The Miller's Tale

Here follow the words between the Host and the Miller

When the knight had thus his tale told,
In all the group was there neither young nor old (3110)
That didn't say it was a noble story
And worthy to draw in memory,
And namely the gentles everyone.
Our Host laughed and swore, "So must I go,
This goes right; unbuckled is the pouch. (3115)
Let see now who shall tell another tale;
For truly the game is well begun.
Now tell you, sir Monk, if you can,
Something to requite the Knight's tale."
The Miller, who for being drunk was all pale, (3120)
So that barely upon his horse he sat,
He would not remove neither hood or hat,
Nor abide no man for his courtesy,
But in Pilot's voice he began to cry,
And swear, "By Arms, and by blood and by bones, (3125)
I know a noble tale for the instance,
With which I will now requite the Knight's tale."
Our Host saw that he was drunk with ale,
And said, "Abide, Robin, my dear brother;
Some better man shall tell us first another. (3130)
Abide, and let us work thriftily."

"By God's soul," quoth he, "that will not I;
For I will speak or else go my way."
Our Host answered, "Tell on, in the Devil's name!
You are a fool; your wit is overcome." (3135)

"Now hearken," quoth the Miller, "all and some!
But first I make a protestation
That I am drunk; I know it by my sound.
And therefore if I misspeak or miss-say,
Blame the ale of Southwerk, I you pray. (3140)
For I will tell a legend and a life
Both of a carpenter and of his wife,
How that a clerk had set the wright's cap."

The Reeve answered and said, "Stint your clap!
Let be your lewd drunken harlotry. (3145)
It is a sin and also a great folly
To slander any man, or him defame,
And also to bring wives in such fame.
You may enough of other things say."

The drunk Miller spoke full soon again (3150)
And said, "Dear brother Oswald,
Who has no wife, he is no cuckold.
But I say not therefore that you are one;
There have been full good wives many of,
And ever a thousand good against one bad. (3155)
That you know well yourself, unless you are mad.
Why are you angry with my tale now?
I have a wife, indeed, as well as you;
Yet I would not, for the oxen in my plow,
Take upon me more than enough, (3160)
As I believe of myself that I was one;
I wish to believe well that I am none.
A husband shall not be inquisitive
Of God's secrets, nor of his wife.
So he may find God's plenty there, (3165)
Of the remnant need he not inquire."

What should I more say, but this Miller
He would not his words for any man forbear,
But told his churl's tale in this manner.
I am sorry that I shall rehearse it here. (3170)
And therefore every gentle man I pray,
For God's love, believe not that I say
Of evil intent, but for I must rehearse
Their tales all, be they better or worse,
Or else falsify some of my material. (3175)
And therefore, whoever likes it not to hear,
Turn over the leaf and choose another tale;
For he shall find enough, great and small,
Of historical things that touch gentleness,
And also morality and holiness. (3180)
Blame not me if you choose amiss.
The Miller is a churl; you know well this.
So was the Reeve and also others more,
And harlotry they told both two.
You consider, and put me out of blame; (3185)
And also men shall not make earnest of game.

Here begins the Miller his tale.

Once there was dwelling at Oxford
A rich churl, that guests held to board,
And of his craft he was a carpenter.
With him there was dwelling a poor scholar, (3190)
Who had learned logic, but all his fantasy
Was turned to learn astrology,
And could ascertain conclusions,
To deem by interrogations,
If men asked him, in certain hours (3195)
When men should have drought or else showers,
Or if men asked him what should befall
Of every thing; I may not reckon them all.

This clerk was called hende* Nicholas

*("Hende" means courteous or helpful, in that he is "handy" but it also implies that his hands wander or are too prevalent, as we shall see in his fixation on his host's wife. For the purpose of this translation, any time Nicholas is referred to as "hende" I will call him "handy.")

