The Canterbury tales
Geoffrey Chaucer
F.N. Robinson

The Reeve's Tale

At trumpyngtoun, nat fer fro cantebrigge,
     3921
Ther gooth a brook, and over that a brigge,
     3922
Upon the whiche brook ther stant a melle;
     3923
And this is verray sooth that I yow telle:
     3924
A millere was ther dwellynge many a day.
     3925
As any pecok he was proud and gay.
     3926
Pipen he koude and fisshe, and nettes beete,
     3927
And turne coppes, and wel wrastle and sheete;
     3928
Ay by his belt he baar a long panade,
     3929
And of a swerd ful trenchant was the blade
     3930
A joly poppere baar he is in his pouche;
     3931
Ther was no man, for peril, dorste hym touche.
     3932
A sheffeld thwitel baar he in his hose.
     3933
Round was his face, and camus was his nose;
     3934
As piled as an ape was his skulle.
     3935
He was a market-betere atte fulle.
     3936
Ther dorste no wight hand upon hym legge,
     3937
That he ne swoor he sholde anon abegge.
     3938
A theef he was for sothe of corn and mele,
     3939
And that a sly, and usaunt for to stele.
     3940
His name was hoote deynous symkyn.
     3941
A wyf he hadde, ycomen of noble kyn;
     3942
The person of the toun hir fader was.
     3943
With hire he yaf ful many a panne of bras,
     3944
For that symkyn sholde in his blood allye.
     3945
She was yfostred in a nonnerye;
     3946
For symkyn wolde no wyf, as he sayde,
     3947
But she were wel ynorissed and a mayde,
     3948
To saven his estaat of yomanrye.
     3949
And she was proud, and peert as is a pye.
     3950
A ful fair sighte was it upon hem two;
     3951
On halydayes biforn hire wolde he go
     3952
With his typet bounden aboute his heed,
     3953
And she cam after in a gyte of reed;
     3954
And symkyn hadde hosen of the same.
     3955
Ther dorste no wight clepen hire but dame;
     3956
Was noon so hardy that wente by the weye
     3957
That with hire dorste rage or ones pleye,
     3958
But if he wolde be slayn of symkyn
     3959
With panade, or with knyf, or boidekyn.
     3960
For jalous folk ben perilous everemo;
     3961
Algate they wolde hire wyves wenden so.
     3962
And eek, for she was somdel smoterlich,
     3963
She was as digne as water in a dich,
     3964
And ful of hoker and of bisemare.
     3965
Hir thoughte that a lady sholde hire spare,
     3966
What for hire kynrede and hir nortelrie
     3967
That she hadde lerned in the nonnerie.
     3968
A doghter hadde they bitwixe hem two
     3969
Of twenty yeer, withouten any mo,
     3970
Savynge a child that was of half yeer age;
     3971
In cradel it lay and was a propre page.
     3972
This wenche thikke and wel ygrowen was,
     3973
With kamus nose, and eyen greye as glas,
     3974
With buttokes brode, and brestes rounde and hye;
     3975
But right fair was hire heer, I wol nat lye.
     3976
This person of the toun, for she was feir,
     3977
In purpos was to maken hire his heir,
     3978
Bothe of his catel and his mesuage,
     3979
And straunge he made it of hir mariage.
     3980
His purpos was for to bistowe hire hye
     3981
Into som worthy blood of auncetrye;
     3982
For hooly chirches good moot been despended
     3983
On hooly chirches blood, that is descended.
     3984
Therfore he wolde his hooly blood honoure,
     3985
Though that he hooly chirche sholde devoure.
     3986
Greet sokene hath this millere, out of doute,
     3987
With whete and malt of al the land aboute;
     3988
And nameliche ther was a greet collegge
     3989
Men clepen the soler halle at cantebregge;
     3990
Ther was hir whete and eek hir malt ygrounde.
     3991
And on a day it happed, in a stounde,
     3992
Sik lay the maunciple on a maladye;
     3993
Men wenden wisly that he sholde dye.
     3994
For which this millere stal bothe mele and corn
     3995
An hundred tyme moore than biforn;
     3996
For therbiforn he stal but curteisly,
     3997
But now he was a theef outrageously,
     3998
For which the wardeyn chidde and made fare.
     3999
But therof sette the millere nat a tare;
     4000
He craketh boost, and swoor it was nat so.
     4001
Thanne were ther yonge povre scolers two,
     4002
That dwelten in this halle, of which I seye.
