Geoffrey Chaucer.

The poems of Geoffrey Chaucer modernized online

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Online LibraryGeoffrey ChaucerThe poems of Geoffrey Chaucer modernized → online text (page 12 of 18)
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Lo Deptford ! and the hour is half way prime :
Lo Greenwich ! — there where many a shrew loves sin-
It were high time thy story to begin.'

'Now, fair sirs!' quoth this Oswald, the old Reve,
' I pray you all that you yourselves ne'er grieve,
Though my reply should somewhat fret his nose ;
For lawful 'tis with force, force to oppose.
This drunken Miller hath informed us here
How that some folks beguiled a carpenter —
Perhaps in scorn that I of yore was one.
So, by your leave, him I'll requite anon.
In his own churlish language will I speak,
And pray to heaven besides, his neck may break.
A small stalk in mine eye he sees, I deem,
But in his own he cannot see a beam.


At Trumpington, near Cambridge, if you look,
There goeth a bridge, and under that a brook,
Upon which brook there stood a flour-mill ;
And this is a known fact that now I tell.
A Miller there had dwelt for many a day ;
As any peacock he was proud and gay.
He could pipe well, and fish, mend nets, to boot,
Turn cups with a lathe, and wrestle well, and shoot.
A Norman dirk, as brown as is a spade,
Hung by his belt, and eke a trenchant blade.
A jolly dagger bare he in his pouch :
There was no man, for peril, durst him touch.
A Sheffield clasp-knife lay within his hose.
Round was his face, and broad and flat his nose.

144 the reve's tale.

High and retreating was his bald ape's skull :
He swagger' d when the market-place was full.
There durst no wight a hand lift to resent it,
But soon, this Miller swore, he should repent it.

A thief he was, forsooth, of corn and meal,
A sly one, too, and used long since to steal.
Disdainful Simkin, was he called by name.
A wife he had ; of noble kin she came :
The rector of the town her father was.
With her he gave full many a pan of brass,
That Simkin with his blood should thus ally.
She had been brought up in a nunnery ;
For Simkin ne'er would have a wife, he said,
Unless she were well tutor' d and a maid,
To carry on his line of yeomanry :
And she was proud and pert as is a pie.
It was a pleasant thing to see these two :
On holydays before her would he go,
With his large tippet bound about his head ;
While she came after in a gown of red,
And Simkin wore his long hose of the same.
There durst no wight address her but as Dame :
None was so bold that pass'd along the way,
Who with her durst once toy or jesting play,

the reve's tale. 145

Unless he wish'd the sudden loss of life
Before Disdainful Simkin's sword or knife.
(For jealous folk most fierce and perilous grow ;
And this they always wish their wives to know.)
But since that to broad jokes she'd no dislike,
She was as pure as water in a dyke,
And with abuse all fill'd and froward air.
She thought that ladies should her temper bear,
Both for her kindred, and the lessons high
That had been taught her in the nunnery.

These two a fair and buxom daughter had,
Of twenty years ; no more since they were wed,
Saving a child, that was but six months old ;
A little boy in cradle rocked and rolled.
This daughter was a stout and well- grown lass,
With broad flat nose, and eyes as grey as glass.
Broad were her hips ; her bosom round and high ;
But right fair was she here — I will not lie.

The rector of the town, as she was fair,
A purpose had to make her his sole heir,
Both of his cattle and his tenement ;
But only if she married as he meant.
It was his purpose to bestow her high,

146 the reve's tale.

Into some worthy blood of ancestry :
For holy church's good must be expended
On holy church's blood that is descended ;
Therefore he Avould his holy church honour,
Although that holy church he should devour.

Great toll and fee had Simian, out of doubt,
With wheat and malt, of all the land about,
And in especial was the Soler Hall —
A college great at Cambridge thus they call —
Which at this mill both wheat and malt had ground.
And on a day it suddenly was found,
Sick lay the Manciple of a malady ;
And men for certain thought that he must die.
Whereon this Miller both of corn and meal
An hundred times more than before did steal ;
For, ere this chance, he stole but courteously,
But now he was a thief outrageously.
The warden scolded with an angry air ;
But this the Miller rated not a tare :
He sang high bass, and swore it was not so !

There were two scholars young, and poor, I trow,
That dwelt within the Hall of which I say.
Headstrong they were and lusty for to play ;


And merely for their mirth and revelry,
Out to the warden eagerly they cry,
That he should let them, for a merry round,
Go to the mill, and see their own corn ground,
And each would fair and boldly lay his neck
The Miller should not steal them half a peck
Of corn by sleight, nor by main force bereave.

