The Reeve’s Tale

From The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

RvT 3921 At Trumpyngtoun, nat fer fro Cantebrigge,
RvT 3922 Ther gooth a brook, and over that a brigge,
RvT 3923 Upon the whiche brook ther stant a melle;
RvT 3924 And this is verray sooth that I yow telle:
RvT 3925 A millere was ther dwellynge many a day.
RvT 3926 As any pecok he was proud and gay.
RvT 3927 Pipen he koude and fisshe, and nettes beete,
RvT 3928 And turne coppes, and wel wrastle and sheete;
RvT 3929 Ay by his belt he baar a long panade,
RvT 3930 And of a swerd ful trenchant was the blade.
RvT 3931 A joly poppere baar he in his pouche;
RvT 3932 Ther was no man, for peril, dorste hym touche.
RvT 3933 A Sheffeld thwitel baar he in his hose.
RvT 3934 Round was his face, and camus was his nose;
RvT 3935 As piled as an ape was his skulle.
RvT 3936 He was a market-betere atte fulle.
RvT 3937 Ther dorste no wight hand upon hym legge,
RvT 3938 That he ne swoor he sholde anon abegge.
RvT 3939 A theef he was for sothe of corn and mele,
RvT 3940 And that a sly, and usaunt for to stele.
RvT 3941 His name was hoote deynous Symkyn.
RvT 3942 A wyf he hadde, ycomen of noble kyn;
RvT 3943 The person of the toun hir fader was.
RvT 3944 With hire he yaf ful many a panne of bras,
RvT 3945 For that Symkyn sholde in his blood allye.
RvT 3946 She was yfostred in a nonnerye;
RvT 3947 For Symkyn wolde no wyf, as he sayde,
RvT 3948 But she were wel ynorissed and a mayde,
RvT 3949 To saven his estaat of yomanrye.
RvT 3950 And she was proud, and peert as is a pye.
RvT 3951 A ful fair sighte was it upon hem two;
RvT 3952 On halydayes biforn hire wolde he go
RvT 3953 With his typet wounde aboute his heed,
RvT 3954 And she cam after in a gyte of reed;
RvT 3955 And Symkyn hadde hosen of the same.
RvT 3956 Ther dorste no wight clepen hire but “dame”;
RvT 3957 Was noon so hardy that wente by the weye
RvT 3958 That with hire dorste rage or ones pleye,
RvT 3959 But if he wolde be slayn of Symkyn
RvT 3960 With panade, or with knyf, or boidekyn.
RvT 3961 For jalous folk ben perilous everemo —
RvT 3962 Algate they wolde hire wyves wenden so.
RvT 3963 And eek, for she was somdel smoterlich,
RvT 3964 She was as digne as water in a dich,
RvT 3965 And ful of hoker and of bisemare.
RvT 3966 Hir thoughte that a lady sholde hire spare,
RvT 3967 What for hire kynrede and hir nortelrie
RvT 3968 That she hadde lerned in the nonnerie.
RvT 3969 A doghter hadde they bitwixe hem two
RvT 3970 Of twenty yeer, withouten any mo,
RvT 3971 Savynge a child that was of half yeer age;
RvT 3972 In cradel it lay and was a propre page.
RvT 3973 This wenche thikke and wel ygrowen was,
RvT 3974 With kamus nose and eyen greye as glas,
RvT 3975 With buttokes brode and brestes rounde and hye.
RvT 3976 But right fair was hire heer; I wol nat lye.
RvT 3977 This person of the toun, for she was feir,
RvT 3978 In purpos was to maken hire his heir,
RvT 3979 Bothe of his catel and his mesuage,
RvT 3980 And straunge he made it of hir mariage.
RvT 3981 His purpos was for to bistowe hire hye
RvT 3982 Into som worthy blood of auncetrye;
RvT 3983 For hooly chirches good moot been despended
RvT 3984 On hooly chirches blood, that is descended.
RvT 3985 Therfore he wolde his hooly blood honoure,
RvT 3986 Though that he hooly chirche sholde devoure.
RvT 3987 Greet sokene hath this millere, out of doute,
RvT 3988 With whete and malt of al the land aboute;
RvT 3989 And nameliche ther was a greet collegge
RvT 3990 Men clepen the Soler Halle at Cantebregge;
RvT 3991 Ther was hir whete and eek hir malt ygrounde.