Of secret love he knew and of satisfaction; (3200)
And thereto he was sly and full private,
And like a maiden meek to see.
A chamber had he in that hostelry
Alone, without any company,
Full festively laid with herbs sweet; (3205)
And he himself was as sweet as the root
Of licorice or any ginger.
His Almageste, and books great and small,
His astrolabe, belonging to his art,
His counting stones laid fair apart, (3210)
On shelves couched at his bed's head;
His cupboard covered with a falding read;
And all above there lay a gay psaltry,
On which he made at nights melody
So sweetly that all the chamber rung; (3215)
And Angelus ad virginem* he sung; *(The angel to the virgin)
And after that he sung the King's Note.
Full often blessed was his merry throat.
And thus this sweet clerk his time spent
After his friends finding and his rent. (3220)

This carpenter had wedded newly a wife,
Which he loved more than his life;
Eighteen years she was of age.
Jealous he was, and held her narrow in cage,
For she was wild and young, and he was old (3225)
And deemed himself likely to be a cuckold.
He knew not Cato, for his wit was rude,
That bade men should wed his equal.
Men should wed after their estate,
For youth and age are often at debate. (3230)
But since he was fallen in the snare,
He must endure, as other folk, his care.

Fair was this young wife, and there withall
As any weasel was her body gentle and small.
A cinch she wore, barred all with silk, (3235)
An apron as white as morning milk
Upon her loins, full of many a flounce.
White was her smock, and embroidered all before
And also behind, on her collar about,
Of coal black silk, within and also without. (3240)
The ribbons of her white cap
Where of the same suite of her collar;
Her headband of broad silk, and set full high.
And truly she had a flirtatious eye;
Full small plucked were her brows two (3245)
And those were bent and black as any sloe.
She was full more blissful to see
Than is the new early pear tree,
And softer than the wool of a lamb, (3250)
Tasseled with silk and decorated with brass.
In all this world, so seek up and down,
There was no man so wise that could envision
So gay a doll or such a wench.
Full bright was the shining of her hew (3255)
Than in the Tower the noble forged new.
But of her song, it was loud and lively
As any swallow sitting on a barn.
Thereto she could skip and make game
As any kid or calf following his dam.
Her mouth was sweet as bragot or mead,
Or a hoard of apples laid in hay or heath.
Skittish was she, as is a jolly colt,
Long as a mast, and upright as a bolt.
A brooch she bore upon her low collar, (3265)
As broad as is the center of a shield.
Her shoes were laced on her legs high.
She was a primrose, a pig's eye,
For any lord to lay in his bed,
Or yet for any good yeoman to wed. (3270)

Now, sir, and again, sir, so befell the case
That on a day this handy Nicholas
Fell with this young wife to rage and play,
While her husband was at Osney,
As clerks are full subtle and full quaint; (3275)
And secretly he caught her by the queynte*,

*(queynte, or "quaint" can mean several things in Middle English, such as 'clever' or 'strange'. In this particular line it means "elegant, pleasing thing" according to the Riverside Chaucer, which also hesitantly defines it as "i.e., pudendum" - which is a roundabout, mincing way of saying "this word is the origin of the word 'cunt.'" There's a reason that this blog is a translation site for college students.)

And said, "Indeed, unless I have my will,
For dear love of you, sweetheart, I die."
And held her hard by the haunch bones,
And said, "Sweetheart, love me all at once, (3280)
Or I will die, God me save!"
And she sprung as a colt does at the frame,
And with her head she turned fast away,
And said, "I will not kiss you, by my faith!
Why, let be!" quoth she. "Let be, Nicholas, (3285)
Or I will cry 'out, harrow' and 'alas'!
Do way your hands, for your courtesy!"

This Nicholas began for mercy to cry,
And spoke so fair, and proffered himself so fast,
That she her love granted him at last, (3290)
And swore her oath, by Saint Thomas of Kent,
That she would be at his commandment,
When she could her leisure well espy.
"My husband is so full of jealousy
That unless you wait well and be secret, (3295)
I know right well I am naught but dead," quoth she.
"You must be full deceptive, in this case."

"Nay, of that care you not," quoth Nicholas.
"A clerk has somewhat beset his while,
If he cannot a carpenter beguile." (3300)
And thus they were accorded and sworn
To wait a time, as I have told before.

When Nicholas had done thus everything
And patted her about the loins well,
He kissed her sweetly and took his psaltry, (3305)
And played fast, and made melody.

