Front Page Titles (by Subject) THE REEVE'S PROLOGUE. - The Complete Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, vol. 4 (The Canterbury Tales)
THE REEVE’S PROLOGUE. - Geoffrey Chaucer, The Complete Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, vol. 4 (The Canterbury Tales) 
The Complete Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, edited from numerous manuscripts by the Rev. Walter W. Skeat (2nd ed.) (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1899). 7 vols. Vol. 4.
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THE REEVE’S PROLOGUE.
The prologe of the Reves tale.
- WHAN folk had laughen at this nyce cas3855
- Of Absolon and hende Nicholas,
- Diverse folk diversely they seyde;
- But, for the more part, they loughe and pleyde,
- Ne at this tale I saugh no man him greve,
- But it were only Osewold the Reve,3860
- By-cause he was of carpenteres craft.
- A litel ire is in his herte y-laft,
- He gan to grucche and blamed it a lyte.
- ‘So theek,’ quod he, ‘ful wel coude I yow quyte(10)
- With blering of a proud milleres yë,3865
- If that me liste speke of ribaudye.
- But ik am old, me list not pley for age;
- Gras-tyme is doon, my fodder is now forage,
- This whyte top wryteth myne olde yeres,
- Myn herte is al-so mowled as myne heres,3870
- But-if I fare as dooth an open-ers;
- That ilke fruit is ever leng the wers,
- Til it be roten in mullok or in stree.
- We olde men, I drede, so fare we;(20)
- Til we be roten, can we nat be rype;3875
- We hoppen ay, whyl that the world wol pype.
- For in oure wil ther stiketh ever a nayl,
- To have an hoor heed and a grene tayl,
- As hath a leek; for thogh our might be goon,
- Our wil desireth folie ever in oon.3880
- For whan we may nat doon, than wol we speke;
- Yet in our asshen olde is fyr y-reke.
- Foure gledes han we, whiche I shal devyse,
- Avaunting, lying, anger, coveityse;(30)
- Thise foure sparkles longen un-to elde.3885
- Our olde lemes mowe wel been unwelde,
- But wil ne shal nat faillen, that is sooth.
- And yet ik have alwey a coltes tooth,
- As many a yeer as it is passed henne
- Sin that my tappe of lyf bigan to renne.3890
- For sikerly, whan I was bore, anon
- Deeth drogh the tappe of lyf and leet it gon;
- And ever sith hath so the tappe y-ronne,
- Til that almost al empty is the tonne.(40)
- The streem of lyf now droppeth on the chimbe;3895
- The sely tonge may wel ringe and chimbe
- Of wrecchednesse that passed is ful yore;
- With olde folk, save dotage, is namore.’
- Whan that our host hadde herd this sermoning,
- He gan to speke as lordly as a king;3900
- He seide, ‘what amounteth al this wit?
- What shul we speke alday of holy writ?
- The devel made a reve for to preche,
- And of a souter a shipman or a leche.(50)
- Sey forth thy tale, and tarie nat the tyme,3905
- Lo, Depeford! and it is half-way pryme.
- Lo, Grenewich, ther many a shrewe is inne;
- It were al tyme thy tale to biginne.’
- ‘Now, sires,’ quod this Osewold the Reve,
- ‘I pray yow alle that ye nat yow greve,3910
- Thogh I answere and somdel sette his howve;
- For leveful is with force force of-showve.
- This dronke millere hath y-told us heer,
- How that bigyled was a carpenteer,(60)
- Peraventure in scorn, for I am oon.3915
- And, by your leve, I shal him quyte anoon;
- Right in his cherles termes wol I speke.
- I pray to god his nekke mote breke;
- He can wel in myn yë seen a stalke,
- But in his owne he can nat seen a balke.3920