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◈ The Canterbury Tales ◈

◇ The Miller’s Prologue and Tale ◇

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 1. The Miller’s Prologue
 2. The Miller’s Tale

1. The Miller’s Prologue

0 Here follow the words between the Host and the Miller.
1 When that the Knight had thus his tale told,
2 In all our company was nor young nor old
3 Who did not claim it as a noble story
4 And worthy to be stored in memory,
5 Especially the well-born, every one.
6 Our Host laughed, and swore: ‘We go on,
7 All goes aright; weve unbound the bale!
8 Let’s see now who shall tell another tale,
9 For truly the game is well begun.
10 Now you tell, Sir Monk, if you can,
11 Something to repay the Knight’s tale.’
12 The Miller, that for drunkenness was pale,
13 So that with effort on his horse he sat,
14 He would neither doff his hood or hat,
15 Nor wait for any man, in courtesy,
16 But in Pilate’s voice began, noisily
17 To swear: ‘By arms, and by blood and bones,
18 I know a noble tale I’ll tell at once,
19 With which I shall requite the Knight’s tale!’
20 Our Host saw that he was drunk with ale,
21 And said; ‘Wait now, Robin, dear brother;
22 Some fitter man shall tell us first another.
23 Wait now, and let us work it all seemly.’
24 By God’s soul,’ quoth the Miller, ‘not for me!
25 For I will speak or else go on my way.’
26 Our Host answered: ‘Tell on, as you may!
27 You are a fool; your wits are overcome.’
28 Now hearken,’ quoth the Miller, ‘all and some!
29 But first I’ll make a protestation
30 That I am drunk – I know it by my tongue.
31 And therefore, if that I misspeak or say,
32 Blame then the ale of Southwark, I pray.
33 For I will tell a legend from the life,
34 Both of a carpenter and of his wife,
35 How that at her a clerk set his cap.’
36 The Reeve answered, saying: ‘Hold your trap!
37 Have done with lewd drunken harlotry!
38 It is a sin and also greater folly
39 To slander any man, or him defame,
40 And give wives too an evil name.
41 There is plenty else at which to aim.’
42 The drunken Miller spoke up again,
43 And replied: ‘My dear brother Oswald,
44 He who has no wife, he is no cuckold;
45 But I say not that therefore you are one.
46 There be good wives and many a one,
47 And ever a thousand good for every bad;
48 You know it yourself unless youre mad.
49 Why are you angry with my tale now?
50 I have a wife, indeed, as well as thou,
51 Yet not for the oxen in my plough,
52 Would I take it upon me for an hour
53 To believe it of myself that I was one.
54 I will believe indeed that I am none.
55 A husband should not be too inquisitive
56 Of God’s affairs, or how his wife live.
57 If he shares God’s abundance entire,
58 Of the rest he need not then enquire.’
59 What more can I say, the Miller there
60 His words for no man would forbear,
61 But told his churl’s tale in his own manner.
62 And I regret I must repeat it here;
63 And therefore every gentle soul I pray
64 Deem it not, for God’s sake, that I say
65 Ought by evil intent, but must rehearse
66 All their tales, for better or for worse,
67 Or else be somewhat false to the matter.
68 Therefore whoever thinks it idle chatter
69 Turn to another page, and choose a tale,
70 For you shall find enough, never fail,
71 Great and small, stories of genteelness,
72 And morality as well, and holiness.
73 Blame not me, if you choose amiss.
74 The Miller is a churl; you all know this.
75 So was the Reeve also, and others too,
76 And harlotry they told of, both the two.
77 Take thought, and hold me free of blame
78 Man should not treat in earnest what’s a game.

2. The Miller’s Tale

