|A holy-minded man of good renown
|There was, and poor, the Parson to a town,
|Yet he was rich in holy thought and work.
|He also was a learned man, a clerk,
|Who truly knew Christ’s gospel and would preach it
|Devoutly to parishioners, and teach it.
|Benign and wonderfully diligent,
|And patient when adversity was sent
|(For so he proved in much adversity)
|He hated cursing to extort a fee,
|Nay rather he preferred beyond a doubt
|Giving to poor parishioners round about
|Both from church offerings and his property;
|He could in little find sufficiency.
|Wide was his parish, with houses far asunder,
|Yet he neglected not in rain or thunder,
|In sickness or in grief, to pay a call
|On the remotest, whether great or small,
|Upon his feet, and in his hand a stave.°
|This noble example to his sheep° he gave
|That first he wrought, and afterward he taught;
|And it was from the Gospel he had caught
|Those words, and he would add this figure too,
|That if gold rust, what then will iron do?
|For if a priest be foul in whom we trust
|No wonder that a common man should rust;
|And shame it is to see—let priests take stock—
|A shitten shepherd and a snowy flock.
|The true example that a priest should give
|Is one of cleanness, how the sheep should live.
|He did not set his benefice to hire°
|And leave his sheep encumbered in the mire
|Or run to London to earn easy bread
|By singing masses for the wealthy dead,
|Or find some Brotherhood and get enrolled.°
|He stayed at home and watched over his fold
|So that no wolf should make the sheep miscarry.
|He was a shepherd and no mercenary.°
|Holy and virtuous he was, but then
|Never contemptuous of sinful men,
|Never disdainful, never too proud or fine,
|But was discreet in teaching and benign.
|His business was to show a fair behavior
|And draw men thus to Heaven and their Savior,
|Unless indeed a man were obstinate;
|And such, whether of high or low estate,°
Unless indeed a man were obstinate;
And such, whether of high or low estate,
He put to sharp rebuke, to saw the least.
I think there never was a better priest.
He sought no pomp or glory in his dealings,
No scrupulosity had spiced his feelings.
Christ and His Twelve Apostles and their lore
He taught, but followed it himself before.