Poems » gilbert white » the reeve s prologue and tale from the hengwrt manuscript of the canterbury tales


¶The |pro|loge / of the Reues tale

 Whan folk hadde laughen / at this nyce cas
 Of Ab{s}olon / and hende Nicholas
 Di|uer|{s}e folk / diuer{s}ely they seyde
 But for the moore part/ they lowe and pleyde
 Ne at his tale / I seigh no man hym greue
 But it were oonly/ O{s}ewold the Reue
 By cau{s}e he was / of Carpenters craft/
 Alitel Ire / is in his herte ylaft/
 He gan to grucche / and blamed it alite
 So the ik quod he / ful wel koude I thee quyte
 With bleryng/ of a proud Millerys Iye
 If |þt| me li{s}te / speke of rybaudye
 But ik am oold / me li{s}t no pleye for age
 Gras tyme is doon / my fodder is now forage
 This white top / writeth myne olde yerys
 Myn herte / is al{s}o mowled / as myne herys
 But if ik fare / as dooth an Openers
 That ilke fruyt/ is euer lenger the wers
 Til it be roten / in Mollok / or in stree
 We olde men / I drede {s}o fare we
 Til we be roten / kan we noght be rype
 We hoppe alwey / whil |þt| the world wol pipe
 ffor in oure wil / ther stiketh euere a nayl
 To haue an hoor heer / and a grene tayl
 As hath a leek / for thogh oure myght be goon
 Oure wil de{s}ireth folie / euere in oon
 ffor whan we may noght/ doon / than wol we speke
 Yet in oure a{ss}hen olde / is fyr yreke

{{Folio 51r}}

 ffoure gleedes haue we / whiche I shal deuy{s}e
 Auauntyng/ lyyng/ Anger Coueiti{s}e
 Thi{s}e foure sparkles / longen vn to eelde
 Oure lymes / mowe wel been vnweelde
 But wil ne shal noght faillen / that is sooth
 And yet I haue alwey / a coltes tooth
 As many a yeer / as it is pa{ss}ed henne
 Syn |þt| my tappe of lyf / bigan to renne
 ffor sikerlik/ whan ik was bore anon
 Deeth drogh the tappe of lyf / and leet it goon
 And euere sith / hath {s}o the tappe yronne
 Til |þt| almoo{s}t / al empty is the tonne
 The {s}treem of lyf / now droppeth on the chymbe
 The sely tonge / may wel rynge and chymbe
 Of wrecchedne{ss}e / |þt| pa{ss}ed is ful yoore
 With olde folk / saue dotage is namoore
 ¶Whan |þt| oure hoo{s}t/ hadde herd this sermonyng/
 He gan to speke / as lordly as a kyng/
 He seyde / what amounteth al this wit
 What shal we speke alday / of holy writ
 The deuel made / a Reue for to |pre|che
 Or of a Soute|re| / a Shipman / or a leche
 Sey forth thy tale / and tarie noght the tyme
 Lo Depeford / and it is half wey pryme
 Lo Grenewych / ther many a sherewe is Inne
 It were al tyme / thy tale to bigynne
 ¶Now sires / quod this O{s}ewold the Reue
 I pray yow alle / |þt| ye noght yow greue
 Thogh I an{s}were / and som del sette his howue
 ffor leueful is / with force / force of showue
 This dronken Mille|re| / hath ytoold vs heer
 How |þt| / bigiled was a Carpenter
 |per|auenture in scorn / for I am oon
 And by youre leue / I shal hym quyte anon
 Right / in his cherles termes / wol I speke
 I pray to god / his nekke mote to breke
 He kan wel / in myn eye / seen a {s}talke
 But in his owene / he kan noght {s}een a balke


 AT Trompyngto|un| / nat fer fro Cantebrygge
 Ther gooth a brook / and ouer that a brygge

