The Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer

The Reeves Tale

Whan folk hadde lawhen of this nyce caas

Of Absolon and heende Nicholas,

Dyverse folk dyversely they seyde,

But for the moste part they lowh and pleyde;

Ne at this tale I sawh no man him greve,

But it were oonly Osewald the Reeve.

Bycause he was of carpentrye craft,

A litel ire is in his herte laft;

He gan to grucche and blamed it a lite.

“So theek,” quod he, “ful wel coude I the quyte

With bleryng of a prowd mylleres ye,

If that me luste speke of ribaudye.

But yk am old; me list not pleye for age;

Gras tyme is doon, my foddir is now forage.

My whyte top writeth myn olde yeeres;

Myn hert is al so moulyd as myn heeres;

But yit I fare as doth an open-ers;

That ilke fruyt is ever lenger the wers,

Til it be rote in mullok or in stree.

We olde men, I drede, so fare we,

Til we be roten, can we nat be rype;

We hoppen alway, whil the world wol pype;

For in oure wil ther stiketh ever a nayl,

To have an hoor heed and a greene tayl,

As hath a leek; for though oure might be doon,

Oure wil desireth folye ever in oon;

For whan we may nat do, than wol we speke,

Yet in oure aisshen old is fyr i-reke.

Foure gledys have we, which I schal devyse,

Avanting, lyyng, angur, coveytise.

This foure sparkys longen unto eelde.

Oure olde lymes mowen be unweelde,

But wil ne schal nat fayle us, that is soth.

And yet I have alwey a clotes toth,

As many a yeer as it is passed henne,

Syn that my tappe of lyf bygan to renne.

For sikirlik, whan I was born, anon

Deth drough the tappe of lyf, and leet it goon;

And now so longe hath the tappe i-ronne,

Til that almost al empty is the tonne.

The streem of lyf now droppeth on the chymbe.

The sely tonge may wel rynge and chimbe

Of wrecchednes, that passed is ful yoore:

With olde folk, sauf dotage, is no more.”

Whan that oure Host hadde herd this sermonyng,

He gan to speke as lordly as a kyng,

And seyde, “What amounteth al this wit?

What? schul we speke al day of holy wryt?

The devyl made a reve for to preche,

Or of a sowter, schipman or a leche.

Sey forth thi tale, and tarye nat the tyme;

Lo heer is Depford, and it is passed prime;

Lo Grenewich, ther many a schrewe is inne;

It were al tyme thi tale for to bygynne.”

“Now, sires,” quod this Osewold the Reeve,
“I pray yow alle, that noon of you him greeve,
Though I answere, and somwhat sette his howve,
For leeful is with force force to showve.
This dronken Myllere hath i-tolde us heer,
How that bygiled was a carpenter,
Peradventure in scorn, for I am oon;
And by your leve, I schal him quyte anoon.
Right in his cherles termes wol I speke;
I praye to God his nekke mot to-breke!
He can wel in myn eye seen a stalke,
But in his owne he can nought seen a balke.”

At Trompyngtoun, nat fer fro Cantebrigge,
Ther goth a brook, and over that a brigge,
Upon the whiche brook ther stant a melle:
And this is verray sothe that I you telle.
A meller was ther dwellyng many a day,
As eny pecok he was prowd and gay;
Pipen he coude, and fissh, and nettys beete,
And turne cuppes, wrastle wel, and scheete.
Ay by his belt he bar a long panade,
And of a swerd ful trenchaunt was the blade.
A joly popper bar he in his pouche;
Ther no man for perel durst him touche.
A Scheffeld thwitel bar he in his hose.
Round was his face, and camois was his nose.
As pyled as an ape was his skulle.
He was a market-beter at the fulle.
Ther durste no wight hand upon him legge,
That he ne swor anon he schuld abegge.

