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The Canterbury Tales
Geoffery Chaucer

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Translation of "The Miller's Tale" courtesy Gerard NeCastro, University of Maine at Machias.

The Miller's Tale

Here begins the Miller's Tale.

A while ago there dwelt at Oxford a rich churl fellow, who took guests as boarders. He was a carpenter by trade. With him dwelt a poor scholar who had studied the liberal arts, but all his delight was turned to learning astrology. He knew how to work out certain problems; for instance, if men asked him at certain celestial hours when there should be drought or rain, or what should happen in any matter; I cannot count every one. [3198]

This clerk was named gentle Nicholas. He was well skilled in secret love and consolation; and he was also sly and secretive about it; and as meek as a maiden to look upon. He had a chamber to himself in that lodging-house, without any company, and handsomely decked with sweet herbs; and he himself was as sweet as the root of licorice or any setwall1. His Almagest2, and other books great and small, his astrolabe3, which he used in his art, and his counting-stones for calculating, all lay neatly by themselves on shelves at the head of his bed. [3211]

His clothes-press was covered with a red woolen cloth, and above it was set a pleasant psaltery4, on which he made melody at night so sweetly that the entire chamber was full of it. He would sing the hymn Angelus ad Virginem5, and after that the King's Note6. Often was his merry throat blessed. And so this sweet clerk passed his time by help of what income he had and his friends provided. [3220]

This carpenter had newly wedded a wife, eighteen years of age, whom he loved more than his own soul. He was jealous, and held her closely caged, for she was young, and he was much older and judged himself likely to be made a cuckold. [3226]

1 setwall A spice similar to ginger.
2 Almagest Ptolemy's astrological treatise (second century, Alexandria).
3 astrolabe Instrument for measuring the position of celestial bodies. It has been replaced by the sextant. Chaucer also wrote a Treatise on the Astrolabe explaining the use of the instrument.
4 psaltery A stringed instrument that was usually set on the musician's lap.
5 Angelus ad Virginem A hymn to "The Blessed Mother Mary" on the event of the Annunciation.
6 King's Note Perhaps a reference to the medieval song King William's Note.
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