RvT 3992 And on a day it happed, in a stounde,
RvT 3993 Sik lay the maunciple on a maladye;
RvT 3994 Men wenden wisly that he sholde dye.
RvT 3995 For which this millere stal bothe mele and corn
RvT 3996 An hundred tyme moore than biforn;
RvT 3997 For therbiforn he stal but curteisly,
RvT 3998 But now he was a theef outrageously,
RvT 3999 For which the wardeyn chidde and made fare.
RvT 4000 But therof sette the millere nat a tare;
RvT 4001 He craketh boost, and swoor it was nat so.
RvT 4002 Thanne were ther yonge povre scolers two,
RvT 4003 That dwelten in this halle, of which I seye.
RvT 4004 Testif they were, and lusty for to pleye,
RvT 4005 And, oonly for hire myrthe and revelrye,
RvT 4006 Upon the wardeyn bisily they crye
RvT 4007 To yeve hem leve, but a litel stounde,
RvT 4008 To goon to mille and seen hir corn ygrounde;
RvT 4009 And hardily they dorste leye hir nekke
RvT 4010 The millere sholde not stele hem half a pekke
RvT 4011 Of corn by sleighte, ne by force hem reve;
RvT 4012 And at the laste the wardeyn yaf hem leve.
RvT 4013 John highte that oon, and Aleyn highte that oother;
RvT 4014 Of o toun were they born, that highte Strother,
RvT 4015 Fer in the north; I kan nat telle where.
RvT 4016 This Aleyn maketh redy al his gere,
RvT 4017 And on an hors the sak he caste anon.
RvT 4018 Forth goth Aleyn the clerk, and also John,
RvT 4019 With good swerd and with bokeler by hir syde.
RvT 4020 John knew the wey — hem nedede no gyde —
RvT 4021 And at the mille the sak adoun he layth.
RvT 4022 Aleyn spak first: “Al hayl, Symond, y-fayth!
RvT 4023 Hou fares thy faire doghter and thy wyf?”
RvT 4024 “Aleyn, welcome,” quod Symkyn, “by my lyf!
RvT 4025 And John also, how now, what do ye heer?”
RvT 4026 “Symond,” quod John, “by God, nede has na peer.
RvT 4027 Hym boes serve hymself that has na swayn,
RvT 4028 Or elles he is a fool, as clerkes sayn.
RvT 4029 Oure manciple, I hope he wil be deed,
RvT 4030 Swa werkes ay the wanges in his heed;
RvT 4031 And forthy is I come, and eek Alayn,
RvT 4032 To grynde oure corn and carie it ham agayn;
RvT 4033 I pray yow spede us heythen that ye may.”
RvT 4034 “It shal be doon,” quod Symkyn, “by my fay!
RvT 4035 What wol ye doon whil that it is in hande?”
RvT 4036 “By God, right by the hopur wil I stande,”
RvT 4037 Quod John, “and se howgates the corn gas in.
RvT 4038 Yet saugh I nevere, by my fader kyn,
RvT 4039 How that the hopur wagges til and fra.”
RvT 4040 Aleyn answerde, “John, and wiltow swa?
RvT 4041 Thanne wil I be bynethe, by my croun,
RvT 4042 And se how that the mele falles doun
RvT 4043 Into the trough; that sal be my disport.
RvT 4044 For John, y-faith, I may been of youre sort;
RvT 4045 I is as ille a millere as ar ye.”
RvT 4046 This millere smyled of hir nycetee,
RvT 4047 And thoghte, “Al this nys doon but for a wyle.
RvT 4048 They wene that no man may hem bigyle,
RvT 4049 But by my thrift, yet shal I blere hir ye,
RvT 4050 For al the sleighte in hir philosophye.
RvT 4051 The moore queynte crekes that they make,
RvT 4052 The moore wol I stele whan I take.
RvT 4053 In stide of flour yet wol I yeve hem bren.
RvT 4054 The gretteste clerkes been noght wisest men,’
RvT 4055 As whilom to the wolf thus spak the mare.
RvT 4056 Of al hir art counte I noght a tare.”