A theef he was, for-soth, of corn and mele,
And that a sleigh, and usyng for to stele.
His name was hoote deynous Symekyn.
A wyf he hadde, come of noble kyn;
The persoun of the toun hir fader was.
With hire he yaf ful many a panne of bras,
For that Symkyn schuld in his blood allye.
Sche was i-fostryd in a nonnerye;
For Smykyn wolde no wyf, as he sayde
But sche were wel i-norissched and a mayde,
To saven his estaat and yomanrye.
And sche was proud and pert as is a pye.
A ful fair sighte was ther upon hem two;
On haly dayes bifore hir wold he go
With his typet y-bounde about his heed;
And sche cam aftir in a gyte of reed,
And Symkyn hadde hosen of the same.
Ther durste no wight clepe hir but madame;
Was noon so hardy walkyng by the weye,
That with hir dorste rage or elles pleye,
But if he wolde be slayn of Symekyn
With panade, or with knyf, or boydekyn;
For gelous folk ben perilous evermo,
Algate they wolde here wyves wende so.
And eek for sche was somdel smoterlich,
Sche was as deyne as water in a dich,
As ful of hokir, and of bissemare.
Hir thoughte ladyes oughten hir to spare,
What for hir kynreed and hir nortelrye.
That shce hadde lerned in the nonnerye.
O doughter hadden they betwix hem two,
Of twenti yeer, withouten eny mo,
Savyng a child that was of half yer age
In cradil lay, and was a proper page.
This wenche thikke and wel i-growen was,
With camoys nose, and eyghen gray as glas;
And buttokkes brode, and brestes round and hye,
But right fair was hir heer, I wol nat lye.
The persoun of the toun, for sche was feir,
In purpos was to maken hir his heir,
Bothe of his catel and his mesuage,
And straunge made it of hir mariage.
His purpos was to bystowe hir hye
Into som worthy blood of ancetrye;
For holy chirche good moot be despendid
On holy chirche blood that is descendid.
Therfore he wolde his joly blood honoure,
Though that he schulde holy chirche devoure.

Gret soken hadde this meller, oute of doute,
With whete and malt, of al the londe aboute;
And namely ther was a gret collegge,
Men clepe it the Soler-halle of Cantebregge,
Ther was here whete and eek here malt i-grounde.
And on a day it happed on a stounde,
Syk lay the mauncyple on a maledye,
Men wenden wisly that he schulde dye;
For which this meller stal both mele and corn
A thousend part more than byforn.
For ther biforn he stal but curteysly;
But now he is a theef outrageously.
For which the wardeyn chidde and made fare,
But therof sette the meller not a tare;
He crakkede boost, and swor it was nat so.
Thanne weren there poore scoleres tuo,
That dwelten in the halle of which I seye;
Testyf they were, and lusty for to pleye;
And, oonly for here mirthe and revelrye,
Uppon the wardeyn bysily they crye,
To yeve hem leve but a litel stounde
To go to melle and see here corn i-grounde;
And hardily they dursten ley here nekke,
The meller schulde nat stel hem half a pekke
Of corn by sleighte, ne by force hem reve.
And atte last the wardeyn yaf hem leve.
Johan hight that oon, and Alayn hight that other;
Of o toun were they born that highte Strothir,
Fer in the North, I can nat telle where.
This Aleyn maketh redy al his gere,
And on an hors the sak he cast anoon:
Forth goth Aleyn the clerk, and also Jon,
With good swerd and with bocler by her side.
Johan knew the way, that hem needith no gyde;
And at the mylle the sak adoun he layth.
Alayn spak first: “Al heil! Symond, in faith
How fares thy faire doughter and thy wyf?”
“Alayn, welcome,” quod Symond, “by my lyf!
And Johan also; how now! what do ye here?”
“By God!” quod Johan, “Symond, neede has na peere.
Him falles serve himself that has na swayn,
Or elles he is a fon, as clerkes sayn.
Our mancyple, as I hope, wil be deed,
Swa werkes ay the wanges in his heed.
And therfore I is come, and eek Aleyn,
To grynde oure corn, and carie it ham ageyn.
I prey you speed us in al that ye may.”
“It schal be doon,” quod Symkyn, “by my fay!
What wol ye do whil that it is in hande?”
“By God! right by the hope wol I stande,”
Quod Johan, “and se how that the corn gas inne.
Yet sawh I never, by my fader kynne!
How that the hoper waggis to and fra.”
Aleyn answered, “Johan, and wiltow swa?
Than wol I be bynethe, by my croun!
And se how that the mele fallys doun
Into the trough, that schal be my desport;
For Jon, in faith, I may be of youre sort,
I is as ille a meller as ere ye.”
This mellere smyleth for here nyceté,
And thought, “Al this is doon but for a wyle,
They wenen that no man may hem bigile.
But, by my thrift, yet schal I blere here ye,
For al here sleight and al here philosophie;
The more queynte knakkes that they make,
The more wol I stele whan I take.
In stede of mele, yet wol I yeve hem bren.
The grettest clerkes beth not wisest men,
As whilom to the wolf thus spak the mare;
Of al here art ne counte I nat a tare.”
Out at the dore he goth ful pryvyly,
Whan that he saugh his tyme sotyly;
He loketh up and doun, til he hath founde
The clerkes hors, ther as it stood i-bounde
Behynde the mylle, under a levesel;
And to the hors he goth him faire and wel.
He strepeth of the bridel right anoon.
And whan the hors was loos, he gan to goon
Toward the fen there wilde mares renne,
Forth with “wi-he!” thurgh thikke and eek thurgh thenne.
This meller goth agayn, and no word seyde,
But doth his note, and with the clerkes pleyde,
Til that here corn was fair and wel i-grounde.
And whan the mele was sakked and i-bounde,

