[The Portrait in The General Prologue]
545 carl 'fellow'
548 have alwey the ram 'win the prize'
549 a thikke knarre 'a sturdy lad'; lit.
'a strong knot of wood'. The Miller is seen to be belligerent and dangerous.
550 nolde < ne+wolde,'would not'
550 harre 'hinge'; his greatest achievement
appears to be knocking down doors with his head. This 'skill' will be
put to good use in the Tale.
554 cop 'ridge'. His physical ugliness is
generally a sign of inner corruption in medieval literature, and his red
hair a sign of bad temper.
559 forneys 'furnace';the gates of hell in
medieval drama were often represented as a gaping furnace.
560 janglere 'gossip'
560 goliardeys a teller of coarse stories;
originally a vagabond priest in 12th/13th cents who travelled around telling
'goliardic', i.e. crude, satirical poems
562 koude 'knew how to'
18 thombe of gold there's a proverb, 'an
honest miller has a thumb of gold' = there is no such thing; it is possibly
meant ironically that the miller's heavy thumb pressed down on the flour
when being weighed.
2 nas < ne+was, 'wasn't'
4 for to drawen to memorie 'to bear in mind',
5 gentils 'nobles', cf. PDE 'gentleman'
6 So moot I gon an exclamation: 'Well I
never'; lit. 'So may I go'.
7 unbokeled is the male lit. 'the trunk/bag
is unbuckled'; i.e., the event has begun.
8 Lat se 'Let us see'.
10 Ye 'You'; this is the polite/plural form
used by the Host, Harry Bailey, to his superior, the Monk. Harry addresses
the Miller in the singular, familiar form; cf. line 27 'Thou'.
11 quite with 'repay'.
13 unnethe 'hardly', 'with difficulty'.
14 nolde avalen ne+wolde 'would not take
off'. A sign of disprespect.
18 kan 'know'.
19 quite; knowing the Miller, quite here
may have an ironic sense of 'to avenge'. As it happens he does tell a
tale that parodies the courtly tradition of the Knight's Tale.
21 leeve 'dear'.
23 werken thriftily 'proceed properly'.
26 a devel wey! 'damn you!'
28 alle and some 'one and all'
30 soun 'sound' (of my voice).
32 Wyte it the ale 'blame the ale'.
33 lyf 'a saint's life', 'hagiography'
35 hath set the wryghtes cappe 'made a fool
of the carpenter'.
36 Stynt thy clappe! 'Shut up'.
37 lewed in ME lewd can simply mean
'unlearned', 'not clerical', but it came to mean 'vulgar', 'rude'.
37 harlotrye 'vulgar or obscene talk or
39 apeyren 'injure'
41 This line means 'You can talk as much as you
want about any other matter.
42 soone 'immediately'
43 Leve 'dear'
47 ayeyns oon badde 'for every bad [wife]'
48 knowestow 'knowest thou'; a case of elision.
48 but if thou madde 'unless you're mad'
49 artow 'art thou', 'are you'
52 this line means '[I would not] assume too much'.
53 this line means 'to consider myself one [i.e.
56 pryvetee 'secrets'
57 foyson 'abundance'.
62 M'athynketh 'it grieves me', 'I greatly
63 gentil wight 'noble person'
65 reherce 'repeat'
66 hir...they Chaucer uses the following
forms for the 3rd pers. plural pronouns: they (nom.), hir (possess.),
hem (accus. and dat.)
68 list it nat yheere ' does not wish to
70 grete and smale 'important and trivial
71 storial 'historical'
72 gentillesse 'nobility'
75 othere mo ' others' (lit. 'other more')
77 Avyseth yow 'be advised'.
78 This line means 'And also men should not take
fun too seriously'.
79 Whilom 'Once apon a time'
80 This line means: 'A rich churl who took in lodgers',
where gnof means 'churl', 'boor'.
83 art The trivium or liberal arts; the
three basic subjects at university -- grammar, logic and rhetoric. Today
the humanities degree is still called 'Arts'.
83 fantasye 'mind', 'imagination'.