Then it fell thus, that to the parish church,
Christ's own works for to work,
This good wife went on a holy day.
Her forehead shone as bright as any day, (3310)
So was it washed when she left her work.
Now there was of that church a parish clerk,
Who was called Absolon.
Curled was his hair, and as gold it shone,
And spread as a fan large and broad; (3315)
Full straight and even lay his jolly hair.
His complexion was red, his eyes gray as a goose.
With St. Paul's window carved on his shoes,
In hose red he went festively.
Clad was he full small and properly (3320)
All in a tunic of a light blue;
Full fair and thick were the laces set.
And thereupon he had a gay church gown
As white as is the blossom upon the twig.
A merry child he was, so God me save. (3325)
Well cold he let blood, and clip and shave,
And make a charter of land or quittance.
In twenty manners could he trip and dance
After the school of Oxford though,
And with his legs cast to and fro, (3330)
And play songs on a small fiddle;
Thereto he sang some times a loud high treble;
And as well he could play on a cithern.
In all the town there was no brew house or tavern
That he didn't visit with his pleasing, (3335)
Where any gay barmaid was.
But truth to say, he was somewhat squeamish
Of farting, and of his speech was fastidious.

This Absolon, who was jolly and gay,
Went with incense on the holy day, (3340)
Censing the wives of the parish fast;
And many a loving look on them he cast,
And namely on this carpenter's wife.
To look on her he thought a merry life,
She was so proper and sweet and flirtatious. (3345)
I dare well say, if she had been a mouse,
And he a cat, he would have snatched her at once.
This parish clerk, this jolly Absolon,
Had in his heart such a love-longing
That of no wife took he an offering; (3350)
For courtesy, he said, he would none.

The moon, when it was night, full bright shone,
And Absolon had his cithern taken;
For love's sake he thought for to wake.
And forth he went, lively and amorous, (3355)
Until he came to the carpenter's house
A little after the cocks had crowed,
And put himself up by a hinged window
That was upon the carpenter's wall.
He sang in his voice gentle and small, (3360)
"Now, dear lady, if your will be,
I pray you that you will pity on me,"
Full well accordant to his playing.
The carpenter awoke and heard him sing,
And spoke to his wife and said at once, (3365)
"What! Alison! Hear you not Absolon,
That chants thus under our bower's wall?"
And she answered her husband there withall,
"Yes, God knows, John, I hear it every part."

This passed forth; what will you better than well? (3370)
From day to day this jolly Absolon
So wooed her that he was woebegone.
He waked all the night and all the day;
He combed his locks broad, and made himself gay;
He wooed her by means and brooking an agent, (3375)
And swore that he would be her own page;
He sang, trilling as a nightengale;
He sent her sweet wine, mead, and spiced ale,
And wafers, piping hot out of the fire;
And, because she was of town, he proffered money; (3380)
For some folk will be won by riches,
And some by striking, and some for gentleness.
Once, to show his lightness and mastery,
He played Herod upon a stage.
But what availed he in this case? (3385)
She loved so this handy Nicholas
That Absolon may as well blow the buck's horn;
He had nothing for his labor but a scorn.
And thus she made Absolon her ape,
And all his earnest turned into a joke.
Full true is this proverb, it is no lie,
Men say right thus: "Always the near sly
Makes the far loved to be loathed."
For though that Absolon was mad or wrathful,
By cause that he was far from her sight, (3395)
This near Nicholas stood in his light.

Now bear yourself well, you handy Nicholas,
For Absolon may wail and sing "alas."
And so it befell on a Saturday,
This carpenter was gone to Osney; (3400)
And handy Nicholas and Alison
Accorded were to this conclusion,
That Nicholas shall shape himself a wile
This innocent jealous husband to beguile;
And if it happened that the game went right, (3405)
She should sleep in his arms all night,
For this was his desire and hers also.
And right at once, without words more,
This Nicholas no longer would tarry,
But did full soft unto his chamber carry (3410)
Both meat and drink for a day or two,
And to her husband bade her to say,
If he asked after Nicholas,
She should say she didn't know here he was;
Of all that day she saw him not with eye; (3415)
She believed that he was in malady,
Because, no cry she made could him call,
He would not answer for anything that might fall.

This passed forth all the same Saturday,
That Nicholas still in his chamber lay, (3420)
And ate and slept, or did what he liked,
Until Sunday, when the sun had gone to rest.
This innocent carpenter had great curiosity
Of Nicholas, or what thing might him ail,
And said, "I am a-dread, by Saint Thomas, (3425)
It stands not right with Nicholas.
God shield that he died suddenly!
This world is now full unstable, truly.
I saw today a corpse borne to church
That now, on Monday last, I saw him work. (3430)

"Go up," quoth he to his knave at once,
"Call at his door, or knock with a stone.
Look how it is, and tell me boldly."

