The Canterbury Tales: The Miller's Tale
How we cite our quotes:
Ye, blessed be alwey a lewed man
That noght but oonly his bileve kan!
It was commonly thought that all an uneducated man needed for salvation was to know his Apostles' Creed. The idea that just saying a prayer without understanding it was enough may seem strange to us, but it was an extension of the church's emphasis on works, as well as faith, as necessary to salvation.
. . . Now a Monday next, at quarter nyght,
Shal falle ar eyn, and that so wilde and wood,
That half so greet was never Noes flood.
The comparison of Nicholas's projected flood to Noah's sets up a symbolism that plays out in the course of the tale. Nicholas's fart (as loud as thunder) and his cry of "Water!" become an obscene allegory of Noah's flood.
'Hastow nat herd hou saved was Noe,
Whan that oure Lord hadde warned hym biforn
That al the world with water sholde be lorn?'
Nicholas's implicit comparison of John to Noah is probably intended to win John's confidence through flattery. The implication is that, like Noah, John is virtuous enough to be chosen for salvation by God.