0 Here begins the Miller’s Tale.
1 Once upon a time there dwelt in Oxford
2 A rich churl, that took in guests to board,
3 And for his craft he was a carpenter.
4 With him there was dwelling a poor scholar
5 Who had learned the arts, but all his fancy
6 Was set on studying astrology,
7 And he could judge certain propositions
8 By the course of his investigations,
9 Should men ask of him at certain hours
10 If there would be drought or else showers,
11 Or if they should ask what might befall
12 Of sundry things – I could not tell them all.
13 This clerk was called courtly Nicholas.
14 Skilled in secret love affairs, and solace,
15 And withal was clever and discreet,
16 And to see was like a maiden meek.
17 A chamber had he in that hostelry,
18 Alone, without any company,
19 Elegantly garnished with herbs sweet;
20 And he himself as sweet as root may be
21 Of liquorice, or any zedoary.
22 His Almagest, and his library,
23 His astrolabe, belonging to his art,
24 His counters for arithmetic, laid apart
25 On shelves that stood at his bed’s head;
26 His cupboard covered with a cloth of red.
27 And above all a showy psaltery
28 On which at night he made melody
29 So sweetly that all the chamber rang;
30 And Angelus ad virginem he sang,
31 And after that he sang The King’s Note.
32 Full often blessed, was his merry throat.
33 And thus this sweet clerk his time spent,
34 With what his friends provided, and the rent.
35 This carpenter had wedded a new wife,
36 Whom he loved far more than his life.
37 Of eighteen years she was of age.
38 Jealous he was, and kept her in a cage,
39 For she was young and wild, and he was old,
40 And thought himself a likely cuckold.
41 He knew not Catohis learning was crude
42 Who advised a man to wed his similitude.
43 Men should wed according to their state,
44 For youth and age, at odds, end in debate.
45 But since he had fallen in the snare,
46 He must endure, as we, the weight of care.
47 Fair was this young wife, and then withal
48 Like a weasel’s her body, shapely, small.
49 A belt she wore, one all barred with silk;
50 An apron too, as white as morning milk,
51 Upon her hips, full of many a gusset.
52 White was her smock, embroidery set
53 Before, behind, on the collar all about,
54 Of coal-black silk, within and without.
55 The tapes of her white cap all together
56 Were of the same cloth as her collar;
57 Her broad headband of silk, and set full high.
58 And she had surely a flirtatious eye.
59 Plucked very fine were her eyebrows two,
60 And arched and black as any sloe too.
61 She was much more beautiful to see
62 That is the early blossoming pear-tree,
63 And softer than the wool on a wether;
64 And by her girdle hung a purse of leather,
65 Tasselled with green and pearled with brass,
66 In al this world, in seeking of a lass,
67 There’s no man with fancy so intense
68 Could dream of such a poppet, such a wench.
69 Full brighter was the shining of her hue
70 Than in the Mint a noble forged anew.
71 And for her singing, lively, voiced afar,
72 Like any swallow flitting through a barn.
73 Then she could skip and gambol, as I am
74 Assured, as any kid or calf behind its dam.
75 Her mouth was sweet as honeyed mead I’d say,
76 Or a hoard of apples swathed in heath or hay.
77 Skittish she was, as is a frisky colt,
78 Tall as a mast, and straight as a bolt.
79 A brooch she wore upon her low collar,
80 As broad as is the boss of a buckler.
81 Her shoes were laced on her legs high.
82 She was a primrose, lovely to the eye,
83 For any lord to take into his bed,
84 Or yet for any good yeoman to wed.
85 Now sirs, now, so things came to pass,
86 That one day this handsome Nicholas
87 Began with this young wife to fool and play,
88 While her husband was down Osney way
89 As clerks are full of subtlety and tricks.
90 And covertly he caught her by the sex,
91 And said: ‘Sweetheart, unless I have my will
92 For secret love of you, then die I will!’
93 And held her hard by the haunch bones,
94 And: ‘Sweetheart, love me, now,’ he moans,
95 Or I will die, as God shall me save!’
96 And she leapt as a colt does, in the way
97 Of being shod, and turned her head away.
98 She said: ‘I will not kiss you, by my faith!
