The Miller's Prologue and Tale
By Geoffrey Chaucer

Transcription, correction, editorial commentary, and markup by Austin Benson
     

Sources

Oxford : Clarendon Press, 1900Text for this digital edition drawn from Walter Skeat, The Complete Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, Edited from Numerous Manuscripts. Vol. 4. London: Oxford University Press, 1900. The Canterbury Tales, which remain possibly unfinished, were written in Middle English between 1387 and 1400. It was printed by William Caxton in 1476-1477. Read more about the early print history of the text at the British Library.

Editorial Statements

Research informing these annotations draws on publicly-accessible resources, with links provided where possible. Annotations have also included common knowledge, defined as information that can be found in multiple reliable sources. If you notice an error in these annotations, please contact lic.open.anthology@gmail.com.

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Materials have been transcribed from and checked against first editions, where possible. See the Sources section.


Citation

Chaucer, Geoffrey. "The Miller's Tale and Prologue" . The Complete Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, Clarendon Press, 1900 . Literature in Context: An Open Anthology. http://anthology.lib.virginia.edu/work/Chaucer/chaucer-miller. Accessed: 2024-06-23T08:02:19.006Z

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TP THE COMPLETE WORKS
OF
GEOFFREY CHAUCER
intro
EDITED, FROM NUMEROUS MANUSCRIPTS
BY THE
REV. WALTER W. SKEATskeat, M.A.
Litt.D., LL.D., D.C.L., PH.D.
ERLINGTON AND BOSWORTH PROFESSOR OF ANGLO-SAXON
AND FELLOW OF CHRIST'S COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE
****
THE CANTERBURY TALES: TEXT
'Let every felawe telle his tale aboute, And lat see now who shal the soper winne.' The Knightes Tale; A890
SECOND EDITION
OXFORD AT THE CLARENDON PRESS MDCCCC
89 THE MILLER'S PROLOGUE.
Here folwen the wordes bitwene the Host and
the Millere.
3109Whan that the Knight had thus his tale y-told, 3110In al the routeroute nas ther yong ne old 3111That he ne seyde it was a noble storie, 3112And worthy for to drawen to memorie; 3113And namely the gentilsgentils everichoon. 3114Our Hoste lough and swoor, ‘so moot I goon, 3115This gooth aright; unbokeledunbokeled is the male; 3116Lat see now who shal telle another tale: 3117For trewely, the game is wel bigonne. 3118Now telleth ye, sir Monk, if that ye conne, 3119Sumwhat, to quytequyte with the Knightes tale.’ 3120The Miller, that for-dronken was al pale, 3121So that unnetheunnethe up-on his hors he sat, 3122He nolde avalen neither hood ne hat, 3123Ne abyde no man for his curteisye, 3124But in Pilatespilate vois he gan to crye, 3125And swoor by armes and by blood and bonescurse, 3126‘I can a noble tale for the nonesnones, 3127With which I wol now quyte the Knightes tale.’ 3128Our Hoste saugh that he was dronke of ale, 3129And seyde: ‘abyd, Robin, my leve brother, 3130Som bettre man shal telle us first another: 3131Abyd, and lat us werken thriftily.’ 90 3132‘By goddes soul,’ quod he, ‘that wol nat I; 3133For I wol speke, or elles go my wey.’ 3134Our Hoste answerde: ‘tel on, a devel wey! 3135Thou art a fool, thy wit is overcome.’ 3136‘Now herkneth,’ quod the Miller, ‘alle and some! 3137But first I make a protestacioun 3138That I am dronke, I knowe it by my sounsoun; 3139And therfore, if that I misspeke or seye, 3140Wyte it the ale of Southwerk, I yow preye; 3141For I wol telle a legende and a lyf 3142Bothe of a Carpenter, and of his wyf, 3143How that a clerk hath set the wrightes cappecappe.’ 3144The Reve answerde and seyde, ‘stint thy clappe, 3145Lat be thy lewed dronken harlotrye. 3146It is a sinne and eek a greet folye 3147To apeirenapeiren any man, or him diffame, 3148And eek to bringen wyves in swich fameswich_fame. 3149Thou mayst y-nogh of othere thinges seyn.’ 3150This dronken Miller spak ful sone ageyn, 3151And seyde, ‘leveleve brother Osewold, 3152Who hath no wyf, he is no cokewold.who_hath 3153But I sey nat therfore that thou art oon; 3154Ther been ful gode wyves many oon, 3155And ever a thousand gode ayeyns oon badde, 3156That knowestow wel thy-self, but-if thou madde. 3157Why artow angry with my tale now? 3158I have a wyf, pardee, as well as thou, 3159Yet nolde I, for the oxen in my plogh, 3160Taken up-on me more than y-nogh, 3161As demen of my-self that I were oon; 3162I wol beleve wel that I am noonnoon. 3163An housbond shal nat been inquisitif 3164Of goddes privetee, nor of his wyfprivetee. 3165So he may finde goddes foyson,foyson there, 3166Of the remenant nedeth nat enquere.’ 91 3167What sholde I more seyn, but this Millere 3168He nolde his wordes for no man forbere, 3169But tolde his cherles tale in his manere; 3170Me thinketh that I shal reherce it here. 3171And ther-fore every gentil wight I preyeapology, 3172For goddes love, demeth nat that I seye 3173Of evel entente, but that I moot reherce 3174Hir tales alle, be they bettre or werse, 3175Or elles falsen som of my matere. 3176And therfore, who-so list it nat y-here, 3177Turne over the leef, and chese another taleleef; 3178For he shal finde y-nowe, grete and smale, 3179Of storialstorial thing that toucheth gentillessegentillesse, 3180And eek moralitee and holinesse; 3181Blameth nat me if that ye chese amis. 3182The Miller is a cherl, ye knowe wel this; 3183So was the Reve, and othere many mo, 3184And harlotrye they tolden bothe two. 3185Avyseth yow and putte me out of blame; 3186And eek men shal nat make ernest of game. Here endeth the prologe.
92 THE MILLERES TALE.
Here biginneth the Millere his tale.
3187Whylom ther was dwellinge at Oxenfordoxenford 3188A riche gnofgnof, that gestes heeld to bordgestes, 3189And of his craft he was a Carpenter. 3190With him ther was dwellinge a povre scolerscoler, 3191Had lerned artart, but al his fantasyefantasye 3192Was turned for to lerne astrologyeastrologye, 3193And coude a certeyncerteyn of conclusiouns 3194To demen by interrogaciouns, 3195If that men axed him in certein houres, 3196Whan that men sholde have droghte or elles shouresdroghte, 3197Or if men axed him what sholde bifalle 3198Of every thing, I may nat rekene hem alle. 3199This clerk was clepedcleped hende Nicholas; 3200Of dernederne love he coudecoude and of solassolas; 3201And ther-to he was sleigh and ful priveesleigh, 3202And lyk a mayden meke for to see. 3203A chambre hadde he in that hostelrye 3204Allone, with-outen any companye, 3205Ful fetisly y-dight with herbes swoteydight; 3206And he him-self as swete as is the roterote 3207Of licorys, or any cetewalelicorys. 3208His Almagestealmageste and bokes grete and smale, 3209His astrelabieastrelabie, longinge for his art, 3210His augrim-stonesaugrim layen faire a-part 3211On shelves couched at his beddes heed: 3212His presse y-covered with a falding reedfalding. 3213And al above ther lay a gay sautryesautrye, 3214On which he made a nightes melodye 93 3215So swetely, that al the chambre rong; 3216And Angelus ad virginemangelus he song; 3217And after that he song the kinges notekinges; 3218Ful often blessed was his mery throte. 3219And thus this swete clerk his tyme spente 3220After his freendes finding and his renteafter. 3221This Carpenter had wedded newe a wyf 3222Which that he lovede more than his lyf; 3223Of eightetene yeer she was of age. 3224Ialousialous he was, and heeld hir narwe in cagenarwe, 3225For she was wilde and yong, and he was old 3226And demed him-self ben lyk a cokewold. 3227He knew nat Catouncatoun, for his wit was rude, 3228That bad man sholde wedde his similitude. 3229Men sholde wedden after hir estaatestaat, 3230For youthe and elde is often at debaat. 3231But sith that he was fallen in the snare, 3232He moste endure, as other folk, his care. 3233Fair was this yonge wyf, and ther-with-al 3234As any weselewesele hir body gent and smal. 3235A ceyntceynt she werede barred al of silk, 3236A barmcloothbarmclooth eek as whyt as morne milk 3237Up-on hir lendeslendes, ful of many a gore.gore 3238Whyt was hir smok, and brouded al biforebrouded 3239And eek bihinde, on hir coler aboute, 3240Of col-blak silk, with-inne and eek with-oute. 3241The tapes of hir whyte volupertapes 3242Were of the same suyte of hir coler; 3243Hir filetfilet brood of silk, and set ful hye: 3244And sikerly she hadde a likerous yëlikerous. 3245Ful smale y-pulled were hir browes twosmale, 3246And tho were bent, and blake as any sloosloo. 3247She was ful more blisful on to see 3248Than is the newe pere-ionette treepere; 3249And softer than the wolle is of a wetherwether. 3250And by hir girdel heeng a purs of lether 94 3251Tasseld with silk, and perled with latounlatoun. 3252In al this world, to seken up and doun, 3253There nis no man so wys, that coude thenche 3254So gay a popelote, or swich a wenche.popelote 3255Ful brighter was the shyning of hir hewehewe 3256Than in the tour the noble y-forged newenoble. 3257But of hir song, it was as loude and yerneyerne 3258As any swalwe sittinge on a berneswalwe. 