to begin Good Shepherd Sunday: Chaucer's description of a pretty good one
A good man was there of religioun,
And was a povre Parson of a town;
But rich he was of holy thought and work.
He was also a learned man, a clerk,
That Christes gospel truly woulde preach;
His parishfolk devoutly would he teach.
Benign he was, and wonder diligent,
And in adversity full patient;
And such he was y-proved often times.
Full loth were him to cursen for his tythes,
But rather would he give, out of doubt,
Un-to his povre parishfolk about
Of his offering, and eke of his substance.
He could in little thing have suffisance.
Wide was his parish, and houses far a-sunder,
But he neglected not, for rain or thunder,
In sickness or in mischief, to visit
The furthest in his parish, great and little,
Upon his feet, and in his hand a staff.
This noble example to his sheep he gave,
That first he wrought, and afterward he taught.
Out of the gospel he these wordes caught;
And this figure he added eke there-to,
That if gold ruste, what shall iron do?
For if a priest be foul, on whom we trust,
No wonder is a lewed man to rust;
And shame it is, if a priest take keep,
A dirty shepherd and a cleane sheep.
Well ought a priest example for to give,
By his cleanness, how that his sheep should live.
He did not set his benefice to hire,
Nor left his sheep encumbered in the mire,
And ran to London, un-to Sainte Paul's,
To seeken him a chantery for souls,
Or with a brotherhed to be enrolled;
But dwelt at home, and kepte well his fold,
So that the wolf might make it not miscarry;
He was a shepherd and no mercenary.
And though he holy were, and virtuous,
He was to sinful man not despitous,
Not of his speeche dangerous nor digne,
But in his teaching discreet and benign.
To draw his fold to heaven by fairness
By good example, was his business.
But if were any person obstinate,
What-so he were, of high or low estate,
Him would be snibben sharply for the nonce.
A better priest, I trow that nowhere none is.
He waited for no pomp and reverence,
Nor maked him a spiced conscience,
But Christes lore, and his apostles twelve,
He taught, and first he followed it himself.