The Canterbury tales
Geoffrey Chaucer
F.N. Robinson

The Reeve's Prologue

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