RvT 4057 Out at the dore he gooth ful pryvely,
RvT 4058 Whan that he saugh his tyme, softely.
RvT 4059 He looketh up and doun til he hath founde
RvT 4060 The clerkes hors, ther as it stood ybounde
RvT 4061 Bihynde the mille, under a levesel;
RvT 4062 And to the hors he goth hym faire and wel;
RvT 4063 He strepeth of the brydel right anon.
RvT 4064 And whan the hors was laus, he gynneth gon
RvT 4065 Toward the fen, ther wilde mares renne,
RvT 4066 And forth with “wehee,” thurgh thikke and thurgh thenne.
RvT 4067 This millere gooth agayn, no word he seyde,
RvT 4068 But dooth his note, and with the clerkes pleyde
RvT 4069 Til that hir corn was faire and weel ygrounde.
RvT 4070 And whan the mele is sakked and ybounde,
RvT 4071 This John goth out and fynt his hors away,
RvT 4072 And gan to crie “Harrow!” and “Weylaway!
RvT 4073 Oure hors is lorn, Alayn, for Goddes banes,
RvT 4074 Step on thy feet! Com of, man, al atanes!
RvT 4075 Allas, our wardeyn has his palfrey lorn.”
RvT 4076 This Aleyn al forgat, bothe mele and corn;
RvT 4077 Al was out of his mynde his housbondrie.
RvT 4078 “What, whilk way is he geen?” he gan to crie.
RvT 4079 The wyf cam lepynge inward with a ren.
RvT 4080 She seyde, “Allas! youre hors goth to the fen
RvT 4081 With wilde mares, as faste as he may go.
RvT 4082 Unthank come on his hand that boond hym so,
RvT 4083 And he that bettre sholde han knyt the reyne!”
RvT 4084 “Allas,” quod John, “Aleyn, for Cristes peyne
RvT 4085 Lay doun thy swerd, and I wil myn alswa.
RvT 4086 I is ful wight, God waat, as is a raa;
RvT 4087 By Goddes herte, he sal nat scape us bathe!
RvT 4088 Why ne had thow pit the capul in the lathe?
RvT 4089 Ilhayl! By God, Alayn, thou is a fonne!”
RvT 4090 Thise sely clerkes han ful faste yronne
RvT 4091 Toward the fen, bothe Aleyn and eek John.
RvT 4092 And whan the millere saugh that they were gon,
RvT 4093 He half a busshel of hir flour hath take,
RvT 4094 And bad his wyf go knede it in a cake.
RvT 4095 He seyde, “I trowe the clerkes were aferd.
RvT 4096 Yet kan a millere make a clerkes berd,
RvT 4097 For al his art; now lat hem goon hir weye!
RvT 4098 Lo, wher he gooth! Ye, lat the children pleye.
RvT 4099 They gete hym nat so lightly, by my croun.”
RvT 4100 Thise sely clerkes rennen up and doun
RvT 4101 With “Keep! Keep! Stand! Stand! Jossa, warderere,
RvT 4102 Ga whistle thou, and I shal kepe hym heere!”
RvT 4103 But shortly, til that it was verray nyght,
RvT 4104 They koude nat, though they dide al hir myght,
RvT 4105 Hir capul cacche, he ran alwey so faste,
RvT 4106 Til in a dych they caughte hym atte laste.
RvT 4107 Wery and weet, as beest is in the reyn,
RvT 4108 Comth sely John, and with him comth Aleyn.
RvT 4109 “Allas,” quod John, “the day that I was born!
RvT 4110 Now are we dryve til hethyng and til scorn.
RvT 4111 Oure corn is stoln; men wil us fooles calle,
RvT 4112 Bathe the wardeyn and oure felawes alle,
RvT 4113 And namely the millere, weylaway!”
RvT 4114 Thus pleyneth John as he gooth by the way
RvT 4115 Toward the mille, and Bayard in his hond.
RvT 4116 The millere sittynge by the fyr he fond,
RvT 4117 For it was nyght, and forther myghte they noght;
RvT 4118 But for the love of God they hym bisoght
RvT 4119 Of herberwe and of ese, as for hir peny.
RvT 4120 The millere seyde agayn, “If ther be eny,
RvT 4121 Swich as it is, yet shal ye have youre part.
