The Reves Tale

The prologe of the Reves tale.

Whan folk had laughen at this nyce cas

Of Absolon and hende Nicholas,

Diverse folk diversely they seyde ;

But for the more part, they loughe and pleyde,

Ne at this tale I saugh no man him greve,

But it were only Osewold the Reve,

By-cause he was of carpenteres craft.

A litel ire is in his herte y-laft,

He san to grucche and blamed it a lyte.

‘ So thee’k,’ quod he, ‘ ful wel coude I yow quyte

With blering of a proud milleres ye,

If that me liste speke of ribaudye.

But ik am old, me list not pley for age ;

Gras-tyme is doon, my fodder is now forage,

This whyte top wryteth myne olde yeres,

Myn herte is al-so mowled as myne heres,

But-if I fare as dooth an open-ers ;

That ilke fruit is ever leng the wers,

Til it be roten in mullok or in stree.

We olde men, I drede, so fare we ;

Til we be roten, can we nat be rype ;

We hoppen av, whyl that the world wol pype.

For in oure wil ther stiketh ever a nayl,

To have an hoor heed and a grene tayl,

As hath a leek ; for thogh our might be goon,

Our wil desireth folie ever in oon.

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

Yet in our asshen olde is fyr y-reke.

Foure gledes han we, whiche I shal devyse,

Avaunting, lying, anger, coveityse ;

Thise foure sparkles longen un-to elde.

Our olde lemes mowe wel been unwelde,

But wil ne shai nat faillen, that is sooth.

And yet ik have alwey a coltes tooth,

As many a yeer as it is passed henne

Sin that my tappe of lyf bigan to renne.

For sikerly, whan I was bore, anon

Deeth drogh the tappe of lyf and leet it gon ;

And ever sith hath so the tappe y-ronne,

Til that almost al empty is the tonne.

The streem of lyf now droppeth on the chimbe ;

The sely tonge may wel ringe and chimbe

Of wrecchednesse that passed is ful yore ;

With olde folk, save dotage, is namore.’

Whan that our host hadde herd this sermcning,

He gan to speke as lordly as a king ;

He seide, ‘ what amounteth al this wit ?

What shul we speke alday of holy writ ?

The devel made a reve for to preche,

And of a souter a shipman or a leche.

Sey forth thy tale, and tarie nat the tyme,

Lo, Depeford ! and it is half-way pryme.

Lo, Grenewich, ther many a shrewe is inne ;

It wer al tyme thy tale to biginne.’

‘ Now, sires,’ quod this Osewold the Reve,

‘ I pray yow alle that ye nat yow greve,

Thogh I answere and somdel sette his howve ;

For leveful is with force force of-showve.

This dronke millere hath y-told us heer,

How that bigyled was a carpenteer,

Pera venture in scorn, for I am oon.

And, by your leve, I shal him quyte anoon ;

Right in his cherles termes wol I speke.

I pray to god his nekke mote breke ;

He can wel in myn ye seen a stalke,

But in his owne he can nat seen a balke.’


Here biginneih the Reves tale.

At Trumpington, nat fer fro Cantebrigge,

Ther goth a brook and over that a brigge,

Up- on the whiche brook ther stant a melle ;

And this is verray soth that I yow telle.

A Miller was ther dwelling many a day ;

As eny pecok he was proud and gay.

Pypen he coude and fisshe, and nettes bete,

And turne coppes, and wel wrastle and shete ;

And by his belt he baar a long panade,

And of a swerd ful trenchant was the blade.

A joly popper baar he in his pouche ;

Ther was no man for peril dorste him touche.

A Sheffield thwitel baar he in his hose ;

Round was his face, and camuse was his nose.

As piled as an ape was his skulle.

He was a market-beter atte fulle.

Ther dorste no wight hand up -on him legge,

That he ne swoor he sholde anon abegge.

A theef he was for sothe of corn and mele,

And that a sly, and usaunt for to stele.

His name was hoten deynous Simkin.

A wyf he hadde, y-comen of noble kin ;

The person of the toun hir fader was.

With hir he yaf ful many a panne of bras,

For that Simkin sholde in his blood allye.

She was y-fostred in a nonnerye ;

For Simkin wolde no wyf, as he sayde,

But she were wel y-norissed and a mayde,

To saven his estaat of yomanrye.

And she was proud, and pert as is a pye.

