Richard Brodie's modern English translation of
The Miller's Tale
from Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales
 
Also completed: General Prologue, Knight, Reeve, Cook, Man of Law, Prioress

©  Copyright  2004  Richard Brodie

Prologue

Whan that the Knyght had thus his tale ytoold,
In al the route nas ther yong ne oold
That he ne seyde it was a noble storie
And worthy for to drawen to memorie,
And namely the gentils everichon.
Oure Hooste lough and swoor, "So moot I gon,
This gooth aright; unbokeled is the male.
Lat se now who shal telle another tale;
For trewely the game is wel bigonne.
Now telleth ye, sir Monk, if that ye konne,
Somwhat to quite with the Knyghtes tale."
The Millere, that for dronken was al pale,
So that unnethe upon his hors he sat,
He nolde avalen neither hood ne hat,
Ne abyde no man for his curteisie,
But in Pilates voys he gan to crie,
And swoor, "By armes, and by blood and bones,
I kan a noble tale for the nones,
With which I wol now quite the Knyghtes tale."
Oure Hooste saugh that he was dronke of ale,
And seyde, "Abyd, Robyn, my leeve brother;
Som bettre man shal telle us first another.
Abyd, and lat us werken thriftily."

"By Goddes soule," quod he, "that wol nat I;
For I wol speke or elles go my wey."
Oure Hoost answerde, "Tel on, a devel wey!
Thou art a fool; thy wit is overcome."

"Now herkneth," quod the Millere, "alle and some!
But first I make a protestacioun
That I am dronke; I knowe it by my soun.
And therfore if that I mysspeke or seye,
Wyte it the ale of Southwerk, I you preye.
For I wol telle a legende and a lyf
Bothe of a carpenter and of his wyf,
How that a clerk hath set the wrightes cappe."

The Reve answerde and seyde, "Stynt thy clappe!
Lat be thy lewed dronken harlotrye.
It is a synne and eek a greet folye
To apeyren any man, or hym defame,
And eek to bryngen wyves in swich fame.
Thou mayst ynogh of othere thynges seyn."

This dronke Millere spak ful soone ageyn
And seyde, "Leve brother Osewold,
Who hath no wyf, he is no cokewold.
But I sey nat therfore that thou art oon;
Ther been ful goode wyves many oon,
And evere a thousand goode ayeyns oon badde.
That knowestow wel thyself, but if thou madde.
Why artow angry with my tale now?
I have a wyf, pardee, as wel as thow;
Yet nolde I, for the oxen in my plogh,
Take upon me moore than ynogh,
As demen of myself that I were oon;
I wol bileve wel that I am noon.
An housbonde shal nat been inquisityf
Of Goddes pryvetee, nor of his wyf.
So he may fynde Goddes foyson there,
Of the remenant nedeth nat enquere."

What sholde I moore seyn, but this Millere
He nolde his wordes for no man forbere,
But tolde his cherles tale in his manere.
M'athynketh that I shal reherce it heere.
And therfore every gentil wight I preye,
For Goddes love, demeth nat that I seye
Of yvel entente, but for I moot reherce
Hir tales alle, be they bettre or werse,
Or elles falsen som of my mateere.
And therfore, whoso list it nat yheere,
Turne over the leef and chese another tale;
For he shal fynde ynowe, grete and smale,
Of storial thyng that toucheth gentillesse,
And eek moralitee and hoolynesse.
Blameth nat me if that ye chese amys.
The Millere is a cherl; ye knowe wel this.
So was the Reve eek and othere mo,
And harlotrie they tolden bothe two.
Avyseth yow, and put me out of blame;
And eek men shal nat maken ernest of game.
Opinion was unanimous, the knight
Had told a story that was out of sight;
And everyone agreed it would be wise
This most instructive tale to memorize,
Especially those who were more refined,
And to a tale with morals more inclined.
Our Host said laughingly, “I do believe
We’re on a roll. So what do you think, Reeve -
You got another good one up your sleeve?
Or what say you, sir Monk? Why yes, of course!
Tell us a tale that will the Knight’s unhorse.”
The Miller who’d had one to many beers
Reeled in his saddle, and unto his peers
Would out of courtesy not yield the way,
Nor even tip his hat to say “Good day!”
But in a voice bombastic out he cried:
“By Jesus Christ, who for us sinners died,
I know a tale, and I’ll let you decide
How it stacks up to that told by the Knight.”
Our Host percieved that he was really tight,
And said, “Hold on a minute, Robin, might
It not be best if you put down that cup,
And wait a while till you have sobered up?”

“By God’s soul,” said he, “I’ll not silenced be;
I’ll speak now, or you’ve seen the last of me.”
Our Host said, “In the devil’s name, tell on!
You are a fool; your good sense is all gone.”

“Now listen,” said the Miller, “all of you!
But first let me admit that it is true
That I am wasted. Well, what else is new?
So if sometimes it seem I have no clue,
Just blame it on that wicked Southwerk brew.
For I will tell a story of these two,
Both of a carpenter and of his bride,
And of a clerk who took him for a ride.”

The Reeve spoke up and said, “Now shut your trap!
Your drunken blather is a load of crap.
It is a sin and a great folly, bud,
To drag a man’s good honor though the mud.
And then to stoop so low as to the name
Of his good wife to sully and defame.”

This drunken Miller shot right back at him:
“Dear brother Oswald, are your wits so dim?
One cannot be a cuckold if not wed.
But I do not therefore asperse your bed;
Few are the wives who make their husbands sad,
A thousand good for every one that’s bad.
This you must surely know, unless you’re mad.
Why art thou angry with my story now?
I have a wife, by God, as well as thou;
But added to the oxen in my plough,
I do not care to take on extra grief,
That I’m a cuckold it’s not my belief;
I’d rather think that I’m not in that mess.
A husband must try not to second guess
God’s hidden secrets, nor those of his wife.
As long as God’s providing for his life,
Of the remainder he need not enquire.”

This Miller, though encouraged to retire,
Could not be made to cease his speaking. Nay,
But told his churlish tale in his crude way.
That I must here rehearse it I regret.
So if you are offended, please don’t fret,
For God’s sake, don’t imagine that I get
Some sordid pleasure, but I must rehearse
All of their tales, for better or for worse,
Or else some things I’d have to falsify.
And so if anything offends your eye,
Just turn the page; some other tales peruse;
A wide variety there is to choose:
Things of historical nobility,
Or of religion and morality.
Don’t blame me if the choice you make is wrong.
You know the Miller sings a ribald song.
So too the Reeve, and also many more,
They both tell of the cuckold and the whore.
So be forewarned, and don’t hold me at fault;
And take each story with a grain of salt.

Miller's Tale

Whilom ther was dwellynge at Oxenford
A riche gnof, that gestes heeld to bord,
And of his craft he was a carpenter.
With hym ther was dwellynge a poure scoler,
Hadde lerned art, but al his fantasye
Was turned for to lerne astrologye,
And koude a certeyn of conclusiouns,
To demen by interrogaciouns,
If that men asked hym, in certein houres
Whan that men sholde have droghte or elles shoures,
Or if men asked hym what sholde bifalle
Of every thyng; I may nat rekene hem alle.

This clerk was cleped hende Nicholas.
Of deerne love he koude and of solas;
And therto he was sleigh and ful privee,
And lyk a mayden meke for to see.
A chambre hadde he in that hostelrye
Allone, withouten any compaignye,
Ful fetisly ydight with herbes swoote;
And he hymself as sweete as is the roote
Of lycorys or any cetewale.
His Almageste, and bookes grete and smale,
His astrelabie, longynge for his art,
His augrym stones layen faire apart,
On shelves couched at his beddes heed;
His presse ycovered with a faldyng reed;
And al above ther lay a gay sautrie,
On which he made a-nyghtes melodie
So swetely that all the chambre rong;
And Angelus ad virginem he song;
And after that he song the Kynges Noote.
Ful often blessed was his myrie throte.
And thus this sweete clerk his tyme spente
After his freendes fyndyng and his rente.