{{Folio 51v}}

 Vp on the which brook/ ther stant a Melle
 And this is verray sooth / |þt| I yow telle
 A Mille|re| was ther dwellyng many a day
 As any Pecok/ he was proud and gay
 Pipen he koude / and fi{ss}he / and nettes beete
 And torne coppes / and wel wra{s}tle and sheete
 And by his belt/ he baar a long Panade
 And of a swerd / ful trenchaunt was the blade
 A ioly poppe|re| / baar he in his pouche
 Ther was no man / for |per|il dor{s}te hym touche
 A sheffeld thwitel / baar he in his ho{s}e
 Round was his face / and camu{s}e was his no{s}e
 As piled as an Ape / was his skulle
 He was a Market bete|re| / atte fulle
 Ther dor{s}te no wight/ hand vp on hym legge
 That he ne swoor / he sholde anon abegge
 A theef he was for sothe / of corn and mele
 And |þt| a sleigh / and v{s}ant for to stele
 His name was hoten / deynous Symkyn
 A wif he hadde / comen of noble kyn
 The per{s}on of the toun / hir fader was
 With hi|re| he yaf / ful many a panne a bras
 ffor |þt| Symkyn / sholde in his blood allye
 She was yfo{s}tred / in a Nonnerye
 ffor Symkyn / wolde no wyf as he sayde
 But she were wel ynori{ss}ed and a mayde
 To sauen / his e{s}taat of yemanrye
 And she was proud / and peert as is a pye
 A ful fair sighte / was it vp on hem two
 On halidayes / biforn hi|re| wolde he go
 With his tipet/ wounden aboute his heed
 And she cam after / in a gyte of reed
 And Symkyn / hadde ho{s}en of the same
 Ther dor{s}te no wight/ clepen hire but dame
 Was noon {s}o hardy / |þt| wente by the weye
 That with hire/ dor{s}te rage / or ones pleye
 But if he / wolde be slayn of Symkyn
 With panade / or with knyf/ or boydekyn
 ffor Ialous folk / been |per|ilou{s}e eueremo
 Algate / they wolde hir wyues wenden {s}o

{{Folio 52r}}

 And eek / for she was som del smoterlich
 She was as digne / as water in a dich
 And ful of hoker / and of bi{s}mare
 Hir thoghte / |þt| a lady sholde hir spare
 What for hir kynrede / and hir nortelrye
 That she hadde lerned / in the Nonnerye
 A doghter hadde they / bitwix hem two
 Of twenty yeer / with outen any mo
 Sauyng a child / |þt| was of hal yeer age
 In Cradel it lay / and was a |prop|re page
 This wenche / thikke and wel ygrowen was
 With camu{s}e no{s}e / and eyen greye as glas
 With buttokes brode / and bre{s}tes rounde and hye
 But right fair was hir heer/ I wol nat lye
 ¶The |per|{s}on of the toun / for she was {s}o feir
 In purpos was / to maken hi|re| his heir
 Bothe of his catel / and his Me{s}uage
 And {s}traunge he made it/ of hir mariage
 His purpos was / for to bi{s}towe hir hye
 In to som worthy blood of Auncetrye
 ffor holicherches good / moot been de{s}pended
 On holicherches blood / |þt| is de{s}cended
 Ther fore / he wolde his holy blood honoure
 Thogh |þt| he / holy chirche sholde deuoure
 ¶Greet sokne / hath this Mille|re| out of doute
 With whete and malt/ of al the land aboute
 And nameliche / ther was a greet Collegge
 Men clepeth / the Soler halle at Cantebregge
 Ther was hir whete / and eek hir malt ygrounde
 And on a day / it happed in {{^}}{{a}} stounde
 Syk was this maunciple / on a maladie
 Men wenden wi{s}ly / |þt| he sholde dye
 ffor which this Millere / {s}tal bothe mele and corn
 An hondred tyme / moore than biforn
 ffor ther biforn / he {s}tal but curtei{s}ly
 But now / he was a theef outrageou{s}ly
 ffor which the wardeyn / chidde and made fare
 But ther of / sette the Millere noght a tare
 He craked boo{s}t/ and swoor it was noght so
 Thanne were ther / yonge poure scolers two

