The Miller’s Prologue
WHEN THAT THE Knight had thus his story told,
In all the crowd there was not young or old
Who didn’t say it was a noble story
And worthy to be called into memory.
The high-born ones, especially, felt this way.(5)
Our host did laugh and swear, “So I daresay,
This goes quite well; unbuckled is the sack.
Let ‘s see now who shall give a story back.
For certainly the game is well began.
Now tell to us, Sir Monk, if that you can(10)
Something to measure up to the Knight’s tale.”
The Miller, drunk enough to be all pale,
So that barely upon his horse he sat,
He would not lower neither hood nor hat,
Nor wait for any out of courtesy,(15)
But in the voice of Pilate ’gan to cry,
And then he swore, “By arms, by bones and blood,
I know a noble story for this crowd,
With which I will now equal the Knight’s tale.”
Our Host saw that the monk was drunk on ale,(20)
And said, “Hold off awhile, Robyn, dear brother;
Some better man shall first tell us another.
Hold off, and let us do this properly.”
“By soul of God,”said he, “that will not I;
For I will speak, or else go on my way.”(25)
Our Host answered, “Tell on, by devil’s way!
You are a fool; your wit is overcome.”
“Now hearken,” said the Miller, “all and some—
But first I make the protest all around
That I am drunk; I know it by my sound.(30)
And therefore if I misspeak or missay,
Blame that on ale of Southwark, I you pray.
For I will tell a legend and a life
Both of a carpenter and of his wife,
How that a clerk hath set the woodwright’s cap.”(35)
The Reeve answered and said, “Stop your claptrap!
Let be your lewd and drunken harlotry.
It is a sin and also great folly
To injure any man, or him defame,
And to bring wives into this kind of fame.(40)
You have enough of other tales to spin.”
This drunken miller spoke full soon again
And said, “My dearest brother Osewold,
A man who has no wife is no cuckold.
But I say not that therefore you are one;(45)
There have been quite good women, many a one,
And ever a thousand good against one bad.
You know this well yourself, unless you’re mad.
Why are you angry with my story now?
I have a wife, by God, as well as thou;(50)
Yet won’t I, for the oxen at my trough,
Take on more than I know to be enough
And say about myself that I am one;
I will believe truly that I am none.
A husband shall not be inquisitive(55)
Of God’s secrets, nor how his woman lives.
As long as he finds God’s plenty in her,
Of all the rest he needs not to inquire.”
What have I more to say, but this miller
Would not his words for any man defer,(60)
But told his boorish tale in his own style.
I feel regret repeating it this while.
And therefore, every proper man, I pray,
For love of God, do not take what I say
As meant in evil, for I must rehearse(65)
All of their tales, be they better or worse.
For if I don’t, I’m false to my subject.
And therefore, anyone who might object,
Now turn the page and choose another tale;
For he shall find enough, both great and small,(70)
Of history that deals with nobleness,
And, too, morality and holiness.
And don’t blame me if you should choose amiss.
The Miller is a churl, you well know this.
So was the Reeve also and others too,(75)
And harlotry was in their stories two.
Advise yourself, and put me out of blame,
For men should not make earnest of a game.