The Reeve’s tale pleased the London Cook as much 4325
As a back-scratching, his delight was such.
“Ha! ha!” said he, “this miller, by Christ’s passion,
Got his comeuppance in the sharpest fashion
For all that talk of lodging space with clerks.
As Solomon well stated in his works, 4330
‘Into your house not every man invite.’
It’s perilous to let one lodge at night,
And well advised should every fellow be
On whom he brings to share his privacy.
I pray to God to give me woe and care 4335
If ever, since they named me Hodge of Ware,
Have I heard of a miller better duped!
To mean tricks in the dark they really stooped.
But God forbid that here’s where we conclude;
And so, if here you’ll grant that I include 4340
A tale, then I, who am a humble man,
Will tell to you the best way that I can
A funny thing that happened in our city.”
Our Host said, “Granted, Roger, but be witty
In what you tell, see that it’s of some use; 4345
From many a pastry you have drained the juice,
And you have peddled many a Jack of Dover
When twice already you had warmed it over.
There’s many a pilgrim wishes you Christ’s curse;
Your parsley has them feeling all the worse 4350
(They ate it with your stubble-nourished goose),
For in your shop so many flies are loose.
Now tell on, gentle Roger, by your name.
And don’t get mad, I pray, about a game;
A man may speak the truth in fun or play.” 4355
“You speak the truth,” said Roger, “I must say.
But ‘true jest, bad jest’–Flemings say it daily;
And therefore by your faith now, Harry Bailey,
Do not get mad before we’ve parted, sir,
Although my tale be of a hosteler. 4360
I will not tell it yet, but when I do
(Before we part) you’ll have what’s owed to you.”
And so with that he laughed with merry cheer
And told his tale, as you’re about to hear.
The Cook’s Tale
Once an apprentice dwelt within our town, 4365
Learning the victuals trade. He was as brown
As any berry. Blithely he’d cavort
Like a finch in the wood. Well-built and short,
With locks coal black and very neatly kept,
At dancing he so well, so blithely leapt, 4370
That he was known as Perkin Reveler.
He was as full of love, this victualer,
As is the beehive full of honey sweet,
And lucky were the wenches he would meet.
At every wedding he would sing and hop; 4375
He loved the tavern better than the shop.
When there was a procession in Cheapside,
Out of the shop immediately he hied,
And till he’d seen it all, and took a turn
At dancing, he would not again return; 4380
And there would gather many of his sort
To dance and sing and otherwise disport;
And they would make appointments too to meet
And play at dice at such-and-such a street,
For there was no apprentice in the town 4385
Who better rattled dice and threw them down
Than Perkin Reveler. And he was free
In what he spent–his master easily
Had learnt this in the shop, for that is where
He often found his box completely bare. 4390
For surely when a prentice takes to vice
Like parties, paramours, and games of dice,
His master in the shop shall be the one
Who pays though having no part in the fun.
Although a prentice play guitar or fiddle, 4395
Theft and riotous living differ little;
Truth and revel, in one of low degree,
Will always be at odds, as men may see.
Now with his master this blithe lad remained
Until in victuals nearly fully trained, 4400
Though often chided–more than once he made
The trip to Newgate while musicians played.
Then finally one day his master thought,
When Perkin his indenture paper sought,
About an old proverb, the words that say: 4405
“A rotten apple’s better thrown away
Before it spoils the barrel.” That is true
When dealing with a bad apprentice too;
Less harm is done to let him go apace
Before he ruins all others in the place. 4410
And so his master gave him his acquittance,
And bade him go with sorry luck: “Good riddance!”
And so this jolly prentice left. Let him
Now revel all the night if that’s his whim.
And as there is no thief without ally 4415
To help embezzle, squander, or come by
All he can steal or borrow in some way,
He sent his bed and clothes without delay
To a compeer, a chap of his own sort
Who loved to dice, to revel and disport, 4420
And had a wife who kept, for public view,
A shop, but for her livelihood would screw.
(Unfinished by Chaucer)