The Millers Prologue
Here folwen the wordes bitwene the Host and the Millere.
Whan that the Knight had thus his tale y-told,
In al the route nas ther yong ne old
That he ne seyde it was a noble storie,
And worthy for to drawen to memorie ;
And namely the gentils everichoon.
Our Hoste lough and swoor, ‘ so moot I goon,
This gooth aright ; unbokeled is the male ;
Lat see now who shal telle another tale :
For trewely, the game is wel bigonne.
Now telleth ye, sir Monk, that ye conne,
Sumwhat, to quyte with the Knightes tale.’
The Miller, that for-dronken was al paie,
So that unnethe up-on his hors he sat,
He nolde avalen neither hood ne hat,
Ne abyde no man for his curteisye,
But in Pilates vois he gan to crye,
And swoor by armes and by blood and bones,
‘ I can a noble tale for the nones,
With which I wol now quyte the Knightes tale.’
Our Hoste saugh that he was dronke of ale,
And seyde : ‘ abyd, Robin, my leve brother,
Som bettre man shal telle us first another :
Abyd, and lat us werken thriftily.’
‘ By goddes soul,’ quod he, ‘ that wol nat I ;
For I wol speke, or elles go my wey.’
Our Hoste answerde : ‘ tel on, a devel wey !
Thou art a fool, thy wit is overcome.’
‘Now herkneth,’ quod the Miller, ‘alle and some!
But first I make a protestacioun
That I am dronke, I knowe it by my soun ;
And therfore, if that I misspeke or seye,
Wyte it the ale of Southwerk, I yow preye ;
For I wol telle a legende and a lyf
Bothe of a Carpenter, and of his wyf,
How that a clerk hath set the wrightes cappe.’
The Reve answerde and seyde, ‘ stint thy clappe,
Lat be thy lewed dronken harlotrye.
It is a sinne and eek a greet folye
To apeiren any man, or him diffame,
And eek to bringen wyves in swich fame.
Thou mayst y-nogh of othere thinges seyn.’
This dronken Miller spak ful sone ageyn,
And seyde, ‘ leve brother Osewold,
Who hath no wyf, he is no cokewold.
But I sey nat therfore that thou art oon ;
Ther been ful gode wyves many oon,
And ever a thousand gode ayeyns oon badde,
That knowestow wel thy -self, but-if thou madde.
Why artow angry with my tale now ?
I have a wyf, pardee, as well as thou;
Yet nolde I, for the oxen in my plogh,
Taken up-on me more than y-nogh,
As demen of my-self that I were oon ;
I wol beleve wel that I am noon.
An housbond shal nat been inquisitif
Of goddes privetee, nor of his wyf.
So he may finde goddes foyson there,
Of the remenant nedeth nat enquere.’
What sholde I more seyn, but this Millere
He nolde his wordes for no man forbere,
But tolde his cherles tale in his manere ;
Me thinketh that I shal reherce it here.
And ther-fore every gentil wight I preye,
For goddes love, demeth nat that I seye
Of evel entente, but that I moot reherce
Hir tales alle, be they bettre or werse,
Or elles falsen som of my matere.
And therfore, who-so list it nat y-here,
Turne over the leef, and chese another tale ;
For he shal finde y-nowe, grete and smale,
Of storial thing that toucheth gentillesse,
And eek moralitee and holinesse ;
Blameth nat me if that ye chese amis.
The Miller is a cherl, ye knowe wel this ;
So was the Reve, and othere many mo,
And harlotrye they tolden bothe two.
Avyseth yow and putte me out of blame ;
And eek men shal nat make ernest of game.
Here endeth the prologe.
Here biginneth the Millere his tale.
Whylom ther was dwellinge at Oxenford
A riche gnof, that gestes heeld to bord,
And of his craft he was a Carpenter.
With him ther was dwellinge a povre scoler,
Had lerned art, but al his fantasye
Was turned for to lerne astrologye,
And coude a certeyn of conclusiouns
To demen by interrogaciouns,
If that men axed him in certein houres,
Whan that men sholde have droghte or elles shoures,
Or if men axed him what sholde bifalle
Of every thing, I may nat rekene hem alle.
This clerk was cleped hende Nicholas ;
Of derne love he coude and of solas ;
And ther- to he was sleigh and ful privee,
And lyk a mayden meke for to see.