84 astrologye This was a distinguished subject,
still connected to astronomy. Chaucer was skilled in astrology and wrote
85-6 These lines mean 'And knew a certain [number
of] experiments to determine by enquiry'.
87 in certein houres 'at what specific time';
the prediction of the time of floods is going to play a crucial part in
89-90 'Or if people asked him what might occur
in any eventuality', where rekene means 'tell'.
91 cleped 'called'
91 hende an ambiguous word: 'noble', 'courteous',
'obliging' and possibly 'handy','near at hand'; it becomes the epithet
consistently used for Nicholas and is probably meant tongue-in- cheek.
92 deerne 'secret'; all Nicholas's actions
are shrouded in secrecy. Secrecy was important in courtly love.
92 solas 'delight', 'pleasure'.
93 sleigh 'subtle'
93 ful privee 'extremely secret/withdrawn'
94 meke for to see 'appeared modest'
97 fetisly ydight 'attractively dressed/decorated'
97 swoote 'sweet'.
99 lycorys 'liquorice'
99 cetewale 'ginger': both these herbs were
100 Almageste a major treatise on astronomy
by the Greek astronomer Ptolemy (c. 100-170); it later came to cover any
major astronomical text.
101 astrelabie 'astrolobe'; an astronomical
instrument, used for measuring the position of stars and planets; an expensive
instrument, so, along with his many manuscripts (line 100), he could not
be so poor (line 82).
101 longynge for his art 'belonging to his
102 augrym stones stones or counters with
arabic numerals for use on an abacus
104 faldyng reed 'a red cloth'
105 sautrie 'a psaltery'; a musical intrument
like a small triangular harp, plucked by quills'. A courtly instrument,
as opposed to the Miller's bagpipes.
109 The Kynges Noote 'The King's Song';
This song has not been i dentified.
110 This line probably is ironic and 'blessed'
could either mean that he is blessed by a good voice or that after he
sings his throat is blessed by a drink.
112 This line means 'Depending on the financial
generosity of his friends and his own income'.
115 eighteteene This was by no means an
early age for marriage which could take place for boys and girls much
earlier and betrothal could happen at birth.
116 narwe in cage 'closely confined'; line
123 suggests that John also is caught in a trap. The closely guarded wife
is a common fabliau device, and fun is derived by seeing how she escapes.
117 old the fabliau husband is traditionally
old; this is called senex amans 'the old lover'
118 This line means 'he considered himself likely
to be a cuckold/sexually cheated'.
121 after hire estaat 'according to their
condition (social, age, etc.)
123 sith the contracted form of sithen
124 care 'trouble'.
126 gent and smal 'slender and thin'.
127 ceynt 'girdle', 'belt'
127 barred 'striped'.
128 barmclooth 'apron'
129 lendes 'loins'
129 goore 'gusset'.
130 broyden 'embroidered'
133 voluper 'cap'.
135 filet 'hand-band'
137 ypulled 'plucked'
138 tho 'those'; here 'they'.
138 sloo sloe-berry.
140 pere-jonette a type of sweet pear that
is early ripe; possibility a comment on Alisoun?
141 wether a mature, male sheep; one might
have expected 'lamb'? Again the white colour is continued.
143 latoun 'latten', brass-like metal.
144 This line means: 'If you were to search all
over this world'
145 thenche 'imagine'.
146 popelote colloquial: 'doll', 'pet'.
146 wenche 'female'; not a complimentary
or courtly term.
149 yerne 'eager', 'lively'
153 bragot 'bragget', a fermented drink
of beer and honey.
153 meeth 'mead', honey-based alcoholic
155 Wynsynge 'ever moving'
156 bolt 'arrow'.
158 boos of a bokeler 'boss (or central
part) of a shield'
160 prymerole 'primula'.
160 piggesnye lit. 'pig's eye',probably
a flower; both names are colloquial words for a lovely girl; cf. popelote
163 This line means 'Now, sir, moreover, sir,
it so came about'
165 rage 'fool around'
167 subtil 'clever'
167 queynte 'crafty', 'devious'
168 queynte female private parts; 'c__t';
there is a deliberate pun on the two uses of queynte; cf also line
646 yqueynt 'quenched'.
