Ballads of Robin Hood and other Outlaws - Popular Ballads of the Olden Times - Fourth Series
by Frank Sidgwick
1  2  3     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

[Transcriber's Note:

This text is intended for users whose text readers can use neither the "real" (unicode/utf-8) version of the file nor the simplified Latin-1 version. A few characters have been "unpacked" and shown in brackets, such as [+] (double dagger) and a single letter eth [dh]. Other letters have been either "unpacked" (oe, ae) or reduced to their simple (unaccented) forms. Note in particular that final -e or -es was printed with an umlaut/dieresis when it was meant to be pronounced (called "sounded e" in the editor's introduction).

The printed text used small capitals for emphasis. These have been replaced with marks where appropriate. Missing lines were shown by rows of widely spaced dots (single lines) or asterisks (longer sections). They are shown here in groups of three:

... ... ... or *** *** ***

All brackets are in the original, except footnotes and similar material, and the "unpacked" symbols noted above. Errors are listed at the end of the e-text.]

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Uniform with this Volume



Ballads of Romance and Chivalry. 1903.


Ballads of Mystery and Miracle and Fyttes of Mirth. 1904.


Ballads of Scottish Tradition and Romance. 1906.



Fourth Series. Ballads of Robin Hood and other Outlaws

'Come sit we downe under this Hawthorne tree, The morrowes light shall lend us daie enough, And tell a tale of Gawen or Sir Guy, Of Robin Hood, or of good Clem of the Clough.'

SIDGWICK & JACKSON, LTD 3 Adam Street, Adelphi London. MCMXII

—C'est une vieille chanson. —Qui l'a faite? —On ne sait pas. —Quand? —On ne sait pas. —Quand tu etais petit? —Avant que je fusse au monde, avant qu'y fut mon pere, et le pere de mon pere, et le pere du pere de mon pere. Cela a toujours ete.



Preface vii Introduction to the Robin Hood Ballads xi

A GEST OF ROBYN HODE 1 The First Fytte 5 The Second Fytte 20 The Third Fytte 32 The Fourth Fytte 43 The Fifth Fytte 57 The Sixth Fytte 64 The Seventh Fytte 72 The Eighth Fytte 84



This volume concludes the series, begun in 1903, which was intended to comprise all the best traditional ballads of England and Scotland. The scheme of classification by subject-matter, arbitrary and haphazard as it may seem to be at one point or another, has, I think, proved more satisfactory than could have been anticipated; and in the end I have omitted no ballad without due justification.

In the fourteen years which have elapsed since the completion of Professor Child's collection, there has been discovered, so far as I know, only one ballad that can claim the right to be added to his roll of 305 'English and Scottish Popular Ballads.' That one is the carol of The Bitter Withy, which I was fortunate enough to recover in 1905, which my friend Professor Gerould of Princeton University has annotated with an erudition worthy of Child, and the genuineness of which has been sponsored by Professor Gummere.[1] I should perhaps have included this in its place in my Second Series, had I known of it in time, but I still hope to treat the traditional English Carols separately. I ought to admit here that the confidence with which I claimed, in my Third Series, a place on the roll for The Jolly Juggler, has abated, and I now consider it to be no more than a narrative lyric without any definitely 'popular' characteristics.

These four volumes contain in all 143 ballads, four of which are not to be found in Child's collection.[2] Thus, out of his 305, I have omitted more than half; but it must be remembered that his work was a collection, and mine—si parva licet componere magnis—has been selection. The omitted ballads are either:—

(i) Fragmentary or mutilated;

(ii) Closely related to ballads which I include;

(iii) Uninteresting, e.g. as dealing with obscure history;

(iv) Degenerate.

The last reason for exclusion particularly affects the Robin Hood ballads, among which Child prints thirty-three late broadsides and fragments which I omit. He preferred to err by inclusion rather than exclusion, and states that he has admitted more than one ballad, 'actually worthless and manifestly spurious, because of a remote possibility that it might contain relics, or be a debased representative, of something genuine and better.'[3]

I cannot take leave of nine years' intermittent work on this selection without remembering that its 'only begetter' was Mr. A. H. Bullen, with whom I published the first three volumes. While I regret to think how different it is in the result from the edition he then envisaged, I gratefully acknowledge my indebtedness to him for the inoculation. The anthologist is strictly a plucker of the flowers of literature; but the ballads are not literature—they are lore, and therefore of warmer human interest.

F. S.

[Footnote 1: The Popular Ballad (1907), p. 228.]

[Footnote 2: These are The Nutbrown Maid, First Series; The Lyke-Wake Dirge and Adam, Second Series; and The Jolly Juggler, Third Series.]

[Footnote 3: Vol. v. p. 182.]


'It is our olde manner,' sayd Robyn, 'To leve but lytell behynde.'

'It will scarcely be expected that one should be able to offer an authentic narrative of the life and transactions of this extraordinary personage. The times in which he lived, the mode of life he adopted, and the silence or loss of contemporary writers, are circumstances sufficiently favourable, indeed, to romance, but altogether inimical to historical truth.' In these words Joseph Ritson, the first and most painstaking of those well-meaning scholars who have tried to associate the outlaw with 'historical truth,' begins his 'Life of Robin Hood,' an account which occupies ten pages of his book, and is annotated and illustrated through the following one hundred and five pages. The Dictionary of National Biography includes Robin Hood, as it includes King Arthur; but it is better to face the truth, and to state boldly that Robin Hood the yeoman outlaw never existed in the flesh. As the goddess Athena sprang from the head of Zeus, Robin Hood sprang from the imagination of the English people.

That being so, he is a creation of whom the English people, who have kept him so long alive where he was born and bred, should be proud; and after reflecting on his essential characteristics—his love of the poor, his courteous robbery of the higher orders both spiritual and temporal, his loyalty to the king, his freedom with the king's deer, and his esteem of all women for the sake of the Virgin—an Englishman should be the first to resent any attempt to identify so truly popular a hero either with one of several historical nonentities, or with a member of the aristocracy, or worst of all, with an Aryan sun-myth.

All these attempts have been made at one time or another, but not until the spirit which begot him had begun to dwindle in the English heart. If King Arthur is the ideal knight of Celtic chivalry, Robin is the ideal champion of the popular cause under feudal conditions: his enemies are bishops, fat monks, and the sheriff who would restrain his liberty. It is natural that an enfranchised yeoman, who took toll of the oppressors, and so effected what we still call a redistribution of wealth, should be the hero of the oppressed and the law-abiding poor; and it is natural that, as social conditions altered (for better or for worse) with the national prosperity under Elizabeth, and classes and masses reconsidered their relative positions, Robin should fall from the popular pantheon, and should degenerate, as we find him degenerated in the broadsides of the Reformation hacks, into a swashbuckler unheroic enough to be defeated in quarter-staff bouts and so undemocratic as to find for himself a noble title and a wife of high degree.

There are, then, four Robin Hoods:—

(i) The popular outlaw of the greenwood, as revealed to us in the older ballads.

(ii) The quasi-historical Robin, the outlaw ennobled (by a contradiction in terms) as the Earl of Huntingdon, Robert Fitzooth, etc., and the husband of Matilda.

(iii) One of a number of actual Robert Hoods, whose existence (and insignificance) has been proved from historical documents.

(iv) Robin Hood, or Robin o' Wood, explained by German scholars as the English representative of Woden, or a wood-god, or some other mythical personage.

We will now investigate these in turn, attempting so far as may be possible to keep them distinct.


The earliest known reference to Robin Hood the outlaw was first pointed out by Bishop Percy, the editor of the Reliques, in Piers Plowman, the poem written by Langland about 1377, where Sloth says (B. text, passus v. 401):—

'But I can [know] rymes of Robyn hood, and Randolf erle of Chestre.'

Observing that this first mention of Robin is as the subject of ballads, and that he is coupled with another popular hero, one of the twelfth-century Earls of Chester, we pass to the next reference.

'Lytill Ihon and Robyne Hude Waythmen ware commendyd gude; In Yngilwode and Barnysdale Thai oysyd all this tyme thare trawale.'

This passage, from Wyntoun's Chronicle of Scotland (about 1420), is referred to the year 1283, and means that Robin and his man Little John were known as good hunters (cf. 'wight yeomen,' constantly in the ballads), and they carried on their business in Inglewood and Barnsdale at this time.

In 1439 a petition was presented to Parliament concerning a certain Piers Venables, of whom it is stated that, having no other livelihood, he 'gadered and assembled unto him many misdoers' and 'wente into the wodes in that contre, like as it hadde be Robyn-hode and his meyne.'

About the same time (c. 1437), a longer description is given in Fordun's Scotichronicon, which was revised and continued by Bower, where the latter states that Robin Hood, 'that most celebrated robber,' was one of the dispossessed and banished followers of Simon de Montfort. He proceeds, however, to couple with him 'Litill Johanne' and their associates, 'of whom the foolish vulgar in comedies and tragedies make lewd entertainment, and are delighted to hear the jesters and minstrels sing them above all other ballads,'[4] and to describe briefly one of the 'tragedies.'

An extract from one more chronicler will suffice, and it should be noted that these three, Wyntoun, Bower, and Major, are all Scottish. John Major (or Mair) was born about 1450, and his Historia Maioris Britanniae was published in 1521. In the part dealing with the reign of Richard I. (lib. iv. cap. ii.), we find:—

'About this time it was, as I conceive, that there flourished those most famous robbers Robert Hood, an Englishman, and Little John, who lay in wait in the woods, but spoiled of their goods those only who were wealthy. They took the life of no man, unless either he attacked them or offered resistance in defence of his property. Robert supported by his plundering a hundred bowmen, ready fighters every one, with whom four hundred of the strongest would not dare to engage in combat. The feats of this Robert are told in song all over Britain. He would allow no woman to suffer injustice, nor would he spoil the poor, but rather enriched them from the plunder taken from abbots. The robberies of this man I condemn, but of all thieves he was the prince and the most gentle thief.'[5] This is repeated almost verbatim in Stow's Annales (1681).

These five references show that Robin Hood was popular in ballads for at least a century before the date at which we find those ballads in print; and apart from the fact that printing is usually the last thing that happens to a ballad of the folk, the language in which they are written is unmistakably Middle English—that is to say, the Gest of Robyn Hode (at least) may be dated nearer 1400 than 1500. But Langland's evidence is clear; 'rymes' of Robin Hood were widely known by 1377. Neither Bower nor Major know anything of Robin except what they learnt from the ballads about him.

[Footnote 4: So translated by Ritson. 'Comedies and tragedies' is an ambiguous phrase in the fifteenth century, and may mean either the dramatised May-games or ballads. Cf. Chambers, Mediaeval Stage, ii. 211.]

[Footnote 5: Translation (except the last phrase) by A. Constable, Edinburgh, 1892.]


