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Of goth the skyn an hande-brede aboute,
The hoote cultre brente so his toute;
And for the smert he wende for to dye;
As he were wood, anon he gan to crye,
'Help, watir, watir, help, for Goddes herte!'
This carpenter out of his slumber sterte,
And herd on crye watir, as he wer wood,
And thought, Allas, now cometh Noes flood!'
He sit him up withoute wordes mo,

And with his ax he smot the corde a-two;
And doun he goth; he fond nowthir to selle1
No breed ne ale, til he com to the selle
Upon the floor, and ther aswoun he lay.
Up styrt hir Alisoun, and Nicholay,
And cryden, 'out and harrow!' in the strete.
The neyghebours bothe smal and grete,
In ronnen, for to gauren on this man,
That yet aswowne lay, bothe pale and wan;
For with the fal he brosten had his arm.
But stond he muste to his owne harm,
For whan he spak, he was anon born doun
With heende Nicholas and Alisoun.
They tolden every man that he was wood;
He was agast and feerd of Noes flood
Thurgh fantasie, that of his vanité

He hadde i-bought him knedyng tubbes thre,
And hadde hem hanged in the roof above;
And that he preyed hem for Goddes love
To sitten in the roof par compaignye.
The folk gan lawhen at his fantasye;
Into the roof they kyken, and they gape,
And torne al his harm into a jape.
For whatsoever the carpenter answerde,
It was for nought, no man his resoun herde,

1 He found no business or advantage to stop him, till, &c. Tyrwhitt quotes a similar phrase from the Fabliaux, tom. ii., p. 282:

'Ainc tant come il mist à descendre,

Ne trouva point de pain à vendre.'

With othis greet he was so sworn adoun,

That he was holden wood in al the toun.
For every clerk anon right heeld with othir;
They seyde, 'The man was wood, my leeve brother;'
And every man gan lawhen at his stryf.

Thus swyved was the carpenteres wyf
For al his kepyng and his gelousye;
And Absolon hath kist hir nethir ye;
And Nicholas is skaldid in his towte.
This tale is doon, and God save al the route.


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,1

A litel ire in his herte is 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,3

If that me luste speke of ribaudye.

But yk am old; me list not pley for age;

Gras tyme is doon, my foddir is now forage.*

1 There appears to have been a strong esprit du corps among fellowcraftsmen in the middle ages, arising from the necessity of combination for mutual protection at a time when the laws were weak. Hence the guilds and confraternities then so prevalent.

2 Put for so thee ich, so may I thrive. Ich, which is also the German for I, is often used in Chaucer by the lower orders, who may be supposed to have retained most of the Saxon forms. It occurs again in other places.

3 With a trick put upon a proud miller. To blear the eye is, literally, to make the sight dim; metaphorically, to cheat.

4 My grass has become hay, a metaphor common in Scripture, as in Isaiah xl. 6.

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,1
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.2
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 coltes 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.'

1 Boccaccio has the same allusion. Dec. Introd. to D. 4, Che il porro habbi il capo bianchi, che la coda sia verde.'

2 Tyrwhitt remarks that this beautiful metaphor has been used in his Elegy by Gray, who, however, refers to the 169th Sonnet of Petrarch as his original.

3 Another and more refined form of the thought occurs in the Knightes Tale:

That schapen was my deth erst than my scherte.'

4 Kime, Teut., means the prominence of the staves beyond the head I. CHAUCER. 15

Whan that oure Host had herd this sermonyng, He gan to speke as lordly as a kyng,

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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 a schipman or a leche.1
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 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,

of the barrel. The imagery is very exact and beautiful.-T. word is still used in Norfolk and Suffolk.


1 Probably an allusion to Phædrus, lib. i. fab. 14. Whence the proverb, ex sutore medicus. Ex sutore nauclerus is alluded to by Pynson, the printer, at the end of his edition of LITTLETON's Tenures, 1525.

2 The ecclesiastical day, which was also the civil in those ages when the Church was the fountain of knowledge and authority, was divided into portions, for each of which an office, consisting of psalms, metrical hymns, and prayers, was appointed to be said or sung. The first was matins, beginning at midnight; the next prime, at six in the morning; the next tierce, at nine; the next sext, at twelve; and the next none, at three; the next was vespers, or evensong, at six; and the last, before retiring to rest, was compline, or completorium. It would appear, however, from the fact that noon means twelve o'clock and not three, that time was usually counted by reckoning so much before each of these hours; as in the Roman Calendar, the days of the month are counted before the calends, ides, and nones, and are called pridie calendas, secunda calendas, meaning ante calendas. Thus, as soon as six o'clock, prime, was past, the time would be counted as so much before tierce; as soon as mid-day was past, it would be called none or noon. This is confirmed by the fact that in the Shepherd's Almanac noon is mid-day, high noon, three o'clock. For passed prime Tyrwhitt reads half-way prime, which is probably right; but he supposes it to mean half-way between prime and tierce, scil., half-past seven, whereas it means that the middle of the period between matins and prime had arrived; for, the squyer, long afterwards, says :

'I wol not tarien you, for it is prime.'

3 Greenwich was apparently the Billingsgate of that time.

4 Set his hood, meaning the same as set his cap. See ante, p. 101.

Peraventure in scorn, for I am oon;

And by your leve, I schal him quyte anoon.
Right in his cherles termes wol I speke;

I pray
He can wel in myn eye see a stalke,

to God his nekke mot to-breke!

But in his owne he can nought seen a balke."1

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[FOR the subject of this tale Tyrwhitt supposes that Chaucer was indebted to a fabliau printed in Barbazan under the title of De Gombert et des Deux Clercs; but Mr. Wright has since discovered and pointed out to notice in his Anecdota Literaria another fabliau on the same subject, which is more likely to have been the original. The fable was a favourite in the middle ages, and forms the basis of the sixth novel of the ninth day in Boccaccio's Decameron; but Chaucer's version is much superior to Boccaccio's, which is more licentious, and at the same time so bald, as to appear like the mere argument or heading of a chapter. The Reeve, who is represented as a choleric man,' certainly takes ample vengeance for the Miller's reflections on his trade. The poetical justice of the catastrophe is well preserved; Deynous Symekyn is punished in every particular in which he exhibited an overweening pride. He was a bully, and he is well beaten. He boasted of stealing the corn belonging to the college, and even the toll to which he is entitled is taken from him. He was elated by the high extraction of his wife and daughter, and in both points he is humbled; while his cunning expedient to overreach the two clerks, upon which he dwells with so much complacency, is the proximate cause of all his misfortunes. The sharpness of the clerks is characteristic of their country, the West Riding of 'canny Yorkshire.' It might at first be supposed that the fact of the miller's wife's being repre

1 An allusion to Matt. vii. 3.

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