{{Folio 52v}}

 That/ dwelten in the halle / of which I seye
 Te{s}tyf they were / and lu{s}ty for to pleye
 And oonly / for hir myrthe and reuerye
 Vp on the wardeyn / bi{s}ily they crye
 To yeue hem leue / but a litel stounde
 To go to Mille / and seen hir corn ygrounde
 And hardily / they dor{s}te leye hir nekke
 The Millere / sholde noght {s}telen hem half a pekke
 Of corn by sleighte / ne by force hem reue
 And atte la{s}te / the wardeyn yaf hem leue
 |Iohan| highte that oon / and Aleyn highte that oother
 Of oon town were they born / |þt| highte Strother
 ffer in the North / I kan noght telle where
 This Aleyn / maketh redy al his gere
 And on an hors / the sak he ca{s}te anon
 fforth gooth Aleyn the clerk/. and al{s}o |Iohan|
 With good swerd / and with bokeler by his syde
 |Iohan| knew the wey / hym neded no gyde
 And at the Mille / the sak adoun he layth
 ¶Aleyn spak fir{s}t/ alhayl Symkyn in fayth
 How fares / thy faire doghter / and thy wyf
 ¶Aleyn wel come / quod Symkyn by my lyf
 And |Iohan| al{s}o / how now / what do ye here
 ¶By god quod |Iohan| / Symond nede has na peere
 Hym bilhoues serue hym self / |þt| has na swayn
 Or ellis / he is a fool / as clerkes sayn
 Oure maunciple / I hope he wol be deed
 Swa werkes ay / the wanges in his heed
 And ther fore is I come / and eek Alayn
 To grynde oure corn / and carie it heem agayn
 I pray yow / speed vs heythen / what ye may
 ¶It shal be doon / quod Symkyn by my fay
 What wol ye doon / whil |þt| it is in hande
 ¶By god / right by the ho|per| / wol I stande
 Quod |Iohan| / and se how the corn gas In
 Yet {s}aw I neuere / by my fader kyn
 How |þt| the ho|per| / wagges til and fra
 ¶Aleyn an{s}werde / |Iohan| wiltow swa
 Thanne wol I be byneth / by my crown
 And se / how |þt| the mele falles down

{{Folio 53r}}

 In to the trogh / that sal be my de{s}port/
 ffor |Iohan| in faith / I may been of youre sort/
 I is as ille a Millere / as ar ye
 ¶This Millere / smyled of hir nycetee
 And thoghte / al this nys doon / but for a wyle
 They wene / |þt| no man may hem bigile
 But by my thrift / yet shal I blere hir Iye
 ffor al the sleighte / in hir Phi{s}lophye
 The moore queynte crekys / |þt| they make
 The moore wol I {s}tele / whan I take
 In {s}tede of flour / yet wol I yeue hem bren
 The grette{s}t clerkes / been noght the wi{s}e{s}t men
 As whilom to the wolf/ thus spak the mare
 Of al hir art/ counte I noght a tare
 Out of the dore / he gooth ful pryuely
 Whan |þt| he saugh his tyme / softely
 He looketh vp and doun / til he hath founde
 The clerkes hors / ther {^}{{as}} it stood ybounde
 Bihynde the Mille / vnder a leef{s}el
 And to the hors / he gooth hym faire and wel
 He {s}trepeth of the bridel / right anon
 And whan the hors was laus / he gynneth gon
 Toward the fen / ther wilde mares renne
 And forth with wehe / thurgh thikke and thenne
 This Millere gooth ayein / no word he seyde
 But dooth his note / and with the clerkes pleyde
 Til |þt| hir corn / was faire and wel ygrounde
 And whan the mele / was sakked and ybounde
 ¶This |Iohan| gooth out/ and fynt his hors away
 And gan to crye / harrow and weilaway
 Oure hors is lo{s}t/. Alayn for goddes banes
 Step on thy feet/ com of man al atanes
 Allas oure wardeyn / has his palfrey lorn
 ¶This Alayn al forgat/ bothe mele and corn
 Al was out of his mynde / his hou{s}bondrye
 What whilk wey is he gane / he gan to crye
 ¶The wyf cam lepyng/ Inward with a ren
 She seyde allas / youre hors gooth to the fen
 With wilde mares / as fa{s}te as he may go
 Vnthank come on his hand / |þt| boond hym {s}o