This carpenter hadde wedded newe a wyf,
Which that he lovede moore than his lyf;
Of eighteteene yeer she was of age.
Jalous he was, and heeld hire narwe in cage,
For she was wylde and yong, and he was old
And demed hymself been lik a cokewold.
He knew nat Catoun, for his wit was rude,
That bad man sholde wedde his simylitude.
Men sholde wedden after hire estaat,
For youthe and elde is often at debaat.
But sith that he was fallen in the snare,
He moste endure, as oother folk, his care.

Fair was this yonge wyf, and therwithal
As any wezele hir body gent and smal.
A ceynt she werede, barred al of silk,
A barmclooth as whit as morne milk
Upon hir lendes, ful of many a goore.
Whit was hir smok, and broyden al bifoore
And eek bihynde, on hir coler aboute,
Of col-blak silk, withinne and eek withoute.
The tapes of hir white voluper
Were of the same suyte of hir coler;
Hir filet brood of silk, and set ful hye.
And sikerly she hadde a likerous ye;
Ful smale ypulled were hire browes two,
And tho were bent and blake as any sloo.
She was ful moore blisful on to see
Than is the newe pere-jonette tree,
And softer than the wolle is of a wether.
And by hir girdel heeng a purs of lether,
Tasseled with silk and perled with latoun.
In al this world, to seken up and doun,
There nys no man so wys that koude thenche
So gay a popelote or swich a wenche.
Ful brighter was the shynyng of hir hewe
Than in the Tour the noble yforged newe.
But of hir song, it was as loude and yerne
As any swalwe sittynge on a berne.
Therto she koude skippe and make game,
As any kyde or calf folwynge his dame.
Hir mouth was sweete as bragot or the meeth,
Or hoord of apples leyd in hey or heeth.
Wynsynge she was, as is a joly colt,
Long as a mast, and upright as a bolt.
A brooch she baar upon hir lowe coler,
As brood as is the boos of a bokeler.
Hir shoes were laced on hir legges hye.
She was a prymerole, a piggesnye,
For any lord to leggen in his bedde,
Or yet for any good yeman to wedde.

Now, sire, and eft, sire, so bifel the cas
That on a day this hende Nicholas
Fil with this yonge wyf to rage and pleye,
Whil that hir housbonde was at Oseneye,
As clerkes ben ful subtile and ful queynte;
And prively he caughte hire by the queynte,
And seyde, "Ywis, but if ich have my wille,
For deerne love of thee, lemman, I spille."
And heeld hire harde by the haunchebones,
And seyde, "Lemman, love me al atones,
Or I wol dyen, also God me save!"
And she sproong as a colt dooth in the trave,
And with hir heed she wryed faste awey,
And seyde, "I wol nat kisse thee, by my fey!
Why, lat be!" quod she. "Lat be, Nicholas,
Or I wol crie `out, harrow' and `allas'!
Do wey youre handes, for youre curteisye!"

This Nicholas gan mercy for to crye,
And spak so faire, and profred him so faste,
That she hir love hym graunted atte laste,
And swoor hir ooth, by Seint Thomas of Kent,
That she wol been at his comandement,
Whan that she may hir leyser wel espie.
"Myn housbonde is so ful of jalousie
That but ye wayte wel and been privee,
I woot right wel I nam but deed," quod she.
"Ye moste been ful deerne, as in this cas."

"Nay, therof care thee noght," quod Nicholas.
"A clerk hadde litherly biset his whyle,
But if he koude a carpenter bigyle."
And thus they been accorded and ysworn
To wayte a tyme, as I have told biforn.

Whan Nicholas had doon thus everideel
And thakked hire aboute the lendes weel,
He kiste hire sweete and taketh his sawtrie,
And pleyeth faste, and maketh melodie.

Thanne fil it thus, that to the paryssh chirche,
Cristes owene werkes for to wirche,
This goode wyf went on an haliday.
Hir forheed shoon as bright as any day,
So was it wasshen whan she leet hir werk.
Now was ther of that chirche a parissh clerk,
The which that was ycleped Absolon.
Crul was his heer, and as the gold it shoon,
And strouted as a fanne large and brode;
Ful streight and evene lay his joly shode.
His rode was reed, his eyen greye as goos.
With Poules wyndow corven on his shoos,
In hoses rede he wente fetisly.
Yclad he was ful smal and proprely
Al in a kirtel of a lyght waget;
Ful faire and thikke been the poyntes set.
And therupon he hadde a gay surplys
As whit as is the blosme upon the rys.
A myrie child he was, so God me save.
Wel koude he laten blood, and clippe and shave,
And maken a chartre of lond or acquitaunce.
In twenty manere koude he trippe and daunce
After the scole of Oxenforde tho,
And with his legges casten to and fro,
And pleyen songes on a smal rubible;
Therto he song som tyme a loud quynyble;
And as wel koude he pleye on a giterne.
In al the toun nas brewhous ne taverne
That he ne visited with his solas,
Ther any gaylard tappestere was.
But sooth to seyn, he was somdeel squaymous
Of fartyng, and of speche daungerous.

This Absolon, that jolif was and gay,
Gooth with a sencer on the haliday,
Sensynge the wyves of the parisshe faste;
And many a lovely look on hem he caste,
And namely on this carpenteris wyf.
To looke on hire hym thoughte a myrie lyf,
She was so propre and sweete and likerous.
I dar wel seyn, if she hadde been a mous,
And he a cat, he wolde hire hente anon.
This parissh clerk, this joly Absolon,
Hath in his herte swich a love-longynge
That of no wyf took he noon offrynge;
For curteisie, he seyde, he wolde noon.

The moone, whan it was nyght, ful brighte shoon,
And Absolon his gyterne hath ytake;
For paramours he thoghte for to wake.
And forth he gooth, jolif and amorous,
Til he cam to the carpenteres hous
A litel after cokkes hadde ycrowe,
And dressed hym up by a shot-wyndowe
That was upon the carpenteris wal.
He syngeth in his voys gentil and smal,
"Now, deere lady, if thy wille be,
I praye yow that ye wole rewe on me,"
Ful wel acordaunt to his gyternynge.
This carpenter awook, and herde him synge,
And spak unto his wyf, and seyde anon,
"What! Alison! Herestow nat Absolon,
That chaunteth thus under oure boures wal?"
And she answerde hir housbonde therwithal,
"Yis, God woot, John, I heere it every deel."

This passeth forth; what wol ye bet than weel?
Fro day to day this joly Absolon
So woweth hire that hym is wo bigon.
He waketh al the nyght and al the day;
He kembeth his lokkes brode, and made hym gay;
He woweth hire by meenes and brocage,
And swoor he wolde been hir owene page;
He syngeth, brokkynge as a nyghtyngale;
He sente hire pyment, meeth, and spiced ale,
And wafres, pipyng hoot out of the gleede;
And, for she was of town, he profred meede;
For som folk wol ben wonnen for richesse,
And somme for strokes, and somme for gentillesse.
Somtyme, to shewe his lightnesse and maistrye,
He pleyeth Herodes upon a scaffold hye.
But what availleth hym as in this cas?
She loveth so this hende Nicholas
That Absolon may blowe the bukkes horn;
He ne hadde for his labour but a scorn.
And thus she maketh Absolon hire ape,
And al his ernest turneth til a jape.
Ful sooth is this proverbe, it is no lye,
Men seyn right thus: "Alwey the nye slye
Maketh the ferre leeve to be looth."
For though that Absolon be wood or wrooth,
By cause that he fer was from hire sight,
This nye Nicholas stood in his light.