3259Ther-to she coude skippe and make game, 3260As any kide or calf folwinge his dame. 3261Hir mouth was swete as bragot or the meethbragot, 3262Or hord of apples leyd in hey or heeth. 3263Winsinge she waswinsinge, as is a Ioly colt, 3264Long as a mast, and upright as a bolt. 3265A brooch she baar up-on hir lowe coler, 3266As brood as is the bos of a boclerbocler. 3267Hir shoes were laced on hir legges hye; 3268She was a prymerole, a pigges-nyeprymerole 3269For any lord to leggen in his bedde, 3270Or yet for any good yeman to wedde. 3271Now sire, and eft sire, so bifel the cas, 3272That on a day this hendehende Nicholas 3273Fil with this yonge wyf to rage and pleyerage, 3274Whyl that hir housbond was at Oseneyeoseneye, 3275As clerkes ben ful subtile and ful queyntequeynte; 3276And prively he caughte hir by the queyntecaughte, 3277And seyde, ‘y-wis, but if ich have my wille, 3278For derne love of thee, lemman, I spillespille.’ 3279And heeld hir harde by the haunche-bones, 3280And seyde, ‘lemman, love me al at-ones, 3281Or I wol dyen, also god me save!’ 3282And she sprong as a colt doth in the travetrave, 3283And with hir heed she wryed faste awey, 3284And seyde, ‘I wol nat kisse thee, by my fey, 3285Why, lat be,’ quod she, ‘lat be, Nicholas, 95 3286Or I wol crye out “harrow” and “allas.” 3287Do wey your handes for your curteisye!’ 3288This Nicholas gan mercy for to crye, 3289And spak so faire, and profred hir so fasteprofred, 3290That she hir love him graunted atte laste, 3291And swoor hir ooth, by seint Thomas of Kentthomas, 3292That she wol been at his comandement, 3293Whan that she may hir leyser wel espyeleyser. 3294‘Myn housbond is so ful of Ialousye, 3295That but ye wayte wel and been privee, 3296I woot right wel I nam but deeddeed,’ quod she. 3297‘Ye moste been ful derne, as in this cas.’ 3298‘Nay ther-of care thee noght,’ quod Nicholas, 3299A clerk had litherly biset his whylelitherly, 3300But-if he coude a Carpenter bigyle.’ 3301And thus they been acorded and y-sworn 3302To wayte a tyme, as I have told biforn. 3303Whan Nicholas had doon thus everydeel, 3304And thakked hir aboute the lendes weelthakked, 3305He kist hir swete, and taketh his sautrye, 3306And pleyeth faste, and maketh melodye. 3307Than fil it thus, that to the parish-chirche, 3308Cristes owne werkes for to wirche, 3309This gode wyf wente on an haliday; 3310Hir forheed shoon as bright as any day, 3311So was it wasshen whan she leet hir werk. 3312Now was ther of that chirche a parish-clerk, 3313The which that was y-cleped Absolon. 3314Crul was his heer, and as the gold it shooncrul, 3315And strouted as a fanne large and brodestrouted; 3316Ful streight and even lay his Ioly shodeshode. 3317His rode was reed, his eyen greye as goosrode; 3318With Powles window corven on his shoospowles, 3319In hoses rede he wente fetisly. 3320Y-clad he was ful smal and proprely, 3321Al in a kirtel of a light wachetkirtel; 3322Ful faire and thikke been the poyntespoyntes set. 96 3323And ther-up-on he hadde a gay surplyssurplys 3324As whyt as is the blosme up-on the rys. 3325A mery child he was, so god me save, 3326Wel coude he laten blood and clippe and shavelaten, 3327And make a chartre of lond or acquitauncechartre. 3328In twenty manere coude he trippe and daunce 3329After the scole of Oxenforde tho, 3330And with his legges casten to and fro, 3331And pleyen songes on a small rubiblerubible; 3332Ther-to he song som-tyme a loud quiniblequinible; 3333And as wel coude he pleye on his giternegiterne. 3334In al the toun nas brewhous ne taverne 3335That he ne visited with his solas, 3336Ther any gaylard tappesteregaylard was. 3337But sooth to seyn, he was somdel squaymoussquaymous 3338Of farting, and of speche daungerousdaungerous. 3339This Absolon, that Iolif was and gay, 3340Gooth with a sencersencer on the haliday, 3341Sensinge the wyves of the parish faste; 3342And many a lovely look on hem he caste, 3343And namely on this carpenteres wyf. 3344To loke on hir him thoughte a mery lyf, 3345She was so propre and swete and likerous. 3346I dar wel seyn, if she had been a mous, 3347And he a cat, he wolde hir hente anonhente. 3348This parish-clerk, this Ioly Absolon, 3349Hath in his herte swich a love-longinge, 3350That of no wyf ne took he noon offringe; 3351For curteisye, he seyde, he wolde noon. 3352The mone, whan it was night, ful brighte shoon, 3353And Absolon his giterne hath y-take, 3354For paramours, he thoghte for to wake. 3355And forth he gooth, Iolif and amorous, 3356Til he cam to the carpenteres hous 3357A litel after cokkes hadde y-crowe; 3358And dressed him up by a shot-windowewindowe 97 3359That was up-on the carpenteres wal. 3360He singeth in his vois gentil and smal, 3361‘Now, dere lady, if thy wille be, 3362I preye yow that ye wol rewe on merewe,’ 3363Ful wel acordaunt to his giterningegiterninge. 3364This carpenter awook, and herde him singe, 3365And spak un-to his wyf, and seyde anon, 3366‘What! Alison! herestow nat Absolon 3367That chaunteth thus under our boures walboure?’ 3368And she answerde hir housbond ther-with-al, 3369‘Yis, god wot, Iohn, I here it every-del.’ 3370This passeth forth; what wol ye bet than welbet? 3371Fro day to day this Ioly Absolon 3372So woweth hir, that him is wo bigon. 3373He waketh al the night and al the day; 3374He kempte hise lokkes brode, and made him gay; 3375He woweth hir by menes and brocagebrocage, 3376And swoor he wolde been hir owne page; 3377He singeth, brokkinge as a nightingale; 3378He sente hir piment, meeth, and spyced ale, 3379And wafres, pyping hote out of the glede; 3380And for she was of toune, he profred medemede. 3381For som folk wol ben wonnen for richesse, 3382And som for strokes, and som for gentillesse. 3383Somtyme, to shewe his lightnesse and maistrye, 3384He pleyeth Herodesherod on a scaffold hye. 3385But what availleth him as in this cas? 3386She loveth so this hende Nicholas, 3387That Absolon may blowe the bukkes horn; 3388He ne hadde for his labour but a scorn; 3389And thus she maketh Absolon hir apeape, 3390And al his ernest turneth til a Iapejape. 3391Ful sooth is this proverbe, it is no lye, 3392Men seyn right thus, ‘alweyproverb the nye slye 98 3393Maketh the ferre leve to be looth.’ 3394For though that Absolon be wood or wrooth, 3395By-cause that he fer was from hir sighte, 3396This nye Nicholas stood in his lighte. 3397Now bere thee wel, thou hende Nicholas! 3398For Absolon may waille and singe ‘allas.’ 3399And so bifel it on a Saterday, 3400This carpenter was goon til Osenay; 3401And hende Nicholas and Alisoun 3402Acorded been to this conclusioun, 3403That Nicholas shal shapen him a wylewyle 3404This sely Ialous housbond to bigyle; 3405And if so be the game wente aright, 3406She sholde slepen in his arm al night, 3407For this was his desyr and hir also. 3408And right anon, with-outen wordes mo, 3409This Nicholas no lenger wolde tarie, 3410But doth ful softe un-to his chambre carie 3411Bothe mete and drinke for a day or tweye, 3412And to hir housbonde bad hir for to seye, 3413If that he axed after Nicholas, 3414She sholde seye she niste where he was, 3415Of al that day she saugh him nat with yë; 3416She trowed that he was in maladye, 3417For, for no cry, hir mayde coude him calle; 3418He nolde answere, for no-thing that mighte falle. 3419This passeth forth al thilke Saterday, 3420That Nicholas stille in his chambre lay, 3421And eet and sleep, or dide what him leste, 3422Til Sonday, that the sonne gooth to reste. 3423This sely carpenter hath greet merveyle 3424Of Nicholas, or what thing mighte him eyle, 3425And seyde, ‘I am adrad, by seint Thomas, 3426It stondeth nat aright with Nicholas. 3427God shilde that he deyde sodeynly! 3428This world is now ful tikeltikel, sikerly; 3429I saugh to-day a cors y-born to chirche 99 3430That now, on Monday last, I saugh him wirche. 3431Go up,’ quod he un-to his knave anoon, 3432‘Clepe at his dore, or knokke with a stoon, 3433Loke how it is, and tel me boldely.’ 3434This knave gooth him up ful sturdily, 3435And at the chambre-dore, whyl that he stood, 3436He cryde and knokked as that he were wood:— 3437‘What! how! what do ye, maister Nicholay? 3438How may ye slepen al the longe day?’ 3439But al for noght, he herde nat a word; 3440An hole he fond, ful lowe up-on a bord, 3441Ther as the cat was wont in for to crepe; 3442And at that hole he looked in ful depe, 3443And at the laste he hadde of him a sighte. 3444This Nicholas sat gaping ever up-righte, 3445As he had kyked on the newe monekyked. 3446Adoun he gooth, and tolde his maister sone 3447In what array he saugh this ilke man. 3448This carpenter to blessen him bigan, 3449And seyde, ‘help us, seinte Frideswyde!frideswyde 3450A man woot litel what him shal bityde. 3451This man is falle, with his astromye, 3452In som woodnessewoodnesse or in som agonye; 3453I thoghte ay wel how that it sholde be! 3454Men sholde nat knowe of goddes privetee. 