A chambre hadde he in that hostelrye
Allone, with-outen any companye,
Ful fetisly y-dight with herbes swote ;
And he him -self as swete as is the rote
Of licorys, or any cetewale.
His Almageste and bokes grete and smale,
His astrelabie, longinge for his art,
His augrim-stones layen faire a-part
On shelves couched at his beddes heed :
His presse y-covered with a falding reed.
And al above ther lay a gay sautrye,
On which he made a nightes melodye
So swetely, that al the chambre rong ;
And Angelus ad virginem he song ;
And after that he song the kinges note ;
Ful often blessed was his mery throte.
And thus this swete clerk his tyme spente
After his freendes finding and his rente.
This Carpenter had wedded newe a wyf
Which that he lovede more than his lyf ;
Of eightetene yeer she was of age.
Jalous he was, and heeld hir narwe in cage,
For she was wilde and yong, and he was old,
And demed him -self ben lyk a cokewold.
He knew nat Catoun, for his wit was rude,
That bad man sholde wedde his similitude.
Men sholde wedden after hir estaat,
For youthe and elde is often at debaat.
But sith that he was fallen in the snare.
He moste endure, as other folk, his care.
Fair was this yonge wyf, and ther-with-al
As any wesele hir body gent and smal.
A ceynt she werede barred al of silk,
A barmclooth eek as whyt as morne milk
Up-on hir lendes, ful of many a gore.
Whyt was hir smok and brouded al bifore
And eek bihinde, on hir coler aboute,
Of col-blak silk, with-inne and eek with-oute.
The tapes of hir whyte voluper
Were of the same suyte of hir coler ;
Hir filet brood of silk, and set ful hye :
And sikerly she hadde a likerous ye.
Ful smale y-pulled were hir browes two,
And tho were bent, and blake as any sloo.
She was ful more blisful on to see
Than is the newe pere-jonette tree ;
And softer than the wolle is of a wether.
And by hir girdel heeng a purs of lether
Tasseld with silk, and perled with latoun.
In al this world, to seken up and doun,
There nis no man so wys, that coude thenche
So gay a popelote, or swich a wenche.
Ful brighter was the shyning of hir hewe
Than in the tour the noble y-forged newe.
But of hir song, it was as loude and yerne
As any swalwe sittinge on a berne.
Ther-to she coude skippe and make game,
As any kide or calf folwinge his dame.
Hir mouth was swete as bragot or the meeth
Or hord of apples leyd in hey or heeth.
Winsinge she was, as is a joly colt,
Long as a mast, and upright as a bolt.
A brooch she baar up-on hir lowe coler,
As brood as is the bos of a bocler.
Hir shoes were laced on hir legges hye ;
She was a prymerole, a pigges-nye
For any lord to leggen in his bedde,
Or yet for any good yeman to wedde.
Now sire, and eft sire, so bifel the cas,-
That on a day this hende Nicholas
Fil with this yonge wyf to rage and pleye,
Whyl that hir housbond was at Oseneye,
As clerkes ben ful subtile and ful queynte ;
And prively he caughte hir by the queynte,
And seyde, ‘ y-wis, but if ich have my wille,
For derne love of thee, lemman, I spille.’
And heeld hir harde by the haunche- bones,
And seyde, ‘ lemman, love me al at-ones,
Or I wol dyen, also god me save ! ‘
And she sprong as a colt doth in the trave,
And with hir heed she wryed faste awey,
And seyde, ‘ I wol nat kisse thee, by my fey,
Why, lat be,’ quod she, ‘ lat be, Nicholas,
Or I wol crye out ” harrow ” and ” alias.”
Do wey your handes for your curteisye ! ‘
This Nicholas gan mercy for to crye,
And spak so faire, and profred hir so faste,
That she hir love him graunted atte laste,
And swoor hir ooth, by seint Thomas of Kent,
That she wol been at his comandement,
Whan that she may hir leyser wel espye.
‘ Myn housbond is so ful of jalousye,
That but ye wayte wel and been privee,
I woot right wel I nam but deed,’ quod she.
‘ Ye moste been ful derne, as in this cas.’