     4003
Testif they were, and lusty for to pleye,
     4004
And, oonly for hire myrthe and revelrye,
     4005
Upon the wardeyn bisily they crye
     4006
To yeve hem leve, but a litel stounde,
     4007
To goon to mille and seen hir corn ygrounde;
     4008
And hardily they dorste leye hir nekke
     4009
The millere sholde not stele hem half a pekke
     4010
Of corn by sleighte, ne by force hem reve;
     4011
And at the laste the wardeyn yaf hem leve.
     4012
John highte that oon, and aleyn highte that oother; Page  57
     4013
Of o toun were they born, that highte strother,
     4014
Fer in the north, I kan nat telle where.
     4015
This aleyn maketh redy al his gere,
     4016
And on an hors the sak he caste anon.
     4017
Forth goth aleyn the clerk, and also john,
     4018
With good swerd and with bokeler by hir syde.
     4019
John knew the wey, -- hem nedede no gyde, --
     4020
And at the mille the sak adoun he layth.
     4021
Aleyn spak first, al hayl, symond, y-fayth!
     4022
Hou fares thy faire doghter and thy wyf?
     4023
Aleyn, welcome, quod symkyn, by my lyf!
     4024
And john also, how now, what do ye heer?
     4025
Symond, quod john, by god, nede has na peer.
     4026
Hym boes serve hymself that has na swayn,
     4027
Or elles he is a fool, as clerkes sayn.
     4028
Oure manciple, I hope he wil be deed,
     4029
Swa werkes ay the wanges in his heed;
     4030
And forthy is I come, and eek alayn,
     4031
To grynde oure corn and carie it ham agayn;
     4032
I pray yow spede us heythen that ye may.
     4033
It shal be doon, quod symkyn, by my fay!
     4034
What wol ye doon whil that it is in hande?
     4035
By god, right by the hopur wil I stande,
     4036
Quod john, and se howgates the corn gas in.
     4037
Yet saugh I nevere, by my fader kyn,
     4038
How that the hopur wagges til and fra.
     4039
Aleyn answerde, john, and wiltow swa?
     4040
Thanne wil I be bynethe, by my croun,
     4041
And se how that the mele falles doun
     4042
Into the trough; that sal be my disport.
     4043
For john, y-faith, I may been of youre sort;
     4044
I is as ille a millere as ar ye.
     4045
This millere smyled of hir nycetee,
     4046
And thoghte, al this nys doon but for a wyle.
     4047
They wene that no man may hem bigyle,
     4048
But by my thrift, yet shal I blere hir ye,
     4049
For al the sleighte in hir philosophye.
     4050
The moore queynte crekes that they make,
     4051
The moore wol I stele whan I take.
     4052
In stide of flour yet wol I yeve hem bren.
     4053
-- The gretteste clerkes been noght wisest men, --
     4054
As whilom to the wolf thus spak the mare.
     4055
Of al hir art ne counte I noght a tare.
     4056
Out at the dore he gooth ful pryvely,
     4057
Whan that he saugh his tyme, softely.
     4058
He looketh up and doun til he hath founde
     4059
The clerkes hors, ther as it stood ybounde
     4060
Bihynde the mille, under a levesel;
     4061
And to the hors he goth hym faire and wel;
     4062
He strepeth of the brydel right anon.
     4063
And whan the hors was laus, he gynneth gon
     4064
Toward the fen, ther wilde mares renne,
     4065
And forth with wehee, thurgh thikke and thurgh thenne.
     4066
This millere gooth agayn, no word he seyde,
     4067
But dooth his note, and with the clerkes pleyde,
     4068
Til that hir corn was faire and well ygrounde.
     4069
And whan the mele is sakked and ybounde,
     4070
This john goth out and fynt his hors away,
     4071
And gan to crie harrow! and weylaway! Page  58
     4072
Oure hors is lorn, alayn, for goddes banes,
     4073
Step on thy feet! com of, man, al atanes!
     4074
Allas, our wardeyn has his palfrey lorn.
     4075
This aleyn al forgat, bothe mele and corn;
     4076
Al was out of his mynde his housbondrie.
     4077
What, whilk way is he geen? he gan to crie.
     4078
The wyf cam lepynge inward with a ren.
     4079
She seyde, allas! youre hors goth to the fen
     4080
With wilde mares, as faste as he may go.