3455Ye, blessed be alwey a lewedlewed man, 3456That noght but oonly his bileve can! 3457So ferde another clerk with astromye; 3458He walked in the feeldes for to prye 3459Up-on the sterres, what ther sholde bifalle, 3460Til he was in a marle-pit y-fallemarle; 3461He saugh nat that. But yet, by seint Thomas, 3462Me reweth sore of hende Nicholas. 3463He shal be rated of his studyingrated, 3464If that I may, by Iesus, hevene king! 3465Get me a staf, that I may undersporeunderspore, 100 3466Whyl that thou, Robin, hevest up the dore. 3467He shal out of his studying, as I gesse’— 3468And to the chambre-dore he gan him dresse. 3469His knave was a strong carlcarl for the nones, 3470And by the haspe he haf it up atones; 3471In-to the floor the dore fil anon. 3472This Nicholas sat ay as stille as stoon, 3473And ever gaped upward in-to the eir. 3474This carpenter wende he were in despeir, 3475And hente him by the sholdres mightily, 3476And shook him harde, and cryde spitouslyspitously, 3477‘What! Nicholay! what, how! what! loke adoun! 3478Awake, and thenk on Cristes passioun; 3479I crouche thee from elves and fro wightes!elves 3480Ther-with the night-spelnightspel seyde he anon-rightes 3481On foure halves of the hous aboute, 3482And on the threshfold of the dore with-oute:— 3483‘Iesu Crist, and seynt Benedightbenedict, 3484Blesse this hous from every wikked wight, 3485For nightes verye, the white pater-nosterpaternoster! 3486Where wentestow, seynt Petres sostersister?’ 3487And atte laste this hende Nicholas 3488Gan for to syke sore, and seyde, ‘allas! 3489Shal al the world be lost eftsones now?’ 3490This carpenter answerde, ‘what seystow? 3491What! thenk on god, as we don, men that swinkeswinke.’ 3492This Nicholas answerde, ‘fecche me drinke; 3493And after wol I speke in privetee 3494Of certeyn thing that toucheth me and thee; 3495I wol telle it non other man, certeyn.’ 3496This carpenter goth doun, and comth ageyn, 3497And broghte of mighty ale a large quart; 3498And whan that ech of hem had dronke his part, 101 3499This Nicholas his dore faste shette, 3500And doun the carpenter by him he sette. 3501He seyde, ‘Iohn, myn hoste lief and dere, 3502Thou shall up-on thy trouthe swere me heretrouthe, 3503That to no wight thou shalt this conseil wreye; 3504For it is Cristes conseil that I seye, 3505And if thou telle it man, thou are forlore; 3506For this vengaunce thou shalt han therfore, 3507That if thou wreye me, thou shalt be wood!’ 3508‘Nay, Crist forbede it, for his holy blood!’ 3509Quod tho this sely man, ‘I nam no labbelabbe, 3510Ne, though I seye, I nam nat lief to gabbe. 3511Sey what thou wolt, I shal it never telle 3512To child ne wyf, by him that harwed helle!’ 3513‘Now John,’ quod Nicholas, ‘I wol nat lye; 3514I have y-founde in myn astrologye, 3515As I have loked in the mone bright, 3516That now, a Monday next, at quarter-night, 3517Shal falle a reyn and that so wilde and wood, 3518That half so greet was never Noës floodnoe. 3519This world,’ he seyde, ‘in lasse than in an hour 3520Shal al be dreynt, so hidous is the shour; 3521Thus shal mankynde drenche and lese hir lyf.’ 3522This carpenter answerde, ‘allas, my wyf! 3523And shal she drenche? allas! myn Alisoun!’ 3524For sorwe of this he fil almost adoun, 3525And seyde, ‘is ther no remedie in this cas?’ 3526‘Why, yis, for gode,’ quod hende Nicholas, 3527‘If thou wolt werken after lore and reedlore; 3528Thou mayst nat werken after thyn owene heed. 3529For thus seith Salomonsalomon, that was ful trewe, 3530“Werk al by conseil, and thou shalt nat rewe.” 3531And if thou werken wolt by good conseil, 3532I undertake, with-outen mast and seyl, 3533Yet shal I saven hir and thee and me 3534Hastow nat herd how saved was Noë, 102 3535Whan that our lord had warned him biforn 3536That al the world with water sholde be lorn?’ 3537‘Yis,’ quod this carpenter, ‘ful yore ago.’ 3538‘Hastow nat herd,’ quod Nicholas, ‘also 3539The sorwe of Noë with his felawshipe, 3540Er that he mighte gete his wyf to shipenoahwife? 3541Him had be lever, I dar wel undertake, 3542At thilke tyme, than alle hise wetheres blake, 3543That she hadde had a ship hir-self allone. 3544And ther-fore, wostou what is best to done? 3545This asketh haste, and of an hastif thing 3546Men may nat preche or maken tarying. 3547Anon go gete us faste in-to this in 3548A kneding-trogh, or elles a kimelinkimelin, 3549For ech of us, but loke that they be large, 3550In whiche we mowe swimme as in a barge, 3551And han ther-inne vitaillevitaille suffisant 3552But for a day; fy on the remenant! 3553The water shal aslake and goon away 3554Aboute pryme up-on the nexte day. 3555But Robin may nat wite of this, thy knave, 3556Ne eek thy mayde Gille I may nat save; 3557Axe nat why, for though thou aske me, 3558I wol nat tellen goddes privetee. 3559Suffiseth thee, but if thy wittes madde, 3560To han as greet a grace as Noë hadde. 3561Thy wyf shal I wel saven, out of doute, 3562Go now thy wey, and speed thee heer-aboute. 3563But whan thou hast, for hir and thee and me, 3564Y-geten us thise kneding-tubbes three, 3565Than shaltow hange hem in the roof ful hye, 3566That no man of our purveyaunce spye. 3567And whan thou thus hast doon as I have seyd, 3568And hast our vitaille faire in hem y-leyd, 3569And eek an ax, to smyte the corde atwocorde 3570When that the water comth, that we may go, 103 3571And broke an hole an heigh, up-on the gable, 3572Unto the gardin-ward, over the stable, 3573That we may frely passen forth our way 3574Whan that the grete shour is goon away— 3575Than shaltow swimme as myrie, I undertake, 3576As doth the whyte doke after hir drake. 3577Than wol I clepe, “how! Alison! how! John! 3578Be myrie, for the flood wol passe anon.” 3579And thou wolt seyn, “hayl, maister Nicholay! 3580Good morwe, I se thee wel, for it is day.” 3581And than shul we be lordes al our lyf 3582Of al the world, as Noë and his wyf. 3583But of o thyng I warne thee ful right, 3584Be wel avysed, on that ilke night 3585That we ben entred in-to shippes bord, 3586That noon of us ne speke nat a word, 3587Ne clepe, ne crye, but been in his preyere; 3588For it is goddes owne heste dere. 3589Thy wyf and thou mote hange fer a-twinneatwinne, 3590For that bitwixe yow shal be no sinne 3591No more in looking than ther shal in dede; 3592This ordinance is seyd, go, god thee spede! 3593Tomorwe at night, whan men ben alle aslepe, 3594In-to our kneding-tubbes wol we crepe, 3595And sitten ther, abyding goddes grace. 3596Go now thy wey, I have no lenger space 3597To make of this no lenger sermoning. 3598Men seyn thus, “send the wyse, and sey no-thing;” 3599Thou art so wys, it nedeth thee nat teche; 3600Go, save our lyf, and that I thee biseche.’ 3601This sely carpenter goth forth his wey. 3602Ful ofte he seith ‘allas’ and ‘weylawey,’ 3603And to his wyf he tolde his privetee; 3604And she was war, and knew it bet than he, 3605What al this queynte cast was for to seye. 3606But nathelees she ferde as she wolde deye, 104 3607And seyde, ‘allas! go forth thy wey anon, 3608Help us to scape, or we ben lost echon; 3609I am thy trewe verray wedded wyf; 3610Go, dere spouse, and help to save our lyf.’ 3611Lo! which a greet thyng is affeccioun! 3612Men may dye of imaginacioun, 3613So depe may impressioun be take. 3614This sely carpenter biginneth quake; 3615Him thinketh verraily that he may see 3616Noës flood come walwing as the see 3617To drenchen Alisoun, his hony dere. 3618He wepeth, weyleth, maketh sory chere, 3619He syketh with ful many a sory swogh. 3620He gooth and geteth him a kneding-trogh, 3621And after that a tubbe and a kimelin, 3622And prively he sente hem to his in, 3623And heng hem in the roof in privetee. 3624His owne hand he made laddres three, 3625To climben by the ronges and the stalkes 3626Un-to the tubbes hanginge in the balkesbalkes, 3627And hem vitailled, bothe trogh and tubbe, 3628With breed and chese, and good ale in a Iubbe, 3629Suffysinge right y-nogh as for a day. 3630But er that he had maad al this array, 3631He sente his knave, and eek his wenche also, 3632Up-on his nede to London for to go. 3633And on the Monday, whan it drow to night, 3634He shette his dore with-oute candel-light, 3635And dressed al thing as it sholde be. 3636And shortly, up they clomben alle three; 3637They sitten stille wel a furlong-way. 3638‘Now, Pater-nosterpaternoster, clom!’ seyde Nicholay, 3639And ‘clom,’ quod John, and ‘clom,’ seyde Alisoun. 3640This carpenter seyde his devocioun, 3641And stille he sit, and biddeth his preyere, 105 3642Awaytinge on the reyn, if he it here. 3643The dede sleep, for wery bisinesse, 3644Fil on this carpenter right, as I gesse, 3645Aboute corfew-tyme, or litel more; 3646For travail of his goosttravail he groneth sore, 3647And eft he routethrouteth, for his heed mislay. 3648Doun of the laddre stalketh Nicholay, 3649And Alisoun, ful softe adoun she spedde; 3650With-outen wordes mo, they goon to bedde 3651Ther-as the carpenter is wont to lye. 3652Ther was the revel and the melodye; 3653And thus lyth Alison and Nicholas, 3654In bisinesse of mirthe and of solas, 3655Til that the belle of laudeslaudes gan to ringe, 3656And freres in the chauncel gonne singe. 