‘ Nay ther-of care thee noght,’ quod Nicholas,
‘ A clerk had litherly biset his whyle,
But-if he coude a carpenter bigyle.’
And thus they been acorded and y-sworn
To wayte a tyme, as I have told biforn.
Whan Nicholas had doon thus everydeel,
And thakked hir aboute the lendes weel,
He kist hir swete, and taketh his sautrye,
And pleyeth faste, and maketh melodye.
Than fil it thus, that to the parish -chirche,
Cristes <5wne werkes for to wirche,
This gode wyf wente on an haliday ;
Hir forheed shoon as bright as any day,
So was it wasshen whan she leet hir werk.
Now was ther of that chirche a parish -clerk,
The which that was y-cleped Absolon.
Crul was his heer, and as the gold it shoon,
And strouted as a fanne large and brode ;
Ful streight and even lay his joly shode.
His rode was reed, his eyen greye as goos ;
With Powles window corven on his shoos,
In hoses rede he wente fetisly.
Y-clad he was ful smal and proprely,
Al in a kirtel of a light wachet ;
Ful faire and thikke been the poyntes set.
And ther-up-on he hadde a gay surplys
As whyt as is the blosme up-on the rys.
A mery child he was, so god me save,
Wel coude he laten blood and clippe and shave,
And make a chartre of lond or acquitaunce.
In twenty manere coude he trippe and daunce
After the scole of Oxenforde tho,
And with his legges casten to and fro,
And pleyen songes on a small rubible ; ,
Ther-to he song som-tyme a loud quirible ;
And as wel coude he pleye on his giterne.
In al the toun nas brewhous ne taverne
That he ne visited with his solas,
Ther any gaylard tappestere was.
But sooth to seyn, he was somdel squaymous
Of farting, and of speche daungerous.
This Absolon, that jolif was and gay,
Gooth with a sencer on the haliday,
Sensinge the wyves of the parish faste ;
And many a lovely look on hem he caste,
And namely on this carpenteres wyf.
To loke on hir him thoughte a rnery lyf,
She was so propre and swete and likerous.
I dar wel seyn, if she had been a mous,
And he a cat, he wolde hir hente anon.
This parish-clerk, this joly Absolon,
Hath in his herte swich a love-longinge,
That of no wyf ne took he noon offringe ;
For curteisye, he seyde, he wolde noon.
The mone, whan it Avas night, ful brighte shoon,
And Absolon his giterne hath y-take,
For paramours, he thoghte for to wake.
And forth he gooth, jolif and amorous,
Til he cam to the carpenteres hous
A litel after cokkes hadde y-crowe ;
And dressed him up by a shot- wind owe
That was up-on the carpenteres wal.
He singeth in his vois gentil and smal,
‘ Now, dere lady, if thy wille be,
I preye yow that ye wol rewe on me,’
Ful wel acordaunt to his giterninge.
This carpenter awook, and herde him singe,
And spak un-to his wyf, and seyde anon,
‘ What ! Alison ! herestow nat Absolon
That chaunteth thus under our boures wal ? *
And she answerde hir housbond ther- with -al,
‘ Yis, god wot, John, I here it e very-del.’
This passeth forth ; what wol ye bet than wel ?
Fro day to day this joly Absolon
So woweth hir, that him is wo bigon.
He waketh al the night and al the day ;
He kempte hise lokkes brode, and made him gay ;
He woweth hir by menes and brocage,
And swoor he wolde been hir owne page ;
He singeth, brokkinge as a nightingale ;
He sente hir piment, meeth, and spyced ale,
And wafres, pyping hote out of the glede ;
And for she was of toune, he profred mede.
For som folk wol ben wonnen for richesse,
And som for strokes, and som for gentillesse.
Somtyme, to shewe his lightnesse and maistrye,
He pleyeth Herodes on a scaffold hye.
But what availleth him as in this cas ?
She loveth so this hende Nicholas,
That Absolon may blowe the bukkes horn ;
He ne hadde for his labour but a scorn ;
And thus she maketh Absolon hir ape,
And al his ernest turneth til a jape.
Ful sooth is this proverbe, it is no lye,
Men seyn right thus, ‘ alwey the nye slye
Maketh the ferre leve to be looth.’
For though that Absolon be wood or wrooth,
By-cause that he fer was from hir sighte,
This nye Nicholas stood in his lighte.