This Johan goth out, and fynt his hors away,
And gan to crye, “Harrow and weylaway!
Oure hors is loste! Aleyn, for Goddes banes,
Step on thy feet, cum on, man, al at anes.
Allas! our wardeyn hath his palfray lorn!”
This Aleyn al forgeteth mele and corn,
Al was out of his mynd his housbondrye;
“What, whilke way is he gan?” gan he crye.
The wyf cam lepyng in-ward with a ren,
Sche seyde, “Allas! your hors goth to the fen
With wylde mares, as fast as he may go;
Unthank come on his heed that band him so,
And he that bettir schuld han knyt the reyne!”
“Allas!” quod Johan, “Aleyn, for Cristes peyne!
Leg doun thi swerd, and I sal myn alswa;
I is ful wight, God wat, as is a ra;
By Goddes hart! he sal nat scape us bathe.
Why and thou put the capil in the lathe?
Il hail, Aleyn, by God! thou is a fon!”
This sely clerkes speeden hem anoon
Toward the fen, bothe Aleyn and eek Jon.
And when the myller sawh that they were gon,
He half a busshel of the flour hath take,
And bad his wyf go knede it in a cake.
He seyde, “I trowe the clerkes ben aferd!
Yet can a miller make a clerkes berd,
For al his art; ye, lat hem go here waye!
Lo wher they goon! ye, lat the children playe;
They get hym nat so lightly, by my croun!”
This seely clerkes ronnen up and doun,
With “Keep! keep! stand! stand! jossa, ware derere!
Ga wightly thou, and I sal keep him heere.”
But schortly, til that it was verray night,
They cowde nat, though they did al here might,
Here capil cacche, it ran away so faste,
Til in a diche they caught him atte laste.
Wery and wete as bestys in the reyn,
Comth sely Johan, and with him comth Aleyn.
“Allas!” quod Johan, “that day that I was born!
Now are we dryve til hething and to scorn.
Oure corn is stole, men woln us foles calle,
Bathe the wardeyn and eek our felaws alle,
And namely the myller, weyloway!”
Thus pleyneth Johan, as he goth by the way
Toward the mylle, and Bayard in his hand.
The myller sittyng by the fyr he fand,
For it was night, and forther mighte they noughte,
But for the love of God they him bisoughte
Of herberwh and of ese, as for her peny.
The myller sayd agayn, “If ther be eny,
Swich as it is, yit schul ye have your part.
Myn hous is streyt, but ye han lerned art;
Ye conne by argumentes make a place
A myl brood of twenty foote of space.
Let se now if this place may suffyse,
Or make it rom with speche, as is your gyse.”
“Now, Symond,” seyde this Johan, “by seynt Cuthberd?
Ay is thou mery, and that is fair answerd.
I have herd say, men suld take of twa thinges,
Slik as he fynt, or tak slik as he bringes.
But specially I pray the, host ful deere,
Get us som mete and drynk, and mak us cheere,
And we wol paye trewely at the fulle;
With empty hand men may na hawkes tulle.
Lo heer our silver redy for to spende.”
This meller into toun his doughter sende
For ale and breed, and rosted hem a goos,
And band her hors, he scholde no more go loos;
And in his owne chambir hem made a bed,
With schetys and with chalouns fair i-spred,
Nat from his owen bed ten foot or twelve.
His doughter had a bed al by hirselve,
Right in the same chambre by and by;
It mighte be no bet, and cause why
Ther was no rommer herberw in the place.
They sowpen, and they speke hem to solace,
And dronken ever strong ale atte beste.
Aboute mydnyght wente they to reste.
Wel hath the myller vernysshed his heed,
Ful pale he was for-dronken, and nat reed;
He yoxeth, and he speketh thurgh the nose,
As he were on the quakke or on the pose.
To bed he goth, and with him goth his wyf,
As eny jay sche light was and jolyf,
So was hire joly whistel wel y-wet;
The cradil at hire beddes feet is set,
To rokken, and to yive the child to souke.