     4081
Unthank come on his hand that boond hym so,
     4082
And he that bettre sholde han knyt the reyne!
     4083
Allas, quod john, aleyn, for cristes peyne
     4084
Lay doun thy swerd, and I wil myn alswa.
     4085
I is ful wight, God waat, as is a raa;
     4086
By goddes herte, he sal nat scape us bathe!
     4087
Why ne had thow pit the capul in the lathe?
     4088
Ilhayl! by god, alayn, thou is a fonne!
     4089
Thise sely clerkes han ful faste yronne
     4090
Toward the fen, bothe aleyn and eek john.
     4091
And whan the millere saugh that they were gon,
     4092
He half a busshel of hir flour hath take,
     4093
And bad his wyf go knede it in a cake.
     4094
He seyde, I trowe the clerkes were aferd.
     4095
Yet kan a millere make a clerkes berd,
     4096
For al his art; now lat hem goon hir weye!
     4097
Lo, wher he gooth! ye, lat the children pleye.
     4098
They gete hym nat so lightly, by my croun.
     4099
Thise sely clerkes rennen up and doun
     4100
With keep! keep! stand! stand! jossa, warderere,
     4101
Ga whistle thou, and I shal kepe hym heere!
     4102
But shortly, til that it was verray nyght,
     4103
They koude nat, though they dide al hir myght,
     4104
Hir capul cacche, he ran alwey so faste,
     4105
Til in a dych they caughte hym atte laste.
     4106
Wery and weet, as beest is in the reyn,
     4107
Comth sely john, and with him comth aleyn.
     4108
Allas, quod john, the day that I was born!
     4109
Now are we dryve til hethyng and til scorn.
     4110
Oure corn is stoln, men wil us fooles calle,
     4111
Bathe the wardeyn and oure felawes alle,
     4112
And namely the millere, weylaway!
     4113
Thus pleyneth john as he gooth by the way
     4114
Toward the mille, and bayard in his hond.
     4115
The millere sittynge by the fyr he fond,
     4116
For it was nyght, and forther myghte they noght;
     4117
But for the love of God they hym bisoght
     4118
Of herberwe and of ese, as for hir peny.
     4119
The millere seyde agayn, if ther be eny,
     4120
Swich as it is, yet shal ye have youre part.
     4121
Myn hous is streit, but ye han lerned art;
     4122
Ye konne by argumentes make a place
     4123
A myle brood of twenty foot of space.
     4124
Lat se now if this place may suffise,
     4125
Or make it rowm with speche, as is youre gise.
     4126
Now, symond, seyde john, by seint cutberd,
     4127
Ay is thou myrie, and this is faire answerd.
     4128
I have herd seyd, -- man sal taa of twa thynges
     4129
Slyk as he fyndes, or taa slyk as he brynges. --
     4130
But specially I pray thee, hooste deere,
     4131
Get us som mete and drynke, and make us cheere,
     4132
And we wil payen trewely atte fulle.
     4133
With empty hand men may na haukes tulle;
     4134
Loo, heere oure silver, redy for to spende.
     4135
This millere into toun his doghter sende
     4136
For ale and breed, and rosted hem a goos,
     4137
And boond hire hors, it sholde namoore go loos;
     4138
And in his owene chambre hem made a bed,
     4139
With sheetes and with chalons faire yspred
     4140
Noght from his owene bed ten foot or twelve.
     4141
His doghter hadde a bed, al by hirselve,
     4142
Right in the same chambre by and by.
     4143
It myghte be no bet, and cause why?
     4144
Ther was no roumer herberwe in the place.
     4145
They soupen and they speke, hem to solace,
     4146
And drynken evere strong ale atte beste.
     4147
Aboute mydnyght wente they to reste.
     4148
Wel hath this millere vernysshed his heed;
     4149
Ful pale he was for dronken, and nat reed.
     4150
He yexeth, and he speketh thurgh the nose
     4151
As he were on the quakke, or on the pose.
     4152
To bedde he goth, and with hym goth his wyf.
     4153
As any jay she light was and jolyf,
     4154
So was hir joly whistle wel ywet.
     4155
The cradel at hir beddes feet is set,
     4156
To rokken, and to yeve the child to sowke.
     4157
And whan that dronken al was in the crowke,
     4158
To bedde wente the doghter right anon;
     4159
To bedde goth aleyn and also john;
     4160
Ther nas na moore, -- hem nedede no dwale.