In attempting to provide Robin Hood with a noble ancestry, Ritson quotes, amongst other authorities, a manuscript life of Robin, which, as it supplied him with other errors, had best be put out of court at once. This is Sloane MS. 780 (Ritson calls it 715, which is due to the fact that in his time Sloane MSS. 715-7, 720-1, and 780-1 were bound up together); it is of the early seventeenth century, which is much too late for any faith to be put in its statements.

No allusion to the noble descent of Robin Hood has been found earlier than one in Grafton's Chronicle (1569), where the author alleges that he takes this information from 'an olde and auncient pamphlet.' As Child says, we must 'invoke the spirit of Ritson to pardon the taking of no very serious notice of Robin Hood's noble extraction.'

Stukely, an antiquary who published his Palaeographia Britannica in 1746, derived 'Robert Fitzooth, commonly called Robin Hood, pretended Earl of Huntingdon,' from a series of Anglo-Norman lords.

It would be almost unnecessary to mention the two Elizabethan plays concerning Robert the Earl, were it not for an ingenious suggestion made in connection with them. The Downfall of Robert Earl of Huntington, and The Death of the same, were written by Anthony Munday and Henry Chettle, and are first mentioned in Henslowe's Diary in 1598. The Earl, being outlawed, flies to Sherwood Forest, accompanied by Matilda, daughter of Lord Fitzwater; and there he assumes the style and title of Robin Hood, and calls Matilda Maid Marian. This plot is introduced by an induction in which John Skelton the poet appears as stage-manager; and it has been suggested that Munday's play may be founded on a now-lost interlude or pageant of Skelton's composing. Robert, Lord Fitz-Walter, a descendant from the original Earls of Huntingdon, was patron of the living at Diss, in Norfolk, which Skelton held.'[6]

[Footnote 6: See H. L. D. Ward's Catalogue of Romances, 506, under the Romance of Fulk Fitz-Warine.]


In 1852 Joseph Hunter issued, as No. 4 of his 'Critical and Historical Tracts,' The Great Hero of the ancient Minstrelsy of England, Robin Hood. Amongst other discoveries, he found, in an Exchequer document of expenses in the royal household of Edward II., the name of 'Robyn Hode' occurring several times as a 'vadlet' or 'porteur de la chambre,' at the salary of threepence per diem, between March and November of 1324.

Various other researchers have succeeded in tracing half a dozen people, all named Robin or Robert Hood, within a period of some forty years of the fourteenth century; but few have pressed identification with Robin Hood the outlaw so far as Hunter, 'who,' says Professor Child, 'could have identified Pigrogromitus and Quinapalus, if he had given his mind to it.' Working on the above datum, Hunter shows how probable it is that Robin Hood the outlaw entered the service of Edward II. at Nottingham, where the king was from November 9-23 in 1323. But the Robin whose fortunes Hunter raked up was a very bad servant, and within a year from the alleged date was ignominiously dismissed from the king's service, with a present of 5s., 'because he was no longer able to work'! Was this the invincible champion of English yeomen? Was this the hand that launched a thousand shafts?

The only point to which attention need be called is the obvious fact that 'Robert Hood' was not an uncommon combination of names, at least in fourteenth-century England.


In 1845 Adalbert Kuhn (in Haupt's Zeitschrift, v. 472-94) attempted to show that Robin Hood was a mythological figure representing one of the manifestations of Woden, as a vegetation deity; and half a century later Sir J. H. Ramsay suggested that he was a wood-spirit corresponding to the Hodeken of German tradition. Theories such as this[7] seem to be fascinating to all sorts of scholars, perhaps because they involve continually a minute appreciation of fine shades of probability. In the present instance they reach a point at which it is suggested that the rose-garland worn by the Potter—not in the ballad of Robin Hood and the Potter, but in the later play—is a survival of the Strife between Summer and Winter. Certainly there is no need to seek a mythological origin for the Robin Hood of the ballads; but we must proceed to consider the Robin of folk-drama.

To do this, it is necessary to go back some centuries before the time at which we first hear of Robin Hood the outlaw, and to follow the development of the English folk's summer festival from song and dance to drama, and from the folk-games—the 'Induction of May,' the 'Induction of Autumn,' the 'Play of the King and the Queen,' which, separately or together, were performed at least as early as the thirteenth century—to the 'May-game' or 'King's game' of the middle of the fifteenth century. Going back again to the thirteenth century, and crossing over to France, we find in the fetes du mai—which were evolved, with the help of the minstrels, from the French folk's summer festival—the names of Robin and Marion customarily appropriated to the king and queen of these fetes.

Now between 1450 and 1500 the May-game becomes associated in England with Robin Hood: setting aside the possibility that Bower's reference, mentioned above, to 'comedies and tragedies,' may allude to the May-game, we can find many entries, in parish records from all parts of England, which show that the summer folk-festival has developed into a play of Robin Hood. Further, it has been very plausibly suggested[8] that about the same time the French Robin, becoming confused with the English one, brought in Marion (a French name), and thus supplied our Robin Hood with his Maid Marian, who has no place in the true ballads of the outlaw.

In 1473 Sir John Paston wrote a letter in which he refers to a servant, of whom he says, 'I have kepyd hym this iii yer to pleye Saynt Jorge and Robyn Hod and the Shryff of Nottyngham.' There has also survived a leaf of manuscript—perhaps it is only an accident that it was formerly in the possession of the first editor of the Paston Letters—of about the same date, which contains a portion of the play to which Sir John refers, that of Robin Hood and the Sheriff of Nottingham,[9] which is founded upon a story similar to that of the ballad of Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne (see p. 128). Besides this fragment, we have in William Copland's edition of the Gest a dramatic appendix of 'the playe of Robyn Hoode, verye proper to be played in Maye games' (printed c. 1560); this in fact consists of two plays carelessly tagged together, first Robin Hood and the Friar (who is distinctly called Friar Tuck), and second, Robin Hood and the Potter (partly founded on the ballad of that name). Friar Tuck, it should be noted, occurs also in the earlier fragmentary play; but there is no friar in Robin Hood's 'meynie' in any of the older ballads, and no Maid Marian in either the older ballads or the above plays.

These complications of Robin Hood's company are further confused by the fact that the morris-dance, which was universally affiliated to the May-game, borrowed therefrom not only Maid Marian but Robin Hood, Little John and Friar Tuck; so that amongst the later ballads and broadsides we find Robin's company increased. However, by that time Robin himself had degenerated from the fine character exhibited in the earlier ballads given in this volume.

[Footnote 7: The suggestion that 'Hood' = 'o' Wood' was originally made in the Gentleman's Magazine for March 1793, over the signature D. H.]

[Footnote 8: First, as regards Marian, by Warton, History of English Poetry (1774), p. 245: recently and in more detail by E. K. Chambers, Mediaeval Stage (1903), i. 176.]

[Footnote 9: This leaf has lately been given to the Library of Trinity College, Cambridge, by Mr. Aldis Wright. It may be seen in facsimile as well as in type in the Collections (p. 117) of the Malone Society (Part ii., 1908), where the two plays of Robin Hood mentioned above are also reprinted.]


Although Robin Hood belongs in legend no more exclusively to any definite district than his noble fore-runner King Arthur, yet, like King Arthur, he has become associated particularly with one or two haunts; and it is no easier—nor in the end more profitable—to reconcile Lyonnesse with Carlisle and Inglewood[10] than to disentangle Robin Hood of Barnsdale from Robin Hood of Sherwood Forest.

The simplest way to begin is to eliminate from our consideration the numerous Robin Hood's Hills, Wells, Stones, Oaks, or Butts, some of which may be found as far distant as Gloucestershire and Somerset; for many of these probably bear his name in much the same way as other natural freaks bear the Devil's name. A large number can be found in what may be called Robin Hood's home-counties, Yorkshire and those which touch Yorkshire—Lancashire, Derby, Nottingham and Lincoln shires.

Undoubtedly the evidence of the best ballads goes to show that at one time there must have been at least two cycles of Robin Hood ballads, one placing him in Barnsdale, the other allotting him headquarters in Sherwood; but it appears that even the ballads of the fifteenth century make little effort to discriminate between the two. Robin Hood and the Monk (MS. of c. 1450) introduces us, in its first five lovely stanzas, to Sherwood; in Robin Hood and the Potter (MS. of c. 1500), the scene is Nottingham, in the Sherwood district. Little John refers to Wentbridge, which lies in the heart of Barnsdale, yet knows every path in merry Sherwood.

In the Gest, compiled as it is from ballads of both cycles, no attempt was made to reconcile their various topographies; but it can be seen that the general geography of the first division of the Gest (Fyttes I. II. and IV.) is that of Barnsdale, while the second division (Fyttes III. V. and VI.), dealing with the Sheriff of Nottingham, mainly centres round Sherwood. In the seventh Fytte, the King goes, presumably from London (322.3), to Nottingham via Lancashire; and the eighth jumps from Nottingham to Kirksley.[11]

In Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne (certainly an early ballad, although the Percy Folio, which supplies the only text, is c. 1650), the scene is specified as Barnsdale; yet at the end the Sheriff of Nottingham flees to his house as if it were hard by, whereas he had a fifty-mile run before him. The later ballads forget Barnsdale altogether.

[Footnote 10: It should be remembered that Wyntoun says that Robin Hood plied his trade in Inglewood and Barnsdale (see ante, p. xiv.).]

[Footnote 11: Child, in saying that 'Robin Hood has made a vow to go from London to Barnsdale' (v. 51) seems to assume that the 'king's court' (Gest, 433) implies London, which, however, is not specified.]


The majority of the places mentioned in the northern or Barnsdale cycle will be found in the south of the West Riding of Yorkshire, a district bounded by the East Riding and Lincolnshire to the east, Derby and Nottingham shires to the south, and the river Calder to the north. To the west, the natural boundary is the high ground of the Peak, which divides Manchester from Sheffield.

The town of Barnsley lies slightly to the east of a line joining Leeds and Sheffield; Barnsdale itself is east and north of Barnsley, where the high backbone of the Pennines drops towards the flats surrounding the river Humber. The great North Road ('Watling Street,' Gest, 18.2) between Doncaster and Pontefract, crosses the small slow river Went at Wentbridge (probably referred to in st. 135 of the Gest), which may be taken as the northern boundary of Barnsdale. That this part of the North Road was considered unsafe for travellers as early as Edward I.'s reign is shown by the fact that a party going from Scotland to Winchester, and for most of the journey guarded by a dozen archers, saw fit to increase their number of guards to twenty between Pontefract and Tickhill, the latter being on the border of Yorkshire and Nottingham, south of Doncaster.

The remaining places, except those explained in the footnotes, may be dealt with here.

'Blyth' (Gest, 27.4, 259.4), twice mentioned as a place at which to dine, is a dozen miles south of Doncaster, and in Nottingham; it is almost exactly half-way between Barnsdale and Sherwood.