And at the last the warden gave them leave :
One was call'd John, and Allen named the other ;
From the same town they came, which was called

Far in the North — I cannot tell you where.

This Allen maketh ready all his gear,
And on a horse the sack he cast anon :
Forth go these merry clerks, Allen and John,
With good sword and with buckler by their side.
John knew the way, and needed not a guide ;
And at the mill the sack adown he layeth.

Allen spake first : — ' Simon, all hail ! in faith,
How fares thy daughter, and thy worthy wife ?'

• Allen,' quoth Sim kin, ' welcome, by my life ;
l 2


And also John : — how now ! what do ye here ?'
' Simon,' quoth John, ' compulsion has no peer.
They who've nae lackeys must themselves bestir,
Or else they are but fools, as clerks aver.
Our Manciple I think will soon be dead,
Sae slowly work the grinders in his head ;
And therefore am I come with Allen thus,
To grind our corn, and carry it hame with us :
I pray you speed us, that we may be gone.'

Quoth Simkin, ' By my faith it shall be done ;
What will ye do, while that it is in hand ?'
■ Gude's life ! right by the hopper will I stand,'
(Quoth John,) ' and see how that the corn goes in.
I never yet saw, by my father's kin,
How that the hopper waggles to and fro.'

Allen continued, — ' John, and wilt thou so ?
Then will I be beneath it, by my crown,
And see how that the meal comes running down
Into the trough — and that shall be my sport.
For, John, like you, I'm of the curious sort ;
And quite as bad a miller — so let's see !'

This Miller smiled at their 'cute nicety,

the reve's tale. 149

And thought, — all this is done but for a wile ;

They fancy that no man can them beguile :

But, by my thrift, I '11 dust their searching eye,

For all the sleights in their philosophy.

The more quaint knacks and guarded plans they make,

The more corn will I steal when once I take :

Instead of flour, I '11 leave them nought but bran :

The greatest clerks are not the wisest men.

As whilom to the wolf thus spake the mare :

Of all their art I do not count a tare.

Out at the door he goeth full privily,
When that he saw his time, and noiselessly :
He looketh up and down, till he hath found
The clerks' bay horse, where he was standing bound
Under an ivy wall, behind the mill :
And to the horse he goeth him fair and well,
And strippeth off the bridle in a trice.

And when the horse was loose he 'gan to race
Unto the wild mares wandering in the fen,
With wehee ! whinny ! right through thick and thin !
This Miller then return' d ; no word he said,
But doth his work, and with these clerks he play'd,
Till that their corn was well and fairly ground.

150 THE REVe's TALE.

And when the meal is sack'd and safely bound,
John goeth out, and found his horse was gone,
And cried aloud with many a stamp and groan,
4 Our horse is lost ! Allen, od's banes ! I say,
Up on thy feet ! — come off, man — up, away !
Alas ! our warden's palfrey, it is gone !'

Allen at once forgot both meal and corn —
Out of his mind went all his husbandry —
• What ! — whilk way is he gone ?' he 'gan to cry.

The Miller's wife came laughing inwardly,
' Alas !' said she, ' your horse i' the fens doth fly
After wild mares as fast as he can go !
Ill luck betide the hand that bound him so,
And his that better should have knit the rein.'

' Alas !' quoth John, 'good Allen, haste amain
Lav down thy sword, as I will mine also ;
Heaven knoweth I am as nimble as a roe ;
He shall not 'scape us baith, or my saul's dead !
Why didst not put the horse within the shed ?
By the mass, Allen, thou'rt a fool, I say !'

Those silly clerks have scamper'd fast away


Unto the fen ; Allen and nimble John :

And when the Miller saw that they were gone,

He half a bushel of their flour doth take,

And bade his wife go knead it in a cake.

He said, ' I trow these clerks fear'd what they've found ;

Yet can a miller turn a scholar round

For all his art. Yea, let them go their way !

See where they run ! yea, let the children play :

They get him not so lightly, by my crown.'

The simple clerks go running up and down,
With ' Soft, soft !— stand, stand !— hither !— back !—

take care ! —
Now whistle thou, and I shall keep him here !'
But, to be brief, until the very night
They could not, though they tried with all their might,
The palfrey catch ; he always ran so fast :
Till in a ditch they caught him at the last.

