The Canterbury Tales: The Miller's Tale
by Geoffrey Chaucer
The Canterbury Tales: The Miller's Tale Competition Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Line). We used the line numbering found on Librarius's online edition.
Ful sooth is this proverbe, it is no lye,
Men seyn right thus, 'Alwey the nye slye
Maketh the ferre leve to be looth.'
The implication is that in a competition between lovers, the one who is far away stands no chance of beating out the one who is close to the beloved. This contradicts the maxim "absence makes the heart grow fonder." In fact, suggests the proverb, the cultivation of love requires proximity.
For though that Absolon be wood or wrooth,
By cause that he fer was from hir sighte,
this nye Nicholas stood in his lighte.
Since Absolon prefers to do his wooing through high-visibility self-exhibition (singing love songs and taking a role in the theater, for example), the figure of Nicholas standing "in his lighte" metaphorically renders his exertions worthless.
This sely Absolon herde every deel,
And on his lippe he gan for anger byte;
And to himself he seyde, 'I shal thee quyte.'
Absolon's desire to give Alisoun as good (or better) than he has received puts him in competition with her. This new positioning of Absolon to Alisoun upsets the logic of the love triangle in which Alisoun was the prize. Perhaps this is why Absolon falls quickly out of love with Alisoun; as fellow competitor, she can no longer be the "prize."