The Reeves Tale

Whan folk hadde lawhen of this nyce caas
Of Absolon and heende Nicholas,
Dyverse folk dyversely they seyde,
But for the moste part they lowh and pleyde;
Ne at this tale I sawh no man him greve,
But it were oonly Osewald the Reeve.
Bycause he was of carpentrye craft,
A litel ire is in his herte laft;
He gan to grucche and blamed it a lite.
“So theek,” quod he, “ful wel coude I the quyte
With bleryng of a prowd mylleres ye,
If that me luste speke of ribaudye.
But yk am old; me list not pleye for age;
Gras tyme is doon, my foddir is now forage.
My whyte top writeth myn olde yeeres;
Myn hert is al so moulyd as myn heeres;
But yit I fare as doth an open-ers;
That ilke fruyt is ever lenger the wers,
Til it be rote in mullok or in stree.
We olde men, I drede, so fare we,
Til we be roten, can we nat be rype;
We hoppen alway, whil the world wol pype;
For in oure wil ther stiketh ever a nayl,
To have an hoor heed and a greene tayl,
As hath a leek; for though oure might be doon,
Oure wil desireth folye ever in oon;
For whan we may nat do, than wol we speke,
Yet in oure aisshen old is fyr i-reke.
Foure gledys have we, which I schal devyse,
Avanting, lyyng, angur, coveytise.
This foure sparkys longen unto eelde.
Oure olde lymes mowen be unweelde,
But wil ne schal nat fayle us, that is soth.
And yet I have alwey a clotes toth,
As many a yeer as it is passed henne,
Syn that my tappe of lyf bygan to renne.
For sikirlik, whan I was born, anon
Deth drough the tappe of lyf, and leet it goon;
And now so longe hath the tappe i-ronne,
Til that almost al empty is the tonne.
The streem of lyf now droppeth on the chymbe.
The sely tonge may wel rynge and chimbe
Of wrecchednes, that passed is ful yoore:
With olde folk, sauf dotage, is no more.”
Whan that oure Host hadde herd this sermonyng,
He gan to speke as lordly as a kyng,
And seyde, “What amounteth al this wit?
What? schul we speke al day of holy wryt?
The devyl made a reve for to preche,
Or of a sowter, schipman or a leche.
Sey forth thi tale, and tarye nat the tyme;
Lo heer is Depford, and it is passed prime;
Lo Grenewich, ther many a schrewe is inne;
It were al tyme thi tale for to bygynne.”

“Now, sires,” quod this Osewold the Reeve,
“I pray yow alle, that noon of you him greeve,
Though I answere, and somwhat sette his howve,
For leeful is with force force to showve.
This dronken Myllere hath i-tolde us heer,
How that bygiled was a carpenter,
Peradventure in scorn, for I am oon;
And by your leve, I schal him quyte anoon.
Right in his cherles termes wol I speke;
I praye to God his nekke mot to-breke!
He can wel in myn eye seen a stalke,
But in his owne he can nought seen a balke.”

At Trompyngtoun, nat fer fro Cantebrigge,
Ther goth a brook, and over that a brigge,
Upon the whiche brook ther stant a melle:
And this is verray sothe that I you telle.
A meller was ther dwellyng many a day,
As eny pecok he was prowd and gay;
Pipen he coude, and fissh, and nettys beete,
And turne cuppes, wrastle wel, and scheete.
Ay by his belt he bar a long panade,
And of a swerd ful trenchaunt was the blade.
A joly popper bar he in his pouche;
Ther no man for perel durst him touche.
A Scheffeld thwitel bar he in his hose.
Round was his face, and camois was his nose.
As pyled as an ape was his skulle.
He was a market-beter at the fulle.
Ther durste no wight hand upon him legge,
That he ne swor anon he schuld abegge.

A theef he was, for-soth, of corn and mele,
And that a sleigh, and usyng for to stele.
His name was hoote deynous Symekyn.
A wyf he hadde, come of noble kyn;
The persoun of the toun hir fader was.
With hire he yaf ful many a panne of bras,
For that Symkyn schuld in his blood allye.
Sche was i-fostryd in a nonnerye;
For Smykyn wolde no wyf, as he sayde
But sche were wel i-norissched and a mayde,
To saven his estaat and yomanrye.
And sche was proud and pert as is a pye.
A ful fair sighte was ther upon hem two;
On haly dayes bifore hir wold he go
With his typet y-bounde about his heed;
And sche cam aftir in a gyte of reed,
And Symkyn hadde hosen of the same.
Ther durste no wight clepe hir but madame;
Was noon so hardy walkyng by the weye,
That with hir dorste rage or elles pleye,
But if he wolde be slayn of Symekyn
With panade, or with knyf, or boydekyn;
For gelous folk ben perilous evermo,
Algate they wolde here wyves wende so.
And eek for sche was somdel smoterlich,
Sche was as deyne as water in a dich,
As ful of hokir, and of bissemare.
Hir thoughte ladyes oughten hir to spare,
What for hir kynreed and hir nortelrye.
That shce hadde lerned in the nonnerye.
O doughter hadden they betwix hem two,
Of twenti yeer, withouten eny mo,
Savyng a child that was of half yer age
In cradil lay, and was a proper page.
This wenche thikke and wel i-growen was,
With camoys nose, and eyghen gray as glas;
And buttokkes brode, and brestes round and hye,
But right fair was hir heer, I wol nat lye.
The persoun of the toun, for sche was feir,
In purpos was to maken hir his heir,
Bothe of his catel and his mesuage,
And straunge made it of hir mariage.
His purpos was to bystowe hir hye
Into som worthy blood of ancetrye;
For holy chirche good moot be despendid

  By PanEris using Melati.

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