169 but.... 'unless I have my desire'.
170 deerne 'secret'
170 lemman 'beloved' < leof+man 'loved
170 spille 'die'
172 al atones 'immediately'
174 trave 'frame'
175 wryed 'twisted'
177 lat bestop it
178 out harrow 'help!'
179 Do wey 'put away'
180 gan mercy... 'asked for pity'; a traditional
plea from a courtly lover. gan +infin. should be translated as
181 profered... 'presented himself'`
185 leyser wel espie 'when she could see
186 jalousie 'suspicion'
187 but ye wayte wel 'unless you carefully
188 woot 'know'
189 as in this cas 'in this affair'
191 This line means: ' A student had lazily wasted
194 tyme 'opportunity'
195 everideel 'everything'
196 thakked 'patted'
196 lendes 'thighs'
200 wirche 'to work' ('to perform the works
201 haliday 'a holy day'
203 This line means:'It [her forehead] was washed
so well when she stopped her work'
205 the which that 'who'
205 ycleped 'called'
206 Crul 'curled'; a case of metathesis.
207 strouted 'spread out'
208 shode 'hair parting'
209 rode 'complexion'
210 corven 'carved'
211 fetisly '[he went] elegantly
212 Yclad 'dressed'
212 ful smal and proprely 'very delicately
and elegantly'; note the repetition of ful. This stresses his occupation
213 kirtel 'tunic'
213 waget 'light blue cloth'.
217 myrie child 'a merry lad'
223 rubible 'a small, two-stinged violin'
-- perhaps significantly meant as a small, inferior instrument
224 quynyble 'high-pitched, treble voice',
again suggesting effeminacy
226 nas 'was not'
227 solas 'entertainment'
228 gaylard tappestere 'lively barmaid'
229 squaymous 'fastidious'
230 daungerous 'disdainful'
233 Sensynge 'censing', that is swinging
the censer that contains burning incense above the wives.
236 This line means:' he thought it a great experience
to gaze at her', where propre means 'fine', 'respectable' and
likerous means 'sexy'
239 hente 'catch'
246 For paramours 'for love's sake'; this
is the original meaning of par amour.
250 dressed hym 'placed himself'
250 shot-wyndowe 'hinged window'; it is
important later that the window can open! This is typical fabliau love
252 gentil and smal 'polite and high-pitched';
cf. Alisoun's voice that it is 'loud and lively' (149).
254 rewe on me 'pity me
255 This line means: 'harmonising well with his
258 herestow nat 'did you not hear' (lit.
hearest not thou?)
259 boures 'bedroom'
260 therwithal 'right away'
261 Yis 'Yes indeed'; this is the emphatic
form of 'yea'.
261 every deel 'every bit [of it]'
262 'And so it goes on; what do you expect?'
264 hym is wo bigon 'he is wretched'.
268 page 'servant'
269 brokkynge 'quavering'
270 meeth 'mead', a fermented honey drink
271 gleede 'fire'
272 meede 'bribe'; cf. Lady Meed in Piers
274 strokes beatings
274 gentillesse 'nobility', 'courtesy'
276 scaffold 'platform' for the play.
277 'But what good did it do him?'
281 An expression that probably means he was wasting
284-5 This expression means:'The clever lover
close at hand makes the lover that is far away hated.' Lit. 'Always the
near, clever one makes the far lover to be hated'.
286 wood 'mad'.
288 nye 'near'
289 ber thee wel 'do your best!'
294 'Agree to this plan'
295 shapen hym a wyle 'prepare a trick'
296 sely 'innocent', 'naive'.
297 if so be 'if it so turned out that'.
299 hire 'hers'
300 mo 'more'
303 mete 'food'
304 'And told her to say to her husband'
306 nyste 'didn't know': ne+wiste
307 with ye lit.' with her eye'; this phrase
is pleonastic and the line means 'she hadn't laid eyes on him all day'.
308 trowed 'believed'.
309-10 'For, as her maid could not rouse him by
shouting, he wouldn't answer no matter what happened'.