3657This parish-clerk, this amorous Absolon, 3658That is for love alwey so wo bigon, 3659Up-on the Monday was at Oseneye 3660With companye, him to disporte and pleye, 3661And axed up-on cas a cloisterer 3662Ful prively after Iohn the carpenter; 3663And he drough him a-part out of the chirche, 3664And seyde, ‘I noot, I saugh him here nat wirche 3665Sin Saterday; I trow that he be went 3666For timber, ther our abbot hath him sent; 3667For he is wont for timber for to go, 3668And dwellen at the grange a day or two; 3669Or elles he is at his hous, certeyn; 3670Wher that he be, I can nat sothly seyn.’ 3671This Absolon ful Ioly was and light, 3672And thoghte, ‘now is tyme wake al night; 3673For sikirly I saugh him nat stiringe 3674Aboute his dore sin day bigan to springe. 3675So moot I thryve, I shal, at cokkes crowe, 3676Ful prively knokken at his windowe 3677That stant ful lowe up-on his boures wal. 106 3678To Alison now wol I tellen al 3679My love-longing, for yet I shal nat misse 3680That at the leste wey I shal hir kisse. 3681Som maner confort shal I have, parfay, 3682My mouth hath icched al this longe day; 3683That is a signe of kissing atte leste. 3684Al night me mette eek, I was at a feste. 3685Therfor I wol gon slepe an houre or tweye, 3686And al the night than wol I wake and pleye.’ 3687Whan that the firste cok hath crowe, anon 3688Up rist this Ioly lover Absolon, 3689And him arrayeth gay, at point-devyspointdevys. 3690But first he cheweth greyn and lycorys, 3691To smellen swete, er he had kembd his heer. 3692Under his tonge a trewe love he beer, 3693For ther-by wende he to ben gracious. 3694He rometh to the carpenteres hous, 3695And stille he stant under the shot-windowe; 3696Un-to his brest it raughte, it was so lowe; 3697And softe he cogheth with a semi-soun— 3698‘What do ye, hony-comb, swete Alisoun? 3699My faire brid, my swete cinamome, 3700Awaketh, lemman myn, and speketh to me! 3701Wel litel thenken ye up-on my wo, 3702That for your love I swete ther I go. 3703No wonder is thogh that I swelte and swete; 3704I moorne as doth a lamb after the tetetete. 3705Y-wis, lemman, I have swich love-longinge, 3706That lyk a turtel trewe is my moorninge; 3707I may nat ete na more than a mayde.’ 3708‘Go fro the window, Iakke fool,’ she sayde, 3709‘As help me god, it wol nat be “com ba me,” 3710I love another, and elles I were to blame, 3711Wel bet than thee, by Iesu, Absolon! 3712Go forth thy wey, or I wol caste a ston, 107 3713And lat me slepe, a twenty devel weydevel!’ 3714‘Allas,’ quod Absolon, ‘and weylawey! 3715That trewe love was ever so yvel biset! 3716Than kisse me, sin it may be no bet, 3717For Iesus love and for the love of me.' 3718‘Wiltow than go thy wey ther-with?’ quod she. 3719‘Ye, certes, lemman,’ quod this Absolon. 3720‘Thanne make thee redy,’ quod she, ‘I come anon;’ 3721And un-to Nicholas she seyde stille, 3722‘Now hust, and thou shall laughen al thy fille.’ 3723This Absolon doun sette him on his knees, 3724And seyde, ‘I am a lord at alle degrees; 3725For after this I hope ther cometh more! 3726Lemman, thy grace, and swete brid, thyn ore!’ 3727The window she undoth, and that in haste, 3728‘Have do,’ quod she, ‘com of, and speed thee faste, 3729Lest that our neighebores thee espye.’ 3730This Absolon gan wype his mouth ful drye; 3731Derk was the night as pich, or as the colederk, 3732And at the window out she putte hir holehole, 3733And Absolon, him fil no bet ne wers, 3734But with his mouth he kiste hir naked ersers 3735Ful savourly, er he was war of this. 3736Abak he sterte, and thoghte it was amis, 3737For wel he wiste a womman hath no berdberd; 3738He felte a thing al rough and long y-herd, 3739And seyde, ‘fy! allas! what have I do?’ 3740‘Tehee!’ quod she, and clapte the window to; 3741And Absolon goth forth a sory pas. 3742‘A berd, a berd!’ quod hende Nicholas, 3743‘By goddes corpuscorpus, this goth faire and weel!’ 3744This sely Absolon herde every deel, 3745And on his lippe he gan for anger byte; 3746And to him-self he seyde, ‘I shal thee quyte!’ 3747Who rubbeth now, who froteth now his lippes 108 3748With dust, with sond, with straw, with clooth, with chippes, 3749But Absolon, that seith ful ofte, ‘allas! 3750My soule bitake I un-to Sathanas, 3751But me wer lever than al this toun,’ quod he, 3752Of this despyt awroken for to bedespyt! 3753Allas!’ quod he, ‘allas! I ne hadde y-bleynt!’ 3754His hote love was cold and al y-queynt; 3755For fro that tyme that he had kiste hir ers, 3756Of paramours he sette nat a kerskers, 3757For he was heled of his maladye; 3758Ful ofte paramours he gan deffye, 3759And weep as dooth a child that is y-bete. 3760A softe paas he wente over the strete 3761Un-til a smith men cleped daun Gerveys, 3762That in his forge smithed plough-harneys; 3763He sharpeth shaar and culter bisilyshaar. 3764This Absolon knokketh al esily, 3765And seyde, ‘undo, Gerveys, and that anon.’ 3766‘What, who artow?’ ‘It am I, Absolon.’ 3767‘What, Absolon! for Cristes swete tree, 3768Why ryse ye so ratherathe, ey, benedicite!benedicite 3769What eyleth yow? som gay gerl, god it woot, 3770Hath broght yow thus up-on the viritootviritoot; 3771By sëynt Notenote, ye woot wel what I mene.’ 3772This Absolon ne roghte nat a bene 3773Of al his pley, no word agayn he yaf; 3774He hadde more tow on his distaf 3775Than Gerveys knew, and seyde, ‘freend so dere, 3776That hote culterculter in the chimenee here, 3777As lene it me, I have ther-with to done, 3778And I wol bringe it thee agayn ful sone.’ 3779Gerveys answerde, ‘certes, were it gold, 3780Or in a poke nobles alle untold, 3781Thou sholdest have, as I am trewe smith; 3782Ey, Cristes foo! what wol ye do ther-with?’ 109 3783‘Ther-of,’ quod Absolon, ‘be as be may; 3784I shal wel telle it thee to-morwe day’— 3785And caughte the culter by the colde stele. 3786Ful softe out at the dore he gan to stele, 3787And wente un-to the carpenteres wal. 3788He cogheth first, and knokketh ther-with-al 3789Upon the windowe, right as he dide er. 3790This Alison answerde, ‘Who is ther 3791That knokketh so? I warante it a theef.’ 3792‘Why, nay,’ quod he, ‘god woot, my swete leef, 3793I am thyn Absolon, my dereling! 3794Of gold,’ quod he, ‘I have thee broght a ring; 3795My moder yaf it me, so god me save, 3796Ful fyn it is, and ther-to wel y-grave; 3797This wol I yeve thee, if thou me kisse!’ 3798This Nicholas was risen for to pisse, 3799And thoghte he wolde amenden al the Iape, 3800He sholde kisse his ers er that he scape. 3801And up the windowe dide he hastily, 3802And out his ers he putteth privelyouthisers 3803Over the buttok, to the haunche-bon; 3804And ther-with spak this clerk, this Absolon, 3805‘Spek, swete brid, I noot nat wher thou art.’ 3806This Nicholas anon leet flee a fartfart, 3807As greet as it had been a thonder-dent, 3808That with the strook he was almost y-blent; 3809And he was redy with his iren hoot, 3810And Nicholas amidde the ers he smootsmoot. 3811Of gooth the skin an hande-brede abouteskin, 3812The hole culter brende so his toute, 3813And for the smert he wende for to dye. 3814As he were wood, for wo he gan to crye— 3815Help! water! water! help, for goddes herte!’ 3816This carpenter out of his slomber sterte, 3817And herde oon cryen ‘water’ as he were wood, 110 3818And thoghte, ‘Allas! now comth Nowelis floodnowelis!’ 3819He sit him up with-outen wordes mo, 3820And with his ax he smoot the corde a-two, 3821And doun goth al; he fond neither to selle, 3822Ne breed ne ale, til he cam to the celle 3823Up-on the floor; and ther aswowne he layaswowne. 3824Up sterte hir Alison, and Nicholay, 3825And cryden ‘out’ and ‘harrow’ in the strete. 3826The neighebores, bothe smale and grete, 3827In ronnen, for to gaurengauren on this man, 3828That yet aswowne he lay, bothe pale and wan; 3829For with the fal he brosten hadde his armbrosten; 3830But stonde he moste un-to his owne harm. 3831For whan he spak, he was anon bore doun 3832With hende Nicholas and Alisoun. 3833They tolden every man that he was wood, 3834He was agast so of ‘Nowelis flood’ 3835Thurgh fantasye, that of his vanitee 3836He hadde y-boght him kneding-tubbes three, 3837And hadde hem hanged in the roof above; 3838And that he preyed hem, for goddes love, 3839To sitten in the roof, par companyecompanye. 3840The folk gan laughen at his fantasye; 3841In-to the roof they kyken and they gapekyken, 3842And turned al his harm un-to a Iape. 3843For what so that this carpenter answerde, 3844It was for noght, no man his reson herdereson; 3845With othes grete he was so sworn adoun, 3846That he was holden wood in al the toun; 3847For every clerk anon-right heeld with other. 3848They seyde, ‘the man is wood, my leve brotherwood;’ 3849And every wight gan laughen of this stryf. 3850Thus swyved was the carpenteres wyfswyved, 111 3851For al his keping and his Ialousye; 3852And Absolon hath kist hir nether yënether; 3853And Nicholas is scalded in the toutetoute. 3854This tale is doon, and god save al the routeroute! Here endeth the Millere his tale.