Weary and wet as beasts amid the rain,
Allen and John come slowly back again.
' Alas,' quoth John, ' that ever I was born !
Now are we turn'd into contempt and scorn.
Our corn is stolen ; fools they will us call ;
The warden, and our college fellows all,

152 the reve's tale.

And 'specially the Miller — 'las the day !'

Thus plaineth John while going by the way
Toward the mill, the bay nag in his hand.
The Miller sitting by the fire they found,
For it was night : no further could they move ;
But they besought him, for heaven's holy love,
Lodgment and food to give them for their penny.

And Simkin answered, ' If that there be any,
Such as it is, yet shall ye have your part.
My house is small, but ye have learned art ;
Ye can, by arguments, well make a place
A mile broad, out of twenty foot of space !
Let's see now if this place, as 'tis, suffice ;
Or, make more room with speech, as is your guise.'
' Now, Simon, by Saint Cuthbert,' said this John,
' Thou'rt ever merry, and that's answer'd soon.
I've heard that man must needs choose o' twa things
Such as he finds, or else such as he brings.
But specially I pray thee, mine host dear,
Let us have meat and drink, and make us cheer,
And we shall pay you to the full, be sure :
With empty hand men may na' hawks allure.
Lo ! here's our siller ready to be spent !'

the reve's tale. 153

The Miller to the town his daughter sent
For ale and bread, and roasted them a goose ;
And bound their horse ; he should no more get loose ;
And in his own room made for them a bed,
With blankets, sheets, and coverlet well spread :
Not twelve feet from his own bed did it stand.
His daughter, by herself, as it was plann'd,
In a small passage closet, slept close by :
It might no better be, for reasons why, —
There was no wider chamber in the place.
They sup, and jest, and show a merry face,
And drink of ale, the strongest and the best.
It was just midnight when they went to rest.

Well hath this Simkin varnish'd his hot head ;
Full pale he was with drinking, and nought red.
He hiccougheth, and speaketh through the nose,
As with the worst of colds, or quinsy's throes.
To bed he goeth, and with him trips his wife ;
Light as a jay, and jolly seem'd her life,
So was her jolly whistle well ywet.
The cradle at her bed's foot close she set
To rock, or nurse the infant in the night.
And when the jug of ale was emptied quite,
To bed, likewise, the daughter went anon :

154 the reve's tale.

To bed goes Allen ; with him also John.
All's said : they need no drugs from poppies pale.
This Miller hath so wisely bibbed of ale,
But as an horse he snorteth in his sleep,
And blurteth secrets which awake he'd keep.
His wife a burden bare him, and full strong :
Men might their routing hear a good furlong.
The daughter routeth eke, par compagnie.

Allen, the clerk, that heard this melody,
Now poketh John, and said, ■ Why sleepest thou ?
Heardest thou ever sic a song e'er now ?
Lo, what a serenade's among them all !
A wild-fire red upon their bodies fall !
Wha ever listened to sae strange a thing ?
The flower of evil shall their ending bring.
This whole night there to me betides no rest.
But, courage yet, all shall be for the best ;
For, John,' said he, ' as I may ever thrive,
To pipe a merrier serenade I'll strive
In the dark passage somewhere near to us ;
For, John, there is a law which sayeth thus, —
That if a man in one point be aggrieved,
Right in another he shall be relieved :
Our corn is stolen — sad vet sooth to sav —

the reve's tale. 155

And we have had an evil bout to-day ;
But since the Miller no amends will make,
Against our loss we should some payment take.
His sonsie daughter will I seek to win,
And get our meal back — deil reward his sin !
By hallow-mass it shall no otherwise be V

But John replied, ' Allen, well counsel thee :
The miller is a perilous man,' he said,
' And if he wake and start up from his bed,
He may do both of us a villany.'
' Nay,' Allen said, ■ I count him not a flie !'
And up he rose, and crept along the floor
Into the passage humming with their snore :
As narrow was it as a drum or tub.
And like a beetle doth he grope and grub,
Feeling his way with darkness in his hand^,
Till at the passage end he stooping stands.

John lieth still, and not far off, I trow,
And to himself he maketh ruth and woe.
' Alas,' quoth he, ' this is a wicked jape !
Now may I say that I am but an ape.
Allen may somewhat quit him for his wrong :
Already can I hear his plaint and song ;

156 the reve's tale.