311 thilke 'the same'
313 leste 'wished'
315 merveyle 'puzzlement'
317 Seint Thomas Thomas à Becket;
cf line 183.
318 'Things aren't right with Nicholas.
319 God shilde 'God forbid'
320 tikel 'unpredictable', 'uncertain'.
321-2 'Today I saw a corpse carried to church,
yet a short while ago, on last Monday, last I saw him at work'.
323 knave 'servant'
323 anoon 'immediately'
324 clepe 'call'
326 gooth hym up 'takes himself up', 'goes
up'; watch the changes in tense in this passage.
327 whil that 'as'
328 wood 'mad'
330 how may ye slepen 'How can you sleep'
334 ful depe 'intently'
336 capyng 'gaping', 'staring'
337 'As if he'd looked on the new moon'; this
could cause lunacy.
338 soone 'immediately'
339 array 'state'.
340 to blessen hym bigan: 'crossed himself'
341 Seinte Frydeswyde 8th-cent. patron
saint of Oxford
342 'Little does a man know what's to happen to
him' -- an Ironic statement for both John and Nicholas.
343 astromye 'astronomy', probably
the error is intended to show John's lack of knowledge.
344 agonye 'mental anguish'
345 'I always thought that it would come to this'.
346 pryvetee 'secrets': yet John listens
to God's secrets as narrated by John. See Commentary at lines 50-6.
347 lewed 'lay', 'unlearned'
348 his bileve kan 'knows the Creed' (which
begins 'I believe...')
349 ferde 'fared'
350 prye 'stare'
352 marle-pit 'clay pit'
354 me reweth soore 'I'm greatly sorry
355 rated 'criticised'
357 underspore 'force upwards'
359 as I gesse 'I suppose'; this is the
modern American use of 'I guess so'.
360 gan hym dresse 'placed himself'
361 This line echoes the Miller in the GP line
362 'And he heaved it off immediately by the latch'.
365 caped 'gaped'.
366 wende 'thought'
367 hente 'grabbed'
368 spitously 'violently'.
371 crouche 'make the sign of the Cross'.
371 wightes 'evil spirits'.
372 nyght-spel 'a prayer to protect against
372 anon-rightes 'straightaway'
373 halves 'corners'
375 Benedight 'Benedict' -- a deliberate
error to show John's simplicity?
377 verye ' evil spirits' (but this word
is not found elsewhere; possibly another nonsense word by John.)
377 the white pater-noster lit.
'the white Lord's Prayer'; this was a simple prayer to protect one at
night-time, like the night- spel.
378 wentestow 'did you go'.
380 '[Nicholas] sighed pitifully and said, 'Alas!'
381 eftsoones 'again'
383 swynke 'work'
386 toucheth 'concerns'
392 'He got the carpenter to sit beside him.'
393 lief 'dear'
394 'You must swear to me here on your pledged
395 wreye 'betray'
397 forlore 'damned'
398 han 'have'
399 'If you betray me, you shall become mad'.
401 'Said then this naive man, 'I am not a tell-tale'
402 'No, though I say so myself, I am not used
408 quarter nyght 9 p.m.
412 'All will be drowned, as the rain will be
413 'Thus all mankind must drown and lose their
419 'If you will follow advice and counsel'.
421 trewe 'wise'
422 rewe 'regret it'
428 lorn 'lost'
429 ful yoore ago 'many years ago'; is
this referring to the Flood or when he heard the story?
433 'He would have preferred, I bet'
434 wetheres 'male sheep'; surely he had
only one? Alisoun in line 141 surprisingly is compared to a wether.
436 woostou 'do you know' [the 'thou' form]
437-8 'This demands speed, and men must not preach
or tarry when it's an urgent case.'
439 into this in '[bring] into this inn/boarding
440 kymelyn 'tub'
442 mowe 'may'
444 fy on the remenant! 'to heck with the
rest of the time!'
445 aslake 'go down', 'subside'
446 pryme 9 a.m.
447 wite 'know'
449 Axe 'ask': a case of methathesis --
see aske in the same line.