A ful fair sighte was it on hem two ;

On haly-dayes biforn hir wolde he go

With his tipet bounden about his heed,

And she cam after in a gyte of reed ;

And Simkin hadde hosen of the same.

Ther dorste no wight clepen hir but ‘ dame.

Was noon so hardy that wente by the weye

That with hir dorste rage or ones pleye,

But-if he wolde be slayn of Simkin

With panade, or with knyf, or boydekin.

For jalous folk ben perilous evermo,

Algate they wolde hir wyves wenden so.

And eek, for she was somdel smoterlich,

She was as digne as water in a dich ;

And ful of hoker and of bisemare.

Hir thoughte that a lady sholde hir spare,

What for hir kinrede and hir nortelrye

That she had lerned in the nonnerye.

A doghter hadde they bitwixe hem two

Of twenty yeer, with-outen any mo,

Savinge a child that was of half-yeer age ;

In cradel it lay and was a propre page.

This wenche thikke and wel y-growen was,

With camuse nose and yen greye as glas ;

With buttokes brode and brestes rounde and hye,

But right fair was hir heer, I wol nat lye.

The person of the toun, for she was feir,

In purpos was to maken hir his heir

Bothe of his catel and his messuage,

And straunge he made it of hir mariage.

His purpos was for to bistowe hir hye

In-to som worthy blood of auncetrye ;

For holy chirches good moot been despended

On holy chirches blood, that is descended.

Therfore he wolde his holy blood honoure,

Though that he holy chirche sholde devoure.

Gret soken hath this miller, out of doute,

With whete and malt of al the land aboute ;

And nameliche ther was a greet collegge,

Men clepen the Soler-halle at Cantebregge,

Ther was hir whete and eek hir malt y-grounde.

And on a day it happed, in a stounde,

Sik lay the maunciple on a maladye ;

Men wenden wisly that he sholde dye.

For which this miller stal bothe mele and corn

An hundred tyme more than biforn ;

For ther-biforn he stal but curteisly,

But now he was a theef outrageously,

For which the wardeyn chidde and made fare.

But ther-of sette the miller nat a tare ;

He craketh boost, and swoor it was nat so.

Than were ther yonge povre clerkes two,

That dwelten in this halle, of which I seye.

Testif they were, and lusty for to pleye,

And, only for hir mirthe and revelrye,

Up-on the wardeyn bisily they crye,

To yeve hem leve but a litel stounde

To goon to mille and seen hir corn y-grounde ;

And hardily, they dorste leye hir nekke,

The miller shold nat stele hem half a pekke

Of corn by sleighte, ne by force hem reve ;

And at the laste the wardeyn yaf hem leve.

John hight that oon, and Aleyn hight that other ;

Of o toun were they born, that highte Strother,

Fer in the north, I can nat telle where.

This Aleyn maketh redy al his gere,

And on an hors the sak he caste anon.

Forth goth Aleyn the clerk, and also John,

With good swerd and with bokeler by hir syde.

John knew the wey, hem nedede no gyde,

And at the mille the sak adoun he layth.

Aleyn spak first, ‘ al hayl, Symond, y-fayth ;

How fares thy faire doghter and thy wyf ? ‘

‘ Aleyn ! welcome,’ quod Simkin, ‘ by my lyf,

And John also, how now, what do ye heer ? ‘

‘ Symond,’ quod John, ‘ by god, nede has na peer;

Him boes serve him-selve that has na swayn,

Or elles he is a fool, as clerkes sayn.

Our manciple, I hope he wil be deed,

Swa werkes ay the wanges in his heed.

And forthy is I come, and eek Alayn,

To grinde our corn and carie it ham agayn ;

I pray yow spede us hethen that ye may.’

‘ It shal be doon,’ quod Simkin, ‘ by my fay ;

What wol ye doon whyl that it is in hande ? ‘

‘ By g°d, right by the hoper wil I stande,’

Quod John, ‘ and se how that the corn gas in ;

Yet saugh I never, by my fader kin,

How that the hoper wagges til and fra.’

Aleyn answerde, ‘ John, and wiltow swa,

Than wil I be bynethe, by my croun,

And se how that the mele falles doun

In-to the trough ; that sal be my disport.

For John, in faith, I may been of your sort ;

I is as ille a miller as are ye.’

