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‘Now, Pater-noster, clom!’ seyde Nicholay,
And ‘clom,’ quod John, and ‘clom,’ seyde Alisoun.
This carpenter seyde his devocioun,
And stille he sit, and biddeth his preyere,
Awaytinge on the reyn, if he it here.
“In God’s name, quiet, quiet!” said Nicholas. “Sh!” said the carpenter and his wife. The carpenter said his devotions and sat quietly praying, while straining his ears to hear the rain he expected would come.
The dede sleep, for wery bisinesse,
Fil on this carpenter right, as I gesse,
Aboute corfew-tyme, or litel more;
460For travail of his goost he groneth sore,
And eft he routeth, for his heed mislay.
Doun of the laddre stalketh Nicholay,
And Alisoun, ful softe adoun she spedde;
With-outen wordes mo, they goon to bedde
Ther-as the carpenter is wont to lye.
Ther was the revel and the melodye;
And thus lyth Alison and Nicholas,
In bisinesse of mirthe and of solas,
Til that the belle of laudes gan to ringe,
470And freres in the chauncel gonne singe.
The carpenter was concentrating so hard on his prayers that by curfew time at dusk he’d fallen fast asleep. He moaned in his sleep from all his worries. As soon as he began snoring, Nicholas and Alison climbed out of their tubs, down the ladders, and into the carpenter’s bed below. There they made love all night long until just before dawn when the monks began chanting and the church bells began ringing.
This parish-clerk, this amorous Absolon,
That is for love alwey so wo bigon,
Upon the Monday was at Oseneye
With companye, him to disporte and pleye,
And axed upon cas a cloisterer
Ful prively after Iohn the carpenter;
And he drough him a-part out of the chirche,
And seyde, ‘I noot, I saugh him here nat wirche
Sin Saterday; I trow that he be went
480For timber, ther our abbot hath him sent;
For he is wont for timber for to go,
And dwellen at the grange a day or two;
Or elles he is at his hous, certeyn;
Wher that he be, I can nat sothly seyn.’
The lovesick parish clerk Absalom, meanwhile, spent Monday in Osney for a night on the town with some friends. At one point he casually tried to ask one of his friends about John the carpenter. His friend pulled him aside outside the church and said, “You know, I’m not sure. I haven’t seen him since Saturday. I guess he went out of town to buy wood from the woodcutter. You know, the one our abbot recommended to him. He usually stays there for a couple days before coming back. He’s either there or he’s at home. I really don’t know.”