450 pryvetee 'secret'
451 'Let it be rnough for you [to know], unless
you've gone mad'
454 speed thee heer-aboute 'hurry up over
this matter'; speed originally meant 'prosper' so it could mean
'may you prosper in this matter', but 'speed' suits the frantic motion
458 purveiaunce 'preparations'
460 'And [you] have laid out provisions carefully
464 gardyn-ward 'towards the garden' (cf.'I'm
heading town- ward)
467 I undertake 'I bet'
469 clepe 'call out'
475 ful right 'very seriously'
477 'When we have entered on board ship'
479 in his preyere 'at his prayers'
480 'For it is God's own important command'
481 fer atwynne 'far between each other'.
482 'So that there will be no sin [sexual contact]
between the two of you'
483 than ther shal in deede 'than there
will be in action'.
484 This ordinance is seyd 'this command
is [now] given'
487 abidyng 'waiting for'
488 I have no lenger space 'I have no more
492 'Go save our lives, I beg you.' lyf is
in the singular, suggesting that their collective fate is all tied together.
496 war aware [of it]
497 queynte cast 'crafty plan'; remember
the earlier uses of queynte.
497 for to seye 'all about'
498 ferde 'behaved'
498 as she wolde deye as if she'd die [of
500 echon every one of us
501 verray true, faithful
503 affeccioun 'emotion'
504 ymaginacioun 'fancy'
505 'So deeply may an obsession take hold'
508 walwynge 'surging'
508 drenchen 'drown'
510 maketh sory cheere 'makes a sorrowful
511 siketh 'sighs'
511 swogh 'groan'
513 kymelyn 'tub'
514 in 'inn', 'boarding house'.
517 ronges and stalkes 'rungs and uprights
[of a ladder]'.
518 balkes 'rafters'
519 hem vitailled 'put provisions in them'
520 jubbe 'jug'
522 array 'preparations'
524 Upon his nede 'at his requirement'
525 it drow to nyght 'night came'
527 dressed 'prepared'
529 'They sat quietly a good few minutes away
from each other'
530 'Now, say your Lord's Prayer and then sut
532 devocioun 'prayer'
533 biddeth 'prays'
534 if he it heere 'if he hears it'
535 for wery bisynesse 'because of tiring
536 'Descended heavily on this carpenter, I suppose'
537 corfew-tyme 'curfew', 'dusk'
538 'Because his spirit was distressed he greatly
539 routeth 'snores'
539 myslay 'lay awkwardly'
542 mo 'more'
543 'There where the carpenter usually lies'
545 lith 'lies'
546 solas 'joy'
548 freres 'religious brothers', 'friars'
551 Oseneye probably 'Osney Mead', owned
by the abbey
552 hym to disporte 'to enjoy himself'
553 'And by chance asked a monk'
555 drough 'pulled'
556-7'And said, "I don't know, [but] I haven't
seen him working here since Saturday; I think that he has gone for timber".'
558 ther 'where'
560 grange 'farmhouse'
565 sikirly 'surely'
566 syn 'since'
567 So moot I thryve lit.'so may I thrive';
569 stant the contracted form of standeth
569 boures 'bedroom window'
573 'I must have some kind of pleasure, indeed'.
576 'All night I dreamt I was at a feast'
579 anon immediately
580 rist 'rises'
581 'And dresses himself extravagantly to perfection'
582 greyn 'spice' -- a breath sweener.
584 trewe-love 'a four-leaved herb called
'herb-paris' in the shape of a true-love knot; possibly an aphrodisiac.
584 beer bore, carried
585 wende considered [himself]
587 stant 'stands'
588 raughte 'reached'
589 semy soun 'soft sound'
591 bryd 'bird','sweetheart'
591 cynamome 'cinnamon'
592 lemman 'lover'
594 swete ther I go 'sweat wherever I go'
595 swelte 'swelter', 'burn'
596 moorne 'yearn'
597 Ywis 'Indeed'
598 turtel 'turtle-dove'
598 moornynge 'yearning', 'desire'
601 com pa me 'come kiss me'
602 and elles I were to blame lit. 'or
else I'd be to blame'; 'or I'd be ashamed of myself if I didn't [love
another]' -- her husband or Nicholas?