Now ber thee wel, thou hende Nicholas,
For Absolon may waille and synge "allas."

And so bifel it on a Saterday,
This carpenter was goon til Osenay;
And hende Nicholas and Alisoun
Acorded been to this conclusioun,
That Nicholas shal shapen hym a wyle
This sely jalous housbonde to bigyle;
And if so be the game wente aright,
She sholde slepen in his arm al nyght,
For this was his desir and hire also.
And right anon, withouten wordes mo,
This Nicholas no lenger wolde tarie,
But dooth ful softe unto his chambre carie
Bothe mete and drynke for a day or tweye,
And to hire housbonde bad hire for to seye,
If that he axed after Nicholas,
She sholde seye she nyste where he was;
Of al that day she saugh hym nat with ye;
She trowed that he was in maladye,
For, for no cry hir mayde koude hym calle,
He nolde answere for thyng that myghte falle.

This passeth forth al thilke Saterday,
That Nicholas stille in his chambre lay,
And eet and sleep, or dide what hym leste,
Til Sonday, that the sonne gooth to reste.
This sely carpenter hath greet merveyle
Of Nicholas, or what thyng myghte hym eyle,
And seyde, "I am adrad, by Seint Thomas,
It stondeth nat aright with Nicholas.
God shilde that he deyde sodeynly!
This world is now ful tikel, sikerly.
I saugh today a cors yborn to chirche
That now, on Monday last, I saugh hym wirche.

"Go up," quod he unto his knave anoon,
"Clepe at his dore, or knokke with a stoon.
Looke how it is, and tel me boldely."

This knave gooth hym up ful sturdily,
And at the chambre dore whil that he stood,
He cride and knokked as that he were wood,
"What, how! What do ye, maister Nicholay?
How may ye slepen al the longe day?"

But al for noght; he herde nat a word.
An hole he foond, ful lowe upon a bord,
Ther as the cat was wont in for to crepe,
And at that hole he looked in ful depe,
And at the laste he hadde of hym a sight.
This Nicholas sat evere capyng upright,
As he had kiked on the newe moone.
Adoun he gooth, and tolde his maister soone
In what array he saugh this ilke man.

This carpenter to blessen hym bigan,
And seyde, "Help us, Seinte Frydeswyde!
A man woot litel what hym shal bityde.
This man is falle, with his astromye,
In some woodnesse or in som agonye.
I thoghte ay wel how that it sholde be!
Men sholde nat knowe of Goddes pryvetee.
Ye, blessed be alwey a lewed man
That noght but oonly his bileve kan!
So ferde another clerk with astromye;
He walked in the feeldes for to prye
Upon the sterres, what ther sholde bifalle,
Til he was in a marle-pit yfalle;
He saugh nat that. But yet, by Seint Thomas,
Me reweth soore of hende Nicholas.
He shal be rated of his studiyng,
If that I may, by Jhesus, hevene kyng!
Get me a staf, that I may underspore,
Whil that thou, Robyn, hevest up the dore.
He shal out of his studiyng, as I gesse."
And to the chambre dore he gan hym dresse.
His knave was a strong carl for the nones,
And by the haspe he haaf it of atones;
Into the floor the dore fil anon.
This Nicholas sat ay as stille as stoon,
And evere caped upward into the eir.
This carpenter wende he were in despeir,
And hente hym by the sholdres myghtily,
And shook hym harde, and cride spitously,
"What! Nicholay! What, how! What, looke adoun!
Awak, and thenk on Cristes passioun!
I crouche thee from elves and fro wightes."
Therwith the nyght-spel seyde he anon-rightes
On foure halves of the hous aboute,
And on the thresshfold of the dore withoute:
"Jhesu Crist and Seinte Benedight,
Blesse this hous from every wikked wight,
For nyghtes verye, the white pater-noster!
Where wentestow, Seinte Petres soster?"

And atte laste this hende Nicholas
Gan for to sik soore, and seyde, "Allas!
Shal al the world be lost eftsoones now?"

This carpenter answerde, "What seystow?
What! Thynk on God, as we doon, men that swynke."
This Nicholas answerde, "Fecche me drynke,
And after wol I speke in pryvetee
Of certeyn thyng that toucheth me and thee.
I wol telle it noon oother man, certeyn."

This carpenter goth doun, and comth ageyn,
And broghte of myghty ale a large quart;
And whan that ech of hem had dronke his part,
This Nicholas his dore faste shette,
And doun the carpenter by hym he sette.

He seyde, "John, myn hooste, lief and deere,
Thou shalt upon thy trouthe swere me heere
That to no wight thou shalt this conseil wreye,
For it is Cristes conseil that I seye,
And if thou telle it man, thou art forlore;
For this vengeaunce thou shalt han therfore,
That if thou wreye me, thou shalt be wood."
"Nay, Crist forbede it, for his hooly blood!"
Quod tho this sely man, "I nam no labbe,
Ne, though I seye, I nam nat lief to gabbe.
Sey what thou wolt, I shal it nevere telle
To child ne wyf, by hym that harwed helle!"

"Now John," quod Nicholas, "I wol nat lye;
I have yfounde in myn astrologye,
As I have looked in the moone bright,
That now a Monday next, at quarter nyght,
Shal falle a reyn, and that so wilde and wood
That half so greet was nevere Noes flood.
This world," he seyde, "in lasse than an hour
Shal al be dreynt, so hidous is the shour.
Thus shal mankynde drenche, and lese hir lyf."

This carpenter answerde, "Allas, my wyf!
And shal she drenche? Allas, myn Alisoun!"
For sorwe of this he fil almoost adoun,
And seyde, "Is ther no remedie in this cas?"

"Why, yis, for Gode," quod hende Nicholas,
"If thou wolt werken after loore and reed.
Thou mayst nat werken after thyn owene heed;
For thus seith Salomon, that was ful trewe:
`Werk al by conseil, and thou shalt nat rewe.'
And if thou werken wolt by good conseil,
I undertake, withouten mast and seyl,
Yet shal I saven hire and thee and me.
Hastow nat herd hou saved was Noe,
Whan that oure Lord hadde warned hym biforn
That al the world with water sholde be lorn?"

"Yis," quod this Carpenter, "ful yoore ago."

"Hastou nat herd," quod Nicholas, "also
The sorwe of Noe with his felaweshipe,
Er that he myghte gete his wyf to shipe?
Hym hadde be levere, I dar wel undertake,
At thilke tyme, than alle his wetheres blake
That she hadde had a ship hirself allone.
And therfore, woostou what is best to doone?
This asketh haste, and of an hastif thyng
Men may nat preche or maken tariyng.

"Anon go gete us faste into this in
A knedyng trogh, or ellis a kymelyn,
For ech of us, but looke that they be large,
In which we mowe swymme as in a barge,
And han therinne vitaille suffisant
But for a day -- fy on the remenant!
The water shal aslake and goon away
Aboute pryme upon the nexte day.
But Robyn may nat wite of this, thy knave,
Ne eek thy mayde Gille I may nat save;
Axe nat why, for though thou aske me,
I wol nat tellen Goddes pryvetee.
Suffiseth thee, but if thy wittes madde,
To han as greet a grace as Noe hadde.
Thy wyf shal I wel saven, out of doute.
Go now thy wey, and speed thee heer-aboute.

