General Prologue 18: The Parson - Geoffrey Chaucer (Forrest Hainline's Minimalist Translation) - Poem by Forrest Hainline
A good man was there of religion,
And was a poor Parson of a town,
But rich he was of holy thought and work.
He was also a learned man, a clerk,
That Christ's Gospel truly would preach;
His parishioners devoutly would he teach.
Benign he was and wonder diligent,
And in adversity full patient,
And such he was proved oft sithe.
Full loathe was he to curse for his tithes,
But rather would he give, out of doubt,
Unto his poor parishioners about
Of his offering and too of his substance.
He could in little things have sufficience.
Wide was his parish, and houses far asunder,
But he left none out, for rain nor thunder,
In sickness nor in mischief to visit
The farthest in his parish, much and light,
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.
Out of the Gospel he those words caught,
And this figure he added eek thereto,
That if gold rust, what shall iron do?
For if a priest be foul, on whom we trust,
No wonder is a lewd man to rust;
And shame it is if a priest take keep,
A shitten shepherd and a clean sheep.
Well ought a priest example for to give,
By his cleanness, how that his sheep should live.
He set not his benefice to hire
And let his sheep encumbered in the mire
And ran to London unto Saint Paul's
To seek him a chantry for souls,
Or with a brotherhood to be withhold;
But dwelt at home, and kept well his fold,
So that the wolf not make it miscarry;
He was a shepherd and not a mercenary.
And though he holy were and virtuous,
He was to sinful men not despitous,
Nor of his speech dangerous nor digne,
But in his teaching discreet and benign.
To draw folk to heaven by fairness,
By good example, this was his business.
But it were any person obstinate,
What so he were of high or low estate,
Him would he snib him sharply for the nonce.
A better priest I trust that nowhere none is.
He waited after no pomp and reverence,
Nor maked him a spiced conscience,
But Christ's lore and his apostles twelve
He taught; but first he followed it himself.
© 2009 Forrest Hainline
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