Now bere thee wel, thou hende Nicholas !
For Absolon may waille and singe ‘ alias.’
And so bifel it on a Saterday,
This carpenter was goon til Osenay ;
And hende Nicholas and Alisoun
Acorded been to this conclusioun,
That Nicholas shal shapen him a wyle
This sely jalous housbond to bigyle ;
And if so be the game wente aright,
She sholde slepen in his arm al night,
For this was his desyr and hir also.
And right anon, with-outen wordes mo,
This Nicholas no lenger wolde tarie,
But doth ful softe un-to his chambre carie
Bothe mete and drinke for a day or tweye,
And to hir housbonde bad hir for to seye,
If that he axed after Nicholas,
She sholde seye she niste where he was,
Of al that day she saugh him nat with ye ;
She trowed that he was in maladye,
For, for no cry, hir mayde coude him calle ;
He nolde answere, for no-thing that mighte falle.
This passeth forth al thilke Saterday,
That Nicholas stille in his chambre lay,
And eet and sleep, or dide what him leste,
Til Sonday, that the sonne gooth to reste.
This sely carpenter hath greet merveyle
Of Nicholas, or what thing mighte him eyle,
And seyde, ‘ I am adrad, by seint Thomas,
It stondeth nat aright with Nicholas.
God shilde that he deyde sodeynly !
This world is now ful tikel, sikerly ;
I saugh to-day a cors y-born to chirche
That now, on Monday last, I saugh him wirche.
Go up,’ quod he un-to his knave anoon,
‘ Clepe at his dore, or knokke with a stoon,
Loke how it is, and tel me boldely.’
This knave gooth him up ful sturdily,
And at the chambre-dore, whyl that he stood,
He cryde and knokked as that he were wood : —
‘ What ! how ! what do ye, maister Nicholay ?
How may ye slepen al the longe day ? ‘
But al for noght, he herde nat a word ;
An hole he fond, ful lowe up-on a bord,
Ther as the cat was wont in for to crepe ;
And at that hole he looked in ful depe,
And at the laste he hadde of him a sighte.
This Nicholas sat gaping ever up-righte,
As he had kyked on the newe mone.
Adoun he gooth, and tolde his maister sone
In what array he saugh this ilke man.
This carpenter to blessen him bigan,
And seyde, ‘ help us, seinte Frideswyde !
A man woot litel what him shal bityde.
This man is falle, with his astromye,
In som woodnesse or in som agonye ;
I thoghte ay wel how that it sholde be !
Men sholde nat knowe of goddes privetee.
Ye, blessed be alwey a lewed man,
That noght but only his bileve can !
So ferde another clerk with astromye ;
He walked in the feeldes for to prye
Up-on the sterres, what ther sholde bifalle,
Til he was in a marle-pit y-falle ;
He saugh nat that. But yet, by seint Thomas,
Me reweth sore of hende Nicholas.
He shal be rated of his studying,
If that I may, by Jesus, hevene king !
Get me a staf, that I may underspore,
Whyl that thou, Robin, hevest up the dore.
He shal out of his studying, as I gesse ‘ —
And to the chambre-dore he gan him dresse.
His knave was a strong carl for the nones,
And by the haspe he haf it up atones ;
In-to the floor the dore fil anon.
This Nicholas sat ay as stille as stoon,
And ever gaped upward in-to the eir.
This carpenter wende he were in despeir,
And hente him by the sholdres mightily,
And shook him harde, and cryde spitously,
‘What! Nicholay! what, how! what! loke adoun !
Awake, and thenk on Cristes passioun ;
I crouche thee from elves and fro wightes ! ‘
Ther-with the night-spel seyde he anon-rightes
On foure halves of the hous aboute,
And on the threshfold of the dore with-oute : —
‘ Jesu Crist, and seynt Benedight,
Blesse this hous from every wikked wight,
For nightes verye, the white ‘paternoster ! —
Where wentestow, seynt Petres soster ? ‘
And atte laste this hende Nicholas
Gan for to syke sore, and seyde, ‘ alias !
Shal al the world be lost eftsones now ? ‘
This carpenter answerde, ‘ what seystow ?
What ! thenk on god, as we don, men that swinke.’
