Study Guide

The Canterbury Tales: The Miller's Tale Lines 388-492

By Geoffrey Chaucer

Lines 388-492

Lines 388-438

  • John brings Nicholas a quart of ale, which the two of them share.
  • After John sits down next to Nicholas, he closes the door and begins to speak.
  • Nicholas makes John swear not to tell anyone else what he is about to tell him.
  • John swears that he won't, and that he is not the type to betray secrets.
  • Nicholas tells John that, in studying astrology, he has discovered that the following Monday there would be a flood as big as the one God sent in Noah's time. In less than an hour of rain, everyone would drown.
  • John expresses sorrow over the possible death of Alisoun, and asks if there is no way to prevent it.
  • Nicholas says that there is, but to do it John must rely upon his counsel.
  • Nicholas recites a proverb by Solomon that incites all things to be worked by counsel and asks John if he remembers how God saved Noah.
  • John replies that he does remember the story of Noah.
  • Nicholas asks if John remembers what a hard time Noah had in getting his whole family on the ark, especially his wife.
  • Nicholas says that what they do, therefore, they must do quickly.

Lines 439-492

  • Nicholas advises John to obtain three large tubs for them to use as boats, and to stock these tubs with enough food and drink for a day, after which, he promises, the waters will retreat.
  • Nicholas makes John promise not to tell his servants, but says he can't tell him why this secrecy is necessary, and that John shouldn't ask about God's secrets.
  • Nicholas says if John follows his counsel, he and his wife will have as great a grace as Noah had – they will be saved from drowning in the flood.