This knave went up full sturdily,
And at the chamber door while that he stood, (3435)
He cried and knocked as if he were mad,
"What, how! What are you doing, master Nicholas?
How may you sleep all the long day?"

But all for naught; he heard not a word.
A hole he found, full low upon a board, (3440)
There as the cat was wont in to creep,
And at that hole he looked in full deep,
And at the last he had of him a sight.
This Nicholas sat ever gaping upright,
As he had looked on the new moon. (3445)
Down he went, and told his master soon
In what array he saw this same man.

This carpenter to bless him began,
And said, "Help us, Saint Frideswide!
A man knows little what shall him betide. (3450)
This man is fallen, with his astronomy,
In some madness or in some agony.
I thought always how it should so be!
Men should not know of God's secrets.
You, blessed be always a lewd man (3455)
That naught but only his beliefs knows!
So fared another clerk with astronomy;
He walked in the fields to pry
Upon the stars, what there should befall,
Until he was in a clay pit fallen; (3460)
He saw not that. But yet, by Saint Thomas,
I pity sore handy Nicholas,
He shall be punished of his studying,
If that I may, by Jesus, heavenly king!
Get me a staff, that I may pry from under, (3465)
While you, Robin, heave up the door.
He shall start out of his studying, as I guess."
And to the chamber door he began himself to dress.
His knave was a strong fellow indeed,
And by the hasps he heaved it off at once; (3470)
This Nicholas sat always as still as a stone,
And ever gaped upward into the air.
This carpenter supposed he was in despair,
And grabbed him by the shoulders mightily, (3475)
And shook him hard, and cried piteously,
"What! Nicholas! What, how! What, look down!
Awake, and think on Christ's passion!
I cross you from elves and from men,"
Therewith the night spell said he right at once (3480)
On four halves of the house about,
And on the threshold of the door without:
"Jesus Christ and Saint Benedict,
Bless this house from every wicked man,
For night's vermin, the white pater-noster*! (3485) *(our father)
Where did you go, Saint Peter's sister?"

And at last this handy Nicholas
Began to sigh sorely, and said, "Alas!
Shall all the world be lost so soon now?

This carpenter answered, "What say you? (3490)
What, Think on God, as we do, men that work."

This Nicolas answered, "Fetch me drink,
And after will I speak in privacy
Of a certain thing that touches you and me.
I will tell it to no other man, certainly." (3495)

This carpenter went down, and came up again,
and brought of strong ale a large quart;
And when each of them had drunk his part,
This Nicholas his door fast shut,
And down by the carpenter he sat. (3500)

He said, "John, my host, loved and dear,
You shall upon your true oath swear me here
That to no man will you this council betray,
For it is Christ's council that I say,
And if you tell it to men, you are forlorn; (3505)
For this vengeance you shall have therefore,
That if you betray me, you shall be mad."
"No, Christ forbid it, for his holy blood!"
Quoth this innocent man, "I am no blab,
No, though I say, I am not like to gab. (3510)
Say what you will, I shall it never tell
To child or wife, by him that harrowed hell!"

"Now John," quoth Nicholas, "I will not lie;
I have found in my astrology,
As I have looked in the moon bright, (3515)
That Monday next, at quarter night,
Shall fall a rain, and that so wild and mad
That half so great was never Noah's flood.
This world," he said, "in less than an hour
Shall be all drowned, so hideous is the shower. (3520)
Thus shall all mankind drench, and lose their life."

This carpenter answered, "Alas, my wife!
And shall she drench? Alas, my Alison!"
For sorrow of this he almost fell down,
And said, "Is there no remedy in this case?" (3525)

"Why, yes, by God," quoth handy Nicholas,
"If you will work after lore and advice.
You may not work after your own head;
For thus said Solomon, that was full true:
'Work all by counsel, and you shall not rue.' (3530)
and if you will work by good counsel,
I undertake, without mast and seal,
Yet shall I save her and you and me.
Have you not heard how saved was Noah,
When our Lord had warned him before (3535)
That all the world with water should be lorn?"