RvT 4122 Myn hous is streit, but ye han lerned art;
RvT 4123 Ye konne by argumentes make a place
RvT 4124 A myle brood of twenty foot of space.
RvT 4125 Lat se now if this place may suffise,
RvT 4126 Or make it rowm with speche, as is youre gise.”
RvT 4127 “Now, Symond,” seyde John, “by Seint Cutberd,
RvT 4128 Ay is thou myrie, and this is faire answerd.
RvT 4129 I have herd seyd, Man sal taa of twa thynges:
RvT 4130 Slyk as he fyndes, or taa slyk as he brynges.’
RvT 4131 But specially I pray thee, hooste deere,
RvT 4132 Get us som mete and drynke, and make us cheere,
RvT 4133 And we wil payen trewely atte fulle.
RvT 4134 With empty hand men may na haukes tulle;
RvT 4135 Loo, heere oure silver, redy for to spende.”
RvT 4136 This millere into toun his doghter sende
RvT 4137 For ale and breed, and rosted hem a goos,
RvT 4138 And boond hire hors, it sholde namoore go loos,
RvT 4139 And in his owene chambre hem made a bed,
RvT 4140 With sheetes and with chalons faire yspred
RvT 4141 Noght from his owene bed ten foot or twelve.
RvT 4142 His doghter hadde a bed, al by hirselve,
RvT 4143 Right in the same chambre by and by.
RvT 4144 It myghte be no bet, and cause why?
RvT 4145 Ther was no roumer herberwe in the place.
RvT 4146 They soupen and they speke, hem to solace,
RvT 4147 And drynken evere strong ale atte beste.
RvT 4148 Aboute mydnyght wente they to reste.
RvT 4149 Wel hath this millere vernysshed his heed;
RvT 4150 Ful pale he was for dronken, and nat reed.
RvT 4151 He yexeth, and he speketh thurgh the nose
RvT 4152 As he were on the quakke, or on the pose.
RvT 4153 To bedde he goth, and with hym goth his wyf.
RvT 4154 As any jay she light was and jolyf,
RvT 4155 So was hir joly whistle wel ywet.
RvT 4156 The cradel at hir beddes feet is set,
RvT 4157 To rokken, and to yeve the child to sowke.
RvT 4158 And whan that dronken al was in the crowke,
RvT 4159 To bedde wente the doghter right anon;
RvT 4160 To bedde goth Aleyn and also John;
RvT 4161 Ther nas na moore — hem nedede no dwale.
RvT 4162 This millere hath so wisely bibbed ale
RvT 4163 That as an hors he fnorteth in his sleep,
RvT 4164 Ne of his tayl bihynde he took no keep.
RvT 4165 His wyf bar hym a burdon, a ful strong;
RvT 4166 Men myghte hir rowtyng heere two furlong;
RvT 4167 The wenche rowteth eek, par compaignye.
RvT 4168 Aleyn the clerk, that herde this melodye,
RvT 4169 He poked John, and seyde, “Slepestow?
RvT 4170 Herdestow evere slyk a sang er now?
RvT 4171 Lo, swilk a complyn is ymel hem alle;
RvT 4172 A wilde fyr upon thair bodyes falle!
RvT 4173 Wha herkned evere slyk a ferly thyng?
RvT 4174 Ye, they sal have the flour of il endyng.
RvT 4175 This lange nyght ther tydes me na reste;
RvT 4176 But yet, na fors, al sal be for the beste.
RvT 4177 For, John,” seyde he, “als evere moot I thryve,
RvT 4178 If that I may, yon wenche wil I swyve.
RvT 4179 Som esement has lawe yshapen us,
RvT 4180 For, John, ther is a lawe that says thus:
RvT 4181 That gif a man in a point be agreved,
RvT 4182 That in another he sal be releved.
RvT 4183 Oure corn is stoln, sothly, it is na nay,
RvT 4184 And we han had an il fit al this day;
RvT 4185 And syn I sal have neen amendement
RvT 4186 Agayn my los, I will have esement.
RvT 4187 By Goddes sale, it sal neen other bee!”
RvT 4188 This John answerde, “Alayn, avyse thee!