'Verysdale' (Gest, 126.4) may be Wyersdale, a wild tract of the old Forest of Lancashire, near Lancaster.

'Holderness' (Gest, 149.1) is the nose of Yorkshire; between the south-easterly turn of the Humber below Hull and the North Sea.

'Kyrkesly' (Gest, 451.3, 454.3), or 'Churchlees' (Robin Hood's Death, 1.3). Kirklees Priory is on the left or north bank of the river Calder, a few miles north of Huddersfield.

'St. Mary Abbey' is 'here besyde' (Gest, 54.4) and in York (84.4).


The name of Sherwood is not mentioned in the Gest, though that of Nottingham is frequent. The old forest was a district about twenty-five miles square, lying to the north of Nottingham, between that town and Worksop, including Mansfield and, to the north, the district now known as 'the Dukeries,' i.e. the parks of Welbeck, Clumber and Rufford. There is a village of Sherwood, a northern suburb of Nottingham, and a Sherwood Hall near Mansfield; between the two may be found Friar Tuck's Well, Robin Hood's Well, Robin Hood's Stable, and a Robin Hood Hill. But, as has been pointed out above, these names have little significance in view of the fact that similarly-named objects can be found in other counties.

It is more interesting to note that a pasture called 'Robynhode Closse' (i.e. close) is mentioned in the Nottingham Chamberlain's accounts as early as 1485, and a 'Robynhode Well' in 1500.


RITSON, Joseph. Robin Hood: A Collection of all the ancient Poems, Songs, and Ballads, now extant, relative to that celebrated English Outlaw. 2 vols. London, 1795.

GUTCH, John Matthew. A Lytell Geste of Robin Hode, with other Ancient and Modern Ballads and Songs relating to this celebrated yeoman. 2 vols. London, 1847.

HUNTER, Rev. Joseph. The Ballad-Hero Robin Hood. London, 1852. (No. 4 of Critical and Historical Tracts.)

FRICKE, Richard. Die Robin-Hood-Balladen. In Herrig's Archiv, lxix. 241-344. Also separately, Braunschweig, 1883.

BRANDL, Alois. Englische Volkspoesie. In Paul's Grundriss der Germanischen Philologie. Strassburg, 1893.

KIESSMAN, R. Untersuchungen ueber die Motivs der Robin-Hood-Balladen. Halle, 1895.

CHAMBERS, E. K. The Mediaeval Stage. 2 vols. Oxford, 1903. (Vol. i, chap. viii.)

HEUSLER, A. Lied und Epos. Dortmund, 1905.

HART, W. M. Ballad and Epic. In Harvard Studies and Notes in Philology and Literature. Vol. xi. Boston, 1907.

CLAWSON, W. H. The Gest of Robin Hood. In University of Toronto Studies. Toronto, 1909.


The London and Westminster Review. March 1840. Vol. xxxiii.

The Academy (correspondence). 1883. Vol. xxiv.

The Quarterly Review. July 1898.


'Rebus huius Roberti gestis tota Britannia in cantibus utitur.' —MAJOR.

The Text.—There are seven texts of the Gest, to be distinguished as follows:—

(i.) begins 'Here begynneth a gest of Robyn Hode'; an undated printed fragment preserved with other early pieces in a volume in the Advocates' Library, Edinburgh. It was reprinted in 1827 by David Laing, who then supposed it to be from the press of Chepman and Myllar, Edinburgh printers of the early sixteenth century; but he afterwards had reason to doubt this opinion. It is now attributed to Jan van Doesborch, a printer from Antwerp. The extent of this fragment is indicated below. Internal evidence (collected by Child, iii. 40) shows it to be an older text than

(ii.) 'Here begynneth a lytell geste of Robyn hode'—so runs the title-page; at the head of the poem are added the words—'and his meyne [= meinie, company], And of the proude Sheryfe of Notyngham.' The colophon runs 'Explycit. kynge Edwarde and Robyn hode and Lytell Johan Enprented at London in fletestrete at the sygne of the sone By Wynken de Worde.' This also is undated, and Child says it 'may be anywhere from 1492 to 1534.' Recent bibliographical research shows that Wynkyn de Worde moved to Fleet Street at the end of the year 1500, which gives the downward limit; and as the printer died in 1584, the Lytell Geste must be placed between those dates.[1] The text is complete save for two lines (7.1 and 339.1), which have also dropped from the other early texts. The only known copy is in the Cambridge University Library.

(iii., iv. and v.) Three mutilated printed fragments, containing about thirty-five, seventy, and fifteen stanzas respectively, preserved amongst the Douce fragments in the Bodleian (the last presented by J. O. Halliwell-Phillipps). The first was lent to Ritson in or before 1790 by Farmer, who thought it to be Rastell's printing; in Ritson's second edition (1836) he says he gave it to Douce, and states without reason that it is of de Worde's printing 'probably in 1489.'

(vi.) A mery geste of Robyn Hoode, etc., a quarto preserved in the British Museum, not dated, but printed 'at London vpon the thre Crane wharfe by wyllyam Copland,' who printed there about 1560. This edition also contains 'a newe playe for to be played in Maye games, very plesaunte and full of pastyme.'

(vii.) A Merry Iest of Robin Hood, etc., printed at London for Edward White; no date, but perhaps the 'pastorall plesant commedie' entered to White in the Stationers' Registers, May 14, 1594. There is a copy of this in the Bodleian, and another was in the Huth Library.

The Text here given is mainly the Wynkyn de Worde text, except where the earlier Edinburgh fragment is available; the stanzas which the latter preserves are here numbered 1.-83.3, 113.4-124.1, 127.4-133.2, 136.4-208.3, and 314.2-349.3, omitting 2.2,3 and 7.1. A few variations are recorded in the footnotes, it being unnecessary in the present edition to do more than refer to Child's laborious collation of all the above texts.

The spelling of the old texts is retained with very few exceptions. The reason for this is that although the original texts were printed in the sixteenth century, the language is of the fifteenth, and a number of Middle English forms remain; these are pointed out by Child, iii. 40, and elaborately classified by W. H. Clawson, The Gest of Robin Hood, 4-5. A possible alternative was to treat the Gest on the plan adopted for fifteenth-century texts by E. K. Chambers and the present editor in Early English Lyrics (1907); but in that book the editors were mostly concerned with texts printed from manuscript, whereas here there is good reason to suspect the existence of a text or texts previous to those now available. For the sounded e (e) I have mostly followed Child.

The Gest is not a single ballad, but a conglomeration of several, forming a short epic. Ballads representing its component parts are not now extant; although on the other hand there are later ballads founded on certain episodes in the Gest. The compiler availed himself of incidents from other traditional sources, but he produced a singularly original tale.

The word gest, now almost obsolete, is derived through Old French from the Latin gesta, 'deeds' or 'exploits.' But as the word was particularly applied to 'exploits as narrated or recited,' there came into use a secondary meaning—that of 'a story or romantic tale in verse,' or 'a metrical chronicle.' The latter meaning is doubtless intended in the title of the Gest of Robyn Hode. A further corruption may be noticed even in the titles of the later texts as given above; Copland adds the word 'mery,' which thirty years later causes White to print a 'Merry Jest.'

I have kept the original divisions of the story into eight 'fyttes,' but it falls more naturally into three main sections, in each of which a complete story is narrated. These may he distinguished thus:—

1. Robin Hood and the Knight. (Fyttes First, Second, and Fourth.)

2. Robin Hood, Little John, and the Sheriff of Nottingham. (Fyttes Third, Fifth, and Sixth.)

3. Robin Hood and King Edward. (Fyttes Seventh and Eighth.)

An argument and general notes are prefixed to each fytte.

[Footnote 1: Mr. Charles Sayle puts it 'before 1519' in his catalogue of the early printed books in the University Library.]


Argument.—Robin Hood refuses to dine until he finds some guest to provide money for his entertainment. He sends Little John and all his men to bring in any earl, baron, abbot, or knight, to dine with him. They find a knight, and feast him beneath the greenwood tree: but when Robin demands payment, the knight turns out to be in sorry plight, for he has sold all his goods to save his son. On the security of Our Lady, Robin lends him four hundred pounds, and gives him a livery, a horse, a palfrey, boots, spurs, etc., and Little John as squire.

Robin's unwillingness to dine until he has a guest appears to be a parody of King Arthur's custom of refusing dinner until he has had an adventure. (See Child, i. 257, note [+].) The offer of the Virgin as security for a loan is apparently derived from a well-known miracle of Mary, in which a Christian, wishing to borrow money of a Jew, takes him to a church and makes him lay his hand on a statue of the Virgin and Child, praying that, if he fails to return the money on the day fixed to the lender, but gives it to the statue, Christ will return it to the Jew. This miracle eventually takes place, but is attributed rather to the Virgin than to her Son. (See Child, iii. 52.)


1. Lythe and listin, gentilmen, That be of frebore blode; I shall you tel of a gode yeman, His name was Robyn Hode.

2. Robyn was a prude outlaw, Whyles he walked on grounde; So curteyse an outlaw as he was one Was never non yfounde.

3. Robyn stode in Bernesdale, And lenyd hym to a tre; And bi him stode Litell Johnn, A gode yeman was he.

4. And alsoo dyd gode Scarlok, And Much, the miller's son; There was none ynch of his bodi But it was worth a grome.

5. Than bespake Lytell Johnn All untoo Robyn Hode: 'Maister, and ye wolde dyne betyme It wolde doo you moche gode.'

6. Than bespake hym gode Robyn: 'To dyne have I noo lust, Till that I have som bolde baron, Or som unkouth gest.

7. ... ... ... 'That may pay for the best, Or some knyght or som squyer That dwelleth here bi west.'

8. A gode maner than had Robyn: In londe where that he were, Every day or he wold dyne Thre messis wolde he here.

9. The one in the worship of the Fader, And another of the Holy Gost, The thirde was of Our dere Lady That he loved allther moste.

10. Robyn loved Oure dere Lady; For dout of dydly synne, Wolde he never do compani harme That any woman was in.

11. 'Maistar,' than sayde Lytil Johnn, 'And we our borde shal sprede, Tell us wheeler that we shall go And what life that we shall lede.

12. 'Where we shall take, where we shall leve, Where we shall abide behynde; Where we shall robbe, where we shall reve, Where we shall bete and bynde.'

13. 'Thereof no force,' than sayde Robyn; 'We shall do well inowe; But loke ye do no husbonde harme That tilleth with his ploughe.

14. 'No more ye shall no gode yeman That walketh by grene-wode shawe; Ne no knyght ne no squyer That wol be a gode felawe.

15. 'These bisshoppes and these archebishoppes, Ye shall them bete and bynde; The hye sherif of Notyingham, Hym holde ye in your mynde.'

16. 'This worde shalbe holde,' sayde Lytell Johnn, 'And this lesson we shall lere; It is fer dayes; God sende us a gest, That we were at our dynere.'