99 Why, let bequoth she, ‘let be, Nicholas!
100 Or I will cryNow, helpand shoutAlas!”
101 Remove your hands, by every courtesy!’
102 Then Nicholas began to cry for mercy,
103 And spoke so fair, so earnestly did cast,
104 That she was hooked, and pledged her love at last,
105 And swore an oath, by Thomas, Saint of Kent,
106 That she would be at his commandment,
107 When she could find an opportunity.
108 My husband is so filled with jealousy
109 That unless youre patient, secretive,
110 Quoth she, ‘I know for sure I shall not live.
111 You must be wholly secret in this house.’
112 Nay, give that not a thought,’ quoth Nicholas,
113 ‘A scholar would have wasted a good while
114 If he could not a carpenter beguile.’
115 And so they were agreed and both swore
116 To wait awhile, as I have said before.
117 When Nicholas had done so, as I tell,
118 And patted her about the buttocks well,
119 He kissed her sweet, and took his psaltery
120 And played away, and plucked a melody.
121 Then it befell, that to the parish church,
122 There to perform Christ’s own works,
123 This good wife went, on a holy day.
124 Her forehead shone as bright as any day,
125 So shiny was it when she left her work.
126 Now there was a parish clerk of that church,
127 And this clerk’s name was Absolon.
128 Curly was his hair, and as the gold it shone,
129 And stuck out in a fan wide and broad.
130 Full straight and even his parting showed;
131 His face was red, his eyes grey as a goose.
132 With St Paul’s tracery carved in his shoes,
133 In red hose he dressed elegantly.
134 He was clothed neatly and properly
135 Adorned with a light-blue cloth jacket,
136 Full fair and densely were the laces set.
137 And over it he wore a fine surplice
138 As white as the blossom on the spray is.
139 A merry youth he was, so God me save!
140 Well knew he how to let blood, clip and shave,
141 And draw up deeds of land or quittance.
142 In twenty manners he could trip and dance,
143 After the true school of Oxford though,
144 And with his legs leaping to and fro,
145 And playing songs on a two-stringed fiddle;
146 Thereto he sometimes sang a high treble,
147 And he could play as well on a cithern.
148 In all the town no brew-house nor tavern
149 He did not visit with his power to solace,
150 Where any gaily-dressed barmaid was.
151 But truth to tell, quite squeamish he was
152 About farting, and in speech fastidious.
153 Absolon, who was gallant in his way,
154 Would bear the censer round on holy days,
155 Censing the parish wives whom he passed;
156 And many a fond look on them he cast,
157 And especially on the carpenter’s wife.
158 To look at her brightened up his life,
159 She was so trim and sweet and amorous.
160 I dare well say, if she had been a mouse,
161 And he a cat, she’d have been leapt upon.
162 This parish clerk, this gallant Absolon,
163 Has in his heart such a love-longing
164 That from no wife would he take offerings;
165 For courtesy, he said, he would take none.
166 The moon, when it was night, full bright shone,
167 And Absalon his cithern did take;
168 For love indeed he thought to wake.
169 And off he went, lively and amorous,
170 Till he came to the carpenter’s house,
171 Arriving there a little after cock-crow,
172 And placed himself by a casement window,
173 That was let into the carpenter’s wall.
174 He sings in a voice, graceful and small:
175 Now dear lady, if your wish it be,
176 I pray you to have mercy upon me’,
177 In harmony with his music-making.
178 The carpenter awoke and heard him singing,
179 And spoke to his wife and said anon,
180 What Alison, do you hear Absalon,
181 Singing thus under our bedroom wall?’
182 And she answering her husband’s call:
183 Yes, God knows John, I hear it very well.’
184 And so it goes; what more must I tell?
185 From day to day this lively Absalon
186 So woos her that he is woebegone.
187 He lay awake all night, and then daily
188 He combed his curling locks and gaily,
189 He wooed by go-betweens, and brokerage,
190 And swore he would be her own true page;
191 He sang and warbled like a nightingale;
192 He sent her mead, sweet wine, and spiced ale,
193 And flat cakes, piping hot from the oven,