RvT 4189 The millere is a perilous man,” he seyde,
RvT 4190 “And gif that he out of his sleep abreyde,
RvT 4191 He myghte doon us bathe a vileynye.”
RvT 4192 Aleyn answerde, “I counte hym nat a flye.”
RvT 4193 And up he rist, and by the wenche he crepte.
RvT 4194 This wenche lay uprighte and faste slepte,
RvT 4195 Til he so ny was, er she myghte espie,
RvT 4196 That it had been to late for to crie,
RvT 4197 And shortly for to seyn, they were aton.
RvT 4198 Now pley, Aleyn, for I wol speke of John.
RvT 4199 This John lith stille a furlong wey or two,
RvT 4200 And to hymself he maketh routhe and wo.
RvT 4201 “Allas!” quod he, “this is a wikked jape;
RvT 4202 Now may I seyn that I is but an ape.
RvT 4203 Yet has my felawe somwhat for his harm;
RvT 4204 He has the milleris doghter in his arm.
RvT 4205 He auntred hym, and has his nedes sped,
RvT 4206 And I lye as a draf-sak in my bed;
RvT 4207 And when this jape is tald another day,
RvT 4208 I sal been halde a daf, a cokenay!
RvT 4209 I wil arise and auntre it, by my fayth!
RvT 4210 `Unhardy is unseely,’ thus men sayth.”
RvT 4211 And up he roos, and softely he wente
RvT 4212 Unto the cradel, and in his hand it hente,
RvT 4213 And baar it softe unto his beddes feet.
RvT 4214 Soone after this the wyf hir rowtyng leet,
RvT 4215 And gan awake, and wente hire out to pisse,
RvT 4216 And cam agayn, and gan hir cradel mysse,
RvT 4217 And groped heer and ther, but she foond noon.
RvT 4218 “Allas!” quod she, “I hadde almoost mysgoon;
RvT 4219 I hadde almoost goon to the clerkes bed.
RvT 4220 Ey, benedicite! Thanne hadde I foule ysped!”
RvT 4221 And forth she gooth til she the cradel fond.
RvT 4222 She gropeth alwey forther with hir hond,
RvT 4223 And foond the bed, and thoghte noght but good,
RvT 4224 By cause that the cradel by it stood,
RvT 4225 And nyste wher she was, for it was derk;
RvT 4226 But faire and wel she creep in to the clerk,
RvT 4227 And lith ful stille, and wolde han caught a sleep.
RvT 4228 Withinne a while this John the clerk up leep,
RvT 4229 And on this goode wyf he leith on soore.
RvT 4230 So myrie a fit ne hadde she nat ful yoore;
RvT 4231 He priketh harde and depe as he were mad.
RvT 4232 This joly lyf han thise two clerkes lad
RvT 4233 Til that the thridde cok bigan to synge.
RvT 4234 Aleyn wax wery in the dawenynge,
RvT 4235 For he had swonken al the longe nyght,
RvT 4236 And seyde, “Fare weel, Malyne, sweete wight!
RvT 4237 The day is come; I may no lenger byde;
RvT 4238 But everemo, wher so I go or ryde,
RvT 4239 I is thyn awen clerk, swa have I seel!”
RvT 4240 “Now, deere lemman,” quod she, “go, far weel!
RvT 4241 But er thow go, o thyng I wol thee telle:
RvT 4242 Whan that thou wendest homward by the melle,
RvT 4243 Right at the entree of the dore bihynde
RvT 4244 Thou shalt a cake of half a busshel fynde
RvT 4245 That was ymaked of thyn owene mele,
RvT 4246 Which that I heelp my sire for to stele.
RvT 4247 And, goode lemman, God thee save and kepe!”
RvT 4248 And with that word almoost she gan to wepe.
RvT 4249 Aleyn up rist, and thoughte, “Er that it dawe,
RvT 4250 I wol go crepen in by my felawe,”
RvT 4251 And fond the cradel with his hand anon.
RvT 4252 “By God,” thoughte he, “al wrang I have mysgon.
RvT 4253 Myn heed is toty of my swynk to-nyght,
RvT 4254 That makes me that I ga nat aright.
RvT 4255 I woot wel by the cradel I have mysgo;
RvT 4256 Heere lith the millere and his wyf also.”
