The Reeve’s Prologue

From The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

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