And whan that dronken was al in the crouke,
To bedde wente the doughter right anon;
To bedde goth Aleyn, and also Jon,
Ther nas no more, hem needed no dwale.
This meller hath so wysly bibbed ale,
That as an hors he snortith in his sleep,
Ne of his tayl bihynd took he no keep.
His wyf bar him a burdoun, a ful strong,
Men might her rowtyng heeren a forlong.
The wench routeth eek par companye.
Aleyn the clerk, that herde this melodye,
He pokyde Johan, and seyde, “Slepistow?
Herdistow ever slik a sang er now?
Lo, slik a couplyng is betwix hem alle,
A wilde fyr upon thair bodyes falle!
Wha herkned ever swilk a ferly thing?
Ye, thei sul have the flour of ille endyng!
This lange night ther tydes me na rest.
But yet na fors, al sal be for the best.
For, Johan,” sayd he, “as ever mot I thryve,
If that I may, yone wenche sal I swyve.
Som esement hath the lawe schapen us;
For Johan, ther is a lawe that says thus,
That if a man in a point he agreved,
That in another he sal be releeved.
Oure corn is stoln, sothly, it is na nay,
And we have had an ylle fitt to day;
And syn I sal have nan amendement
Agayn my los, I wol have esement.
By Goddes saule! it sal nan other be.”
This Johan answerd, “Aleyn, avyse the;
The miller is a perlous man,” he sayde,
“And if that he out of his sleep abrayde,
He mighte do us bothe a vilonye.”
Aleyn answerd, “I count it nat a flye!”
And up he roos, and by the wenche he crepte.
This wenche lay upright and faste slepte,
Til he so neih was or sche might aspye
That it hadde ben to late for to crye.
And schortly for to seye, they weren at oon.
Now pley, Alein, for I wol speke of Jon.
This Johan lith stille a forlong whyle or two,
And to himself compleyned of his woo.
“Allas!” quod he, “this is a wikked jape;
Now may I say that I am but an ape.
Yet hath my felaw somwhat for his harm;
He hath the myllers doughter in his arm;
He auntred him, and has his needes sped,
And I lye as a draf-sak in my bed;
And when this jape is tald another day,
I sal be held a daf, a cokenay.
Unhardy is unsely, as men saith.
I wol arise, and auntre it, in good faith.”
And up he ros, and softely he wente
Unto the cradil, and in his hand it hente,
And bar it softe unto his beddis feet.
Soone after this the wyf hir routyng leet,
And gan awake, and went hir for to pisse,
And cam agayn, and gan hir cradel mysse,
And groped heer and ther, but sche fond noon.
“Allas!” quod sche, “I had almost mysgoon;
I had almost goon to the clerkes bed,
Ey, benedicite! than had I foule i-sped!”
And forth sche goth, til sche the cradil fand.
Sche gropith alway forther with hir hand,
And fand the bed, and thoughte nat but good,
Bycause that the cradil by hit stood,
Nat knowyng wher sche was, for it was derk;
But faire and wel sche creep in to the clerk,
And lith ful stille, and wolde han caught a sleep.
Withinne a while Johan the clerk up leep,
And on this goode wyf he leyth on sore;
So mery a fytt ne hadde sche nat ful yore.
He priketh harde and deepe, as he were mad.
This joly lyf han this twey clerkes had,
Til that the thridde cok bygan to synge.
Aleyn wax wery in the dawenynge,
For he hadde swonken al the longe night,
And seyde, “Farwel, Malyn, my sweete wight!
The day is come, I may no lenger byde;
But evermo, wher so I go or ryde,
I am thin owen clerk, so have I seel!”
“Now, deere lemman,” quod sche, “go, farwel!
But or thou go, o thing I wol the telle:
Whan that thou wendist hom-ward by the melle,
Right at the entré of the dore byhynde
Thou schalt a cake of half a busshel fynde,
That was i-maked of thyn owen mele,
Which that I hilp myn owen self to stele.
And, goode lemman, God the save and kepe!”
And with that word almost sche gan to weepe.