RvT 4257 And forth he goth, a twenty devel way,
RvT 4258 Unto the bed ther as the millere lay.
RvT 4259 He wende have cropen by his felawe John,
RvT 4260 And by the millere in he creep anon,
RvT 4261 And caughte hym by the nekke, and softe he spak.
RvT 4262 He seyde, “Thou John, thou swynes-heed, awak,
RvT 4263 For Cristes saule, and heer a noble game.
RvT 4264 For by that lord that called is Seint Jame,
RvT 4265 As I have thries in this shorte nyght
RvT 4266 Swyved the milleres doghter bolt upright,
RvT 4267 Whil thow hast, as a coward, been agast.”
RvT 4268 “Ye, false harlot,” quod the millere, “hast?
RvT 4269 A, false traitour! False clerk!” quod he,
RvT 4270 “Thow shalt be deed, by Goddes dignitee!
RvT 4271 Who dorste be so boold to disparage
RvT 4272 My doghter, that is come of swich lynage?”
RvT 4273 And by the throte-bolle he caughte Alayn,
RvT 4274 And he hente hym despitously agayn,
RvT 4275 And on the nose he smoot hym with his fest.
RvT 4276 Doun ran the blody streem upon his brest;
RvT 4277 And in the floor, with nose and mouth tobroke,
RvT 4278 They walwe as doon two pigges in a poke;
RvT 4279 And up they goon, and doun agayn anon,
RvT 4280 Til that the millere sporned at a stoon,
RvT 4281 And doun he fil bakward upon his wyf,
RvT 4282 That wiste no thyng of this nyce stryf;
RvT 4283 For she was falle aslepe a lite wight
RvT 4284 With John the clerk, that waked hadde al nyght,
RvT 4285 And with the fal out of hir sleep she breyde.
RvT 4286 “Help! hooly croys of Bromeholm,” she seyde,
RvT 4287 “In manus tuas! Lord, to thee I calle!
RvT 4288 Awak, Symond! The feend is on me falle.
RvT 4289 Myn herte is broken; help! I nam but deed!
RvT 4290 Ther lyth oon upon my wombe and on myn heed.
RvT 4291 Help, Symkyn, for the false clerkes fighte!”
RvT 4292 This John stirte up as faste as ever he myghte,
RvT 4293 And graspeth by the walles to and fro,
RvT 4294 To fynde a staf; and she stirte up also,
RvT 4295 And knew the estres bet than dide this John,
RvT 4296 And by the wal a staf she foond anon,
RvT 4297 And saugh a litel shymeryng of a light,
RvT 4298 For at an hole in shoon the moone bright,
RvT 4299 And by that light she saugh hem bothe two,
RvT 4300 But sikerly she nyste who was who,
RvT 4301 But as she saugh a whit thyng in hir ye.
RvT 4302 And whan she gan this white thyng espye,
RvT 4303 She wende the clerk hadde wered a volupeer,
RvT 4304 And with the staf she drow ay neer and neer,
RvT 4305 And wende han hit this Aleyn at the fulle,
RvT 4306 And smoot the millere on the pyled skulle,
RvT 4307 That doun he gooth, and cride, “Harrow! I dye!”
RvT 4308 Thise clerkes beete hym weel and lete hym lye,
RvT 4309 And greythen hem, and tooke hir hors anon,
RvT 4310 And eek hire mele, and on hir wey they gon.
RvT 4311 And at the mille yet they tooke hir cake
RvT 4312 Of half a busshel flour, ful wel ybake.
RvT 4313 Thus is the proude millere wel ybete,
RvT 4314 And hath ylost the gryndynge of the whete,
RvT 4315 And payed for the soper everideel
RvT 4316 Of Aleyn and of John, that bette hym weel.
RvT 4317 His wyf is swyved, and his doghter als.
RvT 4318 Lo, swich it is a millere to be fals!
RvT 4319 And therfore this proverbe is seyd ful sooth,
RvT 4320 “Hym thar nat wene wel that yvele dooth.”
RvT 4321 A gylour shal hymself bigyled be.
RvT 4322 And God, that sitteth heighe in magestee,
RvT 4323 Save al this compaignye, grete and smale!
RvT 4324 Thus have I quyt the Millere in my tale.