"Yes," quoth this Carpenter, "full long ago."

"Have you not heard," quoth Nicholas, "also
The sorrow of Noah with his fellowship,
Before he might get his wife to ship? (3540)
He had rather liked, I dare well undertake,
At the same time, than all his sheep black
That she had a ship to herself alone.
And therefore, know you what is best to do?
This asks haste, and of a hasty thing (3545)
Men may not preach or make tarrying.

"At once go get us fast into this inn
A kneading trough or else a brewing keg,
For each of us, but look that they are large,
In which we might swim as in a barge, (3550)
And have therein vittles sufficient
But for a day - fie on the remnant!
The water shall slake and go away
About prime upon the next day.
But Robin may not know of this, your knave, (3555)
Also not your maid Jill may I save;
Ask not why, for though you ask me,
I will not tell God's privacy.
Suffice you, but if your wits be mad,
To have as great a grace as Noah had. (3560)
You wife shall I well save, out of doubt.
Now go your way, and speed you here-about.

"But when you have, for her and you and me,
Gotten us these kneading tubs three,
Then shall you hang them in the roof full high, (3565)
That no man of our purveyance shall spy.
And when you have thus done as I have said,
And have our vittles fair in them laid,
And also an axe to smite the cord in two,
When that the water comes, that we may go (3570)
And break a hole high above, upon the gable,
Toward the garden, over the stable,
That we may freely pass forth our way,
When the great shower is gone away.
Then shall you swim as merry, I undertake, (3575)
As does the white duck after her drake.
Then will I cry, 'How Alison! How John!
Be merry, for the flood will pass at once.'
And you will say, 'Hail, master Nicholas!
Good morrow, I see the well, for it is day.' (3580)
And than shall we be lords all our life
Of all the world, as Noah and his wife.

"But of one thing I warn you full right:
Be well advised on that same night
That we are entered into ship's board, (3585)
That none of us may speak a word,
Nor call, nor cry, but be in his prayer;
For it is God's own behest dear.

"Your wife and you must hang far twain,
So that between you shall be no sin, (3590)
No more in looking than there shall be in deed.
This ordinance is said. Go, God you speed!
Tomorrow at night, when men are all asleep,
Into our kneading tubs will we creep,
And sit there, abiding God's grace. (3595)
Go now your way; I have no longer space
To make of this any longer sermoning.
Men say thus, 'send the wise, and say no thing.'
You are so wise, it needs you not teach.
Go, save our lives, and that I you beseech." (3600)

This innocent carpenter went forth his way.
Full oft he said "Alas and wail-away,"
And to his wife he told his secret,
And she was aware, and knew it better than he,
What all this clever plot was for to say. (3605)
But nonetheless she fared as she would die,
And said, "Alas! go forth your way at once,
Help us to escape, or we are dead each one!
I am your true, honest wedded wife;
Go, dear spouse, and help to save our lives." (3610)

Lo, what a great thing is affection!
Men may die of imagination,
So deep may impression be taken.
This innocent carpenter began to quake;
He thought truly that he might see (3615)
Noah's flood come wallowing as the sea
To drench Alison, his honey dear.
He wept, wailed, and made sorry cheer;
He sighed with full many a sorry groan;
He went and got himself a kneading trough, (3620)
And after that a tub and a keg,
And privately he sent them to his inn,
And hung them in the roof in privacy.
By his own hand he made ladders three,
To climb by the rungs and the stalks (3635)
Into the tubs hanging in the beams,
And them vittled, both trough and tub,
With bread, and cheese, and good ale in a jug,
Sufficing right enough as for a day.
But before that he had made all this array, (3630)
He sent his knave, and his wench also,
Upon his need to London for to go.
And on the Monday, when it fell to night,
He shut his door without candle light,
And dressed all things as they should be. (3635)
And shortly, up they climbed all three;
The sat still well a little way.

"Now, Pater-noster, calm!" said Nicholas,
And "Calm!" quoth John, and "Calm!" said Alison.
This carpenter said his devotion, (3640)
And still he sat, and bid his prayer,
Awaiting the rain, if he it hear.