17. 'Take thy gode bowe in thy honde,' sayde Robyn; 'Late Much wende with thee; And so shal Willyam Scarlok, And no man abyde with me.

18. 'And walke up to the Saylis And so to Watlinge Strete, And wayte after some unkuth gest, Up chaunce ye may them mete.

19. 'Be he erle, or ani baron, Abbot, or ani knyght, Bringhe hym to lodge to me; His dyner shall be dight.'

20. They wente up to the Saylis, These yemen all three; They loked est, they loked weest, They myght no man see.

21. But as they loked in to Bernysdale, Bi a derne strete, Than came a knyght ridinghe; Full sone they gan hym mete.

22. All dreri was his semblaunce, And lytell was his pryde; His one fote in the styrop stode, That othere wavyd beside.

23. His hode hanged in his iyn two; He rode in symple aray; A soriar man than he was one Rode never in somer day.

24. Litell Johnn was full curteyes, And sette hym on his kne: 'Welcome be ye, gentyll knyght, Welcom ar ye to me.

25. 'Welcom be thou to grene wode, Hende knyght and fre; My maister hath abiden you fastinge, Syr, al these oures thre.'

26. 'Who is thy maister?' sayde the knyght; Johnn sayde, 'Robyn Hode'; 'He is a gode yoman,' sayde the knyght, 'Of hym I have herde moche gode.

27. 'I graunte,' he sayde, 'with you to wende, My bretherne, all in fere; My purpos was to have dyned to day At Blith or Dancastere.'

28. Furth than went this gentyl knight, With a carefull chere; The teris oute of his iyen ran, And fell downe by his lere.

29. They brought him to the lodge-dore; Whan Robyn gan hym see, Full curtesly dyd of his hode And sette hym on his knee.

30. 'Welcome, sir knight,' than sayde Robyn, 'Welcome art thou to me; I have abyden you fastinge, sir, All these ouris thre.'

31. Than answered the gentyll knight, With wordes fayre and fre: 'God thee save, goode Robyn, And all thy fayre meyne.'

32. They wasshed togeder and wyped bothe, And sette to theyr dynere; Brede and wyne they had right ynoughe, And noumbles of the dere.

33. Swannes and fessauntes they had full gode, And foules of the ryvere; There fayled none so litell a birde That ever was bred on bryre.

34. 'Do gladly, sir knight,' sayde Robyn; 'Gramarcy, sir,' sayde he; 'Suche a dinere had I nat Of all these wekys thre.

35. 'If I come ageyne, Robyn, Here by thys contre, As gode a dyner I shall thee make As thou haest made to me.'

36. 'Gramarcy, knyght,' sayde Robyn; 'My dyner whan that I it have, I was never so gredy, by dere worthy God, My dyner for to crave.

37. 'But pay or ye wende,' sayde Robyn; 'Me thynketh it is gode ryght; It was never the maner, by dere worthi God, A yoman to pay for a knyght.'

38. 'I have nought in my coffers,' saide the knyght, 'That I may prefer for shame': 'Litell John, go loke,' sayde Robyn, 'Ne let not for no blame.

39. 'Tel me truth,' than saide Robyn, 'So God have parte of thee': 'I have no more but ten shelynges,' sayde the knyght, 'So God have parte of me.'

40. 'If thou have no more,' sayde Robyn, 'I woll nat one peny; And yf thou have nede of any more, More shall I lend the.

41. 'Go nowe furth, Littell Johnn, The truth tell thou me; If there be no more but ten shelinges, No peny that I se.'

42. Lyttell Johnn sprede downe hys mantell Full fayre upon the grounde, And there he fonde in the knyghtes cofer But even halfe a pounde.

43. Littell Johnn let it lye full styll, And went to hys maysteer full lowe; 'What tydynges, Johnn?' sayde Robyn; 'Sir, the knyght is true inowe.'

44. 'Fyll of the best wine,' sayde Robyn, 'The knyght shall begynne; Moche wonder thinketh me Thy clothynge is so thinne.

45. 'Tell me one worde,' sayde Robyn, 'And counsel shal it be; I trowe thou wert made a knyght of force, Or ellys of yemanry.

46. 'Or ellys thou hast been a sori husbande, And lyved in stroke and strife; An okerer, or ellis a lechoure,' sayde Robyn, 'Wyth wronge hast led thy lyfe.'

47. 'I am none of those,' sayde the knyght, 'By God that made me; An hundred wynter here before Myn auncetres knyghtes have be.

48. 'But oft it hath befal, Robyn, A man hath be disgrate; But God that sitteth in heven above May amende his state.

49. 'Withyn this two yere, Robyne,' he sayde, 'My neghbours well it knowe, Foure hundred pounde of gode money Ful well than myght I spende.

50. 'Nowe have I no gode,' saide the knyght, 'God hath shapen suche an ende, But my chyldren and my wyfe, Tyll God yt may amende.'

51. 'In what maner,' than sayde Robyn, 'Hast thou lorne thy rychesse?' 'For my greate foly,' he sayde, 'And for my kyndenesse.

52. 'I hade a sone, forsoth, Robyn, That shulde have ben myn ayre, Whanne he was twenty wynter olde, In felde wolde just full fayre.

53. 'He slewe a knyght of Lancashire, And a squyer bolde; For to save him in his ryght My godes beth sette and solde.

54. 'My londes beth sette to wedde, Robyn, Untyll a certayn day, To a ryche abbot here besyde Of Seynt Mari Abbey.'

55. 'What is the som?' sayde Robyn; 'Trouth than tell thou me.' 'Sir,' he sayde, 'foure hundred pounde; The abbot told it to me.'

56. 'Nowe and thou lese thy lond,' sayde Robyn, 'What shall fall of thee?' 'Hastely I wol me buske,' sayd the knyght, 'Over the salte see,

57. 'And se where Criste was quyke and dede, On the mount of Calvere; Fare wel, frende, and have gode day; It may no better be.'

58. Teris fell out of hys iyen two; He wolde have gone hys way; 'Farewel, frende, and have gode day, I ne have no more to pay.'

59. 'Where be thy frendes?' sayde Robyn: 'Syr, never one wol me knowe; While I was rych ynowe at home Great boste than wolde they blowe.

60. 'And nowe they renne away fro me, As bestis on a rowe; They take no more hede of me Thanne they had me never sawe.'

61. For ruthe thanne wept Litell Johnn, Scarlok and Much in fere; 'Fyl of the best wyne,' sayde Robyn, 'For here is a symple chere.

62. 'Hast thou any frende,' sayde Robyn, 'Thy borrowe that wolde be?' 'I have none,' than sayde the knyght, 'But God that dyed on tree.'

63. 'Do away thy japis,' than sayde Robyn, 'Thereof wol I right none; Wenest thou I wolde have God to borowe, Peter, Poule, or Johnn?

64. 'Nay, by hym that me made, And shope both sonne and mone, Fynde me a better borowe,' sayde Robyn, 'Or money getest thou none.'

65. 'I have none other,' sayde the knyght, 'The sothe for to say, But yf yt be Our dere Lady; She fayled me never or thys day.'

66. 'By dere worthy God,' sayde Robyn, 'To seche all Englonde thorowe, Yet fonde I never to my pay A moche better borowe.

67. 'Come nowe furth, Litell Johnn, And go to my tresoure, And bringe me foure hundred pound, And loke well tolde it be.'

68. Furth than went Litell Johnn, And Scarlok went before; He tolde oute foure hundred pounde By eight and twenty score.

69. 'Is thys well tolde?' sayde lytell Much; Johnn sayde: 'What greveth thee? It is almus to helpe a gentyll knyght That is fal in poverte.

70. 'Master,' than sayde Lityll John, 'His clothinge is full thynne; Ye must gyve the knight a lyveray, To lappe his body therein.

71. 'For ye have scarlet and grene, mayster, And many a rich aray; Ther is no marchaunt in mery Englond So ryche, I dare well say.'

72. 'Take hym thre yerdes of every colour, And loke well mete that it be.' Lytell Johnn toke none other mesure But his bowe-tree.

73. And at every handfull that he met He leped fotes three; 'What devylles drapar,' sayd litell Much, 'Thynkest thou for to be?'

74. Scarlok stode full stil and loughe, And sayd, 'By God Almyght, Johnn may gyve hym gode mesure, For it costeth hym but lyght.'

75. 'Mayster,' than said Litell Johnn To gentill Robyn Hode, 'Ye must give the knight a hors To lede home al this gode.'

76. 'Take him a gray coursar,' sayde Robyn, 'And a saydle newe; He is Oure Ladye's messangere; God graunt that he be true.'

77. 'And a gode palfray,' sayde lytell Much, 'To mayntene hym in his right'; 'And a peyre of botes,' sayde Scarlok, 'For he is a gentyll knight.'

78. 'What shalt thou gyve him, Litell John?' 'Sir, a peyre of gilt sporis clene, To pray for all this company; God bringe hym oute of tene.'

79. 'Whan shal mi day be,' said the knight, 'Sir, and your wyll be?' 'This day twelve moneth,' saide Robyn, 'Under this grene-wode tre.

80. 'It were great shame,' said Robyn, 'A knight alone to ryde, Withoute squyre, yoman, or page, To walke by his syde.

81. 'I shal thee lende Litell Johnn, my man, For he shalbe thy knave; In a yeman's stede he may thee stande, If thou greate nede have.'

[Annotations: 1.1: 'Lythe and listin,' hearken and listen: a very common opening. 1.2: 'frebore,' free-born. 2.2,3: 'Whyles . . . outlaw': supplied from the Wynkyn de Worde text. 4.4: i.e., worthy of a groom, or young man. 5.3: 'and,' if. 6.4: 'unkouth,' unknown. 7.1: Wanting in all versions. 7.3: 'som,' supplied from Wynken de Worde's text. 8.4: 'messis,' masses. 9.4: 'allther moste,' most of all. 10.2: 'dout,' fear. 12.3: 'reve,' pillage. 13.1: 'no force,' no matter. 16.2: 'lere,' learn. 16.3: 'fer dayes,' late in the day: 'gest,' exploit. 18.1: The Sayles, a small part of the manor of Pontefract. 18.2: Watling Street = the great North Road. 18.4: 'Up chaunce,' in case. 19.4: 'dight,' prepared. 21.2: 'derne strete,' hidden or obscure path. 23.1: 'iyn,' eyes. 25.2: 'Hende,' noble. 27.2: 'in fere,' in company. 28.2: 'carefull chere,' sorrowful face. 28.4: 'lere,' cheek. 31.4: 'meyne,' company. 32.4: 'noumbles,' entrails. 34.1: 'Do gladly' = make yourself at home; a hospitable expression. Cp. 103.1 and 232.1. 37.1: 'or ye wende,' before you go. 38.4: 'let not,' leave nothing undone. 39.2,4: 'have parte of,' perhaps means 'protect,' or 'take my part.' 45.3: This refers to 'distraint of knighthood,' instituted in 1224, compelling military tenants to receive knighthood or pay a composition. 46.3: 'okerer,' usurer. 48.2: 'disgrate,' unfortunate. 49.4: From the rhyme it is obvious the verses have here been confused, especially as all copies print 50.3 before 50.2. 52.4: 'just,' joust, tilt. 53.4, 54.1: 'beth' (in another version 'both'), are. 54.1: 'sette to wedde,' put in pledge. 56.1: 'lese,' lose. 57.1: 'quyke' = quick, alive. 59.4: 'blowe,' utter. 60.2: 'on a rowe,' in file. 61.1: 'ruthe,' pity. 61.4: 'chere,' entertainment. 62.2: 'borrowe,' security. 64.2: 'shope,' shaped. 65.4: 'or,' before. 66.3: 'pay,' liking. 72.2: 'mete,' measured. So 73.1 'met' = measured. 74.1: 'loughe,' laughed. 78.4: 'tene,' trouble. 81.2: 'knave,' servant. 81.3: i.e., he shall stand for thee instead of a yeoman.]


