PROLOGUE TO THE REVES TALE
by Geoffrey Chaucer
The prologe of the Reves Tale.
Whan folk hadde laughen at this nyce cas
Of Absolon and hende Nicholas,
Diverse folk diversely they seyde,
But for the moore part they loughe and pleyde,
Ne at this tale I saugh no man hym greve,
But it were oonly Osewold the Reve;
Bycause he was of carpenteres craft,
A litel ire is in his herte ylaft;
He gan to grucche, and blamed it a lite.
'So theek,' quod he, 'ful wel koude I you quite,
With bleryng of a proud milleres eye,
If that me liste speke of ribaudye.
But ik am oold, me list no pley for age,
Gras-tyme is doon, my fodder is now forage,
This white top writeth myne olde yeris,
Myn herte is also mowled as myne heris,
But if I fare as dooth an openers;
That ilke fruyt is ever leng the wers,
Til it be roten in mullok or in stree.
We olde men, I drede, so fare we,
Til we be roten kan we nat be rype.
We hoppen ay whil that the world wol pype,
For in oure wyl ther stiketh evere a nayl
To have an hoor heed and a grene tayl,
As hath a leek, for thogh oure myght be goon,
Oure wyl desireth folie evere in oon.
For whan we may nat doon, than wol we speke,
Yet in oure asshen olde is fyr yreke.
Foure gleedes han we whiche I shal devyse,
Avauntyng, liyng, anger, coveitise;
Thise foure sparkles longen unto eelde.
Oure olde lemes mowe wel been unweelde,
But wyl ne shal nat faillen, that is sooth.
And yet ik have alwey a coltes tooth,
As many a yeer as it is passed henne
Syn that my tappe of lif bigan to renne.
For sikerly whan I was bore, anon
Deeth drough the tappe of lyf, and leet it gon,
And ever sithe hath so the tappe yronne,
Til that almoost al empty is the tonne.
The streem of lyf now droppeth on the chymbe;
The sely tonge may wel rynge and chymbe
Of wrecchednesse that passed is ful yoore.
With olde folk, save dotage, is namoore.'
Whan that oure Hoost hadde herd this sermonyng,
He gan to speke as lordly as a kyng,
He seide, 'What amounteth al this wit?
What shul we speke alday of hooly writ?
The devel made a reve for to preche,
And of a soutere, shipman, or a leche.
Sey forth thy tale, and tarie nat the tyme.
Lo Depeford, and it is half-wey pryme;
Lo, Grenewych, ther many a shrewe is inne;
It were al tyme thy tale to bigynne.'
'Now sires,' quod this Osewold the Reve,
'I pray yow alle, that ye nat yow greve,
Thogh I answere, and somdeel sette his howve,
For leveful is with force force of-showve.
This dronke Millere hath ytoold us heer,
How that bigyled was a Carpenteer,
Peraventure in scorn, for I am oon;
And by youre leve I shal hym quite anoon.
Right in his cherles termes wol I speke,
I pray to God his nekke mote breke!
He kan wel in myn eye seen a stalke,
But in his owene he kan nat seen a balke.'
(Simkin, a rich thieving miller of Trumpington Mill, near
Cambridge, is well served by two Cambridge clerks of the
north country, who beguile his wife and daughter, recover
the stolen meal which he had hid, and leave him well beaten.)
THE PROLOGUE TO THE COKES TALE.
The prologe of the Cokes Tale.
The Cook of London, whil the Reve spak,
For joye him thoughte, he clawed him on the bak.
'Ha! ha!' quod he, 'for Criste passioun,
This miller hadde a sharp conclusioun
Upon his argument of herbergage.
Wel seyde Salomon in his langage,
`Ne brynge nat every man into thyn hous,'
For herberwynge by nyghte is perilous.
Wel oghte a man avysed for to be,
Whom that be broghte into his pryvetee.
I pray to God so yeve me sorwe and care,
If evere sitthe I highte Hogge of Ware,
Herde I a millere bettre yset awerk.
He hadde a jape of malice in the derk.
But God forbede that we stynte heere,
And therfore, if ye vouche-sauf to heere
A tale of me that am a povre man,
I wol yow telle, as wel as evere I kan,
A litel jape that fil in oure citee.'
Oure Hoost answerde and seide, 'I graunte it thee,
Now telle on, Roger, looke that it be good,
For many a pastee hastow laten blood,
And many a Jakke of Dovere hastow soold
That hath been twies hoot and twies cold.
Of many a pilgrim hastow Cristes curs,
For of thy percely yet they fare the wors,
That they han eten with thy stubbel-goos,
For in thy shoppe is many a flye loos.
Now telle on, gentil Roger, by thy name,
But yet I pray thee, be nat wroth for game,
A man may seye ful sooth in game and pley.'
'Thou seist ful sooth,' quod Roger, 'by my fey;
But `sooth pley quaad pley,' as the Flemyng seith.
And ther-fore, Herry Bailly, by thy feith,
Be thou nat wrooth, er we departen heer,
Though that my tale be of an hostileer.
But nathelees I wol nat telle it yit,
But er we parte, ywis, thou shalt be quit.'
And ther-with-al he lough and made cheere,
And seyde his tale, as ye shul after heere.
THE TALE (Unfinished).
(Perkin, a London apprentice, being dismissed by his
master, seeks his companions in dice, revel and disport.)