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This Absolon, that Iolif was and gay,
Gooth with a sencer on the haliday,
Sensinge the wyves of the parish faste;
And many a lovely look on hem he caste,
And namely on this carpenteres wyf.
To loke on hir him thoughte a mery lyf,
She was so propre and swete and likerous.
160I dar wel seyn, if she had been a mous,
And he a cat, he wolde hir hente anon.
So anyway, this priest named Absalom would go around town burning incense on holy days. Absalom especially liked to cense the women, while looking lovingly into their eyes. He particularly liked Alison, the carpenter’s wife. She was so pretty and delightful that just looking at her would make his heart skip a beat. If she’d have been a mouse and he a cat, there’d be no doubt that he would have snatched her up right away.
This parish-clerk, this Ioly Absolon,
Hath in his herte swich a love-longinge,
That of no wyf ne took he noon offringe;
For curteisye, he seyde, he wolde noon.
The mone, whan it was night, ful brighte shoon,
And Absolon his giterne hath y-take,
For paramours, he thoghte for to wake.
And forth he gooth, Iolif and amorous,
170Til he cam to the carpenteres hous
A litel after cokkes hadde y-crowe;
And dressed him up by a shot-windowe
That was upon the carpenteres wal.
He singeth in his vois gentil and smal,
‘Now, dere lady, if thy wille be,
I preye yow that ye wol rewe on me,’
Ful wel acordaunt to his giterninge.
This carpenter awook, and herde him singe,
And spak unto his wyf, and seyde anon,
180‘What! Alison! herestow nat Absolon
That chaunteth thus under our boures wal?’
And she answerde hir housbond ther-with-al,
‘Yis, God wot, Iohn, I here it every-del.’
Absalom liked her so much that he wouldn’t take offerings from any of the other women in town because he thought it would be like cheating on her. One night, he grabbed his guitar and went to the carpenter’s house in the middle of the night. The moon shone brightly, and he was feeling very lovesick. When he got to the house, he stood under a shuttered window and sang in a high-pitched voice as he strummed his guitar, “Now, dear lady, please take pity on me if you will.” The carpenter woke up to the sound of the music, and he turned to Alison and said, “What is that? Alison, do you hear singing? Is that Absalom singing outside our house?” “Yes, God knows, John, I hear it very well,” she snapped.