Argument.—The knight goes to York to pay down his four hundred pounds to the abbot of St. Mary Abbey, who has retained the services of the high justice of England 'with cloth and fee,' an offence defined as conspiracy by statutes of the first three Edwards (see Notes and Queries, First Series, vol. vi. p. 479). The knight, pretending he has not brought the money, requests an extension of time; but the abbot will not hear of it, and is supported in his refusal by the justice: the knight's lands will be forfeited. The justice advises the abbot (117, etc.) to give the knight a sum to 'make a release' and prevent subsequent legal difficulties. The knight brings the matter to an end by paying down the four hundred pounds, saying that had the abbot been more courteous, he should have had interest on the loan.

The knight returns to his home in Wyresdale, and saves up the sum to be repaid to Robin Hood. As he sets out for Barnsdale with a goodly company, he finds a great wrestling-match taking place at Wentbridge,[1] which delays him a while.

The word 'frembde' (138.3) is now obsolete except in Scots and north-country dialect, and is spelled in various ways. It occurs more than once in Chaucer, and twice in Sidney's Arcadia. 'Fremit,' the common Scots form, may be found in Burns. More recently, it appears in books of Westmoreland, Cumberland, or Northumberland dialect. Cp. Mrs. Gaskell, Sylvia's Lovers: 'There's a fremd man i' t' house.' It means 'foreign' or 'strange.'

[Footnote 2: Wentbridge is mentioned in Robin Hood and the Potter, 6.1. The river Went is the northern boundary of Barnsdale.]


82. Now is the knight gone on his way; This game hym thought full gode; Whanne he loked on Bernesdale He blessyd Robyn Hode.

83. And whanne he thought on Bernysdale, On Scarlok, Much and Johnn He blyssyd them for the best company That ever he in come.

84. Then spake that gentyll knyght, To Lytel Johan gan he saye, 'To-morrowe I must to Yorke toune, To Saynt Mary abbay.

85. 'And to the abbot of that place Foure hondred pounde I must pay; And but I be there upon this nyght My londe is lost for ay.'

86. The abbot sayd to his covent, There he stode on grounde, 'This day twelfe moneth came there a knyght And borowed foure hondred pounde.

87. ['He borowed four hondred pounde] Upon all his londe fre; But he come this ylke day Disherited shall he be.'

88. 'It is full erely,' sayd the pryoure, The day is not yet ferre gone; I had lever to pay an hondred pounde, And lay downe anone.

89. 'The knyght is ferre beyonde the see, In Englonde is his ryght, And suffreth honger and colde And many a sory nyght.

90. 'It were grete pyte,' said the pryoure, 'So to have his londe; And ye be so lyght of your consyence, Ye do to hym moch wronge.'

91. 'Thou arte ever in my berde,' sayd the abbot, 'By God and Saynt Rycharde'; With that cam in a fat-heded monke, The heygh selerer.

92. 'He is dede or hanged,' sayd the monke, 'By God that bought me dere, And we shall have to spende in this place Foure hondred pounde by yere.'

93. The abbot and the hy selerer Sterte forthe full bolde, The highe justyce of Englonde The abbot there dyde holde.

94. The hye justyce and many mo Had take in to theyr honde Holy all the knyghtes det, To put that knyght to wronge.

95. They demed the knyght wonder sore, The abbot and his meyne: 'But he come this ylke day Dysheryte shall he be.'

96. 'He wyll not come yet,' sayd the justyce, 'I dare well undertake'; But in sorowe tyme for them all The knight came to the gate.

97. Than bespake that gentyll knyght Untyll his meyne: 'Now put on your symple wedes That ye brought fro the see.'

98. [They put on their symple wedes,] They came to the gates anone; The porter was redy hymselfe And welcomed them everychone.

99. 'Welcome, syr knyght,' sayd the porter, 'My lorde to mete is he, And so is many a gentyll man, For the love of thee.'

100. The porter swore a full grete othe: 'By God that made me, Here be the best coresed hors That ever yet sawe I me.

101. 'Lede them in to the stable,' he sayd, 'That eased myght they be'; 'They shall not come therin,' sayd the knyght, 'By God that dyed on a tre.'

102. Lordes were to mete isette In that abbotes hall; The knyght went forth and kneled down, And salved them grete and small.

103. 'Do gladly, syr abbot,' sayd the knyght, 'I am come to holde my day.' The fyrst word that the abbot spake, 'Hast thou brought my pay?'

104. 'Not one peny,' sayd the knyght, 'By God that maked me.' 'Thou art a shrewed dettour,' sayd the abbot; 'Syr justyce, drynke to me.

105. 'What doost thou here,' sayd the abbot, 'But thou haddest brought thy pay?' 'For God,' than sayd the knyght, 'To pray of a lenger daye.'

106. 'Thy daye is broke,' sayd the justyce, 'Londe getest thou none.' 'Now, good syr justyce, be my frende And fende me of my fone!'

107. 'I am holde with the abbot,' sayd the justyce, 'Both with cloth and fee.' 'Now, good syr sheryf, be my frende!' 'Nay, for God,' sayd he.

108. 'Now, good syr abbot, be my frende, For thy curteyse, And holde my londes in thy honde Tyll I have made the gree!

109. 'And I wyll be thy true servaunte, And trewely serve the, Tyll ye have foure hondred pounde Of money good and free.'

110. The abbot sware a full grete othe, 'By God that dyed on a tree, Get the londe where thou may, For thou getest none of me.'

111. 'By dere worthy God,' then sayd the knyght, 'That all this worlde wrought, But I have my londe agayne, Full dere it shall be bought.

112. 'God, that was of a mayden borne, Leve us well to spede! For it is good to assay a frende Or that a man have nede.'

113. The abbot lothely on hym gan loke, And vylaynesly hym gan call; 'Out,' he sayd, 'thou false knyght, Spede thee out of my hall!'

114. 'Thou lyest,' then sayd the gentyll knyght, 'Abbot, in thy hal; False knyght was I never, By God that made us all.'

115. Up then stode that gentyll knyght, To the abbot sayd he, 'To suffre a knyght to knele so longe, Thou canst no curteysye.

116. 'In joustes and in tournement Full ferre than have I be, And put myself as ferre in prees As ony that ever I se.'

117. 'What wyll ye gyve more,' sayd the justyce, 'And the knyght shall make a releyse? And elles dare I safly swere Ye holde never your londe in pees.'

118. 'An hondred pounde,' sayd the abbot; The justice sayd, 'Gyve hym two'; 'Nay, be God,' sayd the knyght, 'Yit gete ye it not so.

119. 'Though ye wolde gyve a thousand more, Yet were ye never the nere; Shal there never be myn heyre Abbot, justice, ne frere.'

120. He stert hym to a borde anone, Tyll a table rounde, And there he shoke oute of a bagge Even four hundred pound.

121. 'Have here thi golde, sir abbot,' saide the knight, 'Which that thou lentest me; Had thou ben curtes at my comynge, Rewarded shuldest thou have be.'

122. The abbot sat styll, and ete no more, For all his ryall fare; He cast his hede on his shulder, And fast began to stare.

123. 'Take me my golde agayne,' saide the abbot, 'Sir justice, that I toke thee.' 'Not a peni,' said the justice, 'Bi God, that dyed on tree.'

124. 'Sir abbot, and ye men of lawe, Now have I holde my daye: Now shall I have my londe agayne, For ought that you can saye.'

125. The knyght stert out of the dore, Awaye was all his care, And on he put his good clothynge, The other he lefte there.

126. He wente hym forth full mery syngynge, As men have tolde in tale; His lady met hym at the gate, At home in Verysdale.

127. 'Welcome, my lorde,' sayd his lady; 'Syr, lost is all your good?' 'Be mery, dame,' sayd the knyght, 'And pray for Robyn Hode,

128. 'That ever his soule be in blysse: He holpe me out of tene; Ne had be his kyndenesse, Beggers had we bene.

129. 'The abbot and I accorded ben, He is served of his pay; The god yoman lent it me As I cam by the way.'

130. This knight than dwelled fayre at home, The sothe for to saye, Tyll he had gete four hundred pound, Al redy for to pay.

131. He purveyed him an hundred bowes, The strynges well ydyght, An hundred shefe of arowes gode, The hedys burneshed full bryght;

132. And every arowe an elle longe, With pecok well idyght, Inocked all with whyte silver; It was a semely syght.

133. He purveyed him an hondreth men, Well harnessed in that stede, And hym selfe in that same sete, And clothed in whyte and rede.

134. He bare a launsgay in his honde, And a man ledde his male, And reden with a lyght songe Unto Bernysdale.

135. But as he went at a brydge ther was a wrastelyng, And there taryed was he, And there was all the best yemen Of all the west countree.

136. A full fayre game there was up set, A whyte bulle up i-pyght, A grete courser, with sadle and brydil, With golde burnyssht full bryght.

137. A payre of gloves, a rede golde rynge, A pype of wyne, in fay; What man that bereth hym best i-wys The pryce shall bere away.

138. There was a yoman in that place, And best worthy was he, And for he was ferre and frembde bested, Slayne he shulde have be.

139. The knight had ruthe of this yoman, In place where that he stode; He sayde that yoman shulde have no harme, For love of Robyn Hode.

140. The knyght presed in to the place, An hundreth folowed hym [free], With bowes bent and arowes sharpe, For to shende that companye.

141. They shulderd all and made hym rome, To wete what he wolde say; He took the yeman bi the hande, And gave hym al the play.

142. He gave hym five marke for his wyne, There it lay on the molde, And bad it shulde be set a broche, Drynke who so wolde.

143. Thus longe taried this gentyll knyght, Tyll that play was done; So long abode Robyn fastinge Thre houres after the none.