intro The Miller's Tale is the second of the tales told among the company of pilgrims on their way to Canterbury. It immediately follows The Knight's Tale, a traditional chivalric romance set in Classical Greece. The Miller's Tale, by contrast, is a fabliau, a poetic genre recounting sexually explicit, satirical narratives. It is very much an inversion of the high style of the preceding tale, and sets the tone for the juxtaposition of style and genre that characterizes the whole of The Canterbury Tales. - [AJB] skeatWalter William Skeat (1835–1912) was one of the most prolific and learned philologists of his time. While he was most famous for his Etymological Dictionary of the English Language, his edition of The Canterbury Tales was an academic standard until the publication of Larry Benson's The Riverside Chaucer. - [AJB] gentils Members of the nobility. Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] unbokeled Literally, 'the bag is unbuckled.' Figuratively, 'the game has now properly begun.' - [AJB] quyte A semantically loaded word, simultaneously meaning 'pay for,' 'take revenge on,' or 'reward,' depending on the context. Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] unnethe Uneasily. That is to say, the Miller is so drunk that he is having trouble sitting on his horse. Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] pilate Pontius Pilate, the Roman official who condemned Christ to be crucified. In medieval mystery plays, actors playing Pontius Pilate would speak in a booming, commanding voice. - [AJB] curse The 'armes' here are the arma Christi, or the weapons with which Christ was wounded during the Passion. To swear by the arms, as well as Christ's blood and bones, was seen as a particularly vulgar curse in the Middle Ages. - [AJB] nones 'For this occasion.' Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] soun 'I know it by my sound.' That is to say, the Miller can tell that he is drunk by the quality of his speech. Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] cappe 'Set the carpenter's cap,' i.e., performed a trick on him. Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] apeiren To harm a person's reputation. Here the Reve is arguing that it is sinful to tell debaucherous stories of people doing evil things. Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] swich_fame 'To bring wives into such [ill] fame.' The Miller's transgression is especially egregious because he is bringing into question the reputation of wives and, by proxy, the institution of marriage. - [AJB] leve Dear. Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] who_hath 'He who has no wife cannot be made into a cuckold.' That is to say, your wife can never cheat on you if you never get married in the first place. - [AJB] noon The Miller chooses to believe he is not a cuckold, not because he implicitly trusts his wife, but because doing so would bring him more trouble than he thinks it is worth. - [AJB] privetee 'A husband must not be inquisitive / About God's secrets or those of his wife.' That is to say, it is wise for a husband never to pry after his wife's secrets, lest he discover something he would rather not know. - [AJB] foyson God's plenty. That is to say, if a husband is emotionally and sexually satisfied in his marriage, he does not need to inquire any deeper into his wife's activities. - [AJB] apology Here Chaucer apologizes to the reader for the bawdy content of the upcoming tale, and, in an especially metatextual moment, reminds the reader that, if they are squeamish, they can simply turn the page to another, more respectable tale. - [AJB] leef The piece of parchment on which the text is written. - [AJB] storial Historically true; truthful; drawn from Scripture. This portion of Chaucer's apology is tongue-in-cheek, since none but two of the tales (the Monk's and the Parson's) can be described in this way. - [AJB] gentillesse Nobility; kindness; gentleness. Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] oxenford The city of Oxford, home to the University of Oxford. - [AJB] gnof An ill-mannered churl. Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] gestes 'That boarded guests.' That is to say, he rents a room in his house. - [AJB] scoler Scholar. Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] art One of the seven fields of university study: grammar, rhetoric, logic (the trivium), and arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music (the quadrivium). - [AJB] fantasye Inclination or desire. Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] astrologye While not in the trivium or quadrivium, astrology was seen as a legitimate field of inquiry in the Middle Ages—though not, it should be noted, for the purposes of prophecy or fortune-telling. - [AJB] certeyn 'Ascertain conclusions.' That is to say, Nicholas is claiming he can use astrology to see into the future. - [AJB] droghte 'Drought or [rain] showers.' Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] cleped Called; named. Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] derne Secret. Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] coude Know about; understand. Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] solas Joy; pleasure. Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] sleigh 'Sly and very secretive.' Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] ydight 'Very artfully decorated with sweet herbs.' Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] rote Root. Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] licorys 'Licorice or zedoary,' two sweet-smelling herbs. - [AJB] almageste The Almagest is a classical textbook of astronomy written by Ptolemy, and was one of the standard astronomical treatises of the Middle Ages. - [AJB] astrelabie An astrolabe is a versatile tool for determining the position and movements of celestial bodies. Chaucer himself wrote a treatise on its use. - [AJB] augrim 'Algorithm-stones,' or stones marked with numbers and tables to assist with calculation. - [AJB] falding 'A red cloak.' Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] sautrye A Psalter, or a manuscript containing the Book of Psalms. Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] angelus The angelus is a Christian prayer to the Virgin Mary that makes special reference to the archangel Gabriel's visitiation to Mary at the Annunciation. - [AJB] kinges There are two interpretations of the phrase 'Kinges Noot.' It either refers generally to a song about kings (e.g., a romance), or to a particular song called the 'King's Note.' - [AJB] after 'Living on his friends' support and his income.' Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] ialous Jealous. Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] narwe 'In a narrow cage.' Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] catoun Cato the Elder was a Roman statesman and historian. - [AJB] estaat 'Estaat' typically refers to one's social class. Here, however, it refers to one's age. That is, the Miller is citing Cato's proverb that individuals of similar ages should marry. - [AJB] wesele Weasel. Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] ceynt A belt. Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] barmclooth An apron. Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] lendes Loins. Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] gore A skirt. Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] brouded 'Embroidered all in the front.' Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] tapes 'The ribbons of her white cap.' Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] filet Headband. Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] likerous A lascivious eye. Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] smale 'Her two brows were plucked very thin.' Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] sloo 'Black as any sloe.' A sloe is the fruit of the blackthorn bush. Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] pere An early-ripening pear tree. Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] wether 'And softer than the wool is of a sheep.' Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] latoun 'Latoun' is latten, an alloy of copper, tin, and other minerals. On Alisoun's purse, the latten is fashioned in the shape of pearls. Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] popelote 'So lovely a darling, or such a wench.' Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] hewe Hue; complexion. Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] noble 'Than the new-forged noble in the tower.' Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] yerne Lively. Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] swalwe 'As any swallow sitting on a barn.' Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] bragot 'Bragget or mead.' Bragget is a beverage made of ale and honey. Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] winsinge Skittish. Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] bocler 'As broad as is the ornament on a buckler.' A buckler is a small shield. Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] prymerole 'She was a primrose, a pig's eye.' The pig's eye, known today as a pigsney or a cuckoo flower, is a delicate white flower. - [AJB] hende Clever. Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] rage 'Flirt and play.' Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] oseneye Osney is a community just to the West of Oxford. - [AJB] queynte Clever. Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] caughte 'And in secret he seized her by the genitals.' 'Queynte' is cognate with the modern English expletive for a vagina. Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] spille 'I die.' That is to say, if he doesn't have her love, he will die. - [AJB] trave 'In the enclosure.' Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] profred 'Proffered [himself] to her so earnestly.' Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] thomas St. Thomas of Canterbury, also known as St. Thomas à Becket, was a twelfth-century English bishop who was murdered on the order of King Henry II. - [AJB] leyser 'When she can best espie her opportunity.' Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] deed 'I right well know I am dead.' That is to say, Alisoun believes John will kill her if he finds out about her adultery. - [AJB] litherly 'A clerk has badly used his time / If he could not beguile a carpenter.' Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] thakked 'Patted her about the loins.' That is to say, after he touched her intimately. - [AJB] crul 'Curly was his hair, and it shone like gold.' Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] strouted 'It [his hair] stretched out like a large, wide fan.' Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] shode 'The handsome parting of his hair.' Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] rode 'His face was red, his eyes gray as a goose.' Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] powles St. Paul's Cathedral in London was famous for its rose-windows, for which was named a form of leather working in the production of shoes. - [AJB] kirtel 'All in a blue tunic.' Blue was a very expensive dye in this period. That Absolon wears it simultaneously marks his wealth and his preoccupation with material goods. - [AJB] poyntes Stitches. Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] surplys A surplice, i.e., a liturgical garment. Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] laten 'Well could he let blood and give haircuts and shave.' In addition to his other responsiblities, Absolon also serves as a local doctor and barber. - [AJB] chartre 'Make a charter of land or acquittance.' That is to say, as a parish clerk, Absolon serves as a local scribe, especially for legal writs. - [AJB] rubible A kind of fiddle or lute. Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] quinible Falsetto. Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] giterne Guitar. Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] gaylard 'Gaily-dressed barmaid.' Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] squaymous Squeamish. Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] daungerous Difficult; critical. Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] sencer A censer, i.e. a tool used in the Mass for burning incense. It could be carried and swung, and incense would thus be cast on parishioners during Mass. Here Chaucer is charging this act with a sexual undertone. - [AJB] hente 'He would have grabbed her right away.' Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] windowe 'Casement-window,' i.e. a window attached to its frame by hinges. Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] rewe 'Have pity on me.' Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] giterninge Guitar-playing. Literally, 'guitar-ing.' Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] boure 'The wall of our bedroom.' Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] bet 'What more would you have?' Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] brocage 'Intermediaries and go-betweens.' Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] mede 'And because she was from the town, he offered her money.' That is to say, Absolon tries to pay Alisoun to have sex with him. - [AJB] herod That is to say, Absolon unsuccessfully tries to impress Alisoun by playing the role of Herod in the local Church play. - [AJB] ape Fool. Source: Middle English Dictionary - [AJB] jape Joke. Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] proverb Literally, 'The nearby sly one always makes the distant beloved hated.' That is to say, when one's beloved is away, one is easily wooed by someone crafty and nearby. - [AJB] wyle 'Devise a trick.' Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] tikel Literally, 'this world is now very ticklish.' That is to say, there are many strange things happening. Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] kyked 'As if he had gazed upon the new moon.' - [AJB] frideswyde St. Frideswide was an eight-century English princess and abbess who founded a priory in the city of Oxford. She is frequently invoked as the patroness of the city and University of Oxford. - [AJB] woodnesse Madness. Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] lewed Uneducated; ignorant. Souce: Middle English Dictionary - [AJB] marle A fertilzer pit. Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] rated 'Scolded.' That is to say, John intends to warn Nicholas that studying astrology has brought him into contact with demons. - [AJB] underspore That is, pry the door open from below. Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] carl 'A man, usually of low estate.' Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] spitously 'Piteously; pitifully.' Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] elves 'I bless you against elves and evil creatures.' - [AJB] nightspel 'Night-charm.' Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] sister Scholars are uncertain about the reference Chaucer is making here. There are no references in surviving late antique or medieval sources to Saint Peter having a sister. - [AJB] swinke 'Work'. Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] trouthe An individual's 'trouthe' (cognate to the modern term 'truth') refers to one innate sense of dignity and honesty. It was, and occasionally still is, used in wedding vows (e.g., 'I plight thee my troth.') - [AJB] labbe 'Blabbermouth'. Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] noe In his scheme to have sex with Alisoun, Nicholas is trying to convince John that God has revealed to him that the world will soon be flooded and the human race destroyed, as it was in Genesis 6–9. Nicholas' ploy here is especially ironic given that the Genesis narrative ends with God promising never to flood the earth again. - [AJB] lore 'Learning and counsel.' Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] salomon King Solomon, the son of King David and the third king of Israel. Solomon is the purported author of the Book of Proverbs in the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Old Testament, known principally known for his wisdom. - [AJB] noahwife According to a popular apocryphal medieval legend, Noah's wife was hesitant to board the ark, preferring instead to gossip with the other wives in her village. - [AJB] kimelin A kneading trough was a large hollow table used to knead large quantities of dough en masse. A 'kimelin' refers to a vat used for brewing beer. These are meant to be humorous reversals of Noah's Ark. - [AJB] vitaille 'Food'; cognate to the modern term 'victuals.' Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] corde Absolon has instructed John to tie bathtubs onto his roof, to store food and drink in them, and to cut the rope holding them when the 'flood' begins. - [AJB] atwinne Far apart. Absolon wants to make sure that John doesn't hear him and Alisoun leave their tubs to have sex. - [AJB] balkes The beams of the roof. Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] benedict Saint Benedict of Nursia (ca. 480–547) is an early Christian saint who founded the monastic order known as the Benedictines. He is widely venerated as one of the fathers of Western monasticism. - [AJB] paternoster The Pater Noster is the Our Father, one of the most fundamental Christian prayers. - [AJB] travail 'For suffering of his spirit.' Chaucer is engaging in a bit of wordplay here, as 'travail' can also refer to the physical labor involved with preparing for the 'flood.' - [AJB] routeth 'To snore.' Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] laudes 'Lauds' is the second canonical hour in church time, occuring around 6:00 AM. The bells of the local parish church would ring at this hour to signal the beginning of the day. - [AJB] pointdevys 'In every detail.' Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] tete 'I mourn as a lamb does for the teat.' 'Tete' here is a double entendre, inflected by Absolon's sexual interest in Alisoun. Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] devel 'In the name of twenty devils!' A curse. Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] derk 'The night was dark as pitch or coal.' Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] hole 'Anus.' Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] ers 'Ass.' Source: Middle English Dictionary.' - [AJB] berd 'For well he knew that no woman had a beard.' This is to say, Absolon can tell something is amiss because he can feel Alisoun's pubic hair. - [AJB] corpus Latin, meaning 'body.' Nicholas is swearing upon God's body, i.e., the Eucharist. - [AJB] despyt 'I entrust my soul to Saton if I would not rather see all this town avenged after this insult.' Absolon's phrasing here is extremely convoluted, reflecting his furious and irrational state. - [AJB] kers 'He did not consider sexual encounters to be worth a watercress.' Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] shaar 'He sharpens ploughshares and plough-blades busily.' Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] rathe 'Early.' Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] benedicite Latin, meaning 'bless me!' - [AJB] viritoot This is the only recorded instance of the word 'viritoot' in the English language. There is no consensus among scholars about what the word means, though most translate it as some form of 'upon the move.' - [AJB] note St. Neot (d. 877) was an English monk at Glastonbury Abbey. He is a patron of fish and fisherman. - [AJB] culter 'Hot plough-blade.' Absolon intends to attack Alisoun with a red-hot piece of metal. - [AJB] outhisers 'He secretly put out his ass.' Nicholas is hoping to trick Absolon in the same manner as Alisoun. Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] fart This scene is an even bawdier repetition of Absolon's kiss with Alisoun; here Alisoun's calling out to Absolon is replaced with Nicholas farting. - [AJB] smoot 'And he smote Nicholas in the middle of his ass.' Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] skin 'Off goes the skin, about the breadth of a hand.' Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] nowelis The flood narrative of the Book of Genesis, chapters 6–9. God floods the earth, sparing only the lives of Noah, his wife, his sons, and his sons' wives, who together repopulate the earth. - [AJB] aswowne 'And there in a swoon he lay.' Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] gauren 'To gawk.' Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] brosten 'He had broken his arm.' Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] companye French, 'to keep him company.' Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] kyken 'Stare' and 'gape.' Source: Middle English Dictionary - [AJB] reson 'Reson' here can refer either to John's literal reason for having fallen from the roof, or to his sanity. Source: Middle English Dictionary - [AJB] wood 'The man is mad, my dear brother.' Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] swyved 'Swyved,' here is an expletive referring to sexual intercourse. Chaucer writes the Miller with an explicit lexicon to reinforce the bawdiness of his tale. Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] nether Literally, 'lower eye,' i.e., his anus. Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] toute Literally, 'burned on the rear.' Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB] route Company of people, i.e., the pilgrims. Source: Middle English Dictionary. - [AJB]

Footnotes

intro_ The Miller's Tale is the second of the tales told among the company of pilgrims on their way to Canterbury. It immediately follows The Knight's Tale, a traditional chivalric romance set in Classical Greece. The Miller's Tale, by contrast, is a fabliau, a poetic genre recounting sexually explicit, satirical narratives. It is very much an inversion of the high style of the preceding tale, and sets the tone for the juxtaposition of style and genre that characterizes the whole of The Canterbury Tales.
