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And sayd; abide, Robin, my leve brother,
Som better man shall tell us first another:
Abide, and let us werken thriftily.
By Goddes soule (quod he) that wol not I, For I wol speke, or elles go my way.
Our Hoste answerd; Tell on a devil way; Thou art a fool; thy wit is overcome.
Now herkeneth, quod the Miller, all and some: But first I make a protestatioun, That I am dronke, I know it by my soun: And therfore if that I misspeke or say, Wite it the ale of Southwerk, I
you pray: For I wol tell a legend and a lif Both of a carpenter and of his wif, How that a clerk hath set the wrightes cappe.
The Reve answerd and saide, Stint thy clappe.
Let be thy lewed dronken harlotrie.
It is a sinne, and eke a gret folie
To apeiren any man, or him defame,
And eke to bringen wives in swiche a name.
Thou mayst ynough of other thinges sain.
This dronken Miller spake ful sone again,
And sayde; Leve brother Osewold,
Who hath no wif, he is no cokewold.
But I say not therfore that thou art on;
Ther ben ful goode wives many on.
Why art thou angry with my tale now?
I have a wif parde as wel as thou,
Yet n'olde I, for the oxen in my plough,
Taken upon me more than ynough
As demen of myself that I am on;
I wol beleven wel that I am non.
An husbond shuld not ben inquisitif
Of Goddes privite, ne of his wif.
So he may finden Goddes foison there,
Of the remenant nedeth not to enquere.
What shuld I more say, but this Millere
He n'olde his wordes for no man forbere,
But told his cherles tale in his manere,
Me thinketh, that I shal reherse it here.
And therfore every gentil wight I pray,
For Goddes love as deme not that I
Of evil entent, but that I mote reherse
Hir tales alle, al be they better or werse,
Or elles falsen som of my matere.
And therfore who so list it not to here,
Turne over the leef, and chese another tale,
For he shal find ynow bothe gret and smale,
Of storial thing that toucheth gentillesse,
And eke moralite, and holinesse.
Blameth not me, if that ye chese amis.
The Miller is a cherl, ye know wel this,
So was the Reve, (and many other mo)
A’nd harlotrie they tolden bothe two.
Aviseth you now, and put me out of blame;
And eke men shuld not make ernest of game.
Whilom ther was dwelling in Oxenforde
A riche gnof, that gestes helde to borde,
And of his craft he was a carpenter.
With him ther was dwelling a poure scoler,
Had lerned art, but all his fantasie
Was turned for to lerne astrologie,
And coude a certain of conclusions
To demen by interrogations,
If that men asked him in certain houres,
Whan that men shulde have drought or elles
Or if men asked him what shulde falle
Of every thing, I may not reken alle.
This clerk was cleped hendy Nicholas;
Of derne love he coude and of solas;
And therto he was slie and ful prive,
And like a maiden meke for to se.
A chambre had he in that hostelrie
Alone, withouten any compagnie,
Ful fetisly ydight with herbes sote,
And he himself was swete as is the rote
Of licoris, or any setewale.
His almageste, and bokes gret and smale,
His astrelabre, longing for his art,
His augrim stones, layen faire apart
On shelves couched at his beddes hed,
His presse ycovered with a falding red.
And all above ther lay a gay sautrie,
On which he made on nightes melodie,
So swetely, that all the chambre rong:
And Angelus ad virginem he song.
And after that he song the kinges note;
Ful often blessed was his
throte. And thus this swete clerk his time spent After his frendes finding and his rent.
This carpenter had wedded new a wif, Which that he loved more than his lif: Of eightene yere
age. Jalous he was, and held hire narwe in cage,
For she was wild and yonge, and he was old,
And demed himself belike a cokewold.
He knew not Caton, for his wit was rude,
That bade a man shulde wedde his similitude.
Men shulden' wedden after hir estate,
For youthe and elde is often at debate.
But sithen he was fallen in the snare,
He most endure (as other folk) his care.
Fayre was this yonge wif, and therwithal
As any wesel hire body gent and smal.
A seint she wered, barred all of silk,
A barme-cloth eke as white as morwe milk
Upon hire lendes, ful of many a gore.
White was hire smok, and brouded all before
And eke behind on hire colere aboute
Of cole-black silk, within and eke withoute.
The tapes of hire white volupere
Were of the same suit of hire colere;
Hire fillet brode of silk, and set full hye:
And sikerly she had a likerous eye.
Ful smal ypulled were hire browes two,
And they were bent, and black as any slo.
She was wel more blisful on to see
Than is the newe perjenete tree;
And softer than the wolle is of a wether.
And by hire girdel heng a purse of lether, Tasseled with silk, and perled with latoun. In all this world to seken up and doun Ther n'is no man so wise, that coude thenche So gay a popelot, or swiche a wenche. Ful brighter was the shining of hire hewe, Than in the tour the noble yforged newe. But of hire song, it was as loud and yerne, As any swalow sitting on a berne.
Therto she coude skip, and make a game,
kid or calf folowing his dame. Hire mouth was swete as braket or the meth, Or hord of apples, laid in hay or heth. Winsing she was, as is a joly colt, Long as a mast, and upright as a bolt. A broche she bare upon hire low colere, As brode as is the bosse of a bokelere. Hire shoon were laced on hire legges hie; She was a primerole, a piggesnie, For any
lord to liggen in his bedde, Or yet for any good yeman to wedde.
Now sire, and eft sire, so befell the cas, That on a day this hendy Nicholas Fel with this yonge wif to rage and pleye, While that hire husbond was at Oseney, As clerkes ben ful subtil and ful queint, And prively he caught hire by the queint, And sayde; Ywis, but if I have my will, For derne love of thee, lemman, I spill. And helde hire faste by the hanche bones, And sayde; Lemman, love me wel at ones, Or I wol dien, al so God me save.
And she sprong as a colt doth in the trave: And with hire hed she writhed faste away, And sayde; I wol not kisse thee by my fay. Why let be, (quod she) let be, Nicholas, Or I wol crie out harow and alas. Do way your hondes for your curtesie.
This Nicholas gan mercy for to crie, And spake so faire, and profered him so fast, That she hire love him granted at the last, And swore hire oth by Seint Thomas of Kent, That she wold ben at his commandement,