194 And as she lived in town, coins to spend.
195 For some folk are conquered by riches,
196 And some by blows, and some by kindness.
197 Sometimes, to show skill and agility,
198 He played Herod in the Mysteries.
199 But what good did it do him, alas?
200 She so loves the handsome Nicholas
201 That Absalon might go blow his horn;
202 For all his labour there was only scorn.
203 And thus she made Absalon her dupe,
204 And of all his eager wooing a joke.
205 True indeed the proverb, and no lie,
206 That men repeat: ‘Ever the sly, nearby,
207 Makes the distant lover out of favour.’
208 Though Absalon knew madness or anger,
209 Because he was further from her sight,
210 Nicholas nearby stood in his light.
211 Now do well, you handsome Nicholas!
212 For Absalon must wail and singalas!’
213 And so it befell, on a Saturday
214 The carpenter had gone down to Osney;
215 And handsome Nicholas and Alison
216 Both agreed regarding this decision,
217 That Nicholas shall devise some wile
218 This jealous foolish husband to beguile.
219 And if the game turned out alright,
220 She would sleep in his arms all night;
221 For this was her desire and his too.
222 And straight away, without more ado,
223 This Nicholas wishing not to tarry,
224 But quietly to his room does carry
225 Both meat and drink, to last a day
226 Or two, and told Alison to say,
227 If her husband asked for Nicholas,
228 That she had no idea where he was;
229 That all the day of him she’d had no sight;
230 She thought he might be ill, so he might,
231 For he had not answered the maid’s call;
232 Gave no reply, whatever might befall.
233 This continued all that Saturday,
234 And Nicholas still in his chamber lay,
235 And eat and slept, as pleased him best,
236 Till Sunday, when the sun went to its rest.
237 The foolish carpenter wondered without fail
238 About our Nicholas, why he should ail,
239 And said: ‘I fear by Saint Thomas,
240 That all is not well with Nicholas.
241 God forbid that he die suddenly!
242 This world is now so fickle indeed;
243 I saw a corpse today borne to church
244 That only Monday last I saw at work.
245 Go up,’ quoth he to his lad anon,
246 Call at the door, or tap it with a spoon.
247 See how things are, and tell me swiftly.’
248 The serving-boy climbed up sturdily,
249 And at the chamber door a while the lad,
250 Called and knocked, as though he were mad.
251 What how! What do you, Master Nicholay?
252 How can you lie asleep the livelong day?’
253 But all for naught; he heard not a word.
254 A hole he found, down by the skirting-board,
255 Through which the cat was wont to creep,
256 And into that hole he gazed full deep,
257 And at last a glimpse met his sight
258 Of Nicholas lying gaping there upright,
259 As if he had caught sight of the new moon.
260 Down he goes, to tell his master, soon
261 Of the state in which he found the man.
262 The carpenter to bless himself began,
263 And said: ‘Help us, Saint Frideswide!
264 A man little knows what shall betide.
265 This man has fallen, through astronomy,
266 Into some madness, or some agony.
267 I always thought that’s how it would be;
268 Men should know what God meant us to see.
269 Yes, blessed always is the simple man,
270 With nothing but his faith to understand!
271 So fared another clerk’s astronomy;
272 He walked, in the fields, into the starry
273 Sky to pry, and see what should befall,
274 Till into the marl-pit he took a fall;
275 He saw not that! But yet, by Saint Thomas,
276 I’m truly worried for poor Nicholas.
277 He shall be scolded for his studying,
278 If scold I may, by Jesus, Heaven’s king!
279 Get me a stave to work against the floor,
280 While you, Robin, heave at the door.
281 Hell wake from his studying, I guess.’
282 And to the chamber door he gave address.
283 His lad was a fellow big and strong,
284 And heaved it off its hinges at once;
285 Onto the floor the door fell anon.
286 Nicholas sat there yet, still as stone,
287 And kept on gaping up into the air.
288 The carpenter thought him in despair,
289 And grasped him by the shoulders mightily
290 And shook him hard, and shouted loudly.
291 What, Nicholas, what ho! What, look down!