This miller smyled of hir nycetee,

And thoghte, ‘ al this nis doon but for a wyle ;

They wene that no man may hem bigyle ;

But, by my thrift, yet shal I blere hir ye

For al the sleighte in hir philosophye.

The more queynte crekes that they make,

The more wol I stele whan I take.

In stede of flour, yet wol I yeve hem bren.

‘ ‘ The gretteste clerkes been noght the wysest men,”

As whylom to the wolf thus spak the mare ;

Of al hir art I counte noght a tare.’

Out at the dore he gooth ful prively,

Whan that he saugh his tyme, softely ;

He loketh up and doun til he hath founde

The clerkes hors, ther as it stood y-bounde

Bihinde the mille, under a levesel ;

And to the hors he gooth him faire and wel ;

He strepeth of the brydel right anon.

And whan the hors was loos, he ginneth gon

Toward the fen, ther wilde mares renne,

Forth with wehee, thurgh thikke and thurgh thenne.

This miller gooth agayn, no word he seyde,

But dooth his note, and with the clerkes pleyde,

Til that hir corn was faire and wel y-grounde.

And whan the mele is sakked and y-bounde,

This John goth out and fynt his hors away,

And gan to crye ‘ harrow ‘ and ‘ weylaway !

Our hors is lorn ! Alayn, for goddes banes,

Step on thy feet, com out, man, al at anes !

Alias, our wardeyn has his palfrey lorn.’

This Aleyn al forgat, bothe mele and corn,

Al was out of his mynde his housbondrye.

‘ What ? whilk way is he geen ? ‘ he gan to crye.

The wyf cam leping inward with a ren,

She seyde, ‘ alias ! your hors goth to the fen

With wilde mares, as faste as he may go.

Unthank come on his hand that bond him so,

And he that bettre sholde han knit the reyne.’

‘ Alias,’ quod John, ‘ Aleyn, for Cristes peyne,

Lay doun thy swerd, and I wil myn alswa ;

I is ful wight, god waat, as is a raa ;

By goddes herte he sal nat scape us bathe.

Why nadstow pit the capul in the lathe ?

Il-hayl, by god, Aleyn, thou is a fonne ! ‘

This sely clerkes han ful faste y-ronne

To-ward the fen, bothe Aleyn and eek John.

And whan the miller saugh that they were gon,

He half a busshel of hir flour hath take,

And bad his wyf go knede it in a cake.

He seyde, ‘ I trowe the clerkes were aferd ;

Yet can a miller make a clerkes berd

For al his art ; now lat hem goon hir weye.

Lo wher they goon, ye, lat the children pleye ;

They gete him nat so lightly, by my croun ! ‘

Thise sely clerkes rennen up and doun

With ‘ keep, keep, stand, stand, jossa, warderere,

Ga whistle thou, and I shal kepe him here ! ‘

But shortly, til that it was verray night,

They coude nat, though they do al hir might,

Hir capul cacche, he ran alwey so faste.

Til in a dich they caughte him atte laste.

Wery and weet, as beste is in the reyn,

Comth sely John, and with him comth Aleyn.

‘ Alias,’ quod John, ‘ the day that I was born !

Now are Ave drive til hething and til scorn.

Our corn is stole, men wil us foles calle,

Bathe the wardeyn and our felawes alle,

And namely the miller ; weylaway ! ‘

Thus pleyneth John as he goth by the way

Toward the mille, and Bayard in his hond.

The miller sitting by the fyr he fond,

For it was night, and forther mighte they noght ;

But, for the love of god, they him bisoght

Of herberwe and of ese, as for hir peny.

The miller seyde agayn, ‘ if ther be eny,

Swich as it is, yet shal ye have your part.

Myn hous is streit, but ye han lerned art ;

Ye conne by argumentes make a place

A m} T le brood of twenty foot of space.

Lat see now if this place may suffyse,

Or make it roum with speche, as is youre gyse.’

‘ Now, Symond,’ seyde John, ‘ by seint Cutberd,

Ay is thou mery, and this is faire answerd.

I have herd seyd, man sal taa of twa thinges

Slyk as he fyndes, or taa slyk as he bringes.

But specially, I pray thee, hoste dere,

Get us som mete and drinke, and make us chere,

And we wil payen trewely atte fulle.

With empty hand men may na haukes tulle ;

Lo here our silver, redy for to spende.’