[Annotations: 83.4: From here to 118.3 the Edinburgh fragment is wanting. 86.1: 'covent' = convent. 87.1: Wanting: supplied by Ritson. 87.3: 'But,' unless: 'ylke,' same. 88.3: 'lever,' rather. 91.4: 'selerer' cellarer or steward. 92.2: 'bought,' ransomed. 93.3: 'highe,' supplied from Copland's edition. 95.1: 'demed,' judged. 95.4: 'dysheryte,' dispossessed; cf. 87.4. 98.: Wanting in all editions: supplied by Ritson. 100.3: 'coresed,' perhaps = coursed; i.e. a horse used in tourneys, a courser, or charger. 102.4: 'salved,' greeted. 103.1: See 34.1. 104.3: 'shrewed,' cursed. 105.2: 'But,' unless. So 111.3 106.4: 'fone,' foes. 107.1,2: 'retained by presents of cloth and money.' —Child. 108.4: 'made the gree,' paid my dues. (Old French gre, Latin gratum.) 112.2: 'Leve,' grant. 112.4: 'Or that,' before that. The proverb is a favourite in Middle English: see Early English Lyrics, CXI. 116.3: 'as ferre in prees,' in as thick a part of the fight. 118.4: From here to 124.1 the Edinburgh fragment is available. 119.2: 'nere,' nearer. Cp. Robin Hood and the Potter, 46.3. 123.2: 'toke,' gave. 126.4: 'Verysdale,' Wyresdale or Wyersdale. 127.4: The Edinburgh fragment is again available as far as 133.2. 128.2: 'tene,' trouble. 131.2: 'ydyght,' fitted. 132.3: 'Inocked' = i-nocked, notched. 133.1,2: The latter halves of these lines are torn away in the Edinburgh fragment. The Cambridge text is resumed at 133.3. 133.2: 'stede,' place. 134.1: 'launsgay,' javelin. 134.2: 'male,' baggage. Cp. 374.1. 135.1: So the Cambridge text: Child suggests '? But at Wentbrydge ther was.' See Argument. 136.2: 'i-pyght,' put. 136.4: Edinburgh fragment again. 138.3: 'frembde bested,' in the position of a foreigner or stranger. See fore-note. 140.2: 'free,' supplied from the 'fere,' misprinted in the Cambridge text. Copland, 'in fere.' 140.4: 'shende,' put to rout. 141.1: 'rome,' room.]


Argument.—The narrative of the knight's loan is for the moment dropped, in order to relate a gest of Little John, who is now (81.2) the knight's 'knave' or squire. Going forth 'upon a mery day,' Little John shoots with such skill that he attracts the attention of the Sheriff of Nottingham (who is here and elsewhere the type of Robin Hood's enemies), and enters his service for a year under the name of Reynold Greenleaf. While the sheriff is hunting, Little John fights his servants, robs his treasure-house, and escapes back to Robin Hood with 'three hundred pound and more.' He then bethinks him of a shrewd wile, and inveigles the sheriff to leave his hunting in order to see a right fair hart and seven score of deer, which turn out to be Robin and his men. Robin Hood exacts an oath of the sheriff, equivalent to an armistice; and he returns home, having had his fill of the greenwood.


144. Lyth and lystyn, gentilmen, All that now be here; Of Litell Johnn, that was the knightes man, Goode myrth ye shall here.

145. It was upon a mery day That yonge men wolde go shete; Lytell Johnn fet his bowe anone, And sayde he wolde them mete.

146. Thre tymes Litell Johnn shet aboute, And alwey he slet the wande; The proude sherif of Notingham By the markes can stande.

147. The sherif swore a full greate othe: 'By hym that dyede on a tre, This man is the best arschere That ever yet sawe I me.

148. 'Say me nowe, wight yonge man, What is nowe thy name? In what countre were thou borne, And where is thy wonynge wane?'

149. 'In Holdernes, sir, I was borne, I-wys al of my dame; Men cal me Reynolde Grenelef Whan I am at home.'

150. 'Sey me, Reynolde Grenelefe, Wolde thou dwell with me? And every yere I woll thee gyve Twenty marke to thy fee.'

151. 'I have a maister,' sayde Litell Johnn, 'A curteys knight is he; May ye leve gete of hym, The better may it be.'

152. The sherif gate Litell John Twelve monethes of the knight; Therefore he gave him right anone A gode hors and a wight.

153. Nowe is Litell John the sherifes man, God lende us well to spede! But alwey thought Lytell John To quyte hym wele his mede.

154. 'Nowe so God me helpe,' sayde Litell John, 'And by my true leutye, I shall be the worst servaunt to hym That ever yet had he.'

155. It fell upon a Wednesday The sherif on huntynge was gone, And Litel John lay in his bed, And was foriete at home.

156. Therfore he was fastinge Til it was past the none; 'Gode sir stuarde, I pray to thee, Gyve me my dynere,' saide Litell John.

157. 'It is longe for Grenelefe Fastinge thus for to be; Therfor I pray thee, sir stuarde, Mi dyner gif me.'

158. 'Shalt thou never ete ne drynke' saide the stuarde, 'Tyll my lorde be come to towne.' 'I make myn avowe to God,' saide Litell John, 'I had lever to crake thy crowne.'

159. The boteler was full uncurteys, There he stode on flore; He start to the botery And shet fast the dore.

160. Lytell Johnn gave the boteler suche a tap His backe went nere in two; Though he lived an hundred ier, The wors shuld he go.

161. He sporned the dore with his fote; It went open wel and fyne; And there he made large lyveray, Bothe of ale and of wyne.

162. 'Sith ye wol nat dyne,' sayde Litell John, 'I shall gyve you to drinke; And though ye lyve an hundred wynter, On Lytel Johnn ye shall thinke.'

163. Litell John ete, and Litel John drank, The while that he wolde; The sherife had in his kechyn a coke, A stoute man and a bolde.

164. 'I make myn avowe to God,' said the coke, 'Thou arte a shrewde hynde In ani hous for to dwel, For to aske thus to dyne.'

165. And there he lent Litell John Gode strokis thre; 'I make myn avowe to God,' sayde Lytell John, 'These strokis lyked well me.

166. 'Thou arte a bolde man and hardy, And so thinketh me; And or I pas fro this place Assayed better shalt thou be.'

167. Lytell Johnn drew a ful gode sworde, The coke took another in hande; They thought no thynge for to fle, But stifly for to stande.

168. There they faught sore togedere Two myle way and well more; Myght nether other harme done, The mountnaunce of an owre.

169. 'I make myn avowe to God,' sayde Litell Johnn, 'And by my true lewte; Thou art one of the best sworde-men That ever yit sawe I me.

170. 'Cowdest thou shote as well in a bowe, To grene wode thou shuldest with me, And two times in the yere thy clothinge Chaunged shulde be;

171. 'And every yere of Robyn Hode Twenty merke to thy fe.' 'Put up thy swerde,' saide the coke, 'And felowes woll we be.'

172. Thanne he fet to Lytell Johnn The nowmbles of a do, Gode brede, and full gode wyne; They ete and drank theretoo.

173. And when they had dronkyn well, Theyre trouthes togeder they plight That they wolde be with Robyn That ylke same nyght.

174. They dyd them to the tresoure-hows, As fast as they myght gone; The lokkes, that were of full gode stele, They brake them everichone.

175. They toke away the silver vessell, And all that thei might get; Pecis, masars, ne sponis, Wolde thei not forget.

176. Also they toke the gode pens, Thre hundred pounde and more, And did them streyte to Robyn Hode, Under the grene wode hore.

177. 'God thee save, my dere mayster, And Criste thee save and se!' And thanne sayde Robyn to Litell Johnn, 'Welcome myght thou be.

178. 'Also be that fayre yeman Thou bryngest there with thee; What tydynges fro Notyngham? Lytill Johnn, tell thou me.'

179. 'Well thee gretith the proude sheryf, And sendeth thee here by me His coke and his silver vessell, And thre hundred pounde and thre.'

180. 'I make myne avowe to God,' sayde Robyn, 'And to the Trenyte, It was never by his gode wyll This gode is come to me.'

181. Lytyll Johnn there hym bethought On a shrewde wyle; Fyve myle in the forest he ran, Hym happed all his wyll.

182. Than he met the proude sheref, Huntynge with houndes and horne; Lytell Johnn coude of curtesye, And knelyd hym beforne.

183. 'God thee save, my dere mayster, Ande Criste thee save and se!' 'Reynolde Grenelefe,' sayde the shryef, 'Where hast thou nowe be?'

184. 'I have be in this forest; A fayre syght can I se; It was one of the fayrest syghtes That ever yet sawe I me.

185. 'Yonder I sawe a ryght fayre harte, His coloure is of grene; Seven score of dere upon a herde Be with hym all bydene.

186. 'Their tyndes are so sharp, maister, Of sexty, and well mo, That I durst not shote for drede, Lest they wolde me slo.'

187. 'I make myn avowe to God,' sayde the shyref, 'That syght wolde I fayne se.' 'Buske you thyderwarde, my dere mayster, Anone, and wende with me.'

188. The sherif rode, and Litell Johnn Of fote he was full smerte, And whane they came before Robyn, 'Lo, sir, here is the mayster-herte.'

189. Still stode the proude sherief, A sory man was he; 'Wo the worthe, Raynolde Grenelefe, Thou hast betrayed nowe me.'

190. 'I make myn avowe to God,' sayde Litell Johnn, 'Mayster, ye be to blame; I was mysserved of my dynere When I was with you at home.'

191. Sone he was to souper sette, And served well with silver white, And when the sherif sawe his vessell, For sorowe he myght nat ete.

192. 'Make glad chere,' sayde Robyn Hode, 'Sherif, for charite, And for the love of Litill Johnn Thy lyfe I graunt to thee.'

193. Whan they had souped well, The day was al gone; Robyn commaunded Litell Johnn To drawe of his hosen and his shone;

194. His kirtell, and his cote of pie, That was fured well and fine, And toke hym a grene mantel, To lap his body therein.

195. Robyn commaundyd his wight yonge men, Under the grene-wode tree, They shulde lye in that same sute That the sherif myght them see.

196. All nyght lay the proude sherif In his breche and in his schert; No wonder it was, in grene wode, Though his sydes gan to smerte.

197. 'Make glad chere,' sayde Robyn Hode, 'Sheref, for charite; For this is our ordre i-wys Under the grene-wode tree.'

198. 'This is harder order,' sayde the sherief, 'Than any ankir or frere; For all the golde in mery Englonde I wolde nat longe dwell her.'

199. 'All this twelve monthes,' sayde Robin, 'Thou shalt dwell with me; I shall thee teche, proude sherif, An outlawe for to be.'

200. 'Or I be here another nyght,' sayde the sherif, 'Robyn, nowe pray I thee, Smyte of min hede rather to-morrowe, And I forgyve it thee.