292 Awake, and think you of Christ’s passion!
293 I guard you with the cross from elf and sprite.’
294 With that the night-spell he said outright
295 On all the four sides of the house about,
296 And on the threshold of the door without.
297 Jesus Christ, and Saint Benedict,
298 Guard this house from all things wicked,
299 All night through, white Pater noster!
300 Where went thou, Saint Peter’s sister?’
301 And at last our handsome Nicholas
302 Began to sigh deeply, and said: ‘Alas!
303 Shall the world be lost and doomed now?
304 The carpenter replied: ‘What say thou?
305 What, think on God, as we do, working men!’
306 And Nicholas answered: ‘Fetch me drink then,
307 And afterwards I’ll speak, in privacy,
308 Of certain things regarding you and me;
309 I will tell them to no other man, that’s certain.’
310 The carpenter went down, and back again
311 Brought of powerful ale a large quart.
312 And when each of them had drunk his part,
313 Nicholas went swift to his door and shut it,
314 And made the carpenter beside him sit,
315 And said: ‘John, my good host and dear,
316 You shall upon your oath swear me here
317 That to no man this secret youll betray;
318 For it is Christ’s counsel that I say,
319 And if you tell it man, you are no more,
320 For this vengeance fall on you therefore,
321 You will be mad, let that be understood
322 Nay, Christ forbid it, for his holy blood!’
323 Quoth then this foolish man: ‘I’ll not blab,
324 No, though it’s I who say it, I never gab.
325 Say what you will: I shall never tell
326 Child nor wife, by him that harrowed Hell!’
327 Now John,’ quoth Nicholas, ‘No lies from me;
328 I have found through my astrology,
329 As I gazed into the moon so bright,
330 That Monday next, a fourth part of the night,
331 A rain shall fall, as wild, as mad, as could
332 That half so great was never Noah’s flood.
333 This world,’ said he, ‘in less than an hour
334 Shall all be drowned, so hideous the shower.
335 Thus shall all mortals drown and lose their life
336 The carpenter replied: ‘Alas, my wife!
337 And shall she drown? Alas, my Alison!’
338 For sorrow of this he almost fell, anon
339 He said: ‘Is there no remedy in this pass?’
340 Why yes, by God!’ quoth handsome Nicholas.
341 If you will act on wise advice indeed.
342 You mustn’t follow where your own thoughts lead;
343 For thus says Solomon, who speaks the truth:
344 Act on advice, and you shall nothing rue.’
345 And if you will act on good counsel,
346 I undertake, without a mast or sail,
347 That I shall save her, and you, and me, for
348 Have you not heard how saved was Noah,
349 When that our Lord had warned him before
350 That all the world with water should be o’er?
351 Yes,’ quoth the carpenter, ‘long long ago.’
352 Have you not heard,’ quoth Nicholas, ‘also
353 The sorrow of Noah, with his fellowship,
354 Before he could get his wife to ship?
355 He’d have preferred, I dare well say, alack,
356 At that time, rather than his wethers black
357 That she had had a ship to herself alone!
358 And therefore know you what must be done?
359 This demands haste, and of a hasty thing
360 Men may not preach or ask for tarrying;
361 Anon and quickly get, and bring us in
362 A kneading trough, or that for brewing,
363 One for each of usbut see theyre large
364 In which we can sail as in a barge,
365 And have in there victuals sufficient
366 For a dayand never mind the remnant!
367 The water shall abate and drain away
368 About nine in the morning, the next day.
369 But Robin, must not know of this, your knave,
370 Nor your maid Jill, her too I cannot save.
371 Ask not why, for though you ask of me,
372 I will not tell God’s secret as must be.
373 Let that suffice, and unless youre mad
374 Accept as great a grace as Noah had.
375 Your wife I shall save without a doubt.
376 Go now your ways, and speed hereabout.
377 And when you have for her, and you and me,
378 Brought in these kneading-tubs, all three,
379 Then shall you hang them in the attic high,
380 That no man may our preparations spy.
381 And when you thus have done as I have said,
382 And have placed in them our meat and bread,
383 And an axe to smite the rope in two also,
