The Canterbury Tales: The Miller's Tale
by Geoffrey Chaucer
The Canterbury Tales: The Miller's Tale Cunning and Cleverness Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Line). We used the line numbering found on Librarius's online edition.
With him ther was dwellinge a povre scoler,
Hadde lerned art, but al his fantasye
Was turned for to lerne astrologye.
Nicholas has already learned the literature, history, and theology that made up the arts curriculum of the medieval scholar, but his real passion is for astrology, or fortune-telling. In wanting to know the future, Nicholas is guilty of telling God's "pryvetee," or secrets, though he denies this to John (l. 455). The desire to know the truth through fortune-telling reveals Nicholas's sin of pride.
[He] coude a certeyn of conclusiouns
To demen by interrogaciouns,
If that men asked him in certein houres
Whan that men sholde have droghte or elles shoures,
Or if men asked him what sholde bifalle
Of every thing, I may nat reken hem alle.
The tone of this passage is somewhat dismissive. First of all, the grand promise of the knowledge gained from "astrologye" is reduced in line 87 to weather forecasting. The narrator then makes a somewhat vague allusion to men asking him about "what sholde bifalle of every thing." In this passage at least, the "I may nat reken hem alle," seems like the medieval version of "whatever."
This clerk was cleped hende Nicholas
Of derne love he coude and of solas.
Not only is Nicholas a scholar of arts and astrology, he's also skilled in the pursuit of "derne" (secret) love. The "solas" here refers to the end-point of secret love – the solace that is the remedy for love-sickness (probably sex). The fact that the love is secret suggests that it's illicit – that is, between two people who aren't actually supposed to love one another because they're not married.