     4161
This millere hath so wisely bibbed ale
     4162
That as an hors he fnorteth in his sleep,
     4163
Ne of his tayl bihynde he took no keep.
     4164
His wyf bar hym a burdon, a ful strong;
     4165
Men myghte hir rowtyng heere two furlong;
     4166
The wenche rowteth eek, par compaignye.
     4167
Aleyn the clerk, that herde this melodye,
     4168
He poked john, and seyde, slepestow?
     4169
Herdestow evere slyk a sang er now?
     4170
Lo, swilk a complyn is ymel hem alle,
     4171
A wilde fyr upon thair bodyes falle!
     4172
Wha herkned evere slyk a ferly thyng?
     4173
Ye, they sal have the flour of il endyng.
     4174
This lange nyght ther tydes me na reste;
     4175
But yet, nafors, al sal be for the beste.
     4176
For, john, seyde he, als evere moot I thryve,
     4177
If that I may, yon wenche wil I swyve.
     4178
Som esement has lawe yshapen us;
     4179
For, john, ther is a lawe that says thus,
     4180
That gif a man in a point be agreved,
     4181
That in another he sal be releved.
     4182
Oure corn is stoln, sothly, it is na nay,
     4183
And we han had an il fit al this day;
     4184
And syn I sal have neen amendement
     4185
Agayn my los, I will have esement.
     4186
By goddes sale, it sal neen other bee!
     4187
This john answerde, alayn, avyse thee!
     4188
The millere is a perilous man, he seyde,
     4189
And gif that he out of his sleep abreyde,
     4190
He myghte doon us bathe a vileynye.
     4191
Aleyn answerde, I counte hym nat a flye.
     4192
And up he rist, and by the wenche he crepte.
     4193
This wenche lay uprighte, and faste slepte,
     4194
Til he so ny was, er she myghte espie,
     4195
That it had been to late for to crie,
     4196
And shortly for to seyn, they were aton.
     4197
Now pley, aleyn, for I wol speke of john.
     4198
This john lith stille a furlong wey or two,
     4199
And to hymself he maketh routhe and wo.
     4200
Allas! quod he, this is a wikked jape;
     4201
Now may I seyn that I is but an ape.
     4202
Yet has my felawe somwhat for his harm;
     4203
He has the milleris doghter in his arm.
     4204
He auntred hym, and has his nedes sped,
     4205
And I lye as a draf-sak in my bed;
     4206
And when this jape is tald another day,
     4207
I sal been halde a daf, a cokenay!
     4208
I wil arise and auntre it, by my fayth!
     4209
-- Unhardy is unseely, -- thus men sayth.
     4210
And up he roos, and softely he wente
     4211
Unto the cradel, and in his hand it hente,
     4212
And baar it softe unto his beddes feet.
     4213
Soone after this the wyf hir rowtyng leet,
     4214
And gan awake, and wente hire out to pisse,
     4215
And cam agayn, and gan hir cradel mysse,
     4216
And groped heer and ther, but she foond noon. Page  59
     4217
Allas! quod she, I hadde almoost mysgoon;
     4218
I hadde almoost goon to the clerkes bed.
     4219
Ey, benedicite! thanne hadde I foule ysped.
     4220
And forth she gooth til she the cradel fond.
     4221
She gropeth alwey forther with hir hond,
     4222
And foond the bed, and thoghte noght but good,
     4223
By cause that the cradel by it stood,
     4224
And nyste wher she was, for it was derk;
     4225
But faire and wel she creep in to the clerk,
     4226
And lith ful stille, and wolde han caught a sleep.
     4227
Withinne a while this john the clerk up leep,
     4228
And on this goode wyf he leith on soore.
     4229
So myrie a fit ne hadde she nat ful yoore;
     4230
He priketh harde and depe as he were mad.
     4231
This joly lyf han thise two clerkes lad
     4232
Til that the thridde cok bigan to synge.
     4233
Aleyn wax wery in the dawenynge,
     4234
For he had swonken al the longe nyght,
     4235
And seyde, fare weel, malyne, sweete wight!
     4236
The day is come, I may no lenger byde;
     4237
But everemo, wher so I go or ryde,
     4238
I is thyn awen clerk, swa have I seel!
     4239
Now, deere lemman, quod she, go, far weel!