"But whan thou hast, for hire and thee and me,
Ygeten us thise knedyng tubbes thre,
Thanne shaltow hange hem in the roof ful hye,
That no man of oure purveiaunce espye.
And whan thou thus hast doon as I have seyd,
And hast oure vitaille faire in hem yleyd,
And eek an ax to smyte the corde atwo,
Whan that the water comth, that we may go
And breke an hole an heigh, upon the gable,
Unto the gardyn-ward, over the stable,
That we may frely passen forth oure way,
Whan that the grete shour is goon away.
Thanne shaltou swymme as myrie, I undertake,
As dooth the white doke after hire drake.
Thanne wol I clepe, `How, Alison! How, John!
Be myrie, for the flood wol passe anon.'
And thou wolt seyn, `Hayl, maister Nicholay!
Good morwe, I se thee wel, for it is day.'
And thanne shul we be lordes al oure lyf
Of al the world, as Noe and his wyf.

"But of o thyng I warne thee ful right:
Be wel avysed on that ilke nyght
That we ben entred into shippes bord,
That noon of us ne speke nat a word,
Ne clepe, ne crie, but be in his preyere;
For it is Goddes owene heeste deere.

"Thy wyf and thou moote hange fer atwynne,
For that bitwixe yow shal be no synne,
Namoore in lookyng than ther shal in deede.
This ordinance is seyd. Go, God thee speede!
Tomorwe at nyght, whan men ben alle aslepe,
Into oure knedyng-tubbes wol we crepe,
And sitten there, abidyng Goddes grace.
Go now thy wey; I have no lenger space
To make of this no lenger sermonyng.
Men seyn thus, `sende the wise, and sey no thyng.'
Thou art so wys, it needeth thee nat teche.
Go, save oure lyf, and that I the biseche."

This sely carpenter goth forth his wey.
Ful ofte he seide "Allas and weylawey,"
And to his wyf he tolde his pryvetee,
And she was war, and knew it bet than he,
What al this queynte cast was for to seye.
But nathelees she ferde as she wolde deye,
And seyde, "Allas! go forth thy wey anon,
Help us to scape, or we been dede echon!
I am thy trewe, verray wedded wyf;
Go, deere spouse, and help to save oure lyf."

Lo, which a greet thyng is affeccioun!
Men may dyen of ymaginacioun,
So depe may impressioun be take.
This sely carpenter bigynneth quake;
Hym thynketh verraily that he may see
Noees flood come walwynge as the see
To drenchen Alisoun, his hony deere.
He wepeth, weyleth, maketh sory cheere;
He siketh with ful many a sory swogh;
He gooth and geteth hym a knedyng trogh,
And after that a tubbe and a kymelyn,
And pryvely he sente hem to his in,
And heng hem in the roof in pryvetee.
His owene hand he made laddres thre,
To clymben by the ronges and the stalkes
Unto the tubbes hangynge in the balkes,
And hem vitailled, bothe trogh and tubbe,
With breed, and chese, and good ale in a jubbe,
Suffisynge right ynogh as for a day.
But er that he hadde maad al this array,
He sente his knave, and eek his wenche also,
Upon his nede to London for to go.
And on the Monday, whan it drow to nyght,
He shette his dore withoute candel-lyght,
And dressed alle thyng as it sholde be.
And shortly, up they clomben alle thre;
They seten stille wel a furlong way.

"Now, Pater-noster, clom!" seyde Nicholay,
And "Clom!" quod John, and "Clom!" seyde Alisoun.
This carpenter seyde his devocioun,
And stille he sit, and biddeth his preyere,
Awaitynge on the reyn, if he it heere.

The dede sleep, for wery bisynesse,
Fil on this carpenter right, as I gesse,
Aboute corfew-tyme, or litel moore;
For travaille of his goost he groneth soore,
And eft he routeth, for his heed myslay.
Doun of the laddre stalketh Nicholay,
And Alisoun ful softe adoun she spedde;
Withouten wordes mo they goon to bedde,
Ther as the carpenter is wont to lye.
Ther was the revel and the melodye;
And thus lith Alison and Nicholas,
In bisynesse of myrthe and of solas,
Til that the belle of laudes gan to rynge,
And freres in the chauncel gonne synge.

This parissh clerk, this amorous Absolon,
That is for love alwey so wo bigon,
Upon the Monday was at Oseneye
With compaignye, hym to disporte and pleye,
And axed upon cas a cloisterer
Ful prively after John the carpenter;
And he drough hym apart out of the chirche,
And seyde, "I noot; I saugh hym heere nat wirche
Syn Saterday; I trowe that he be went
For tymber, ther oure abbot hath hym sent;
For he is wont for tymber for to go
And dwellen at the grange a day or two;
Or elles he is at his hous, certeyn.
Where that he be, I kan nat soothly seyn."

This Absolon ful joly was and light,
And thoghte, "Now is tyme to wake al nyght,
For sikirly I saugh hym nat stirynge
Aboute his dore, syn day bigan to sprynge.

"So moot I thryve, I shal, at cokkes crowe,
Ful pryvely knokken at his wyndowe
That stant ful lowe upon his boures wal.
To Alison now wol I tellen al
My love-longynge, for yet I shal nat mysse
That at the leeste wey I shal hire kisse.
Som maner confort shal I have, parfay.
My mouth hath icched al this longe day;
That is a signe of kissyng atte leeste.
Al nyght me mette eek I was at a feeste.
Therfore I wol go slepe an houre or tweye,
And al the nyght thanne wol I wake and pleye."

Whan that the firste cok hath crowe, anon
Up rist this joly lovere Absolon,
And hym arraieth gay, at poynt-devys.
But first he cheweth greyn and lycorys,
To smellen sweete, er he hadde kembd his heer.
Under his tonge a trewe-love he beer,
For therby wende he to ben gracious.
He rometh to the carpenteres hous,
And stille he stant under the shot-wyndowe --
Unto his brest it raughte, it was so lowe --
And softe he cougheth with a semy soun:
"What do ye, hony-comb, sweete Alisoun,
My faire bryd, my sweete cynamome?
Awaketh, lemman myn, and speketh to me!
Wel litel thynken ye upon my wo,
That for youre love I swete ther I go.
No wonder is thogh that I swelte and swete;
I moorne as dooth a lamb after the tete.
Ywis, lemman, I have swich love-longynge
That lik a turtel trewe is my moornynge.
I may nat ete na moore than a mayde."

"Go fro the wyndow, Jakke fool," she sayde;
"As help me God, it wol nat be `com pa me.'
I love another -- and elles I were to blame --
Wel bet than thee, by Jhesu, Absolon.
Go forth thy wey, or I wol caste a ston,
And lat me slepe, a twenty devel wey!"
"Allas," quod Absolon, "and weylawey,
That trewe love was evere so yvel biset!
Thanne kysse me, syn it may be no bet,
For Jhesus love, and for the love of me."

"Wiltow thanne go thy wey therwith?" quod she.

"Ye, certes, lemman," quod this Absolon.

"Thanne make thee redy," quod she, "I come anon."
And unto Nicholas she seyde stille,
"Now hust, and thou shalt laughen al thy fille."

This Absolon doun sette hym on his knees
And seyde, "I am a lord at alle degrees;
For after this I hope ther cometh moore.
Lemman, thy grace, and sweete bryd, thyn oore!"

The wyndow she undoth, and that in haste.
"Have do," quod she, "com of, and speed the faste,
Lest that oure neighebores thee espie."

This Absolon gan wype his mouth ful drie.
Derk was the nyght as pich, or as the cole,
And at the wyndow out she putte hir hole,
And Absolon, hym fil no bet ne wers,
But with his mouth he kiste hir naked ers
Ful savourly, er he were war of this.
Abak he stirte, and thoughte it was amys,
For wel he wiste a womman hath no berd.
He felte a thyng al rough and long yherd,
And seyde, "Fy! allas! what have I do?"

"Tehee!" quod she, and clapte the wyndow to,
And Absolon gooth forth a sory pas.

"A berd! A berd!" quod hende Nicholas,
"By Goddes corpus, this goth faire and weel."

This sely Absolon herde every deel,
And on his lippe he gan for anger byte,
And to hymself he seyde, "I shal thee quyte."