{{Folio 53v}}

 And he |þt| bettre / sholde haue knyt the reyne
 ¶Allas / quod |Iohan| / Aleyn for Cri{s}tes peyne
 Lay doun thy swerd / and I wol myn al{s}wa
 I is ful wight / god waat/ as is a ra
 By god hert/ he sal nat scape vs bathe
 Why ne had thow / pit the capil in the lathe
 Ilhail / by god Alayn / thow is a fonne
 ¶This sely clerkes / haan ful fa{s}te yronne
 Toward the fen / bothe Alayn and eek |Iohan|
 And whan the Millere seigh / |þt| they were gon
 He half a bu{ss}hel / of hir flour hath take
 And bad his wyf / go knede it in a cake
 He seyde / I trowe / the clerkes were aferd
 Yet kan a Millere / maken a clerkes berd
 ffor al his art/ ye lat hem goon hir weye
 Lo whe|re| he gooth / ye lat the children pleye
 They gete hym noght {s}o lightly / by my croun
 ¶Thi{s}e sely clerkes / rennen vp and doun
 With keep / keep / {s}tand / {s}tand / Io{ss}a warderere
 Ga whi{s}tle thow / and I sal kepe hym heere
 But shortly / til |þt| it was verray nyght/
 They koude noght/ thogh they dide al hir myght/
 Hir capyl cacche / he ran alwey {s}o fa{s}te
 Til in a dych / they caughte hym at the la{s}te
 ¶Wery and weet/ as bee{s}t is in the reyn
 Comth sely |Iohan| / and with hym comth Aleyn
 Allas quod |Iohan| / the day |þt| I was born
 Now ar we dryuen / til hethyng |&| til scorn
 Oure corn is stole / men wil vs foolis calle
 Bothe the wardeyn / and oure felawes alle
 And namely the Millere / weilawey
 ¶Thus pleyneth |Iohan| / as he gooth by the wey
 Toward the Mille / and Bayard in his hond
 The Millere / sittyng by the fyr he fond
 ffor it was nyght/ and ferther myghte they noght/
 But for the loue of god / they hym bi{s}oght/
 Of herberwe and of e{s}e / as for hir peny
 ¶The Millere seide agayn / if ther be eny
 Swich as it is / yet shal ye haue youre part/
 Myn hous is streyt/ but ye han lerned art/

{{Folio 54r}}

 Ye kan by argumentz / make a place
 A myle brood / of twenty foot of space
 lat se now / if this place may suffi{s}e
 Or make it rowm with speche / as is you|re| gy{s}e
 ¶Now Symond seyde this |Iohan| / by Seint Cutberd
 Ay is thou myrie / and that is faire an{s}werd
 I haue herd seye / men sal tak/ of twa thynges
 Swilk as he fyndes / or tak swilk as he brynges
 But specialy / I pray thee hoo{s}t deere
 Get vs {s}om mete and drynke / and make vs cheere
 And we wol payen / trewely atte fulle
 With empty hand / men may none haukes tulle
 Lo heere oure siluer / redy for to spende
 ¶This Millere in to town / his doghter {s}ende
 ffor ale and breed / and ro{s}ted hem a goos
 And boond hir hors / it sholde namoore go loos
 And in his owene chambre / hem made a bed
 With shetes and |with| chalons / faire y{s}pred
 Noght from his owene bed / but ten foot or twelue
 His doghter hadde a bed / al by hir selue
 Right in the same chambre by and by
 It myghte be no bet/ and cau{s}e why
 Ther was no rowmer herberwe / in the place
 They soupen / and they speken / hem to solace
 And drynken euere {s}troong ale / at the be{s}te
 Aboute mydnyght / wente they to re{s}te
 Wel hath this Millere / verny{ss}hed his heed
 fful pale he was for dronke / and noght reed
 He yexeth / and he speketh thurgh the no{s}e
 As he were / on the quakke / or on the po{s}e
 To bedde he goth / and |with| hym goth his wyf
 As any Iay / she light was and iolyf
 So was / hir ioly whi{s}tle / wel ywet
 The Cradel / at hir beddes feet is set/
 To rokken / and to yeue the child to sowke
 And whan |þt| dronken / al was in the Crowke
 To bedde wente / the doghter right anon
 To bedde gooth Aleyn / and al{s}o |Iohan|
 Ther nas namoore / hem neded no dwale
 This Millere / hath so wi{s}ly bibbed ale

