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Whylom ther was dwellinge at Oxenford
A riche gnof, that gestes heeld to bord,
And of his craft he was a Carpenter.
With him ther was dwellinge a povre scoler,
Had lerned art, but al his fantasye
Was turned for to lerne astrologye,
And coude a certeyn of conclusiouns
To demen by interrogaciouns,
If that men axed him in certein houres,
10Whan that men sholde have droghte or elles shoures,
Or if men axed him what sholde bifalle
Of every thing, I may nat rekene hem alle.
Once upon a time, there was a wealthy but oafish carpenter named John who owned a house in the town of Oxford. A poor young student Nicholas lived with him and was renting one of the empty rooms. This student had already finished some of his liberal arts courses but was entirely consumed by his passion for learning astrology. He knew how to calculate which course of action to take if you asked him if it were going to rain or shine, or if you asked about the future in all sorts of matters. I could go on and on, but you get the idea.
This clerk was cleped hende Nicholtas;
Of derne love he coude and of solas;
And ther-to be was sleigh and ful privee,
And lyk a mayden meke for to see.
A chambre hadde he in that hostelrye
Allone, with-outen any companye,
Ful fetisly y-dight with herbes swote;
20And he him-self as swete as is the rote
Of licorys, or any cetewale.
His Almageste and bokes grete and smale,
His astrelabie, longinge for his art,
His augrim-stones layen faire a-part
On shelves couched at his beddes heed:
His presse y-covered with a falding reed.
And al above ther lay a gay sautrye,
On which he made a nightes melodye
So swetely, that al the chambre rong;
30And Angelus ad virginem he song;
And after that he song the kinges note;
Ful often blessed was his mery throte.
And thus this swete clerk his tyme spente
After his freendes finding and his rente.
Now, this student went by the nickname Tricky Nicky because he was pretty clever and knew all about love and pleasure and sweet talk. He was pretty crafty and very cautious but looked as innocent as a little girl. He lived in a room by himself, which he kept neat and clean. He even used potpurri to keep it smelling fresh. He kept his astrology books, astrolabe, and counting stones—all crucial instruments for astrologers—on some shelves next to the head of his bed. A piece of red cloth covered his clothes chest, and on top of that he kept his guitar, which he often played beautifully in the evenings. He liked to play the holy song “Angelus ad Virginem” followed by a song called “The King’s Tune.” People loved to hear the sound of his voice because he sang so well. And that’s how Nicholas spent his time, getting by and making ends meet with a little financial help from his friends.