603 bet better
605 a twenty devel wey 'for goodness sake!'
lit. 'in the name of twenty devils'
606 and weylawey 'Oh deary me'
607 yvel biset 'badly treated'
608 'since I can expect nothing better'
610 'Will you then go away immediately?'
612 anon 'immediately'
613 stille 'quietly'
614 hust 'hush'
616 at alle degrees 'in every sense.'
618 'Lover, [give me] your grace and sweetheart,
619 undoth lit. 'undoes'; 'opens'
620 Have do, com of 'Come on, hurry up!'
625 Lit. 'And nothing better or worse happened
to Absolon'; 'this is honestly the truth of what happened to Absolon'
626 ers arse
627 'Very eagerly, before he knew what he was
628 stirte lit. 'started', 'jumped'
628 amys 'wrong'
629 wiste 'knew'
630 yherd 'hairy'
631 do 'done'
633 a sory pas 'in a sorrowful manner'
635 'By God [lit. By God's body] this is great
636 deel 'part'
638 quyte 'repay'
639 froteth 'rubs'
640 chippes 'wood shavings'
642-4 'Damn me [lit. May Satan take my soul],
if I wouldn't rather give all this town just to be avenged of this injury'.
645 'Alas that I had not avoided it!'
646 yqueynt 'quenched' [a pun on the earlier
use of queynte in line 168]
648 kers 'curse'
649 maladie 'sickness'
650 'Very often he denounced love'
651 ybete 'beaten'
652 A softe paas 'quietly'
653 cleped 'called'
653 daun a title above the smith's rank;
translate 'sir' or 'Mr'.
654 smythed 'forged'
655 'He sharpens plough-share and coulter [part
of the plough] energetically'
656 al esily 'quietly'
657 Undo 'Open!'
659 Cristes sweeete tree an oath, lit.
'By Christ's Cross'.
660 rathe 'early'
661 'What's the matter? Some fine girl, I bet'.
662 viritoot a unique word, probably meaning
663 Note St Noet, a local saint.
663 woot 'know'
664 'This Absolon didn't give a damn'
665 yaf 'gave', here 'replied'
666 'He had more important matters in hand'
668 chymenee 'fireplace'
669 'Please lend it to me, [as] I have a job for
671 Certes 'indeed'
672 'Or untold numbers of gold coins in a bag'
674 foo 'foe'; Christ's foe is Satan.
678 he gan to stele 'he crept out'
681 'just as he did before'
683 warante it 'believe it to be'
688 wel ygrave 'beautifully engraved'
691 amenden 'improve'
692 ere that he scape 'before he could
693 'He opened up the window quickly'
697 noot ne+woot 'do not know'
699 dent 'blast'
700 yblent 'blinded'
703 'Off goes about a hand-span stretch of skin'
704 toute 'bottom'
705 And he thought he'd die from the pain'
706 wood 'mad'
708 sterte 'jumped'
709 as he were wood 'as if he were mad'
711 sits sitteth
713 Lit. 'he did not have time to sell bread or
ale' [on the way down]! That is, he fell straight down.
714 celle 'floor'
715 aswowne 'unconscious'
716 Up stirte hire 'Up she jumped'
717 harrow 'Help!'
718 smal and grete 'poor and rich'
719 'Run [into the house] to stare at the this
721 brosten 'broken'
722 'But he had to put up with his own injury'
723 anon bore doun 'immediately shouted
726 agast 'terrified'
727 fantasie 'imagination'
730 'And that he begged them'
731 par campaignie 'for company'
733 kiken and they cape 'they stared and
734 'And they turned all his injury into a joke'
736 'no one listened to his explanation'
738 holde wood 'considered mad'
739 'Every student immediately supported the other
740 leeve 'dear'
741 wight 'person'
742 swyved a crude verb for sexual intercourse
743 kepyng/jalousye 'protection/suspicion'
744 nether ye lit. 'her lower eye';
a crude noun phrase for part of the female anatomy.
745 towte 'bottom'
746 rowte 'company'