So shall his 'venture happily be sped,

While like a rubbish- sack I lie in bed ;

And when this jape is told another day,

I shall be call'd a fool, or a cokemiy !

I will adventure somewhat, too, in faith :

" Weak heart, worse fortune," as the proverb saith.'

And up he rose at once, and softly went
Unto the cradle, as 'twas his intent,
And to his bed's foot bare it, with the brat.
The wife her routing ceased soon after that,
And woke, and left her bed ; for she was pained
With night-mare dreams of skies that madly rained.
Eastern astrologers and clerks, I wis,
In time of Apis tell of storms like this.
Awhile she stayed, and waxeth calm in mind ;
Returning then, no cradle doth she find,
And gropeth here and there — but she found none.
' Alas,' quoth she, ' I had almost misgone !
I well-nigh stumbled on the clerks a-bed :
Eh benedicite ! but I am safely sped.
And on she went, till she the cradle found,
While through the dark still groping with her hand.

Meantime was heard the beating of a wing,

the reve's tale. 157

And then the third cock of the morn 'gan sing.

Allen stole back, and thought ' ere that it dawn

I will creep in by John that lieth forlorn.'

He found the cradle in his hand, anon.

1 Gude Lord !' thought Allen, ' all wrong have I gone !

My head is dizzy with the ale last night,

And eke my piping, that I go not right.

Wrong am I, by the cradle well I know :

Here lieth Simkin, and his wife also.'

And, scrambling forthright on, he made his way

Unto the bed where Simkin snoring lay !

He thought to nestle by his fellow John,

And by the Miller in he crept, anon,

And caught him by the neck, and 'gan to shake,

And said, ' Thou John ! thou swine's head dull, awake !

Wake, by the mass ! and hear a noble game,

For, by St. Andrew ! to thy ruth and shame,

I have been trolling roundelays this night,

And won the Miller's daughter's heart outright,

Who hath me told where hidden is our meal :

All this — and more — and how they always steal ;

While thou hast as a coward lain aghast !'

' Thou slanderous ribald !' quoth the Miller, ■ hast ?
A traitor false, false lying clerk !' quoth he,

158 the reve's tale.

' Thou shalt be slain by heaven's dignity,
Who rudely dar'st disparage with foul lie
My daughter that is come of lineage high !'
And by the throat he Allen grasp' d amain ;
And caught him, yet more furiously, again,
And on his nose he smote him with his fist !
Down ran the bloody stream upon his breast,
And on the floor they tumble, heel and crown,
And shake the house — it seem'd all coming down.
And up they rise, and down again they roll ;
Till that the Miller, stumbling o'er a coal,
Went plunging headlong like a bull at bait,
And met his wife, and both fell flat as slate.
' Help, holy cross of Bromeholm !' loud she cried,
' And, all ye martyrs, fight upon my side !
In manus tuas — help ! — on thee I call !
Simon, awake ! the fiend on me doth fall :
He crusheth me — help ! — I am well-nigh dead ;
He lieth along my heart, and heels, and head.
Help, Simkin ! for the false clerks rage and fight !'

Now sprang up John as fast as ever he might,
And graspeth by the dark walls to and fro
To find a staff : the wife starts up also.
She knew the place far better than this John,

the reve's tale. 159

And by the wall she caught a staff anon.
She saw a little shimmering of a light,
For at an hole in shone the moon all bright,
And by that gleam she saw the struggling two,
But knew not, as for certain, who was who,
Save that she saw a white thing in her eye.
And when that she this white thing 'gan espy,
She thought that Allen did a night-cap wear,
And with the staff she drew near, and more near,
And, thinking 'twas the clerk, she smote at full
Disdainful Simkin on his bald ape's skull.
Down goes the Miller, crying ' Harow, I die !'
These clerks they beat him well, and let him lie.
They make them ready, and take their horse anon,
And eke their meal, and on their way are gone ;
And from behind the mill-door took their cake,
Of half a bushel of flour — a right good bake.





A Gentlewoman, out of an arbour, in a grove, seeth a great pan-
pany of knighte and ladies in a dance upon the green grass ; the
which being ended, they all kneel down, and do honour to the
Daisy, — some to the Flower, and some to the Leaf. Afterward,
'his Gentlewoman leameth, by one of these Ladies, the meaning
thereof, which is this: — They >chi

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Online LibraryGeoffrey ChaucerThe poems of Geoffrey Chaucer modernized → online text (page 12 of 18)