Who rubbeth now, who froteth now his lippes
With dust, with sond, with straw, with clooth, with chippes,
But Absolon, that seith ful ofte, "Allas!"
"My soule bitake I unto Sathanas,
But me were levere than al this toun," quod he,
"Of this despit awroken for to be.
Allas," quod he, "allas, I ne hadde ybleynt!"
His hoote love was coold and al yqueynt;
For fro that tyme that he hadde kist hir ers,
Of paramours he sette nat a kers,
For he was heeled of his maladie.
Ful ofte paramours he gan deffie,
And weep as dooth a child that is ybete.
A softe paas he wente over the strete
Until a smyth men cleped daun Gerveys,
That in his forge smythed plough harneys;
He sharpeth shaar and kultour bisily.
This Absolon knokketh al esily,
And seyde, "Undo, Gerveys, and that anon."

"What, who artow?" "It am I, Absolon."
"What, Absolon! for Cristes sweete tree,
Why rise ye so rathe? Ey, benedicitee!
What eyleth yow? Som gay gerl, God it woot,
Hath broght yow thus upon the viritoot.
By Seinte Note, ye woot wel what I mene."

This Absolon ne roghte nat a bene
Of al his pley; no word agayn he yaf;
He hadde moore tow on his distaf
Than Gerveys knew, and seyde, "Freend so deere,
That hoote kultour in the chymenee heere,
As lene it me; I have therwith to doone,
And I wol brynge it thee agayn ful soone."

Gerveys answerde, "Certes, were it gold,
Or in a poke nobles alle untold,
Thou sholdest have, as I am trewe smyth.
Ey, Cristes foo! What wol ye do therwith?"

"Therof," quod Absolon, "be as be may.
I shal wel telle it thee to-morwe day" --
And caughte the kultour by the colde stele.
Ful softe out at the dore he gan to stele,
And wente unto the carpenteris wal.
He cogheth first, and knokketh therwithal
Upon the wyndowe, right as he dide er.

This Alison answerde, "Who is ther
That knokketh so? I warante it a theef."

"Why, nay," quod he, "God woot, my sweete leef,
I am thyn Absolon, my deerelyng.
Of gold," quod he, "I have thee broght a ryng.
My mooder yaf it me, so God me save;
Ful fyn it is, and therto wel ygrave.
This wol I yeve thee, if thou me kisse."

This Nicholas was risen for to pisse,
And thoughte he wolde amenden al the jape;
He sholde kisse his ers er that he scape.
And up the wyndowe dide he hastily,
And out his ers he putteth pryvely
Over the buttok, to the haunche-bon;
And therwith spak this clerk, this Absolon,
"Spek, sweete bryd, I noot nat where thou art."

This Nicholas anon leet fle a fart
As greet as it had been a thonder-dent,
That with the strook he was almoost yblent;
And he was redy with his iren hoot,
And Nicholas amydde the ers he smoot.

Of gooth the skyn an hande-brede aboute,
The hoote kultour brende so his toute,
And for the smert he wende for to dye.
As he were wood, for wo he gan to crye,
"Help! Water! Water! Help, for Goddes herte!"

This carpenter out of his slomber sterte,
And herde oon crien "water!" as he were wood,
And thoughte, "Allas, now comth Nowelis flood!"
He sit hym up withouten wordes mo,
And with his ax he smoot the corde atwo,
And doun gooth al; he foond neither to selle,
Ne breed ne ale, til he cam to the celle
Upon the floor, and ther aswowne he lay.

Up stirte hire Alison and Nicholay,
And criden "Out" and "Harrow" in the strete.
The neighebores, bothe smale and grete,
In ronnen for to gauren on this man,
That yet aswowne lay, bothe pale and wan,
For with the fal he brosten hadde his arm.
But stonde he moste unto his owene harm;
For whan he spak, he was anon bore doun
With hende Nicholas and Alisoun.
They tolden every man that he was wood;
He was agast so of Nowelis flood
Thurgh fantasie that of his vanytee
He hadde yboght hym 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 laughen at his fantasye;
Into the roof they kiken and they cape,
And turned al his harm unto a jape.
For what so that this carpenter answerde,
It was for noght; no man his reson herde.
With othes grete he was so sworn adoun
That he was holde wood in al the toun;
For every clerk anonright heeld with oother.
They seyde, "The man is wood, my leeve brother";
And every wight gan laughen at this stryf.
Thus swyved was this carpenteris wyf,
For al his kepyng and his jalousye,
And Absolon hath kist hir nether ye,
And Nicholas is scalded in the towte.
This tale is doon, and God save al the rowte!
In Oxford once a rich and churlish lout
Did live, and several rooms he rented out.
His money as a carpenter he made,
And with him a poor, humble scholar stayed,
Who in the arts all learning had acquired;
To learn astrology, though, he desired.
With wisdom that the Zodiac imparts
He could interpret planetary charts.
By starry divination he’d advise
Whether there would be clear or cloudy skies.
And how the winds of fortune would be blown,
By him in all life’s matters would be shown.

As courtly Nicholas this clerk was known.
He knew the solace of a secret lust;
A maid with him in confidence could trust.
Somewhat effeminate he did appear,
And in the hostelry where he lived here
His habits seemed to some a trifle queer.
With herbal fragrances from far and near
The room had a most aromatic feel,
With plants like licorice and chamomile.
Around this room one’s eye in wonder roams
And sees on shelves his Ptolomaic tomes.
His geomancer stones he neatly stacks
Beside his astrolabe on headboard racks.
A red cloth round his linen closet hung,
And on the top a gay guitar was strung
Whose melodies were heard when night was young.
Upon this instrument he’d often twang
As in annunciatory tones he sang;
Notes from the King’s Tune from his chamber rang.
Oft by a thin thread would his credit hang.
It’s partly on donations he depends;
To make ends meet he borrows from his friends.

This carpenter had just brought home a bride,
Without whose love he might as well have died.
Just eighteen, she was for him quite a find.
Jealous, he kept her narrowly confined,
For she was of a wild and youthful mind;
While him? Well, he was getting on in years,
And so, that she might cheat on him he fears.
Old Latin proverbs he had never learned,
Which would have warned him that he might get burned
If of old age and youth a match he made;
And so, since common sense he’d not obeyed
He’ll pay the price for folly, I’m afraid.

This fair young wife had a quite a lovely face;
Her body slim displayed a weasel’s grace.
A belt she wore that silk strips did adorn;
An apron white as milk brought in the morn,
With flounces tiered, upon her waist was worn.
Her smock, embroidered all in front, was white;
For contrast on the collar, black as night,
Were silken patterns sewn inside and out.
Her white cap featured ribbons wrapped about.
“Just look at me!” her livery seemed to shout.
A headband made of silk she liked to flout.
She had a wanton eye, without a doubt.
Her eyebrows very thin she plucked and cut;
Seductively they arched, as black as smut.
As at the early blossoms of the pear,
She had a way of making menfolk stare,
To sheep’s wool did her smooth, soft skin compare.
And by her girdle hung a leather purse,
Studded with ornaments of brass diverse.
The world one may from east to west traverse,
No low-life bum, nor judge high on a bench
Could want a gal more winsome than this wench.
Her beautiful complexion brighter beamed
Than any newly minted guinea gleamed.
Her song was just as lively and as free
As any swallow sitting in a tree.
Moreover she could skip and play around,
As calves or kids around their mothers bound.
Her mouth was sweet as ale with honey made,
Or apples picked and in a haystack laid.
Like a capricious colt she was untamed,
Tall and not slouchy, but erectly framed.
A brooch beneath her collar she did wear
As broad as is the boss that shields do bear.
Her shoes up high upon her legs were laced;
Such charms were certain not to go to waste.
Her any lord would surely like to bed,
Or any farmer would be glad to wed.