201. 'Lat me go,' than sayde the sherif, 'For saynte charite, And I woll be the beste frende That ever yet had ye.'

202. 'Thou shalt swere me an othe,' sayde Robyn, 'On my bright bronde; Shalt thou never awayte me scathe By water ne by lande.

203. 'And if thou fynde any of my men, By nyght or by day, Upon thyn othe thou shalt swere To helpe them that thou may.'

204. Now hath the sherif sworne his othe, And home he began to gone; He was as full of grene-wode As ever was hepe of stone.

[Annotations: 145.2: 'shete,' shoot. 145.3: 'fet,' fetched. 148.1: 'wight,' strong, active. 148.4: 'wonynge wane': both words mean dwelling or habitation. 153.4: To give him his full reward. 154.2: 'leutye,' loyalty. 155.4: 'foriete,' forgotten. 160.4: 'go' = walk. 161.3: 'lyveray,' purveyance. 168.2: 'Two myle way' = the time it takes to go two miles. See Early English Lyrics, cxxvi. 55, and note. 168.4: 'mountnaunce,' duration. 172.2: 'nowmbles,' entrails: cf. 32.4. 175.3: 'Pecis,' cups; 'masars,' bowls. 177.2: Cf. Child Waters, 2.2 (First Series, p. 37). 183.2: See 177.2 and note. 183.3: 'shryef' may be a misprint, but 'shreeve' is another spelling of 'sheriff.' 185.4: 'bydene,' together. 186.1: 'tyndes' = tynes, forks of the antlers. 186.4: 'slo,' slay. 194.3: 'toke,' gave. 198.2: 'ankir,' anchorite, hermit. 200.1: 'Or,' ere. 202.3: 'awayte me scathe,' lie in wait to do me harm. 204.4: i.e. as ever a hip (berry of the wild rose) is of its stone.]


Argument.—Robin Hood will not dine until he has 'his pay,' and he therefore sends Little John with Much and Scarlok to wait for an 'unketh gest.' They capture a monk of St. Mary Abbey, and Robin Hood makes him disgorge eight hundred pounds. The monk, we are told, was on his way to London to take proceedings against the knight.

In due course the knight, who was left at the end of the second fytte at the wrestling-match, arrives to pay his debt to Robin Hood; who, however, refuses to receive it, saying that Our Lady had discharged the loan already.

The admirable, naively-told episode of Our Lady's method of repaying money lent on her security, is not without parallels, some of which Child points out (III. 53-4).


205. The sherif dwelled in Notingham; He was fayne he was agone; And Robyn and his mery men Went to wode anone.

206. 'Go we to dyner,' sayde Littell Johnn; Robyn Hode sayde, 'Nay; For I drede Our Lady be wroth with me, For she sent me nat my pay.'

207. 'Have no doute, maister,' sayde Litell Johnn; 'Yet is nat the sonne at rest; For I dare say, and savely swere. The knight is true and truste.'

208. 'Take thy bowe in thy hande,' sayde Robyn, 'Late Much wende with thee, And so shal Wyllyam Scarlok, And no man abyde with me.

209. 'And walke up under the Sayles, And to Watlynge-strete, And wayte after some unketh gest; Up chaunce ye may them mete.

210. 'Whether he be messengere, Or a man that myrthes can, Of my good he shall have some, Yf he be a pore man.'

211. Forth then stert Lytel Johan, Half in tray and tene, And gyrde hym with a full good swerde, Under a mantel of grene.

212. They went up to the Sayles, These yemen all thre; They loked est, they loked west, They myght no man se.

213. But as they loked in Bernysdale, By the hye waye, Than were they ware of two blacke monkes, Eche on a good palferay.

214. Then bespake Lytell Johan, To Much he gan say, 'I dare lay my lyfe to wedde, That these monkes have brought our pay.

215. 'Make glad chere,' sayd Lytell Johan, 'And frese your bowes of ewe, And loke your hertes be seker and sad, Your strynges trusty and trewe.

216. 'The monke hath two and fifty men, And seven somers full stronge; There rydeth no bysshop in this londe So ryally, I understond.

217. 'Brethern,' sayd Lytell Johan, 'Here are no more but we thre; But we brynge them to dyner, Our mayster dare we not se.

218. 'Bende your bowes,' sayd Lytell Johan, 'Make all yon prese to stonde; The formost monke, his lyfe and his deth Is closed in my honde.

219. 'Abyde, chorle monke,' sayd Lytell Johan, 'No ferther that thou gone; Yf thou doost, by dere worthy God, Thy deth is in my honde.

220. 'And evyll thryfte on thy hede,' sayd Lytell Johan, 'Ryght under thy hatte's bonde, For thou hast made our mayster wroth, He is fastynge so longe.'

221. 'Who is your mayster?' sayd the monke. Lytell Johan sayd, 'Robyn Hode.' 'He is a stronge thefe,' sayd the monke, 'Of hym herd I never good.'

222. 'Thou lyest,' than sayd Lytell Johan, 'And that shall rewe thee; He is a yeman of the forest, To dyne he hath bode thee.'

223. Much was redy with a bolte, Redly and anone, He set the monke to-fore the brest, To the grounde that he can gone.

224. Of two and fyfty wyght yonge yemen, There abode not one, Saf a lytell page and a grome, To lede the somers with Lytel Johan.

225. They brought the monke to the lodge-dore, Whether he were loth or lefe, For to speke with Robyn Hode, Maugre in theyr tethe.

226. Robyn dyde adowne his hode, The monke whan that he se; The monke was not so curteyse, His hode then let he be.

227. 'He is a chorle, mayster, by dere worthy God,' Than sayd Lytell Johan. 'Thereof no force,' sayd Robyn, 'For curteysy can he none.

228. 'How many men,' sayd Robyn, 'Had this monke, Johan?' 'Fyfty and two whan that we met, But many of them be gone.'

229. 'Let blowe a horne,' sayd Robyn, 'That felaushyp may us knowe.' Seven score of wyght yemen, Came pryckynge on a rowe.

230. And everych of them a good mantell Of scarlet and of raye; All they came to good Robyn, To wyte what he wolde say.

231. They made the monke to wasshe and wype, And syt at his denere. Robyn Hode and Lytell Johan They served him both in fere.

232. 'Do gladly, monke,' sayd Robyn. 'Gramercy, syr,' sayd he. 'Where is your abbay, whan ye are at home, And who is your avowe?'

233. 'Saynt Mary abbay,' sayd the monke, 'Though I be symple here.' 'In what offyce?' said Robyn: 'Syr, the hye selerer.'

234. 'Ye be the more welcome,' sayd Robyn, 'So ever mote I the! Fyll of the best wyne,' sayd Robyn, 'This monke shall drynke to me.

235. 'But I have grete mervayle,' sayd Robyn, 'Of all this longe day; I drede Our Lady be wroth with me, She sent me not my pay.'

236. 'Have no doute, mayster,' sayd Lytell Johan, 'Ye have no nede, I saye; This monke hath brought it, I dare well swere, For he is of her abbay.'

237. 'And she was a borowe,' sayd Robyn, 'Betwene a knyght and me, Of a lytell money that I hym lent, Under the grene-wode tree.

238. 'And yf thou hast that sylver ibrought, I pray thee let me se; And I shall helpe thee eftsones, Yf thou have nede to me.'

239. The monke swore a full grete othe, With a sory chere, 'Of the borowehode thou spekest to me, Herde I never ere.'

240. 'I make myn avowe to God,' sayd Robyn, 'Monke, thou art to blame; For God is holde a ryghtwys man, And so is his dame.

241. 'Thou toldest with thyn owne tonge, Thou may not say nay, How thou arte her servaunt, And servest her every day.

242. 'And thou art made her messengere, My money for to pay; Therefore I cun the more thanke Thou arte come at thy day.

243. 'What is in your cofers?' sayd Robyn, 'Trewe than tell thou me.' 'Syr,' he sayd, 'twenty marke, Al so mote I the.'

244. 'Yf there be no more,' sayd Robyn, 'I wyll not one peny; Yf thou hast myster of ony more, Syr, more I shall lende to thee.

245. 'And yf I fynde more,' sayd Robyn, 'I-wys thou shalte it forgone; For of thy spendynge-sylver, monke, Thereof wyll I ryght none.

246. 'Go nowe forthe, Lytell Johan, And the trouth tell thou me; If there be no more but twenty marke, No peny that I se.'

247. Lytell Johan spred his mantell downe, As he had done before, And he tolde out of the monkes male Eyght hondred pounde and more.

248. Lytell Johan let it lye full styll, And went to his mayster in hast; 'Syr,' he sayd, 'the monke is trewe ynowe, Our Lady hath doubled your cast.'

249. 'I make myn avowe to God,' sayd Robyn— 'Monke, what tolde I thee?— Our Lady is the trewest woman That ever yet founde I me.

250. 'By dere worthy God,' sayd Robyn, 'To seche all Englond thorowe, Yet founde I never to my pay A moche better borowe.

251. 'Fyll of the best wyne, and do hym drynke,' sayd Robyn, 'And grete well thy lady hende, And yf she have nede to Robyn Hode, A frende she shall hym fynde.

252. 'And yf she nedeth ony more sylver, Come thou agayne to me, And, by this token she hath me sent, She shall have such thre.'

253. The monke was goynge to London ward, There to hold grete mote, The knyght that rode so hye on hors, To brynge hym under fote.

254. 'Whether be ye away?' sayd Robyn. 'Syr, to maners in this londe, To reken with our reves, That have done moch wronge.'

255. 'Come now forth, Lytell Johan, And harken to my tale; A better yemen I knowe none, To seke a monkes male.'

256. 'How moch is in yonder other corser?' sayd Robyn, 'The soth must we see.' 'By Our Lady,' than sayd the monke, 'That were no curteysye,

257. 'To bydde a man to dyner, And syth hym bete and bynde.' 'It is our olde maner,' sayd Robyn, 'To leve but lytell behynde.'

258. The monke toke the hors with spore, No lenger wolde he abyde: 'Aske to drynke,' than sayd Robyn, 'Or that ye forther ryde.'

259. 'Nay, for God,' than sayd the monke, 'Me reweth I cam so nere; For better chepe I myght have dyned In Blythe or in Dankestere.'

260. 'Grete well your abbot,' sayd Robyn, 'And your pryour, I you pray, And byd hym send me such a monke To dyner every day.'

261. Now lete we that monke be styll, And speke we of that knyght: Yet he came to holde his day, Whyle that it was lyght.

262. He dyde him streyt to Bernysdale, Under the grene-wode tre, And he founde there Robyn Hode, And all his mery meyne.

263. The knyght lyght doune of his good palfray, Robyn whan he gan see; So curteysly he dyde adoune his hode, And set hym on his knee.

264. 'God the save, Robyn Hode, And all this company!' 'Welcome be thou, gentyll knyght, And ryght welcome to me.'