{{Folio 54v}}

 That as an hors / he fnorteth in his sleep
 Ne of his tayl bihynde / he took no keep
 His wyf bar hym / a burdon / a ful strong/
 Men myghten hir routyng/ heren a furlong/
 The wenche / routeth eek |per| compaignye
 ¶Aleyn the clerc/ that herde this melodye
 He poked |Iohan| / and seyde slepe{s}tow
 Herd thow euere / slyk a sang er now
 Lo swilk a couplyng/ is ymel hem alle
 A wilde fyr / on thair bodyes falle
 Wha herkned euere / swilk/ a ferly thyng/
 Ye they sal haue / the flour of il endyng/
 This lang/ nyght/ ther tydes me na re{s}te
 But yet na force / al sal be for the be{s}te
 ffor |Iohan| seyde he / als e|uer|e moot I thryue
 If |þt| I may / yon wenche wol I swyue
 Som e{s}ement/ has lawe shapen vs
 ffor |Iohan| / ther is a lawe / |þt| says thus
 That gif a man / in a point be agreued
 That in another / he sal be releued
 Oure corn is {s}toln / {s}oothly it is na nay
 And we han had / an ille fit to day
 And syn I sal / haue naan amendement/
 Agayn my los / I wil haue e{s}ement/
 By goddes saule / it sal naan other be
 ¶This |Iohan| an{s}werde / Aleyn auy{s}e thee
 The Millere / is a |per|ilous man he sayde
 And if |þt| he / out of his sleep abrayde
 He myghte doon vs bathe / a vileynye
 ¶Aleyn an{s}werde / I counte hym noght a flye
 And vp he ri{s}t / and by the wenche he crepte
 This wenche lay vp righte / and fa{s}te slepte
 Til he {s}o neigh was / er she myghte e{s}pie
 That it hadde been / to late for to crie
 And shortly for to {s}eyn / they were at oon
 Now pley Aleyn / for I wol speke of |Iohan|
 ¶This |Iohan| lith {s}tille / a furlang wey / or two
 And to hym self/ he maketh routhe and wo
 Allas quod he / this is a wikked Iape
 Now may I seyn / |þt| I is but an ape

{{Folio 55r}}

 Yet has my felawe / som what for his harm
 He has the Milleris doghter / in his arm
 He auntred hym / and has his nedes sped
 And I lye / as a draf sak / in my bed
 And whan this iape / is told another day
 I sal ben halden / a daf a Cokenay
 I wil ari{s}e and auntre it/ by my fayth
 Vnhardy is vn{s}ely / thus men sayth
 ¶And vp he roos / and softely he wente
 Vn to the Cradel / and in his hand it hente
 And baar it softe / vn to his beddes feet/
 Soone after this / the wyf hir routynt leet/
 And gan awake / and wente hir out to pi{ss}e
 And cam agayn / and gan hir Cradel my{ss}e
 And groped heer and ther / but she foond noon
 Allas quod she / I hadde almoo{s}t my{s}goon
 I hadde almoo{s}t/ goon to the clerkes bed
 Ey benedicite / thanne had I foule y{s}ped
 And forth she gooth / til she the Cradel fond
 She gropeth alwey / forther |with| hir hond
 And foond the bed / and thoghte noght but good
 By cau{s}e / |þt| the Cradel by it {s}tood
 And ny{s}te wher she was / for it was derk/
 But faire and wel / she creep in to the clerk/
 And lyth ful {s}tille / and wolde haue caught a sleep
 With Inne a while / this |Iohan| the clerk vp leep
 And on this goode wyf / he leyth on {s}oore
 So murie a fyt/ ne hadde she nat ful yoore
 He priketh harde and depe / as he were mad
 This ioly lyf / han thi{s}e two clerkes lad
 Til |þt| / the thridde cok/ bigan to synge
 ¶Aleyn wax wery / in the dawenynge
 ffor he hadde swonken / al the longe nyght/
 And seyde / fare wel Malyn swete wight/
 The day is come / I may no lenger byde
 But euere mo / wher {s}o I go or ryde
 I is thyn awen clerk/ so haue I sel
 ¶Now deere lemman quod she / go fare wel
 But er thow go / o thyng/ I wol thee telle
 Whan that thow wende{s}t / homward by the Melle