skeat_Walter William Skeat (1835–1912) was one of the most prolific and learned philologists of his time. While he was most famous for his Etymological Dictionary of the English Language, his edition of The Canterbury Tales was an academic standard until the publication of Larry Benson's The Riverside Chaucer.
gentils_ Members of the nobility. Source: Middle English Dictionary.
unbokeled_ Literally, 'the bag is unbuckled.' Figuratively, 'the game has now properly begun.'
quyte_ A semantically loaded word, simultaneously meaning 'pay for,' 'take revenge on,' or 'reward,' depending on the context. Source: Middle English Dictionary.
unnethe_ Uneasily. That is to say, the Miller is so drunk that he is having trouble sitting on his horse. Source: Middle English Dictionary.
pilate_ Pontius Pilate, the Roman official who condemned Christ to be crucified. In medieval mystery plays, actors playing Pontius Pilate would speak in a booming, commanding voice.
curse_ The 'armes' here are the arma Christi, or the weapons with which Christ was wounded during the Passion. To swear by the arms, as well as Christ's blood and bones, was seen as a particularly vulgar curse in the Middle Ages.
nones_ 'For this occasion.' Source: Middle English Dictionary.
soun_ 'I know it by my sound.' That is to say, the Miller can tell that he is drunk by the quality of his speech. Source: Middle English Dictionary.
cappe_ 'Set the carpenter's cap,' i.e., performed a trick on him. Source: Middle English Dictionary.
apeiren_ To harm a person's reputation. Here the Reve is arguing that it is sinful to tell debaucherous stories of people doing evil things. Source: Middle English Dictionary.
swich_fame_ 'To bring wives into such [ill] fame.' The Miller's transgression is especially egregious because he is bringing into question the reputation of wives and, by proxy, the institution of marriage.
leve_ Dear. Source: Middle English Dictionary.
who_hath_ 'He who has no wife cannot be made into a cuckold.' That is to say, your wife can never cheat on you if you never get married in the first place.
noon_ The Miller chooses to believe he is not a cuckold, not because he implicitly trusts his wife, but because doing so would bring him more trouble than he thinks it is worth.
privetee_ 'A husband must not be inquisitive / About God's secrets or those of his wife.' That is to say, it is wise for a husband never to pry after his wife's secrets, lest he discover something he would rather not know.
foyson_ God's plenty. That is to say, if a husband is emotionally and sexually satisfied in his marriage, he does not need to inquire any deeper into his wife's activities.
apology_ Here Chaucer apologizes to the reader for the bawdy content of the upcoming tale, and, in an especially metatextual moment, reminds the reader that, if they are squeamish, they can simply turn the page to another, more respectable tale.
leef_ The piece of parchment on which the text is written.
storial_ Historically true; truthful; drawn from Scripture. This portion of Chaucer's apology is tongue-in-cheek, since none but two of the tales (the Monk's and the Parson's) can be described in this way.
gentillesse_ Nobility; kindness; gentleness. Source: Middle English Dictionary.
oxenford_ The city of Oxford, home to the University of Oxford.
gnof_ An ill-mannered churl. Source: Middle English Dictionary.
gestes_ 'That boarded guests.' That is to say, he rents a room in his house.
scoler_ Scholar. Source: Middle English Dictionary.
art_ One of the seven fields of university study: grammar, rhetoric, logic (the trivium), and arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music (the quadrivium).
fantasye_ Inclination or desire. Source: Middle English Dictionary.
astrologye_ While not in the trivium or quadrivium, astrology was seen as a legitimate field of inquiry in the Middle Ages—though not, it should be noted, for the purposes of prophecy or fortune-telling.
certeyn_ 'Ascertain conclusions.' That is to say, Nicholas is claiming he can use astrology to see into the future.
droghte_ 'Drought or [rain] showers.' Source: Middle English Dictionary.
cleped_ Called; named. Source: Middle English Dictionary.
derne_ Secret. Source: Middle English Dictionary.
coude_ Know about; understand. Source: Middle English Dictionary.
solas_ Joy; pleasure. Source: Middle English Dictionary.
sleigh_ 'Sly and very secretive.' Source: Middle English Dictionary.
ydight_ 'Very artfully decorated with sweet herbs.' Source: Middle English Dictionary.
rote_ Root. Source: Middle English Dictionary.
licorys_ 'Licorice or zedoary,' two sweet-smelling herbs.
almageste_ The Almagest is a classical textbook of astronomy written by Ptolemy, and was one of the standard astronomical treatises of the Middle Ages.
astrelabie_ An astrolabe is a versatile tool for determining the position and movements of celestial bodies. Chaucer himself wrote a treatise on its use.
augrim_ 'Algorithm-stones,' or stones marked with numbers and tables to assist with calculation.
falding_ 'A red cloak.' Source: Middle English Dictionary.
sautrye_ A Psalter, or a manuscript containing the Book of Psalms. Source: Middle English Dictionary.
angelus_ The angelus is a Christian prayer to the Virgin Mary that makes special reference to the archangel Gabriel's visitiation to Mary at the Annunciation.
kinges_ There are two interpretations of the phrase 'Kinges Noot.' It either refers generally to a song about kings (e.g., a romance), or to a particular song called the 'King's Note.'
after_ 'Living on his friends' support and his income.' Source: Middle English Dictionary.
ialous_ Jealous. Source: Middle English Dictionary.
narwe_ 'In a narrow cage.' Source: Middle English Dictionary.
catoun_ Cato the Elder was a Roman statesman and historian.
estaat_ 'Estaat' typically refers to one's social class. Here, however, it refers to one's age. That is, the Miller is citing Cato's proverb that individuals of similar ages should marry.
wesele_ Weasel. Source: Middle English Dictionary.
ceynt_ A belt. Source: Middle English Dictionary.
barmclooth_ An apron. Source: Middle English Dictionary.
lendes_ Loins. Source: Middle English Dictionary.
gore_ A skirt. Source: Middle English Dictionary.
brouded_ 'Embroidered all in the front.' Source: Middle English Dictionary.
tapes_ 'The ribbons of her white cap.' Source: Middle English Dictionary.
filet_ Headband. Source: Middle English Dictionary.
likerous_ A lascivious eye. Source: Middle English Dictionary.
smale_ 'Her two brows were plucked very thin.' Source: Middle English Dictionary.
sloo_ 'Black as any sloe.' A sloe is the fruit of the blackthorn bush. Source: Middle English Dictionary.
pere_ An early-ripening pear tree. Source: Middle English Dictionary.
wether_ 'And softer than the wool is of a sheep.' Source: Middle English Dictionary.
latoun_ 'Latoun' is latten, an alloy of copper, tin, and other minerals. On Alisoun's purse, the latten is fashioned in the shape of pearls. Source: Middle English Dictionary.
popelote_ 'So lovely a darling, or such a wench.' Source: Middle English Dictionary.
hewe_ Hue; complexion. Source: Middle English Dictionary.
noble_ 'Than the new-forged noble in the tower.' Source: Middle English Dictionary.
yerne_ Lively. Source: Middle English Dictionary.
swalwe_ 'As any swallow sitting on a barn.' Source: Middle English Dictionary.
bragot_ 'Bragget or mead.' Bragget is a beverage made of ale and honey. Source: Middle English Dictionary.
winsinge_ Skittish. Source: Middle English Dictionary.
bocler_ 'As broad as is the ornament on a buckler.' A buckler is a small shield. Source: Middle English Dictionary.
prymerole_ 'She was a primrose, a pig's eye.' The pig's eye, known today as a pigsney or a cuckoo flower, is a delicate white flower.
hende_ Clever. Source: Middle English Dictionary.
rage_ 'Flirt and play.' Source: Middle English Dictionary.
oseneye_ Osney is a community just to the West of Oxford.
queynte_ Clever. Source: Middle English Dictionary.
caughte_ 'And in secret he seized her by the genitals.' 'Queynte' is cognate with the modern English expletive for a vagina. Source: Middle English Dictionary.
spille_ 'I die.' That is to say, if he doesn't have her love, he will die.
trave_ 'In the enclosure.' Source: Middle English Dictionary.
profred_ 'Proffered [himself] to her so earnestly.' Source: Middle English Dictionary.
thomas_ St. Thomas of Canterbury, also known as St. Thomas à Becket, was a twelfth-century English bishop who was murdered on the order of King Henry II.
leyser_ 'When she can best espie her opportunity.' Source: Middle English Dictionary.
deed_ 'I right well know I am dead.' That is to say, Alisoun believes John will kill her if he finds out about her adultery.
litherly_ 'A clerk has badly used his time / If he could not beguile a carpenter.' Source: Middle English Dictionary.
thakked_ 'Patted her about the loins.' That is to say, after he touched her intimately.
crul_ 'Curly was his hair, and it shone like gold.' Source: Middle English Dictionary.
strouted_ 'It [his hair] stretched out like a large, wide fan.' Source: Middle English Dictionary.
shode_ 'The handsome parting of his hair.' Source: Middle English Dictionary.
rode_ 'His face was red, his eyes gray as a goose.' Source: Middle English Dictionary.