Now sir, I’d like to tell you if I may
How courtly Nicholas on one fine day
Began with this young girl to flirt and play,
While her good husband was at Osenay.
This clever clerk, his subtle moves we watch;
He reaches down and grabs her by the crotch!
And says, “If you’ll not yield to my desire,
For secret love of you I shall expire.”
He held her with a firm grip by the thigh,
And said, “My dear, I kid you not, I’ll die,
So help me God, if you don’t with me lie.”
She sprang, just like a colt restrained will try
To twist its head around and loudly bray,
And said, “You think that I’ll kiss you? No way!
You let me go right now.” she said to him,
“You’ve really gone too far out on a limb;
Remove your hand this instant, or I’ll scream!”

Now Nicholas’s tears began to stream;
He begs for mercy. She him pity grants.
Before you know it he’s into her pants!
Then whensoever she might see the chance,
He by Sir Thomas Beckett made her swear
That for him at his pleasure she’d be there.
“My husband is with jealousy so filled
That I’m quite sure.” she said, “that I’ll be killed
If you great patience will not exercise.
To be most secretive it would be wise.”

Said Nicholas, “Don’t let that worry you.
A clerk would waste his education, who
A simple carpenter could not outwit.”
Thus they did make a pact and swore to it,
That, like I said before, they’d let it rest.

When Nicholas her needs had all addressed
And tenderly her private parts caressed,
And kissed her sweetly, his guitar he takes,
And thereupon sweet melodies he makes.

Then once to church, to learn of right and wrong,
And do the works that unto Christ belong,
This wife went on a holiday alone.
As bright as any day her forehead shone,
For she had washed well when she left her work.
Now at that church there was a parish clerk
Named Absolom, whose ample hair was rolled
In graceful curls that shone in color gold;
And stretched out in a fan shape, large and wide,
All neatly parted, even, on each side.
His skin was ruddy, eyes of grayish hues,
With gaudy gothic carvings on his shoes.
In elegant red stockings he was shod;
All trimly fit he was to worship God;
Light blue the color of his cassock tight
Upon which were thick laces, set just right,
And over that a gay and gorgeous gown,
White as a lily, soft as eiderdown.
So help me God, he was a merry guy.
A barber’s services he could supply,
Or draw up documents for real estate.
He twenty dance steps knew; but ask his date -
She’ll likely say, “He really ain’t that great!”
But he can kick his legs around, at least,
And play his fiddle to surprise the priest!
To which he sung in a high tenor pitch;
And from the fiddle to guitar could switch.
There was no tavern in this town, nor bar,
Where he’s not entertained with his guitar.
But certain things he stays away from far,
Around those little merry barmaid tarts -
Like speech provocative, or letting farts.

With him did Absolom his censer take,
His rounds among the parish wives to make;
Ostensibly donations he did seek,
But this gay incense-burning jolly geek
Did really at the girls desire to peek,
Especially the carpenter’s young wife,
For she was so flirtatious - full of life.
If she’d been one to squeak, and he meow,
He surely would have grabbed her butt by now.
This Absolom, pathetic little prick,
Was of his unrequited loves quite sick;
To ogle all these broads was such a kick.
He not a single nickel from them took.

The moon, when it was night, so bright did look.
He took his gay guitar and neath the stars
He played, for love, a few romantic bars;
And in a jolly, lovelorn frame of mind
He through the village streets his way did wind,
Till he came to the carpenter’s abode
A little after when the cocks had crowed,
Beneath a casement window on the wall.
This song he sings, his voice both high and small:
“My lady dear, it lies within thy power,
Won’t you a little pity on me shower.”
When playing his guitar no note was sour.
And with his song the carpenter was cool,
For he thought him a simple little fool.
“Look! Alison! There’s Absolom. Such charm!
His chanting thus, need cause you no alarm.”
“Yes, John, all his crescendos I did hear.
You all his innuendoes need not fear.”

For quite some time things go along this way.
This sissy, Absolom, from day to day,
It seems is always pining for her sake.
All day and all night long he stays awake;
He combs his flowing locks, and tries to make
Himself look elegant. He’ll even use
A go-between to get her him to choose.
He sings to her, and even sends her money,
And other gifts, like wine that’s spiced with honey,
And wafers piping hot, along with tea,
And cash to help pay for a shopping spree;
For certain women are by riches won;
For some, by force, or gentleness, it’s done.
Oft to impress her bumblingly he’ll seek,
And play a loud role in his manner meek.
To no avail, though, are his efforts lame,
For clever Nicholas her love doth claim.
He might as well go jump into a lake
For all the difference that his troubles make.
Thus as her fool, by Alison he’s spurned;
His earnestness into a joke is turned.
There is a proverb that’s quite apropos,
Which says: “Always the sly and nearby Joe
Will for the distant suitor cause much woe.”
No matter the commotion that he made,
He would far from her in the distance fade,
And stand in nearby Nicholas’s shade.

Now Nicholas, be on your toes; your own
“Alas!” to her this Absolom may clone.

And so it happened on a Saturday,
The carpenter went off to Osenay;
And clever Nicholas a plan did hatch
So he and Alison some time could snatch;
A little ruse did Nicholas devise
To pull the wool across her husband’s eyes;
And if all things came off as he had planned,
All night their flames of passion could be fanned.
This was the course on which they both were bent,
So with no more delay, to work he went
And surreptitiously began to bring
Into his bedroom every needed thing,
So that he could subsist a day or two;
And then he let her know what she should do;
If John about his whereabouts should sue,
She should say that she doesn’t have a clue,
For she’s not laid her eyes on him all day,
And that she figured there’s a chance he may
Be ill, for even though she loudly knocked,
His bedroom door remained securely locked.

All this took place on that same Saturday.
So Nicholas did in his bedroom lay,
And hung around and ate and slept and drank,
Till Sol down in the west on Sunday sank.
Concerning Nicholas, his landlord thought
Some kind of flu or colic he had caught,
And said this: “By Saint Thomas I do pray,
That Nicholas, my boarder, is okay.
May God forbid he suddenly should die!
I’ve seen the plague cut down the strongest guy.
Today I saw a corpse they carried by;
He worked last Monday - now his mourners cry.”

He sent his servant to the second floor,
And said: “Call out, and pound upon his door.
See how he is, and quickly bring me word.”

When he went up, the following occurred:
To listen well against the door he leaned,
Then cried out loud and pounded like a fiend,
“Hey! Master Nicholas, what’s wrong with you?
How can you lie asleep the whole day through?”

He got no answer, loud as though he cried.
Down low upon the wall, a hole he spied,
About the right size for the cat to clear;
So through that hole he carefully did peer,
And finally he Nicholas did spy,
Sitting and staring up, as to the sky,
As if at a new moon he was amazed.
So quickly down he goes, and how he gazed,
To John he did excitedly express.

The carpenter, himself began to bless,
And said: “God’s will for us we can but guess!
Men can’t be sure what he has in the works.
Because of his astrology this clerk’s
Into some madness fallen, or some fit.
It figures, and I’m not surprised one bit.
To feast upon God’s secrets makes men choke.
Blest be the common and unlearned bloke,
Whose nose does not into such matters poke!
So fared another deep in these same books:
Out in a field he walks while up he looks,
To check out all the stars, when, holy shit!
He falls into a fertilizer pit
That he saw not. Yet as to Nicholas
He still felt sorry for his clever ass.
If you ask me, to task he will be brought
By Jesus, heaven’s king, for learning sought.
Get me a staff, and from below I’ll pry,
While, Robin, you to lift the door up try.
Out of his trance we’ve got to get this guy.”
So on the door to pry he did begin.
His servant was a fellow strong as sin,
And by the hinges off he heaved the door
Which with a loud thud fell down on the floor.
But Nicholas still sat still as a stone,
And upward gaped into some airy zone.
This seemed to John despair - he had that look.
So firmly by the shoulders he him took,
And cried out loudly to him while he shook:
“Hey, Nicholas! Look down, man! Come on, mate!
Wake up, and on Christ’s passion meditate!
I’ll exorcise those demons, just you wait.”
In all parts of the house, to guard from blights
Of evil spells, the night-charms he recites;
And even on the porch, he does these rites:
“By Jesus Christ and Benedict, the saint,
Protect this house from any wicked taint.”
Some mumbo-jumbo he did mutter, mister,
Of paternoster, and Saint Peter’s sister.

