The Canterbury Tales: The Reeve's Tale
by Geoffrey Chaucer
The Canterbury Tales: The Reeve's Tale Rules and Order Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Line). We used the line numbering found on Librarius's online edition.
The wyf cam lepynge inward with a ren.
She seyde, 'Allas! youre hors goth to the fen
With wilde mares, as faste as he may go.
Unthank come on his hand that boond hym so,
And he that bettre sholde han knyt the reyne!'
(225 – 229)
Symkyn's wife calls for "unthank" on the person who tied the horse so ill or "boond hym so," in essence asking that the lazy horse-tier get the opposite of a thank-you – a curse – as repayment for his sloppy work. In calling for this punishment on the person who "boond hym so, / And he that better sholde han knyt the reyne," though, the wife is in fact calling for her husband to be cursed. After all, it was he who bound the horse so – meaning, of course, not at all.
Aleyn the clerk, that herde this melodye,
He poked John, and seyde, 'Slepestow?
Herdestow every slyk a sang er now?
Lo, swilk a complyn is ymel hem alle,
A wilde fyr upon thair bodyes falle!
(314 – 317)
The snoring of the Symkyn and his wife and daughter is so loud that Aleyn is unable to sleep. This indignity, coupled with all the other ones he has endured throughout the day, is too much for Aleyn. He calls a "wilde fyr" upon the bodies of the three. He gets his revenge he wishes on their bodies, of course, inciting the "fire" of lust in Symkyn's wife and daughter and beating Symkyn to a pulp.
Ye, they sal have the flour of il endyng.
This lange nyght ther tydes me na reste;
But yet, nafors, al sal be for the beste.
(320 – 322)
Aleyn wishes the "flour of il endyng" on the miller, his daughter, and his wife because of their snoring, which makes him unable to sleep. With a play on the word "flour" which can mean, figuratively, the result of some endeavor, or literally, wheat flour, Aleyn links the punishment he plans to mete out to Symkyn to the flour the miller stole from the clerks. This is not the story's last attempt to link Symkyn's "punishment" to his crime.