This Nicholas answerde, ‘ fecche me drinke ;
And after wol I speke in privetee
Of certeyn thing that toucheth me and thee ;
I wol teile it non other man, certeyn.’
This carpenter goth doun, and comth ageyn,
And broghte of mighty ale a large quart ;
And whan that ech of hem had dronke his part,
This Nicholas his dore faste shette,
And doun the carpenter by him he sette.
He seyde, ‘ John, myn hoste lief and dere,
Thou shalt up-on thy trouthe swere me-here,
That to no wight thou shalt this conseil wreye ;
For it is Cristes conseil that I seye,
And if thou telle it man, thou are forlore ;
For this vengaunce thou shalt han therfore, ^
That if thou wreye me, thou shalt be wood !
‘ Nay, Crist forbede it, for his holy blood !
Quod tho this sely man, ‘ I nam no labbe,
Ne, though I seye, I nam nat lief to gabbe.
Sey what thou wolt, I shal it never telle
To child ne wyf, by him that harwed helle !
‘ Now John,’ quod Nicholas, ‘ I wol nat lye ;
I have y-founde in myn astrologye,
As I have loked in the mone bright,
That now, a Monday next, at quarter-night,
Shal falle a reyn and that so wilde and wood,
That half so greet was never Noes flood.
This world,’ he seyde, ‘ in lasse than in an hour
Shal al be dreynt, so hidous is the shour ; .
Thus shal mankynde drenche and lese hir lyf.
This carpenter answerde, ‘ alias, my wyf ! j
And shal she drenche ? alias ! myn Alisoun !
For sorwe of this he fil almost adoun,
And seyde, ‘ is ther no remedie in this cas ? ‘
‘ Why, yis, for gode,’ quod hende Nicholas,
‘ If thou wolt werken after lore and reed ;
Thou mayst nat werken after thyn owene heed.
For thus seith Salomon, that was ful trewe, ^
” Werk al by conseil, and thou shalt nat rewe.
And if thou werken wolt by good conseil,
I undertake, with-outen mast and seyl,
Yet shal I saven hir and thee and me.
Hastow nat herd how saved was Noe,
Whan that our lord had warned him biforn
That al the world with water sholde be lorn ? ‘
‘ Yis,’ quod this carpenter, ‘ ful yore ago.’
‘ Hastow nat herd,’ quod Nicholas, ‘ also
The sorwe of Noe with his felawshipe,
Er that he mighte gete his wyf to shipe ?
Him had be lever, I dar wel undertake,
At thilke tyme, than alle hise wetheres blake,
That she hadde had a ship hir-self allone.
And ther-fore, wostou what is best to done ?
This asketh haste, and of an hastif thing
Men may nat preche or maken tarying.
Anon go gete us faste in-to this in
A kneding-trogh, or elles a kimelin,
For ech of us, but loke that they be large,
In whiche we mowe swimme as in a barge,
And han ther-inne vitaille suffisant
But for a day ; fy on the remenant !
The water shal aslake and goon away
Aboute pry me up -on the nexte day.
But Robin may nat wite of this, thy knave,
Ne eek thy mayde Gille I may nat save ;
Axe nat why, for though thou aske me,
I wol nat tellen goddes privetee.
Suffiseth thee, but if thy wittes madde,
To han as greet a grace as Noe hadde.
Thy wyf shal I wel saven, out of doute,
Go now thy wey, and speed thee heeraboute.
But whan thou hast, for hir and thee and me,
Y-geten us thise kneding-tubbes three,
Than shaltow hange hem in the roof ful hye,
That no man of our purveyaunce spye.
And whan thou thus hast doon as I have seyd,
And hast our vitaille faire in hem y-leyd,
And eek an ax, to smyte the corde atwo
When that the water comth, that we may go,
And broke an hole an heigh, up -on the gable,
Unto the gardin-ward, over the stable,
That we may frely passen forth our way
Whan that the grete shour is goon away —
Than shaltow swimme as myrie, I undertake,
As doth the whyte doke aftir hir drake.
Than wol I clepe, ” how ! Alison ! how ! John !
Be myrie, for the flood wol passe anon.”
And thou wolt seyn, ” hayl, maister Nicholay !
Good morwe, I se thee wel, for it is day.”