This miller in-to toun his doghter sende

For ale and breed, and rosted hem a goos,

And bond hir hors, it sholde nat gon loos ;

And in his owne chambre hem made a bed

With shetes and with chalons faire y-spred,

Noght from his owne bed ten foot or twelve.

His doghter hadde a bed, al by hir-selve,

Right in the same chambre, by and by ;

It mighte be no bet, and cause why,

Ther was no roumer herberwe in the place.

They soupen and they speke, hem to solace,

And drinken ever strong ale atte beste.

Aboute midnight wente they to reste.

Wei hath this miller vernisshed his heed ;

Ful pale he was for-dronken, and nat reed.

He yexeth, and he speketh thurgh the nose

As he were on the quakke, or on the pose.

To bedde he gooth, and with him goth his wyf.

As any jay she light was and jolyf,

So was hir joly whistle wel y-wet.

The cradel at hir beddes feet is set,

To rokken, and to yeve the child to souke.

And whan that dronken al was in the crouke,

To bedde went the doghter right anon ;

To bedde gooth Aleyn and also John ;

Ther nas na more, hem nedede no dwale.

This miller hath so wisly bibbed ale,

That as an hors he snorteth in his sleep,

Ne of his tayl bihinde he took no keep.

His wyf bar him a burdon, a ful strong,

Men mighte hir routing here two furlong ;

The wenche routeth eek par companye.

Aleyn the clerk, that herd this melodye,

He poked John, and seyde, ‘ slepestow ?

Herdestow ever slyk a sang er now ?

Lo, whilk a compline is y-mel hem alle !

A wilde fyr up-on thair bodyes falle !

Wha herkned ever slyk a ferly thing ?

Ye, they sal have the flour of il ending.

This lange night ther tydes me na reste ;

But yet, na fors ; al sal be for the beste.

For John,’ seyde he, ‘ als ever moot I thryve

If that I may, yon wenche wil I swyve.

Som esement has lawe y-shapen us ;

For John, ther is a lawe that says thus,

That gif a man in a point be y-greved,

That in another he sal be releved.

Our corn is stoln, shortly, it is na nay,

And we han had an il fit al this day.

And sin I sal have neen amendement,

Agayn my los I wil have esement.

By goddes saule, it sal neen other be ! ‘

This John answerde, ‘ Alayn, avyse thee,

The miller is a perilous man,’ he seyde,

‘And gif that he out of his sleep abreyde

He mighte doon us bathe a vileinye.’

Aleyn answerde, ‘ I count him nat a flye ; ‘

And up he rist, and by the wenche he crepte.

This wenche lay upright, and faste slepte,

Til he so ny was, er she mighte espye,

That it had been to late for to crye,

And shortly for to seyn, they were at on ;

Now pley, Aleyn ! for I wol speke of John.

This John lyth stille a furlong-wey or two,

And to him-self he maketh routhe and wo :

‘ Alias ! ‘ quod he, ‘ this is a wikked jape ;

Now may I seyn that I is but an ape.

Yet has my felawe som-what for his harm ;

He has the milleris doghter in his arm.

He auntred him, and has his nedes sped,

And I lye as a draf-sek in my bed ;

And when this jape is tald another day,

I sal been halde a daf, a cokenay !

I wil aryse, and auntre it, by my fayth !

” Unhardy is unsely,” thus men sayth.’

And up he roos and softely he wente

Un-to the cradel, and in his hand it hente,

And baar it softe un-to his beddes feet.

Sone after this the wyf hir routing leet,

And gan awake, and wente hir out to pisse,

And cam agayn, and gan hir cradel misse,

And groped heer and ther, but she fond noon.

‘ Alias ! ‘ quod she, ‘ I hadde almost misgoon ;

I hadde almost gon to the clerkes bed.

Ey, berCcite ! thanne hadde I foule y-sped :’

And forth she gooth til she the cradel fond.

She gropeth alwey forther with hir hond,

And fond the bed, and thoghte noght but good,

By -cause that the cradel by it stood,

And niste wher she was, for it was derk ;

But faire and wel she creep in to the clerk,

And lyth ful stille, and wolde han caught a sleep.

With-inne a whyl this John the clerk up leep,

And on this gode wyf he leyth on sore.

So mery a fit ne hadde she nat ful yore ;

He priketh harde and depe as he were mad.