{{Folio 55v}}

 Right at the entree / of the dore bihynde
 Thow shalt a Cake / of half a bu{ss}hel fynde
 That was ymaked / of thyn owene mele
 Which |þt| I heelp / my {s}ire for to {s}tele
 And good lemman / god thee saue and kepe
 And with that word / almoo{s}t he gan to wepe
 ¶Aleyn vp ri{s}t/ and thoghte er |þt| it dawe
 I wol go crepen In / by my felawe
 And fond the Cradel / with his hond anon
 By god thoghte he / al wrang I haue my{s}gon
 Myn heed is toty / of my swynk to nyght/
 That maketh me / |þt| I go noght aright/
 I woot wel by the Cradel / I haue my{s}go
 Here lyth the Millere / and his wyf al{s}o
 And forth he gooth / on twenty deueleway
 Vn to the bed / ther as the Millere lay
 He wende haue cropen / by his felawe |Iohan|
 And by the Millere / In he creep anoon
 And caughte hym by the nekke / and softe he spak/
 He seyde thou |Iohan| / thow Swyne{s}hed awak/
 ffor cri{s}tes saule / and here a noble game
 ffor by that lord / |þt| called is Seint Iame
 As I haue thries / in this shorte nyght
 Swyued the Milleris doghter / both vp right
 Whil thow ha{s}t / as a coward been aga{s}t/
 ¶Ye fal{s}e harlot/ quod the Millere ha{s}t/
 A fal{s}e traytour / fal{s}e clerk/ quod he
 Thou shalt be deed / by goddes dignytee
 Who dor{s}te be {s}o bold / to di{s}parage
 My doghter / that is come of swich lynage
 And by the throte bolle / he caughte Alayn
 And he hente hym / de{s}pitou{s}ly agayn
 And on the no{s}e / he smoot hym with his fe{s}t/
 Doun ran the blody streem / vp on his bre{s}t/
 And on the floor / with no{s}e and mouth tobroke
 They walwen / as doon two pigges in a poke
 And vp they goon / and doun agayn anoon
 Til |þt| the Millere / sporned on a {s}toon
 And doun he fil / bakward vp on his wyf
 That wi{s}te no thyng/ of this nyce stryf

{{Folio 56r}}

 ffor she was falle a{s}lepe / alitel wight/
 With |Iohan| the clerk / that waked hadde al nyght/
 And with the fal / out of hir sleep she brayde
 Help holy cros of Bornholm / she sayde
 In manus tuas / lord to thee I calle
 Awake Symond / the feend is on me falle
 Myn herte is broken / help I nam but ded
 Ther lyth oon vp on my wombe / and vp myn hed
 Help Symkyn / for the fal{s}e clerkes fighte
 ¶This |Iohan| sterte vp / as fa{s}te as e|uer|e he myghte
 And gra{s}peth by the walles / to and fro
 To fynde a {s}taf / and she {s}terte vp al{s}o
 And knew the e{s}tres / bet than dide this |Iohan|
 And by the wal / a staf she foond anon
 And saugh / a litel shymeryng of a light
 ffor at an hole / in shoon the moone bright/
 And by that light/ she saugh hem bothe two
 But sikerly / she ny{s}te who was who
 But as she saugh / a whit thyng in hir Iye
 And whan she gan / this white thyng e{s}pye
 She wende the clerk/ hadde wered a voluper
 And with the {s}taf / she drow ay ner and ner
 And wende han hit/ this Aleyn atte fulle
 And smoot the Millere / on the piled skulle
 That doun he gooth / and cryde harrow I dye
 Thi{s}e clerkes bette hym wel / and lete hym lye
 And greithen hem / and tooke hir hors anon
 And eek hir mele / and on hir wey they gon
 And at the Mille / yet they toke hir cake
 Of half a bu{ss}hel flour/ ful wel ybake
 ¶Thus is the proude Millere / wel ybete
 And hath ylo{s}t/ the gryndyng of the whete
 And payed for the souper / euerydel
 Of Aleyn / and of |Iohan| / that bette hym wel
 His wyf is swyued / and his doghter als
 Lo which it is / a Millere to be fals
 And therfore this |pro|uerbe / is seyd ful {s}ooth
 Hym thar nat wene wel / |þt| yuele dooth
 A gilour shal hym self / bigiled be
 And god / that sitteth heighe in mage{s}tee

{{Folio 56v}}

 Saue al this compaignie / grete and smale
 Thus haue I quyt the Millere / in my tale

¶Here endeth the Reues tale