The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.
NOW then I will finish all these fables with this tale that followeth, which a worshipful priest and a parson told me lately. He said that there were dwelling in Oxford two priests, both masters of art, of whom that one was quick and could put himself forth, and that other was a good simple priest. and so it happened that the master that was pert and quick, was anon promoted to a benefice or twain, and after to prebends and for to be a dean of a great prince’s chapel, supposing and weening that his fellow the simple priest should never have been promoted, but be alway an Annual, or at the most a parish priest. So after long time that this worshipful man, this dean, came riding into a good parish with a ten or twelve horses, like a prelate, and came into the church of the said parish, and found there this good simple man sometime his fellow, which came and welcomed him lowly; and that other bad him “good morrow, master John,” and took him slightly by the hand, and asked him where he dwelt. and the good man said, “In this parish.” “How,” said he, “for lack of a better, though I be not able ne worthy, I am parson and curate of this parish.” and then that other availed his bonnet and said, “Master parson, I pray you to be not displeased; I had supposed ye had not been beneficed; but master,” said he, “I pray you what is this benefice worth to you a year?” “Forsooth,” said the good simple man, “I wot never, for I make never accounts thereof how well I have had it four or five years.” “and know ye not,” said he, “what it is worth? it should seem a good benefice.” “No, forsooth,” said he, “but I wot well what it shall be worth to me.” “Why,” said he, “what shall it be worth?” “Forsooth,” said he, “if I do my true diligence in the cure of my parishioners in preaching and teaching, and do my part longing to my cure, I shall have heaven therefore; and if their souls be lost, or any of them by my default, I shall be punished therefore, and hereof am I sure.” and with that word the rich dean was abashed, and thought he should do the better and take more heed to his cures and benefices than he had done. This was a good answer of a good priest and an honest. and herewith I finished this book, translated and printed by me, William Caxton, at Westminster in the Abbey, and finished the 26th day of March, the year of our Lord 1484, and the first year of the reign of King Richard the Third.