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Seventeenth Century

Eighteenth Century


<- to Chaucer's Reeve

The Reeve's Portrait from the 'General Prologue'
The Reeve
From the Ellesmere Manuscript

Audio Reading by Anniina Jokinen, ©2006.
Anniina studied Chaucer at UCLA under V. A. Kolve.


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THE REVE was a sclendre colerik man,
His berd was shave as ny as ever he kan;
His heer was by his erys ful round y-shorn,
His tope was doked lyk a preest biforn,
Ful longe were his legges and ful lene,
Y-lyk a staf, ther was no calf y-sene.
Wel koude he kepe a gerner and a bynne,
Ther was noon auditour koude of him wynne.
Wel wiste he, by the droghte and by the reyn,
The yeldynge of his seed and of his greyn.
His lordes sheepe, his neet, his dayerye,
His swyn, his hors, his stoor, and his pultrye,
Was hoolly in this reves governyng,
And by his covenant gaf the rekenyng
Syn that his lord was twenty yeer of age;
Ther koude no man brynge hym in arrerage.
Ther nas baillif, ne hierde, nor oother hyne,
That he ne knew his sleighte and his covyne;
They were adrad of hym as of the deeth.
His wonyng was ful faire upon an heeth,
With grene trees y-shadwed was his place.
He koude bettre than his lord purchace.
Ful riche he was a-stored pryvely,
His lord wel koude he plesen subtilly
To geve and lene hym of his owene good
And have a thank, and yet a gowne and hood.
In youthe he lerned hadde a good myster,
He was a wel good wrighte, a carpenter.
This Reve sat upon a ful good stot
That was al pomely grey and highte Scot;
A long surcote of pers upon he hade,
And by his syde he baar a rusty blade.
Of Northfolk was this Reve of which I telle,
Biside a toun men clepen Baldeswelle.
Tukked he was as is a frere, aboute,
And evere he rood the hyndreste of oure route.








[AJ Notes:]

587. sclendre, slender.
        colerik, choleric; quick-tempered. See The Four Humours.
588. berd, beard.
        ny, nigh; close.
589. heer... by his erys ful round y-shorn, his hair was cut all around, at ear level.
590. his tope, top of his head.
        doked, docked, i.e. cut short.
        biforn, in the front.
591. ful lene, very lean, i.e. skinny.
592. y-lyk, like.
        no calf y-sene, no calf to be seen.
593. gerner, granary.
        bynne, storage bin.
594. noon auditour... wynne, no auditor could make any money auditing him.
595. wiste, knew.
        droghte, drought.
        reyn, rain.
596. yeldynge... greyn, what his seed and grain would yield, come harvest.
597. neet, neat; cattle.
        dayerye, dairy cows.
598. swyn... hors... stoor... pultrye, swine... horses... steer... poultry.
599. hoolly, wholly.
600. by his covenant, according to his contract.
        gaf the rekenyng, gave the reckoning.
601. Syn that, since.
602. brynge hym in arrerage, show him to be in arrears.
603. nas, (ne was), wasn't. nas... ne, was neither... nor.
        baillif, bailiff (overseer of a farm).
        hierde, herdsman (shepherd, cowherd, goatherd, etc.).
        hyne, hind; hired man; farmhand.
604. ne knew, didn't know.
        sleight, trickery; artifice.
        covyne, deception; fraud.
605. adrad, a-dread; in dread of; afraid.
        the deeth, the Black Death, i.e. the Bubonic plague.
606. wonyng, dwelling.
607. y-shadwed, shadowed; shaded.
608. koude... purchace, he was better at buying property than his lord.
609. Ful riche... pryvely, secretly, he was very well provided for.
610. plesen, please.
        subtilly, cunningly; craftily.
611. To geve... his owene good, giving and lending him from his (the lord's) own goods.
612. have a thank, receive thanks.
        and yet, and in addition.
613. myster, craft.
615. stot, a cob (a thickset horse with a high gait). Origin of the word is the Scottish and
        Northern english stot, to bound, go by leaps.
616. pomely, dappled.
        highte, was called.
617. surcote, overcoat.
        pers, Persian blue; sky blue.
618. baar, bore.
619. Northfolk, Norfolk.
620. biside, beside, i.e. near.
        clepen, call.
        Baldeswelle, Bawdeswelle.
621. Tukked... aboute, his coat was tucked around him like a friar's (belted).
622. hyndreste, hindmost; last.
        route, group.


Pollard, Alfred W., ed. Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. Vol I.
London: Macmillan and Co., Ltd., 1907. 31-32.

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Copyright ©1996-2012 Anniina Jokinen. All Rights Reserved.
Created on October 29, 1998 by Anniina Jokinen. Last updated on August 31, 2012.


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