Aleyn uprist, and thought, “Er that it dawe
I wol go crepen in by my felawe;”
And fand the cradil with his hand anon.
“By God!” thought he, “al wrong I have i-goon;
My heed is toty of my swynk to nyght,
That makes me that I ga nought aright.
I wot wel by the cradel I have mysgo;
Heer lith the myller and his wyf also.”
Forth he goth in twenty devel way
Unto the bed, ther as the miller lay.
He wende have crope by his felaw Jon,
And by the myller in he creep anon,
And caught him by the nekke, and soft he spak,
And seyde, “Jon, thou swyneshed, awak,
For Cristes sowle! and here a noble game;
For, by that lord that cleped is seynt Jame,
As I have thries in this schorte night
Swyved the myllers doughter bolt upright,
Whiles thou hast as a coward ben agast.”
“Ye, false harlot,” quod this mellere, “hast?
A! false traitour, false clerk!” quod he,
“Thou schalt be deed, by Goddes dignité!
Who durste be so bold to disparage
My doughter, that is com of hih lynage?”
And by the throte-bolle he caught Aleyn,
And he hent him dispitiously ageyn,
And on the nose he smot him with his fest.
Doun ran the blody streem upon his brest;
And in the floor with nose and mouth to-broke
They walweden as pigges in a poke;
And up they goon, and doun they goon anon,
Til that the millner stumbled at a ston,
And doun he felle bakward on his wyf,
That wyste nothing of this nyce stryf;
For sche was falle asleepe a litel wight
With Jon the clerk, that waked al the night,
And with the falle right out of slepe sche brayde.
“Help, holy croys of Bromholme!” sche sayde,
In manus tuas, Lord, to the I calle!
Awake, Symond, the feend is in thin halle!
My hert is broken! help! I am but deed!
Ther lythe upon my wombe and on myn heed.
Help, Symkyn! for this false clerkes fighte.”
This Johan stert up as fast as ever he mighte,
And graspede by the walles to and fro,
To fynde a staf; and sche sturt up also,
And knewe the estres bet than dede that Jon.
And by the wal sche took a staf anon,
And sawh a litel glymeryng of light;
For at an hool in schon the moone bright,
And by that light she saugh hem bothe two;
But sikirly sche wiste nat who was who,
But as sche saugh a whit thing in hir ye.
And whan sche gan this white thing aspye,
Sche wende the clerk hadde wered a volupeer;
And with a staf sche drough hir neer and neer,
And wend have hit this Aleyn atte fulle,
And smot this meller on the piled sculle,
That doun he goth, and cryeth, “Harrow! I dye!”
This clerkes beeten him wel, and lett hym lye,
And greyth hem wel, and take her hors anon,
And eek here mele, and hoom anon they goon;
And at the millen dore they tok here cake
Of half a buisshel flour ful wel i-bake.

Thus is the prowde miller wel i-bete,
And hath i-lost the gryndyng of the whete,
And payed for the soper every del
Of Aleyn and of Johan, that beten him wel;
His wyf is swyved, and his doughter als.
Lo! such it is a miller to be fals.
And therto this proverbe is seyd ful soth,
He thar nat weene wel that evyl doth.
A gylour schal himself bygiled be.
And God, that sittest in thy magesté,
Save al this compaignie, gret and smale!
Thus have I quyt the miller in his tale.

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Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 20:37