At last this clever Nicholas begins
To deeply sigh, and says, “For all its sins,
Shall all this wicked world be lost right now?”

This carpenter replied, “What sayest thou?
Like working men, upon the Father think”
Then Nicholas requests, “Go fetch a drink,
And then I’ll speak unto you privately
Of something that concerns both you and me.
I’ll surely tell it to no other men.”

So John went down, and came right back again;
A huge container of strong ale he brought;
And after each of them had drunk his draught,
This Nicholas, his door securely locked,
Sat down the carpenter, and to him talked.

He said thus: “John, my host, revered and dear,
Give me thy word, and swear unto me here
That to no other persons you’ll reveal
Christ’s secrets; that your lips you’ll tightly seal;
For if you spread this word, then you are toast;
Believe me, you don’t need that, my dear host;
Betray me, and you’ll go stark-raving mad.”
“Nay, Christ forbid it, by the wounds he had!
No blabbermouth am I, of that you may
Be certain; and no matter what you say,
To child or wife, this thing I’ll never tell,
By him who went to rescue souls from hell!”

“Now John,” said Nicholas, “it’s true, I swear,
As I look up and at the full moon stare,
My learning in astrology lays bare
That after midnight on next Monday there
Shall fall a rain so heavy and so dense
That Noah’s flood was not half so intense.
This world, “ he said, “ in less than one short hour,
Shall all be drowned, so heavy is the shower.
By drowning, every man shall lose his life.”

The carpenter replied, “Alas, my wife!
Alas, my Alison, must she too drown?”
This sad thought almost caused him to fall down.
“Is there no hope?” He queried with a frown.

“Why yes, by God,” said Nicholas, “indeed,
If you will good advice and learning heed,
And not on notions of your own rely;
For thus did Solomon the sage advise:
‘To act upon good counsel you’d be wise.’
If you of wisdom will yourself avail
I guarantee, without a mast or sail,
That her and you and me shall all be spared.
Have you not heard how Noah’s family fared,
When advance notice God unto them gave
That all on earth should die, while him He’d save?”

“Yes, that was quite a spell ago.” John said.

“Have you not also heard how Noah pled
With his reluctant wife to get on board,
And stop consorting with the sinful horde.
If only he the time could well afford,
He’d gladly sacrifice his rare black goat
To build his stubborn wife a separate boat.
It’s clear what we must do if we’re to float;
So let us not another minute waste,
And get right down to business now, with haste.

“So quickly, and with no delay, be off,
And fetch for each of us a vat or trough
As big as any that you ever saw,
So we can swim and float, as in a spa.
For eating let there be a lot of stuff.
Ah, what the heck, one day’s worth is enough!
The water next mid-morning will recede,
So that’s about as much as we will need.
Of this must Robin be kept in the dark,
Nor can there be for Jill, thy maid, an ark.
I can’t say why, though you might like to know;
For I into God’s secrets will not go.
Just know you’re lucky not to go insane,
And that you’re spared, like Noah, from the rain.
To save your wife we’d best get off the dime,
And get a move on, while there is still time;

“And when, that we our lives don’t need to lose,
You have obtained three tubs for us to use,
Suspend them from the rafters up high, so
That of our preparations none may know.
When all these things you have attended to,
And in these tubs have stocked some food and brew,
And too, a hefty ax that’s sharp and true,
That when the water comes down we can hew
A big hole that will through the rafters break,
Allowing us to float, as on a lake.
Our way out o’er the garden we will make.
And when in this great downpour there’s a break,
Believe me, as much pleasure you will take
As does a duck that bobs behind her drake.
Then I will say, ‘Hey, Alison! Hey John!
Be merry for the flood will soon be gone.’
‘Hail, master Nicholas!’ you then will say,
‘Good morning to you. What a gorgeous day!’
And then of all the world, for all our life,
We shall be lords, like Noah and his wife.

“But one thing in particular you should
Be cautioned of, that is for your own good:
That on the night when we shall board our ships
We all must tightly button up our lips.
Nor call, nor cry out; we must only pray;
For that is God’s command - we must obey.

“To stay apart far from your wife you must,
So that there will be no salacious lust.
You may not see her, let alone caress;
This God requires. May he give thee success.
At night tomorrow, when all are asleep,
Into our hanging tubs we all will creep,
And God’s salvation there we shall await.
Now go thy way, before it gets too late.
To all this preaching I’ll now make an end.
‘Leave all unto the wise man whom you send,’
Men say, but you know what to do, my friend;
To what your wisdom tells you, now attend.”

This carpenter betook his hapless ass,
While he kept saying, “Woe is me, alas!”
And with his wife his secret he did share.
But while much more than he, she was aware
Of what this clever scheme was all about,
She nonetheless pretended she did doubt
That she’d survive, “Alas! please move your feet;
Help us escape, or else we’re all dead meat!
To you I’m true, as are all faithful wives;
Go, my dear spouse, and help to save our lives.”

Emotion! Ain’t it just the greatest thing.
Imagination carries quite a sting,
If we too big a deal out of it make.
This hapless carpenter begins to quake,
He thinks of Noah’s flood, and yells out: “Yikes!”
Imagining it surge across the dikes,
And cover his dear Alison who drowns.
He weeps - his face a panoply of frowns;
He groans, and many a heavy sigh he heaves;
And then to get a kneading trough he leaves,
Then for a tub and one large vat he went,
Which secretly he had to his house sent,
And had them high up on the ceiling hung.
Three ladders he assembled, rung by rung,
With which to climb into the tubs, up there
Beneath the beams, suspended in mid-air.
Then he provisions trough and vat and tub,
With food, and liquor from the local pub,
That should be right for just a single day.
But ere he stashed all these supplies away,
To London on his business for the day,
He sent his servant and his wench away.
On Monday night at dusk or thereabout,
He shut the door, and snuffed the candles out.
When things were ready, and they all were tired,
Unto their lofty perches they aspired.
A short while they stayed still when they retired.

Said Nicholas, “With talking let’s be done.”
“Be calm now!” echoed John and Alison.
This carpenter does his devotions say,
And sitting still he secretly does pray,
Expecting rain before the break of day.

From working hard, awake he cannot keep,
And so this carpenter falls sound asleep
At curfew time - perhaps a little more,
And fitfully he groans, his spirits sore;
Not only that, but also he does snore.
Down from their berths the others softly stalked,
And on their tiptoes quietly they walked,
And made a silent bee-line into bed -
The one where John was wont to lay his head.
We hear the bells of love go off in there,
As Nicholas and Alison get bare
And love’s erotic, wanton pleasures share,
Until the early morning church bells ring,
And friars in the chapel start to sing.

Remember Absolom, the parish clerk?
You know, that stupid lovelorn little jerk.
Well, Monday with his parish duties done
He goes to Osenay to have some fun,
And strikes a conversation up while there,
About how John the carpenter did fare,
Thus said this cloistered monk, whom he had found:
“Well, I don’t know. I’ve not seen him around
Since Saturday. It could be that he’s gone
For lumber, where our abbot sent him. John
Will often go for lumber, and he’ll stay
There at the grange, and hang out for the day;
Or home he may have gone to his house. Hey,
Exactly where he might be, I can’t say.”