And than shul we be lordes al our lyf
Of al the world, as Noe and his wyf.
But of o thyng I warne thee ful right,
Be wel avysed, on that ilke night
That we ben entred in-to shippes bord,
That noon of us ne speke nat a word,
Ne clepe, ne crye, but been in his preyere ;
For it is goddes owne heste dere.
Thy wyf and thou mote hange fer a-twinne,
For that bitwixe yow shal be no sinne
No more in looking than ther shal in dede ;
This ordinance is seyd, go, god thee spede !
Tomorwe at night, whan men ben alle aslepe,
In-to our kneding-tubbes wol we crepe,
And sitten ther, abyding goddes grace.
Go now thy wey, I have no lenger space
To make of this no lenger sermoning.
Men seyn thus, “send the wyse, and sey no-thing;”
Thou art so wys, it nedeth thee nat teche ;
Go, save our lyf, and that I thee biseche.’
This sely carpenter goth forth his wey.
Ful ofte he seith ‘ alias ‘ and ‘ weylawey,’
And to his wyf he tolde his privetee ;
And she was war, and knew it bet than he,
What al this queynte cast was for to seye.
But nathelees she ferde as she wolde deye,
And seyde, ‘ alias ! go forth thy wey anon,
Help us to scape, or we ben lost echon ;
I am thy trewe verray wedded wyf ;
Go, dere spouse, and help to save our lyf.’
Lo ! which a greet thyng is afteccioun !
Men may dye of imaginacioun,
So depe may impressioun be take.
This sely carpenter biginneth quake ;
Him thinketh verraily that he may see
Noes flood come walwing as the see
To drenchen Alisoun, his hony dere.
He wepeth, weyleth, maketh sory chere,
He syketh with ful many a sory swogh.
He gooth and geteth him a kneding-trogh,
And after that a tubbe and a kimelin,
And prively he sente hem to his in,
And heng hem in the roof in privetee.
His owne hand he made laddres three,
To climben by the ronges and the stalkes
Un-to the tubbes hanginge in the balkes,
And hem vitailled, bothe trogh and tubbe,
With breed and chese, and good ale in a jubbe,
Suffysinge right y-nogh as for a day.
But er that he had maad al this array,
He sente his knave, and eek his wenche also,
Up-on his nede to London for to go.
And on the Monday, whan it drow to night,
He shette his dore with-oute candel-light,
And dressed al thing as it sholde be.
And shortly, up they clomben alle three ;
They sitten stille wel a furlong- way.
‘ Now, Pater-noster, clom ! ‘ seyde Nicholay,
And ‘clom,’ quod John, and ‘clom,’ seyde Alisoun.
This carpenter seyde his devocioun,
And stille he sit, and biddeth his preyere,
Awaytinge on the reyn, if he it here.
The dede sleep, for wery bisinesse,
Fil on this carpenter right, as I gesse,
Aboute corfew-tyne, or litel more ;
For travail of his goost he groneth sore,
And eft he routeth, for his heed mislay.
Doun of the laddre stalketh Nicholay,
And Alisoun, ful softe adoun she spedde ;
With-outen wordes mo, they goon to bedde
Ther-as the carpenter is wont to lye.
Ther was the revel and the melodye ;
And thus lyth Alison and Nicholas,
In bisinesse of mirthe and of solas,
Til that the belle of laudes gan to ringe,
And freres in the chauncel gonne singe.
This parish-clerk, this amorous Absolon,
That is for love alwey so wo bigon,
Up-on the Monday was at Oseneye
With companye, him to disporte and pleye,
And axed up-on cas a cloisterer
Ful prively after John the carpenter ;
And he drough him a-part out of the chirche,
And seyde, ‘ I noot, I saugh him here nat wirche
Sin Saterday ; I trow that he be went
For timber, ther our abbot hath him sent ;
For he is wont for timber for to go,
And dwellen at the grange a day or two ;
Or elles he is at his hous, certeyn ;
Wher that he be, I can nat sothly seyn.’
This Absolon ful joly was and light,
And thoghte, ‘ now is tyme wake al night ;
For sikirly I saugh him nat stiringe
Aboute his dore sin day bigan to springe.
So moot I thryve, I shal, at cokkes crowe,
Ful prively knokken at his windowe
That stant ful lowe up-on his boures wal.