powles_ St. Paul's Cathedral in London was famous for its rose-windows, for which was named a form of leather working in the production of shoes.
kirtel_ 'All in a blue tunic.' Blue was a very expensive dye in this period. That Absolon wears it simultaneously marks his wealth and his preoccupation with material goods.
poyntes_ Stitches. Source: Middle English Dictionary.
surplys_ A surplice, i.e., a liturgical garment. Source: Middle English Dictionary.
laten_ 'Well could he let blood and give haircuts and shave.' In addition to his other responsiblities, Absolon also serves as a local doctor and barber.
chartre_ 'Make a charter of land or acquittance.' That is to say, as a parish clerk, Absolon serves as a local scribe, especially for legal writs.
rubible_ A kind of fiddle or lute. Source: Middle English Dictionary.
quinible_ Falsetto. Source: Middle English Dictionary.
giterne_ Guitar. Source: Middle English Dictionary.
gaylard_ 'Gaily-dressed barmaid.' Source: Middle English Dictionary.
squaymous_ Squeamish. Source: Middle English Dictionary.
daungerous_ Difficult; critical. Source: Middle English Dictionary.
sencer_ A censer, i.e. a tool used in the Mass for burning incense. It could be carried and swung, and incense would thus be cast on parishioners during Mass. Here Chaucer is charging this act with a sexual undertone.
hente_ 'He would have grabbed her right away.' Source: Middle English Dictionary.
windowe_ 'Casement-window,' i.e. a window attached to its frame by hinges. Source: Middle English Dictionary.
rewe_ 'Have pity on me.' Source: Middle English Dictionary.
giterninge_ Guitar-playing. Literally, 'guitar-ing.' Source: Middle English Dictionary.
boure_ 'The wall of our bedroom.' Source: Middle English Dictionary.
bet_ 'What more would you have?' Source: Middle English Dictionary.
brocage_ 'Intermediaries and go-betweens.' Source: Middle English Dictionary.
mede_ 'And because she was from the town, he offered her money.' That is to say, Absolon tries to pay Alisoun to have sex with him.
herod_ That is to say, Absolon unsuccessfully tries to impress Alisoun by playing the role of Herod in the local Church play.
ape_ Fool. Source: Middle English Dictionary
jape_ Joke. Source: Middle English Dictionary.
proverb_ Literally, 'The nearby sly one always makes the distant beloved hated.' That is to say, when one's beloved is away, one is easily wooed by someone crafty and nearby.
wyle_ 'Devise a trick.' Source: Middle English Dictionary.
tikel_ Literally, 'this world is now very ticklish.' That is to say, there are many strange things happening. Source: Middle English Dictionary.
kyked_ 'As if he had gazed upon the new moon.'
frideswyde_ St. Frideswide was an eight-century English princess and abbess who founded a priory in the city of Oxford. She is frequently invoked as the patroness of the city and University of Oxford.
woodnesse_ Madness. Source: Middle English Dictionary.
lewed_ Uneducated; ignorant. Souce: Middle English Dictionary
marle_ A fertilzer pit. Source: Middle English Dictionary.
rated_ 'Scolded.' That is to say, John intends to warn Nicholas that studying astrology has brought him into contact with demons.
underspore_ That is, pry the door open from below. Source: Middle English Dictionary.
carl_ 'A man, usually of low estate.' Source: Middle English Dictionary.
spitously_ 'Piteously; pitifully.' Source: Middle English Dictionary.
elves_ 'I bless you against elves and evil creatures.'
nightspel_ 'Night-charm.' Source: Middle English Dictionary.
sister_ Scholars are uncertain about the reference Chaucer is making here. There are no references in surviving late antique or medieval sources to Saint Peter having a sister.
swinke_ 'Work'. Source: Middle English Dictionary.
trouthe_ An individual's 'trouthe' (cognate to the modern term 'truth') refers to one innate sense of dignity and honesty. It was, and occasionally still is, used in wedding vows (e.g., 'I plight thee my troth.')
labbe_ 'Blabbermouth'. Source: Middle English Dictionary.
noe_ In his scheme to have sex with Alisoun, Nicholas is trying to convince John that God has revealed to him that the world will soon be flooded and the human race destroyed, as it was in Genesis 6–9. Nicholas' ploy here is especially ironic given that the Genesis narrative ends with God promising never to flood the earth again.
lore_ 'Learning and counsel.' Source: Middle English Dictionary.
salomon_ King Solomon, the son of King David and the third king of Israel. Solomon is the purported author of the Book of Proverbs in the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Old Testament, known principally known for his wisdom.
noahwife_ According to a popular apocryphal medieval legend, Noah's wife was hesitant to board the ark, preferring instead to gossip with the other wives in her village.
kimelin_ A kneading trough was a large hollow table used to knead large quantities of dough en masse. A 'kimelin' refers to a vat used for brewing beer. These are meant to be humorous reversals of Noah's Ark.
vitaille_ 'Food'; cognate to the modern term 'victuals.' Source: Middle English Dictionary.
corde_ Absolon has instructed John to tie bathtubs onto his roof, to store food and drink in them, and to cut the rope holding them when the 'flood' begins.
atwinne_ Far apart. Absolon wants to make sure that John doesn't hear him and Alisoun leave their tubs to have sex.
balkes_ The beams of the roof. Source: Middle English Dictionary.
benedict_ Saint Benedict of Nursia (ca. 480–547) is an early Christian saint who founded the monastic order known as the Benedictines. He is widely venerated as one of the fathers of Western monasticism.
paternoster_ The Pater Noster is the Our Father, one of the most fundamental Christian prayers.
travail_ 'For suffering of his spirit.' Chaucer is engaging in a bit of wordplay here, as 'travail' can also refer to the physical labor involved with preparing for the 'flood.'
routeth_ 'To snore.' Source: Middle English Dictionary.
laudes_ 'Lauds' is the second canonical hour in church time, occuring around 6:00 AM. The bells of the local parish church would ring at this hour to signal the beginning of the day.
pointdevys_ 'In every detail.' Source: Middle English Dictionary.
tete_ 'I mourn as a lamb does for the teat.' 'Tete' here is a double entendre, inflected by Absolon's sexual interest in Alisoun. Source: Middle English Dictionary.
devel_ 'In the name of twenty devils!' A curse. Source: Middle English Dictionary.
derk_ 'The night was dark as pitch or coal.' Source: Middle English Dictionary.
hole_ 'Anus.' Source: Middle English Dictionary.
ers_ 'Ass.' Source: Middle English Dictionary.'
berd_ 'For well he knew that no woman had a beard.' This is to say, Absolon can tell something is amiss because he can feel Alisoun's pubic hair.
corpus_ Latin, meaning 'body.' Nicholas is swearing upon God's body, i.e., the Eucharist.
despyt_ 'I entrust my soul to Saton if I would not rather see all this town avenged after this insult.' Absolon's phrasing here is extremely convoluted, reflecting his furious and irrational state.
kers_ 'He did not consider sexual encounters to be worth a watercress.' Source: Middle English Dictionary.
shaar_ 'He sharpens ploughshares and plough-blades busily.' Source: Middle English Dictionary.
rathe_ 'Early.' Source: Middle English Dictionary.
benedicite_ Latin, meaning 'bless me!'
viritoot_ This is the only recorded instance of the word 'viritoot' in the English language. There is no consensus among scholars about what the word means, though most translate it as some form of 'upon the move.'
note_ St. Neot (d. 877) was an English monk at Glastonbury Abbey. He is a patron of fish and fisherman.
culter_ 'Hot plough-blade.' Absolon intends to attack Alisoun with a red-hot piece of metal.
outhisers_ 'He secretly put out his ass.' Nicholas is hoping to trick Absolon in the same manner as Alisoun. Source: Middle English Dictionary.
fart_ This scene is an even bawdier repetition of Absolon's kiss with Alisoun; here Alisoun's calling out to Absolon is replaced with Nicholas farting.
smoot_ 'And he smote Nicholas in the middle of his ass.' Source: Middle English Dictionary.
skin_ 'Off goes the skin, about the breadth of a hand.' Source: Middle English Dictionary.
nowelis_ The flood narrative of the Book of Genesis, chapters 6–9. God floods the earth, sparing only the lives of Noah, his wife, his sons, and his sons' wives, who together repopulate the earth.
aswowne_ 'And there in a swoon he lay.' Source: Middle English Dictionary.
gauren_ 'To gawk.' Source: Middle English Dictionary.
brosten_ 'He had broken his arm.' Source: Middle English Dictionary.
companye_ French, 'to keep him company.' Source: Middle English Dictionary.
kyken_ 'Stare' and 'gape.' Source: Middle English Dictionary
reson_ 'Reson' here can refer either to John's literal reason for having fallen from the roof, or to his sanity. Source: Middle English Dictionary
wood_ 'The man is mad, my dear brother.' Source: Middle English Dictionary.
swyved_ 'Swyved,' here is an expletive referring to sexual intercourse. Chaucer writes the Miller with an explicit lexicon to reinforce the bawdiness of his tale. Source: Middle English Dictionary.
nether_ Literally, 'lower eye,' i.e., his anus. Source: Middle English Dictionary.
toute_ Literally, 'burned on the rear.' Source: Middle English Dictionary.
route_ Company of people, i.e., the pilgrims. Source: Middle English Dictionary.