384 When the water comes, we may go
385 And break a hole up high, in the gable,
386 On the garden side above the stable,
387 So we can pass freely on our way,
388 When the great shower has gone away.
389 Then shall you swim as merry, I undertake,
390 As does the white duck following her drake.
391 Then will I call: ‘Now, Alison, Now John!
392 Be merry for the flood will soon be gone!’
393 And you will say: ‘Hail, Master Nicholay!
394 Good morrow, I see you well, for it is day.’
395 And then shall we be lords all our life
396 Of all the world, as Noah and his wife.
397 But of one thing I warn you of right:
398 Be well advised, on that same night
399 That we take ship, and go on board,
400 None of must speak or say a word,
401 Nor call out, nor cry, but fall to prayer,
402 For it is God’s own command clear.
403 Your wife and you must far apart begin,
404 So that betwixt you there shall be no sin,
405 No more in looking than there is in deed.
406 This decree is made; go, and God speed!
407 Tomorrow at night when folk are all asleep,
408 Into our kneading-tubs shall we creep,
409 And there well sit, abiding God’s grace.
410 Go now your way; I have no more space
411 To make of this a longer sermoning.
412 Men say thus: ‘Send the wise, say nothing.’
413 You are so wise I have no need to preach.
414 Go, save our lives, and do as I beseech!’
415 This foolish carpenter goes on his way;
416 Full often says: ‘Alas!’ and Well-away!’
417 And to his wife he told it secretly;
418 And she already knew as well as he
419 What this ingenious plan might signify.
420 But nonetheless she made as if to die,
421 And said: ‘Alas, be on your way anon!
422 Help us escape, or we be dead each one!
423 I am your true and very wedded wife;
424 Go dear spouse, and help to save my life.’
425 Lo, what a great thing is emotion!
426 Men may die of imagination,
427 So deep the impression it may make.
428 This foolish carpenter began to quake;
429 He truly thought that he could see
430 Noah’s flood come surging like the sea
431 To drown Alison, his honey dear.
432 He weeps and wails, with sorry fear;
433 He sighs with sorrowful groan enough;
434 He goes to fetch a kneading-trough,
435 And after a tub, and one for brewing;
436 And secretly he carried them in,
437 And hung them from the roof in secrecy.
438 With his own hands he made ladders three
439 To climb up by the rungs and so after
440 Reach the tubs hanging in the rafters,
441 And victualled them both trough and tub,
442 With bread and cheese, and good ale in a jug,
443 Sufficient right enough to last a day.
444 But ere he had made all this array,
445 He sent his lad and the wench also
446 On business to London for to go.
447 And on the Monday, as it drew to night,
448 He shut his door, without a candle bright,
449 And readied everything as it should be;
450 And shortly up they climbed all three.
451 They sat still, some little time it was.
452 Pater noster, and be mum!’ said Nicholas,
453 Andmumsaid John, andmumquoth Alison.
454 The carpenter completed his devotion,
455 And sat quite still, and said his prayer,
456 Awaiting rain, and tried if he could hear.
457 A dead sleep, from all this business,
458 Fell now on the carpenter (as I guess)
459 About curfew time, or a little more.
460 With troubling of his spirit he groaned sore,
461 And often snored, his head awry was.
462 Down the ladder steals our Nicholas,
463 And Alison, full softly down she sped.
464 Without more words they slip into the bed
465 Where the carpenter was wont to be;
466 There was the revel and the melody.
467 And thus lie Alison and Nicholas
468 At the affair of mirth and solace,
469 Till the bell for lauds began to ring,
470 And the friars in the chancel to sing.
471 The parish clerk, the amorous Absolon,
472 Who for love was always woebegone,
473 Upon the Monday was down at Osney
474 To disport and play, in company,
475 And chanced to ask a fellow cloisterer,
476 Privately, of John the carpenter.
477 The fellow drew him outside the church,
478 And said: ‘I know not; he’s not been at work
479 Since Saturday. I think that he went
480 For timber, where our Abbot had him sent;
481 For he for timber frequently will go