To Alison now wol I tellen al
My love-longing, for yet I shal nat misse
That at the leste wey I shal hir kisse.
Som maner contort shal I have, parfay,
My mouth hath icched al this longe day ;
That is a signe of kissing atte leste.
Al night me mette eek, I was at a feste.
Ther for I wol gon slepe an houre or tweye,
And al the night than wol I wake and pleye.’
Whan that the firste cok hath crowe, anon
Up rist this joly lover Absolon,
And him arrayeth gay, at point-devys.
But first he cheweth greyn and lycorys,
To smellen swete, er he had kembd his heer.
Under his tonge a trewe love he beer,
For ther-by wende he to ben gracious.
He rometh to the carpenteres hous,
And stille he stant under the shot-windowe ;
Un-to his brest it raughte, it was so lowe ;
And softe he cogheth with a semi-soun —
‘ What do ye, hony-comb, swete Alisoun ?
My faire brid, my swete cinamome,
Awaketh, lemman myn, and speketh to me !
Wei litel thenken ye up-on my wo,
That for your love I swete ther I go.
No wonder is thogh that I swelte and swete ;
I moorne as doth a lamb after the tete.
Y-wis, lemman, I have swich love-longinge,
That lyk a turtel trewe is my moorninge ;
I may nat ete na more than a mayde.’
‘ Go fro the window, Jakke fool,’ she sayde,
1 As help me god, it wol nat be ” com ba me,”
I love another, and elles I were to blame,
Wei bet than thee, by Jesu, Absolon !
Go forth thy wey, or I wol caste a ston,
And lat me slepe, a twenty devel wey ! ‘
‘ Alias,’ quod Absolon, ‘ and weylav/ey !
That trewe love was ever so yvel biset !
Than kisse me, sin it may be no bet,
For Jesus love and for the love of me.’
‘ Wiltow than go thy wey ther- with ? ‘ quod she.
‘Ye, certes, lemman,’ quod this Absolon.
Thanne make thee redy , ‘ quod she, ‘ I come anon ; ‘
And un-to Nicholas she seyde stille,
‘Now hust, and thou shalt laughen al thy fille.’
This Absolon doun sette him on his knees,
And seyde, ‘ I am a lord at alle degrees ;
For after this I hope ther cometh more !
Lemman, thy grace, and swete brid, thyn ore ! ‘
The window she undoth, and that in haste,
‘Have do,’ quod she, ‘com of, and speed thee faste,
Lest that our neighebores thee espye.’
This Absolon gan wype his mouth ful drye ;
Derk was the night as pich, or as the cole,
And at the window out she putte hir hole,
And Absolon, him fil no bet ne wers,
But with his mouth he kiste hir naked ers
Ful savourly, er he was war of this.
Abak he sterte, and thoghte it was amis,
For wel he wiste a womman hath no berd ;
He felte a thing al rough and long y-herd,
And seyde, ‘ fy ! alias ! what have I do ? ‘
‘ Tehee ! ‘ quod she, and clapte the window
And Absolon goth forth a sory pas.
‘ A berd, a berd ! ‘ quod hende Nicholas,
‘ By goddes corpus, this goth faire and weel ! ‘
This sely Absolon herde every deel,
And on his lippe he gan for anger byte ;
And to him-self he seyde, ‘ I shal thee quyte ! ‘
Who rubbeth now, who froteth now his lippes
With dust, with sond, with straw, with clooth, with
But Absolon, that seith ful ofte, ‘ alias !
My soule bitake I un-to Sathanas,
But me wer lever than al this toun,’ quod he,
‘ Of this despyt awroken for to be !
Alias ! ‘ quod he, ‘ alias ! I ne hadde y-bleynt ! “
His hote love was cold and al y-queynt ;
For fro that tyme that he had kiste hir ers,
Of paramours he sette nat a kers,
For he was heled of his maladye ;
Ful ofte paramours he gan deffye,
And weep as dooth a child that is y-bete.
A softe paas he wente over the strete
Un-til a smith men cleped daun Gerveys,
That in his forge smithed plough -harneys ;
He sharpeth shaar and culter bisily.
This Absolon knokketh al esily,
And seyde, ‘ undo, Gerveys, and that anon.’
