the wenche he crepte.
4194 This wenche lay uprighte and faste slepte,
4195 Til he so ny was, er she myghte espie,
4196 That it had been to late for to crie,
4197 And shortly for to seyn, they were aton.
4198 Now pley, Aleyn, for I wol speke of John.
4199 This John lith stille a furlong wey or two,
4200 And to hymself he maketh routhe and wo.
4201 ” Allas!” quod he, “this is a wikked jape;
4202 Now may I seyn that I is but an ape.
4203 Yet has my felawe somwhat for his harm;
4204 He has the milleris doghter in his arm.
4205 He auntred hym, and has his nedes sped,
4206 And I lye as a draf-sak in my bed;
4207 And when this jape is tald another day,
4208 I sal been halde a daf, a cokenay!
4209 I wil arise and auntre it, by my fayth!
4210 ‘Unhardy is unseely,’ thus men sayth.”
4211 And up he roos, and softely he wente
4212 Unto the cradel, and in his hand it hente,
4213 And baar it softe unto his beddes feet.
4214 Soone after this the wyf hir rowtyng leet,
4215 And gan awake, and wente hire out to pisse,
4216 And cam agayn, and gan hir cradel mysse,
4217 And groped heer and ther, but she foond noon.
4218 ” Allas!” quod she, “I hadde almoost mysgoon;
4219 I hadde almoost goon to the clerkes bed.
4220 Ey, benedicite! Thanne hadde I foule ysped!”
4221 And forth she gooth til she the cradel fond.
4222 She gropeth alwey forther with hir hond,
4223 And foond the bed, and thoghte noght but good,
4224 By cause that the cradel by it stood,
4225 And nyste wher she was, for it was derk;
4226 But faire and wel she creep in to the clerk,
4227 And lith ful stille, and wolde han caught a sleep.
4228 Withinne a while this John the clerk up leep,
4229 And on this goode wyf he leith on soore.
4230 So myrie a fit ne hadde she nat ful yoore;
4231 He priketh harde and depe as he were mad.
4232 This joly lyf han thise two clerkes lad
4233 Til that the thridde cok bigan to synge.
4234 Aleyn wax wery in the dawenynge,
4235 For he had swonken al the longe nyght,
4236 And seyde, “Fare weel, Malyne, sweete wight!
4237 The day is come; I may no lenger byde;
4238 But everemo, wher so I go or ryde,
4239 I is thyn awen clerk, swa have I seel!”
4240 “Now, deere lemman,” quod she, “go, far weel!
4241 But er thow go, o thyng I wol thee telle:
4242 Whan that thou wendest homward by the melle,
4243 Right at the entree of the dore bihynde
4244 Thou shalt a cake of half a busshel fynde
4245 That was ymaked of thyn owene mele,
4246 Which that I heelp my sire for to stele.
4247 And, goode lemman, God thee save and kepe!”
4248 And with that word almoost she gan to wepe.
4249 Aleyn up rist, and thoughte, “Er that it dawe,
4250 I wol go crepen in by my felawe,”
4251 And fond the cradel with his hand anon.
4252 “By God,” thoughte he, “al wrang I have mysgon.
4253 Myn heed is toty of my swynk to-nyght,
4254 That makes me that I ga nat aright.
4255 I woot wel by the cradel I have mysgo;
4256 Heere lith the millere and his wyf also.”
4257 And forth he goth, a twenty devel way,
4258 Unto the bed ther as the millere lay.
4259 He wende have cropen by his felawe John,
4260 And by the millere in he creep anon,
4261 And caughte hym by the nekke, and softe he spak.
4262 He seyde, “Thou John, thou swynes-heed, awak,
4263 For Cristes saule, and heer a noble game.
4264 For by that lord that called is Seint Jame,
4265 As I have thries in this shorte nyght
4266 Swyved the milleres doghter bolt upright,
4267 Whil thow hast, as a coward, been agast.”
4268 “Ye, false harlot,” quod the millere, “hast?
4269 A, false traitour! False clerk!” quod he,
4270 “Thow shalt be deed, by Goddes dignitee!
4271 Who dorste be so boold to disparage
4272 My doghter, that is come of swich lynage?”
4273 And by the throte-bolle he caughte Alayn,
4274 And he hente hym despitously agayn,
4275 And on the nose he smoot hym with his fest.
4276 Doun ran the blody streem upon his brest;
4277 And in the floor, with nose and mouth tobroke,
4278 They walwe as doon two pigges in a poke;
4279 And up they goon, and doun agayn anon,
4280 Til that the millere sporned at a stoon,
4281 And doun he fil bakward upon his wyf,
4282 That wiste no thyng of this nyce stryf;
4283 For she was falle aslepe a lite wight
4284 With John the clerk, that waked hadde al nyght,
4285 And with the fal out of hir sleep she breyde.
4286 “Help! hooly croys of Bromeholm,” she seyde,
4287 “In manus tuas! Lord, to thee I calle!
4288 Awak, Symond! The feend is on me falle.
4289 Myn herte is broken; help! I nam but deed!
4290 Ther lyth oon upon my wombe and on myn heed.
4291 Help, Symkyn, for the false clerkes fighte!”
4292 This John stirte up as faste as ever he myghte,
4293 And graspeth by the walles to and fro,
4294 To fynde a staf; and she stirte up also,
4295 And knew the estres bet than dide this John,
4296 And by the wal a staf she foond anon,
4297 And saugh a litel shymeryng of a light,
4298 For at an hole in shoon the moone bright,
4299 And by that light she saugh hem bothe two,
4300 But sikerly she nyste who was who,
4301 But as she saugh a whit thyng in hir ye.
4302 And whan she gan this white thyng espye,
4303 She wende the clerk hadde wered a volupeer,
4304 And with the staf she drow ay neer and neer,
4305 And wende han hit this Aleyn at the fulle,
4306 And smoot the millere on the pyled skulle,
4307 That doun he gooth, and cride, “Harrow! I dye!”
4308 Thise clerkes beete hym weel and lete hym lye,
4309 And greythen hem, and tooke hir hors anon,
4310 And eek hire mele, and on hir wey they gon.
4311 And at the mille yet they tooke hir cake
4312 Of half a busshel flour, ful wel ybake.
4313 Thus is the proude millere wel ybete,
4314 And hath ylost the gryndynge of the whete,
4315 And payed for the soper everideel
4316 Of Aleyn and of John, that bette hym weel.
4317 His wyf is swyved, and his doghter als.
4318 Lo, swich it is a millere to be fals!
4319 And therfore this proverbe is seyd ful sooth,
4320 “Hym thar nat wene wel that yvele dooth.”
4321 A gylour shal hymself bigyled be.
4322 And God, that sitteth heighe in magestee,
4323 Save al this compaignye, grete and smale!
4324 Thus have I quyt the Millere in my tale.

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4. THE REEVE’S TALE - GEOFFREY CHAUCER