482 And stay at the grange a day or so
483 Or else he at his house, I would maintain.
484 Where exactly, I could not be sure again.’
485 Now Absalon full jolly was and light
486 Of heart and thought: ‘I’ll wake tonight,
487 For certainly I’ve not seen him stirring
488 About his door since day began to spring.
489 So might I thrive, I shall at cock’s crow
490 Knock all secretly at his window,
491 That’s placed low upon his chamber wall.
492 And Alison now I will tell of all
493 My love-longing, and will scarcely miss
494 At least from her the favour of a kiss.
495 Some sort of comfort I’ll have, by faith.
496 My mouth has itched all this long day;
497 That is a sign of kissing at the least.
498 All night I dreamed that I was at a feast.
499 Therefore I’ll go and sleep an hour say,
500 And then all night will I wake and play.’
501 When the first cock had crowed, anon
502 Up rose this jolly lover, Absalon,
503 And gaily dressed to perfection is,
504 But first chews cardamom and liquorice,
505 To smell sweet, before he combs his hair.
506 Under his tongue true-love (Herb Paris) there,
507 And in that way to be gracious he set out.
508 He wanders off to the carpenter’s house,
509 And stood there still under the casement window
510 Until it touched his breast it was so low
511 And soft he coughed with a gentle sound:
512 What do you, honeycomb, sweet Alison?
513 My fair bride, my sweet cinnamon!
514 Awake, my lover, speak to me, come!
515 So little you think upon my woe,
516 That for love I faint wherever I go.
517 No wonder is it that I faint and sweat;
518 I pine just as a lamb does for the teat,
519 Surely, darling, I have such love-longing
520 That like a turtle-dove is my pining;
521 I scarcely eat as little as does a maid.’
522 Away from the window, Jack fool,’ she said.
523 So help me God, there’s nocome up and kiss me”!
524 I love anotherand unless I mistake me
525 A better than you, by Jesus, Absalon.
526 Go on your way, or I will hurl a stone,
527 And let me sleep, in the devil’s name, away!’
528 Alas,’ quoth Absalon, ‘and well-away,
529 That true love was ever so ill bestowed!
530 Then kiss me, if that’s the most you owe,
531 For Jesus love, and for the love of me.’
532 Will you go your way with it?’ quoth she.
533 Yes, darling, certainly,’ quoth Absalon.
534 Then be ready,’ quoth she, ‘I come anon.’
535 And to Nicholas she said: Be still!
536 Now hush, and you can laugh your fill!’
537 Then Absalon went down on his knees,
538 And said: ‘I am a lord in every degree,
539 For after this I hope for more hereafter.
540 Lover your grace, and sweet bride your favour!’
541 The window she undoes and that in haste.
542 Now do,’ quoth she, ‘come on, no time to waste,
543 Lest that our neighbours should you espy.’
544 Then Absalon first wiped his mouth full dry.
545 Dark was the night like to pitch or coal,
546 And at the window out she put her hole,
547 And Absalon, had better nor worse than this,
548 That with his mouth her naked arse he kissed
549 Before he was aware, had savoured it.
550 Back he started, something was amiss,
551 For well he knew a woman has no beard.
552 He felt something rough, and long-haired,
553 And said: ‘Fie, alas, what have I done?’
554 Tee-hee!’ quoth she, and clapped the window shut,
555 And Absolon goes off with saddened pace.
556 ‘A beard, a beard!’ quoth spritely Nicholas,
557 By God’s body, that went fair and well!’
558 Now Absolon heard every word himself,
559 And began his lip in anger to bite,
560 And to himself he said: ‘I’ll you requite!’
561 Who rubs himself, who scrubs at his mouth,
562 With dust, sand, chippings, straw and cloth
563 But Absolon, who often cries: ‘Alas!
564 My soul consign to Satan, if I’d have
565 This town before my vengeance,’ quoth he,
566 For this humiliation well repaid I’ll be.
567 Alas,’ quoth he, ‘that I never blenched!’
568 His hot love was cold and all quenched,
569 For from the time that her arse he kissed
570 Love he valued less than a stalk of cress,
571 For he was healed of his malady.
572 And love he did defy eternally.
573 And weeping like a child they look to beat,
574 At gentle pace he slowly crossed the street,
575 To a smith, and he called Gervase is,