‘ What, who artow ? ‘ ‘It am I, Absolon.’
‘ What, Absolon ! for Cristes swete tree,
Why ryse ye so rathe, ey, ben’ cite !
What eyleth yow ? som gay gerl, god it woot,
Hath broght yow thus up-on the viritoot ;
By seynt Note, ye woot wel what I mene.’
This Absolon ne roghte nat a bene
Of al his pley, no word agayn he yaf ;
He hadde more tow on his distaf
Than Gerveys knew, and seyde, ‘ f reend so dere,
That hote culter in the chimenee here,
As lene it me, I have ther-with to done,
And I wol bringe it thee agayn ful sone.’
Gerveys answerde, ‘ certes, were it gold,
Or in a poke nobles alle untold,
Thou sholdest have, as I am trewe smith ;
Ey, Cristes foo ! what wol ye do therwith ? ‘
‘ Therof,’ quod Absolon, ‘ be as be may ;
I shal wel telle it thee to-morwe day ‘ —
And caughte the culter by the colde stele.
Ful softe out at the dore he gan to stele,
And wente un-to the carpenteres wal.
He cogheth first, and knokketh ther-with-al
Upon the windowe, right as he dide er.
This Alison answerde, ‘ Who is ther
That knokketh so ? I warante it a theef.’
‘ Why, nay,’ quod he, ‘ god woot, my swete leef,
I am thyn Absolon, my dereling !
Of gold,’ quod he, ‘ I have thee broght a ring ;
My moder 3^af it me, so god me save,
Ful fyn it is, and ther-to wel y-grave ;
This wol I yeve thee, if thou me kisse ! ‘
This Nicholas was risen for to pisse,
And thoghte he wolde amenden al the jape,
He sholde kisse his ers er that he scape.
And up the windowe dide he hastily,
And out his ers he putteth prively
Over the buttok, to the haunche-bon ;
And ther-with spak this clerk, this Absolon,
‘ Spek, swete brid, I noot nat wher thou art.’
This Nicholas anon leet flee a fart,
As greet as it had been a thonder-dent,
That with the strook he was almost y-blent ;
And he was redy with his iren hoot,
And Nicholas amidde the ers he smoot.
Of gooth the skin an hande-brede aboute,
The hote culter brende so his toute,
And for the smert he wende for to dye.
As he were wood, for wo he gan to crye —
‘ Help ! water ! water ! help, for goddes herte ! ‘
This carpenter out of his slomber sterte,
And herde oon cryen ‘ water ‘ as he were wood,
And thoghte, ‘ Alias ! now comth Nowelis flood ! ‘
He sit him up with-outen wordes mo,
And with his ax he smoot the corde a-two,
And doun goth al ; he fond neither to selle,
Ne breed ne ale, til he cam to the selle
Up-on the floor ; and ther aswowne he lay.
Up sterte hir Alison, and Nicholay,
And cryden ‘ out ‘ and ‘ harrow ‘ in the strete.
The neighebores, bothe smale and grete,
In ronnen, for to gauren on this man,
That yet aswowne he lay, bothe pale and wan ;
For with the fal he brosten hadde his arm ;
But stonde he moste un-to his owne harm.
For whan he spak, he was anon bore doun
With hende Nicholas and Alisoun.
They tolden every man that he was wood,
He was agast so of ‘ Nowelis flood ‘
Thurgh fantasye, that of his vanitee
He hadde y-boght him kneding-tubbes three,
And hadde hem hanged in the roof above ;
And that he preyed hem, for goddes love,
To sitten in the roof, par companye.
The folk gan laughen at his fantasye ;
In-to the roof they kyken and they gape,
And turned al his harm un-to a jape.
For what so that this carpenter answerde,
It was for noght, no man his reson herde ;
With othes grete he was so sworn adoun,
That he was holden wood in al the toun ;
For every clerk anon-right heeld with other.
They seyde, ‘ the man is wood, my leve brother ; ‘
And every wight gan laughen of this stryf.
Thus swyved was the carpenteres wyf,
For al his keping and his jalousye ;
And Absolon hath kist hir nether ye ;
And Nicholas is scalded in the toute.
This tale is doon, and god save al the route !
Here endeth the Miller his tale.