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Thy wyf and thou mote hange fer a-twinne,
For that bitwixe yow shal be no sinne
No more in looking than ther shal in dede;
This ordinance is seyd, go, God thee spede!
Tomorwe at night, whan men ben alle aslepe,
In-to our kneding-tubbes wol we crepe,
And sitten ther, abyding Goddes grace.
410Go now thy wey, I have no lenger space
To make of this no lenger sermoning.
Men seyn thus, “send the wyse, and sey no-thing;”
Thou art so wys, it nedeth thee nat teche;
Go, save our lyf, and that I thee biseche.’
“Oh, and you can’t be too near your wife while you’re in the tub hanging from the ceiling either. There’s to be no hanky panky between you two. Don’t even look at her, in fact. Okay, I think that’s everything. Now go, go get everything ready, and tomorrow night, when everyone else is sleeping, we’ll get into our bathtubs and wait out the rains and the flood. There really isn’t any time for useless talking. You know what they say, ‘Send the wise and say nothing.’ Well, you’re certainly pretty smart, John, so I don’t need to say anything else. Our lives are in your hands.”
This sely carpenter goth forth his wey.
Ful ofte he seith ‘allas’ and ‘weylawey,’
And to his wyf he tolde his privetee;
And she was war, and knew it bet than he,
What al this queynte cast was for to seye.
420But nathelees she ferde as she wolde deye,
And seyde, ‘allas! go forth thy wey anon,
Help us to scape, or we ben lost echon;
I am thy trewe verray wedded wyf;
Go, dere spouse, and help to save our lyf.’
The stupid carpenter went off to get things done, muttering, “Oh no,” and, “Oh my God,” as he went. He told his wife what Nicholas had told him. She, of course, was in on Tricky Nicky’s game, but she pretended to be scared. She said, “No! Go on, go or else we’ll all die! I’m your faithful wife, so go, my husband, and save us.”
Lo! which a greet thyng is affeccioun!
Men may dye of imaginacioun,
So depe may impressioun be take.
This sely carpenter biginneth quake;
Him thinketh verraily that he may see
430Noës flood come walwing as the see
To drenchen Alisoun, his hony dere.
He wepeth, weyleth, maketh sory chere,
He syketh with ful many a sory swogh.
He gooth and geteth him a kneding-trogh,
And after that a tubbe and a kimelin,
And prively he sente hem to his in,
And heng hem in the roof in privetee.
His owne hand he made laddres three,
To climben by the ronges and the stalkes
440Unto the tubbes hanginge in the balkes,
And hem vitailled, bothe trogh and tubbe,
With breed and chese, and good ale in a Iubbe,
Suffysinge right y-nogh as for a day.
But er that he had maad al this array,
He sente his knave, and eek his wenche also,
Upon his nede to London for to go.
And on the Monday, whan it drow to night,
He shette his dore with-oute candel-light,
And dressed al thing as it sholde be.
450And shortly, up they clomben alle three;
They sitten stille wel a furlong-way.
This carpenter began shaking out of fear of the flood he thought was coming to kill him and his beloved wife. He cried and moaned and sighed and looked forelorn. Men can die of imaginary curses. He went out and bought three large tubs and secretly brought them to his home. Then he made three ladders himself so that they could climb into the tubs when they were hanging from the ceiling. He also put some bread and cheese and beer in each tub—enough to feed each of them for a day. Then he sent his servant and maid to London so that he could hang the tubs without them knowing. And finally, on Monday night he blew out the candles, and they all climbed up into their tubs and remained quiet for a long time.