This joly lyf han thise two clerkes lad

Til that the thridde cok bigan to singe.

Aleyn wex wery in the daweninge,

For he had swonken al the longe night ;

And seyde, ‘ far wel, Malin, swete wight !

The day is come, I may no lenger byde ;

But evermo, wher so I go or ryde,

I is thyn awen clerk, swa have I seel ! ‘

‘ Now dere lemman,’ quod she, ‘ go, far weel !

But er thou go, o thing I wol thee telle,

Whan that thou wendest homward by the melle,

Right at the entree of the dore bihinde,

Thou shalt a cake of half a busshel finde

That was y-maked of thyn owne mele,

Which that I heelp my fader for to stele.

And, gode lemman, god thee save and kepe ! ‘

And with that word almost she gan to wepe.

Aleyn up-rist, and thoughte, ‘ er that it dawe,

I wol go crepen in by my felawe ; ‘

And fond the cradel with his hand anon.

‘ By god,’ thoghte he, ‘ al wrang I have misgon ;

Myn heed is toty of my swink to-night,

That maketh me that I go nat aright.

I woot wel by the cradel, I have misgo,

Heer lyth the miller and his wyf also.’

And forth he goth, a twenty devel way,

Un-to the bed ther-as the miller lay.

He wende have cropen by his felawe John ;

And by the miller in he creep anon,

And caughte hym by the nekke, and softe he spak

He seyde, ‘ thou, John, thou swynes-heed, awak

For Cristes saule, and heer a noble game.

For by that lord that called is seint Jame,

As I have thryes, in this shorte night,

Swyved the milleres doghter bolt-upright,

Whyl thow hast as a coward been agast.’

‘ Ye, false harlot,’ quod the miller, ‘ hast ?

A ! false traitour ! false clerk ! ‘ quod he,

‘ Thou shalt be deed, by goddes dignitee !

Who dorste be so bold to disparage

My doghter, that is come of swich linage ? ‘

And by the throte-bolle he caughte Alayn.

And he hente hym despitously agayn,

And on the nose he smoot him with his fest.

Doun ran the blody streem up-on his brest ;

And in the floor, with nose and mouth to -broke,

They walwe as doon two pigges in a poke.

And up they goon, and doun agayn anon,

Til that the miller sporned at a stoon,

And doun he fil bakward up-on his wyf,

That wiste no-thing of this nyce stryf ;

For she was falle aslepe a lyte wight

With John the clerk, that waked hadde al night.

And with the fal, out of hir sleep she breyde —

‘ Help, holy croys of Bromeholm,’ she seyde,

‘ In manus tuas ! lord, to thee I calle !

Awak, Symond ! the feend is on us falle,

Myn herte is broken, help, I nam but deed ;

There lyth oon up my wombe and up myn heed ;

Help, Simkin, for the false clerkes fighte.’

This John sterte up as faste as ever he mighte,

And graspeth by he walles to and fro,

To finde a staf ; and she sterte up also,

And knew the estres bet than dide this John,

And by the wal a staf she fond anon,

And saugh a litel shimering of a light,

For at an hole in shoon the mone bright ;

And by that light she saugh hem bothe two,

But sikerly she niste who was who,

But as she saugh a whyt thing in hir ye.

And whan she gan the whyte thing espye,

She wende the clerk hadde wered a volupeer.

And with the staf she drough ay neer and neer,

And wende han hit this Aleyn at the fulle,

And smoot the miller on the pyled skulle,

That doun he gooth and cryde, ‘ harrow ! I dye ! ‘

Thise clerkes bete him weel and lete him lye ;

And greythen hem, and toke hir hors anon,

And eek hir mele, and on hir wey they gon.

And at the mille yet they toke hir cake

Of half a busshel flour, ful wel y-bake.

Thus is the proude miller wel y-bete,

And hath y-lost the grinding of the whete,

And payed for the soper every-deel

Of Aleyn and of John, that bette him weel.

His wyf is swyved, and his doghter als ;

Lo, swich it is a miller to be fals !

And therfore this proverbe is seyd ful sooth,

‘ Him thar nat wene wel that y vel dooth ;

A gylour shal him-self bigyled be.’

And God, that sitteth heighe in magestee,

Save al this companye grete and smale !

Thus have I quit the miller in my tale.

Here is ended the Reves tale.