This Absolom light-hearted was, and gay;
He thought, “Now surely is the time to stay
Awake all night, for John at his doorway
I have not seen astir since break of day.

“That I might prosper, when first crows the cock,
I’ll on his bedroom window softly knock,
That is low on his wall. Though like a klutz
I may appear, to her I’ll spill my guts.
With any luck my chance I shall not miss
At last the object of my love to kiss.
Some kind of comfort I shall have, I trust.
My mouth’s been itching all day long from lust -
A kissing omen at the very least.
All night I dreamt that I was at a feast.
So I’ll go catch an hour or two of rest,
That all night long with love I may be blessed.”

Just after midnight, when the first cock crows,
This would-be lover Absolom arose,
And decked himself out gaily, head to toes.
First licorice beneath his tongue he tucks,
Then on an aphrodisiac he sucks;
The first, against bad-smelling breath to guard,
The second, so that he can get it hard.
Unto the carpenter’s abode he walks,
And neath the casement window still he stalks -
Down to his breast it reached, it was so low -
He coughs, and out these fancy phrases flow:
“What are you doing, honey-comb, my sweet,
My fair bird, candy that I’d like to eat?
Awake, and speak to me, my sweetheart cutey!
For my woe you don’t give a rat’s patootie.
For your love I am chomping at the bit.
I ache and sweat, ‘cause you don’t give a shit;
I mourn just like a lamb does for the tit.
Indeed, I am so love sick that it’s scary,
But you treat me like some Tom, Dick, or Harry.
Of you I can’t partake, but only drool.”

She said, “Go from here, jackass; you’re a fool;
So help me God, from me you’ll get no kiss.
I love another, and I’ll tell you this:
He’s better far than you. Leave me alone;
Get on your way, or I will throw a stone,
And in the name of Jesus, let me be.”
“Alas,” said Absolom, “Oh woe is me.
Why couldn’t you just say: ‘Ah, what the heck,
I’ll go ahead and plant one little peck
On this poor guy who’s so in love with me?’ ”

“And if so, will you go away?” said she.

Said he, “Yes, sweetheart, if you’ll this allow.”

“Then get prepared,” said she, “I come right now.”
And then she turned to Nicholas and said, “Off
With his crap. Watch, and you will laugh your head off.”

So Absolom got down on bended knee
And said, “At last the tide has turned for me;
No more she treats me like some little turd.
Thy grace, my sweetheart, mercy, my sweet bird.”

The window she unlatches with great haste
“Go for it, man,” she said, “no time to waste;
Lest by some nosy neighbor you’re espied.”

And so he licked his lips, for they had dried.
The night was dark as coal, and black as pitch.
She flashed her asshole out, the nasty bitch,
And this poor hapless Absolom, alas!
With mouth and tongue he frenched her naked ass
With relish, for what she’d done he knew not.
He jumped back - something was amiss he thought,
For that she had no facial hair he knew,
Yet he felt something rough, and long-haired too,
“What have I done?” he said, his teeth all brown.

“Teehee!” said she, and slammed the window down.
And Absolom walks off forlorn and sick.

Said Nicholas, “Wow! what a cherry trick!
I’d have to say that that was pretty cool.”

All this heard Absolom; the hapless fool
Began for anger on his lips to bite.
“I shall get even with them for tonight.”

Who scrubs his lips, who scours out his maw.
With dirt, with sand, with cloth, with chips, with straw,
But Absolom, who says, while spitting dust,
“I unto Lucifer my soul entrust.
I would the wealth of this whole town decline,
If for this insult vengeance could be mine.
Alas”, he said, “why did I not desist?”
His hot love cooled. Boy, was he ever pissed!
For from that time when he her arse had kissed,
Love-making was high up on his crap list.
From then of his obsession he was cured
By that foul degradation he’d endured.
He whimpers like some kid who’s had hard knocks.
All downcast down the street he slowly walks,
And comes across this iron smithing place
Owned by a man the people called Gervase,
At work to make a blade sharp for a plow.
This clerk knocks gently, and he says, “Right now
Please open up, I say, for me, Gervase.”

“Who are you?” “Absolom; you know my face.”
“Oh Absolom, by Jesus Christ’s sweet cross,
Why up so early? Do you turn and toss
Because of some chick, for the sake of God?
Or is it maybe some ball-busting broad?
I’m sure you know just what I’m speaking of.”

His jokes Gervase could up his rear end shove
As far as was this jilted clerk concerned.
He only thought of how he had been burned,
And to Gervase he says, “Do you suppose
That I that hot blade which in your hearth glows,
Could borrow for a while? I have a plan,
I’ll bring it back as quickly as I can.”

“If it were gold,” Gervase retorted back,
“Or countless coins of silver in a sack,
I’d lend it, on my word as a true smith.
So, foe of Christ, what will you do therewith?”

“Right now,” said Absolom, “I cannot tell;
Tomorrow, though, I’ll let you know full well.”
He grasped the plough blade by its handle cold,
And out the door he went, as he made bold
Unto the carpenter’s to go again.
He coughs a little bit at first, and then
He knocks upon the window, as before.

This woke up Alison, who rose and swore:
“Just who the hell is there? Some thief, I’ll bet.”

“Why nay,” said he, “God knows, my little pet,
I am thine Absolom. A gift I bring
For you, my darling dear - a golden ring.
A present from my mother that I’ve saved
For you, so fine and beautifully engraved.
Just give to me the kiss that I have craved.”

This Nicholas arose a piss to take,
And thought the joke he could much better make
If Absolom would kiss his arse; and so
The window quickly open he does throw;
He swings around, his naked buttocks flies
So far out that he rests upon his thighs.
Said Absolom, “Where are you? Where’s my prize?”
The hot plow blade he holds down by his hip.

Then Nicholas a nasty one lets rip,
So loud it sounded like a thunder bolt,
And darn near blinded this poor little dolt,
Whose hot blade, cutting through the fetid gas,
He pressed right on the center of his ass.

The hot blade round his rectum burns his hide;
Off goes the skin about a hand’s breadth wide.
He thought he’d die; his tail was so inflamed
That like a madman, loudly he exclaimed:
“Help! Water! Water! Please, this is no joke!”

The carpenter out of his slumber woke.
“Water!” he heard someone in panic cry,
And figured that the flood had risen high.
He sits straight up, and takes in hand his ax,
And his suspending rope in two he hacks,
And down he goes; but since there was no flood,
He hits the pavement with a mighty thud.
There, stunned upon the floor, his name is mud;

For Alison and Nicholas both yelp
Out in the street: “Now all come out and help.”
The neighbors, both the lowly and the proud,
Come over and into the house they crowd
To gawk at this poor man who’d come to harm,
For when he hit the ground he broke his arm.
The poor guy was made out to be a clown.
He tried to speak, but quickly was put down
By clever Nicholas and Alison;
That he was mad, they said to everyone.
“His foolish fantasies of Noah’s rain
Did place him under such a mental strain
That these three leaky tubs he did obtain,
Hung them up in the roof, then gave the nod
To us, and begged that, for the sake of God,
We’d come and sit up in the roof with him.”

All were convinced his wits were really dim.
Their eyes turn up, and as they stretch their necks,
John with accusatory looks they vex;
They’ll not of his side of the story learn,
And all his grief into a joke they turn.
With deprecating oaths he was put down,
And was thought crazy by all in the town;
For every man agreed with every other -
They said, “The man’s a lunatic, dear brother.”
Of his calamity much fun they made.
And thus the carpenter’s young wife got laid
In spite of how he tried to guard the slut,
And Absolom did kiss her naked butt,
And Nicholas’s naked rump is toast.
This tale is done; God bless our gracious host!