The General Prologue - The Miller

The miller was a stout churl, be it known,
Hardy and big of brawn and big of bone;
Which was well proved, for when he went on lam
At wrestling, never failed he of the ram.
He was a chunky fellow, broad of build;(5)
He’d heave a door from hinges if he willed,
Or break it through, by running, with his head.
His beard, as any sow or fox, was red,
And broad it was as if it were a spade.
Upon the coping of his nose he had(10)
A wart, and thereon stood a tuft of hairs,
Red as the bristles in an old sow’s ears;
His nostrils they were black and very wide.
A sword and buckler bore he by his side.
His mouth was like a furnace door for size.(15)
He was a jester and could poetize,
But mostly all of sin and ribaldries.
He could steal corn and full thrice charge his fees;
And yet he had a thumb of gold, begad.
A white coat and blue hood he wore, this lad.(20)
A bagpipe he could blow well, be it known,
And with that same he brought us out of town.

Footnotes

  1. In the 1300s peasants and members of the working class wore blue hoods because blue dye was cheaper and more easily accessible. Notice that this description of the Miller differs from previous descriptions of higher ranking characters. Where the narrator focused on details of dress at the beginning of the prologue, his description of the Miller is more concerned with facial features and strength rather than is clothing.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Editor
  2. A ram was often a prize given to the winner of a wrestling match. Notice that most of the Miller's prologue demonstrates his strength rather than his wit.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Editor
  3. This is a reference to the proverb "an honest miller hath a golden thumb" which means that honest millers are extremely rare. While the Miller described here is said to "have a golden thumb" his propensity to steal indicates that he is not the rare honest miller. Instead, it probably refers to the method by which he triples his grain profits, by using his "golden thumb" to weigh down the scale that measures the weight of grain.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Editor