576 Who forges on his anvil harnesses;
577 He sharpens shares and coulters busily.
578 Absalon knocked on the doors all easily,
579 And said: Open, Gervase, and quick anon!’
580 What, who is that? ‘It’s me, Absalon.’
581 What, Absalon! Christ’s blessed tree, I say,
582 Why up so early? Benedicite,
583 What ails you? Some fine girl, at a glance,
584 Has brought you out on reconnaissance;
585 By St Neot, you know well what I mean!’
586 But Absalon, he gave never a bean
587 For all the jesting; silently did stand.
588 He had a deal more business on hand
589 Than Gervase knew, and said: ‘Friend, so dear,
590 That hot coulter in the chimney there,
591 Please lend it me; I’ve something needs doing,
592 And full soon to you again it I’ll bring.’
593 Gervase answered: ‘Even if it were gold,
594 Or a bag full of nobles, all untold,
595 You should have it, as I’m a true smith!
596 Now, Christ’s foe, what would you do with it?’
597 Let that, ‘quoth Absalon, ‘be it as it may;
598 I’ll tell you of it all another day’ –
599 And caught the coulter by the cold steel.
600 Softly out the door he began to steal,
601 And then went off to the carpenter’s wall.
602 First he coughed then he knocked withal
603 On the window, as loud as he dared
604 Then Alison answered: ‘Who’s there,
605 That knocks so? I warrant it’s a thief!’
606 Why noquoth he, ‘Not so, by my faith;
607 I am your Absalon, my sweet darling.
608 Of gold, quoth he, ‘I’ve brought you a ring.
609 My mother gave it me, so God me save.
610 Full fine it is, and carefully engraved;
611 This will I give you, if you will me kiss.’
612 Now Nicholas had risen for a piss,
613 And thought he would improve the jape:
614 He should kiss his arse ere he escape.
615 And he raised the window hastily,
616 And put his arse outside covertly,
617 Beyond the buttock, to the haunch-bone.
618 And then spoke up the clerk, Absalon:
619 Speak, sweet bird; I know not where you art.’
620 Then Nicholas at once let fly a fart,
621 As great as if it were a thunder-clap,
622 The clerk was nearly blinded with the blast;
623 Yet he was ready with his iron hot,
624 And Nicholas right in the arse he smote.
625 Off went the skin a hand’s breadth round and some;
626 The coulter had so burnt him on his bum,
627 That for the pain he thought he would die.
628 As if he were mad, he began to cry:
629 Help! Water, water, help, for God’s heart!’
630 The carpenter out of his slumber starts,
631 Hears him cry: ‘Waterloud as ever he could,
632 And thought: ‘Alas, now here comes Noah’s flood!’
633 Up he sat at once, no more ado,
634 And with his axe he smote the cord in two,
635 And down he wentHe had no time to sell
636 His bread or ale at all, but straight he fell
637 On to the floor, and there a-swooning was.
638 Up start our Alison and Nicholas,
639 And cryHelp!’ andSuccour!’ in the street.
640 The neighbours, the lesser and the great,
641 Came running in to gaze at this man,
642 Who swooning lay, both pale and wan,
643 For in the fall he broken had his arm.
644 But he had still to suffer all the harm,
645 For when he spoke, he was borne down,
646 By handsome Nicholas and Alison.
647 They told everyone that he was mad;
648 Afraid so, in a fantasy he had
649 Of Noah’s flood, that in his deep folly
650 He had bought him kneading-tubs three,
651 And had hung them from the roof above,
652 And had begged them, for God’s love,
653 To sit there in the roof for company.
654 The folk begin to mock his fantasy;
655 Up into the roof they gaze and stare;
656 And turn all his hurt to jest right there.
657 For whatsoever the carpenter averred
658 It was for naught; no man his story heard.
659 And with great oaths he was so put down
660 He was considered mad throughout the town,
661 For the clerks all said to one another.
662 The man is mad, for sure, my dear brother!’
663 And everybody laughed at all this strife.
664 And thus was had the carpenter’s wife,
665 For all his jealousy and keeping by;
666 And Absalon has kissed his nether-eye,
667 And Nicholas is scalded on the bum.
668 God save us all, and now this tale is done!
【 】The Miller’s Prologue and Tale
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