Then did sleep, for weary business,
Fall on this carpenter right, as I guess,
About curfew time, or a little more; (3645)
For travail of his soul he groaned sore,
And before he snored, for his head mislaid.
Down the ladder stalked Nicholas,
And Alison full soft down she sped;
Without words more they went to bed, (3650)
Where the carpenter was wont to lie.
There was the revel and the melody;
And thus laid Alison and Nicholas,
In business of mirth and of solace,
Until the bell of morning began to ring, (3655)
And the friars in the chancel began to sing.

This parish clerk, this amorous Absolon,
That was for love always so woebegone,
Upon the Monday was at Osney
With company, himself to sport and play, (3660)
And asked upon a case a cloisterer
Full privately after John the carpenter;
And he drew himself apart out of the church,
And said, "I know not; I saw him here not work
Since Saturday; I believe that he went (3665)
For timber, there our abbot has him sent;
For he is wont for timber to go
And dwell at the grange for a day or two;
Or else he is at his house, certain.
Where that he is, I can not truly say." (3670)

This Absolon was full jolly and light,
And thought, "Now is time to wake all night,
For truly I saw him not stirring
About his door, since day began to spring.

"So might I thrive, I shall, at cock's crow, (3675)
Full privately knock at his window
And stand full low upon his bower's wall.
To Alison now will I tell all
My love-longing, for yet I shall not miss
That at the least way I shall her kiss. (3680)
Some manner comfort shall I have, for faith.
My mouth has itched all this long day;
That is a sign of kissing at least.
All night I dreamed also I was at a feast.
Therefore I will go to sleep an hour or two, (3685)
And all the night then will I wake and play."

When the first cock had crowed, at once
Up rose this jolly lover Absolon,
And himself arrayed gay, at every point.
But first he chewed grain and licorice, (3690)
To smell sweet, before he had combed his hair.
Under his tongue a true-love he bore,
For thereby went he to be gracious.
He roamed to the carpenter's house,
And still he stood under the shot window - (3695)
Unto his breast it reached, it was so low -
And soft he coughed with a small sound:
"What do you, honey-comb, sweet Alison,
My fair bird, my sweet cinnamon?
Awake, sweetheart mine, and speak to me! (3700)
Well little think you upon my woe,
That for your love I sweat where I go.
No wonder is though that I faint and sweat;
I mourn as does a lamb after the teat.
Yes, sweetheart, I have such love-longing (3705)
That like a turtle true is my mourning.
I may not eat more than a maid."

"Go from the window, Jack fool," she said;
"So help me God, it will not be 'come kiss me.'
I love another - and else I were to blame - (3710)
Well better than you, by Jesus, Absolon.
Go forth you way, or I will cast a stone,
And let me sleep, by twenty devil's names!"

"Alas," quoth Absolon, "and wail-away,
That true love was ever so evil beset! (3715)
Then kiss me, since it may be no better,
For Jesus's love, and for the love of me."

"Will you then go your way therewith?" quoth she.

"Yes, certainly, sweetheart," quoth this Absolon.

"Then make yourself ready," quoth she, "I come at once." (3720)
And unto Nicholas she said still,
"Now hush, and you shall laugh your fill."

This Absolon set himself down on his knees
And said, "I am a lord at all degrees;
For after this I hope there some more. (3725)
Sweetheart, your grace, and sweet bird, your mercy."

The window she undid, and that in haste.
"Have do," quoth she, "come of, and speed fast,
Lest that our neighbors you espy."

This Absolon began to wipe his mouth full dry. (3730)
Dark was the night as pitch, or as the coal.
And at the window out she put her hole,
And Absolon, he fell no better nor worse,
But with his mouth he kissed her naked ass
Full savoringly, before the was aware of this. (3735)
Back he started, and thought it was amiss,
For well he knew a woman has no beard.
He felt a thing all rough and long haired,
And said, "Fie! alas! what have I done?"

"Tee-hee!" quoth she, and clapped the window to, (3740)
And Absolon went forth a sorry pace.

"A beard! A trick!" quoth handy Nicholas,
"By God's corpse, this goes fair and well."

This innocent Absolon heard every bit,
And on his lip for anger he began to bite, (3745)
And to himself he said, "I shall you requite."