     4240
But er thow go, o thyng I wol thee telle:
     4241
Whan that thou wendest homward by the melle,
     4242
Right at the entree of the dore bihynde
     4243
Thou shalt a cake of half a busshel fynde
     4244
That was ymaked of thyn owene mele,
     4245
Which that I heelp my sire for to stele.
     4246
And, goode lemman, God thee save and kepe!
     4247
And with that word almoost she gan to wepe.
     4248
Aleyn up rist, and thoughte, er that it dawe,
     4249
I wol go crepen in by my felawe;
     4250
And fond the cradel with his hand anon.
     4251
By god, thoughte he, al wrang I have mysgon.
     4252
Myn heed is toty of my swynk to-nyght,
     4253
That makes me that I ga nat aright.
     4254
I woot wel by the cradel I have mysgo;
     4255
Heere lith the millere and his wyf also.
     4256
And forth he goth, a twenty devel way,
     4257
Unto the bed ther as the millere lay.
     4258
He wende have cropen by his felawe john,
     4259
And by the millere in he creep anon,
     4260
And caughte hym by the nekke, and softe he spak.
     4261
He seyde, thou john, thou swynes-heed, awak,
     4262
For cristes saule, and heer a noble game.
     4263
For by that lord that called is seint jame,
     4264
As I have thries in this shorte nyght
     4265
Swyved the milleres doghter bolt upright,
     4266
Whil thow hast, as a coward, been agast.
     4267
Ye, false harlot, quod the miller, hast?
     4268
A, false traitour! false clerk! quod he,
     4269
Thow shalt be deed, by goddes dignitee!
     4270
Who dorste be so boold to disparage
     4271
My doghter, that is come of swich lynage?
     4272
And by the throte-bolle he caughte alayn,
     4273
And he hente hym despitously agayn,
     4274
And on the nose he smoot hym with his fest.
     4275
Doun ran the blody streem upon his brest;
     4276
And in the floor, with nose and mouth tobroke,
     4277
They walwe as doon two pigges in a poke;
     4278
And up they goon, and doun agayn anon,
     4279
Til that the millere sporned at a stoon,
     4280
And doun he fil bakward upon his wyf,
     4281
That wiste no thyng of this nyce stryf;
     4282
For she was falle aslepe a lite wight
     4283
With john the clerk, that waked hadde al nyght,
     4284
And with the fal out of hir sleep she breyde.
     4285
Help! hooly croys of bromeholm, she seyde,
     4286
In manus tuas! lord, to thee I calle!
     4287
Awak, symond! the feend is on me falle.
     4288
Myn herte is broken; help! I nam but deed!
     4289
Ther lyth oon upon my wombe and on myn heed.
     4290
Help, symkyn, for the false clerkes fighte!
     4291
This john stirte up as faste as ever he myghte,
     4292
And graspeth by the walles to and fro,
     4293
To fynde a staf; and she stirte up also,
     4294
And knew the estres bet than dide this john,
     4295
And by the wal a staf she foond anon,
     4296
And saugh a litel shymeryng of a light,
     4297
For at an hole in shoon the moone bright;
     4298
And by that light she saugh hem bothe two,
     4299
But sikerly she nyste who was who,
     4300
But as she saugh a whit thyng in hir ye.
     4301
And whan she gan this white thyng espye,
     4302
She wende the clerk hadde wered a volupeer,
     4303
And with the staf she drow ay neer and neer,
     4304
And wende han hit this aleyn at the fulle,
     4305
And smooth the millere on the pyled skulle,
     4306
That doun he gooth, and cride, harrow! I dye!
     4307
Thise clerkes beete hym weel and lete hym lye;
     4308
And greythen hem, and tooke hir hors anon,
     4309
And eek hire mele, and on hir wey they gon.
     4310
And at the mille yet they tooke hir cake
     4311
Of half a busshel flour, ful wel ybake. Page  60
     4312
Thus is the proude millere wel ybete,
     4313
And hath ylost the gryndynge of the whete,
     4314
And payed for the soper everideel
     4315
Of aleyn and of john, that bette hym weel.
     4316
His wyf is swyved, and his doghter als.
     4317
Lo, swich it is a millere to be fals!
     4318
And therfore this proverbe is seyd ful sooth,
     4319
Hym thar nat wene wel that yvele dooth;
     4320
A gylour shal hymself bigyled be.
     4321
And god, that sitteth heighe in magestee,
     4322
Save al this compaignye, grete and smale!
     4323
Thus have I quyt the millere in my tale.
     4324