The Reves Tale (The Reeve's tale)

Geoffrey Chaucer (1343-1400) Geoffrey Chaucer (1343-1400) Here is a short extract from a work that dates back to the 14th century, The Canterbury Tales.

Many consider the works of Geoffrey Chaucer to be the birth of modern English, although you may find it difficult to think so when you read the original version below. As you can see, the English language has changed. The English of Chaucer's time is quite different from the English we use today. Note just in the title that the apostrophe is not used (think of how many times you have got the apostrophe wrong when you write English) and the spelling of reeve is different.

 

The Reves Tale

by Geoffrey Chaucer

 

At Trumpington, nat fer fro Cantebrigge,

Ther goth a brook and over that a brigge,

Up-on the whiche brook ther stant a melle;

And this is verray soth that I yow telle.

A Miller was ther dwelling many a day;

As eny pecok he was proud and gay.

Pypen he coulde and fisshe, and nettes bete,

And turne coppes, and wel wrastle and shete;

And by his belt he baar a long panade,

And of a swerd ful trenchant was the blade.

A joly popper baar he in his pouche;

Ther was no man for peril dorste him touche.

A Sheffeld thwitel baar he in his hose;

Round was his face, and camuse was his nose.

As piled as an ape was his skulle.

He was a market-beter atte fulle.

Ther dorste no wight hand-up him legge,

That he ne swoor he sholde anon abegge.

A theef he was for sothe of corn and mele,

And that a sly, and usaunt for to stele.

 

(excerpt from The Canterbury Tales, 1386–1395)

 

Task

Try to 'translate' as much of the text as you can into modern English. Then compare your translation with the one you can find in the margin of this page.