Who rubs now, who frets now his lips
With dust, with sand, with straw, with cloth, with chips,
But Absolon, who said full oft, "Alas!"
"My soul I give unto Satan, (3750)
But I would rather than all this town," quoth he,
"Of this spite avenged be.
Alas," quoth he, "alas, I had not turned away!"
His hot love was cold and all quenched;
For from that time he had kissed her ass, (3755)
Of paramours he set not a cent,
For he was healed of his malady.
Full oft paramours he began to defy,
And weep as does a child that is beaten.
A soft pace he went over the street (3760)
Until a smith man called sir Gervais,
That in his forge smithed plow harnesses;
He shaped plowshare and plow-blades busily.
This Absolon knocked all gently,
And said, "Open, Gervais, and that at once." (3675)

"What, who are you?" "It is I, Absolon."
"What, Absolon! For Christ's sweet tree,
Why rise you so early? Aye, benediction!
What ails you? Some gay girl, God it knows,
Has brought you thus upon the stir. (3770)
By Saint Neot, you know well what I mean."

This Absolon cared not a bean
Of all his play; no word again he gave;
He had more flax on his distaff
Than Gervais knew, and said, "Friend so dear, (3775)
That hot plow-blade in the chimney here,
Loan it to me; I have therewith to do,
And I will bring it to you again full soon."

Gervais answered, "Certainly, were it gold,
Or in a sack nobles all untold, (3780)
You should have, as I am a true smith.
Aye, Christ's foe! What will you do therewith?"

"Thereof," quoth Absolon, "be as be may.
I shall well tell it you tomorrow day" -
And caught the plow-blade by the cold handle. (3785)
Full soft out at the door he began to steal,
And went unto the carpenter's wall.
He coughed first, and knocked therewithall
Upon the window, right as he did before.

This Alison answered, "Who is there (3790)
Who knocks so? I warrant it a thief."

"Why, no," quoth he, "God knows, my sweet life,
I am your Absolon, my darling.
Of gold," quoth he, "I have brought you a ring.
My mother gave it to me, so God me save; (3795)
Full fine it is, and thereto well engraved.
This will I give you, if you me kiss."

This Nicholas was risen to piss,
And though he would improve all the joke;
He should kiss his ass before he escaped. (3800)
And the window he did up hastily,
And out his ass he put privily
Over the buttock, to the haunch-bone;
Therewith spoke this clerk, this Absolon,
"Speak, sweet bird, I know not where you are." (3805)

This Nicholas at once let fly a fart
As great as if it had been a thunder clap,
That with the stroke he was almost blinded;
And he was ready with his iron hot,
And Nicholas amid the ass he smote. (3810)

Off went the skin a hand's breadth about,
The hot plow-blade so branded his rump,
And for the smart he thought for to die.
As if he were mad, for woe he began to cry,
"Help! Water! Water! Help, for God's heart!" (3815)

This carpenter out of his slumber stirred,
And heard one cry "water!" as if he were mad,
And thought, "Alas, now comes Noah's flood!"
He sat himself up without words more,
And with his axe he smote the cord in two, (3820)
And down went all; he found neither to sell,
No bread nor ale, until he came to the cell
Upon the floor, and there in a swoon he lay.

Up started her Alison and Nicholas,
And cried "Out" and "Harrow" in the street. (3825)
The neighbors, both small and great,
In ran to look on this man,
That yet in a swoon lay, both pale and wan,
For with the fall he had broken his arm.
But stand he must unto his own harm; (3830)
For when he spoke, he was at once borne down
With handy Nicholas and Alison.
They told every man that he was mad;
He was so aghast of Noah's flood
Through fantasy that of his vanity (3835)
He had bought himself kneading tubs three,
And had hanged them in the roof above;
And that he prayed them, for God's love,
To sit in the roof, for company.

The folk began to laugh at his fantasy; (3840)
In the roof they stared and gaped,
And turned all his harm into a joke.
For whatsoever this carpenter answered,
It was for naught; no man his reason heard.
With oaths great he was so sworn down (3845)
That he was held mad in all the town;
For every clerk right away held with another.
They said, "The man is mad, my dear brother";
And every man began to laugh at this strife.
Thus was shagged this carpenter's wife, (3850)
For all his keeping and his jealousy,
And Absolon has kissed her nether eye,
And Nicholas was scalded in the rump.
This tale is done, and God save all the company!

Here ends the Miller his tale.

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