265. Than bespake hym Robyn Hode, To that knyght so fre; 'What nede dryveth thee to grene-wode? I praye thee, syr knyght, tell me.

266. 'And welcome be thou, gentyll knyght, Why hast thou be so longe?' 'For the abbot and the hye justyce Wolde have had my londe.'

267. 'Hast thou thy londe agayne?' sayd Robyn; 'Treuth than tell thou me.' 'Ye, for God,' sayd the knyght, 'And that thanke I God and thee.

268. 'But take no grefe, that I have be so longe; I came by a wrastelynge, And there I holpe a pore yeman, With wronge was put behynde.'

269. 'Nay, for God,' sayd Robyn, 'Syr knyght, that thanke I thee; What man that helpeth a good yeman, His frende than wyll I be.'

270. 'Have here foure hondred pounde,' than sayd the knyght, 'The whiche ye lent to me; And here is also twenty marke For your curteysy.'

271. 'Nay, for God,' than sayd Robyn, 'Thou broke it well for ay; For Our Lady, by her hye selerer, Hath sent to me my pay.

272. 'And yf I toke it i-twyse, A shame it were to me; But trewely, gentyll knyght, Welcome arte thou to me.'

273. Whan Robyn had tolde his tale, He leugh and had good chere: 'By my trouthe,' then sayd the knyght, 'Your money is redy here.'

274. 'Broke it well,' said Robyn, 'Thou gentyll knyght so fre; And welcome be thou, gentyll knyght, Under my trystell-tre.

275. 'But what shall these bowes do?' sayd Robyn, 'And these arowes ifedred fre?' 'By God,' than sayd the knyght, 'A pore present to thee.'

276. 'Come now forth, Lytell Johan, And go to my treasure, And brynge me there foure hondred pounde, The monke over-tolde it me.

277. 'Have here foure hondred pounde, Thou gentyll knyght and trewe, And bye hors and havnes good, And gylte thy spores all newe.

278. 'And yf thou fayle ony spendynge, Com to Robyn Hode, And by my trouth thou shalt none fayle, The whyles I have any good.

279. 'And broke well thy foure hondred pound, Whiche I lent to the, And make thy selfe no more so bare, By the counsell of me.'

280. Thus than holpe hym good Robyn, The knyght all of his care: God, that syt in heven hye, Graunte us well to fare!

[Annotations: 208., 209.: A repetition of 17 and 18. 211.2: 'tray and tene,' grief and vexation. 213.: i.e. Benedictines. 214.3: 'wedde,' wager. 215.2: 'frese' occurs nowhere else, and its meaning is unknown. 215.3: 'seker and sad,' resolute and staunch. 216.2: 'somers' = sumpters, pack-horses. 218.2: 'prese,' crowd. 225.2: 'lefe,' pleased, willing. 225.4: 'Maugre,' in spite of. 227.3: 'no force,' no matter. 229.2: 'felaushyp' = our fellows. 230.2: 'raye,' striped cloth. 232.4: 'avowe,' patron. 234.2: A common form of asseveration = 'upon my life'; 'the' = thrive. Cf. 243.4. 237.1: 'borowe,' security. 239.2: 'chere,' countenance. 243.4: See 234.2 and note. 244.3: 'myster,' need. 247.3: 'male,' trunk. See 134.2 and 374.1. 250.3: 'pay,' liking. 251.2: 'hende,' gracious. 253.2: 'mote,' meeting. 254.3: 'reves,' bailiffs. 256.1: 'corser,' coffer (?). 271.2: 'broke,' enjoy. Cf. 274.3 and 279.3. 273.2: 'leugh,' laughed. 275.2: 'ifedred,' feathered.]


Argument.—The story now returns to the Sheriff of Nottingham, and relates how he offered a prize for the best archer in the north. Robin Hood, hearing of this match, determines to go to it, and to test the sheriff's faith to his oath (see the Third Fytte, stt. 202-4). Robin wins the prize, and is starting home to the greenwood, when the sheriff recognises and attacks him, but is beaten off by a shower of arrows. Robin and his men retire, shooting as they go, until they come to a castle. Here dwells the knight to whom Robin had lent the money—'Sir Richard at the Lee.' He takes in Robin and his men, and defies the sheriff; Robin, he says, shall spend forty days with him.

This fytte is no doubt based on some single lost ballad of a shooting-match at which Robin was victorious, and at which the Sheriff of Nottingham attempted in vain to arrest him. But the compiler of the Gest has carefully linked it to the preceding fyttes by such references as Robin's determination to try the sheriff's faith (st. 287), which is made clear in stt. 296-8; and the identification of the knight whose castle protects Robin and his men with the knight to whom the money had been lent (stt. 310-312).


281. Now hath the knyght his leve i-take, And wente hym on his way; Robyn Hode and his mery men Dwelled styll full many a day.

282. Lyth and listen, gentil men, And herken what I shall say, How the proud sheryfe of Notyngham Dyde crye a full fayre play;

283. That all the best archers of the north Sholde come upon a day, And he that shoteth allther best The game shall bere away.

284. He that shoteth allther best, Furthest fayre and lowe, At a payre of fynly buttes, Under the grene wode shawe,

285. A ryght good arowe he shall have, The shaft of sylver whyte, The hede and feders of ryche rede golde, In Englond is none lyke.

286. This than herde good Robyn Under his trystell-tre: 'Make you redy, ye wyght yonge men; That shotynge wyll I se.

287. 'Buske you, my mery yonge men; Ye shall go with me; And I wyll wete the shryves fayth, Trewe and yf he be.'

288. Whan they had theyr bowes i-bent, Theyr takles fedred fre, Seven score of wyght yonge men Stode by Robyn's kne.

289. Whan they cam to Notyngham, The buttes were fayre and longe; Many was the bolde archere That shoted with bowes stronge.

290. 'There shall but syx shote with me; The other shal kepe my hevede, And stande with good bowes bent, That I be not desceyved.'

291. The fourth outlawe his bowe gan bende, And that was Robyn Hode, And that behelde the proud sheryfe, All by the but as he stode.

292. Thryes Robyn shot about, And alway he slist the wand, And so dyde good Gylberte With the whyte hande.

293. Lytell Johan and good Scatheloke Were archers good and fre; Lytell Much and good Reynolde, The worste wolde they not be.

294. Whan they had shot aboute, These archours fayre and good, Evermore was the best, For soth, Robyn Hode.

295. Hym was delyvred the good arowe, For best worthy was he; He toke the yeft so curteysly; To grene-wode wolde he.

296. They cryed out on Robyn Hode, And grete hornes gan they blowe: 'Wo worth the, treason!' sayd Robyn, 'Full evyl thou art to knowe.

297. 'And wo be thou, thou proude sheryf, Thus gladdynge thy gest! Other wyse thou behote me In yonder wylde forest.

298. 'But had I thee in grene-wode, Under my trystell-tre, Thou sholdest leve me a better wedde Than thy trewe lewte.'

299. Full many a bowe there was bent, And arowes let they glyde; Many a kyrtell there was rent, And hurt many a syde.

300. The outlawes shot was so stronge That no man might them dryve, And the proud sheryfes men, They fled away full blyve.

301. Robyn sawe the busshement to-broke, In grene wode he wolde have be; Many an arowe there was shot Amonge that company.

302. Lytell Johan was hurte full sore, With an arowe in his kne, That he myght neyther go nor ryde; It was full grete pyte.

303. 'Mayster,' then sayd Lytell Johan, 'If ever thou lovedst me, And for that ylke lordes love That dyed upon a tre,

304. 'And for the medes of my servyce, That I have served thee, Lete never the proude sheryf Alyve now fynde me.

305. 'But take out thy browne swerde, And smyte all of my hede, And gyve me woundes depe and wyde; No lyfe on me be lefte.'

306. 'I wolde not that,' sayd Robyn, 'Johan, that thou were slawe, For all the golde in mery Englonde, Though it lay now on a rawe.'

307. 'God forbede,' sayd Lytell Much, 'That dyed on a tre, That thou sholdest, Lytell Johan, Parte our company.'

308. Up he toke hym on his backe, And bare hym well a myle; Many a tyme he layd him downe, And shot another whyle.

309. Then was there a fayre castell, A lytell within the wode; Double-dyched it was about, And walled, by the rode.

310. And there dwelled that gentyll knyght, Syr Rychard at the Lee, That Robyn had lent his good, Under the grene-wode tree.

311. In he toke good Robyn, And all his company: 'Welcome be thou, Robyn Hode, Welcome arte thou to me;

312. 'And moche I thanke thee of thy comfort, And of thy curteysye, And of thy grete kyndenesse, Under the grene-wode tre.

313. 'I love no man in all this worlde So much as I do thee; For all the proud sheryf of Notyngham, Ryght here shalt thou be.

314. 'Shyt the gates, and drawe the brydge, And let no man come in, And arme you well, and make you redy, And to the walles ye wynne.

315. 'For one thynge, Robyn, I the behote; I swere by Saynt Quyntyne, These forty dayes thou wonnest with me, To soupe, ete, and dyne.'

316. Bordes were layde, and clothes were spredde, Redely and anone; Robyn Hode and his mery men To mete can they gone.

[Annotations: 282.4: 'dyde' = caused to: cf. 'do you to wit.' —Gummere. 283.3: 'allther best,' best of all: cp. 9.4. 284.3: 'fynly,' goodly. 287.3: 'wete,' know. 287.4: 'and yf' = [*] 288.2: 'fedred fre,' fully feathered. 290.2: 'hevede' = head, i.e. life. 292.2: 'slist,' sliced, split. 295.3: 'yeft,' gift, prize. 297.3: 'behote,' didst promise. 298.3: 'wedde,' forfeit. 298.4: 'lewte,' loyalty, faith. 300.4: 'blyve,' quickly. 301.1: 'busshement,' ambuscade: 'to-broke,' broken up. 304.1: 'medes,' wages. 306.4: 'on a rawe,' in a row; cf. 60.2. 315.1: 'behote,' promise; cf. 297.3. 315.3: 'wonnest,' dwellest.]


Argument.—The Sheriff of Nottingham secures the assistance of the High Sheriff, and besets the knight's castle, accusing him of harbouring the king's enemies. The knight bids him appeal to the king, saying he will 'avow' (i.e. make good or justify) all he has done, on the pledge of all his lands. The sheriffs raise the siege and go to London, where the king says he will be at Nottingham in two weeks and will capture both the knight and Robin Hood. The sheriff returns home to get together a band of archers to assist the king; but meanwhile Robin has escaped to the greenwood. However, the sheriff lies in wait for the knight, captures him and takes him bound to Nottingham. The knight's lady rides to Robin and begs him to save her lord; whereupon Robin and his men hasten to Nottingham, kill the sheriff, release the knight, and carry him off to the greenwood.

The latter episode—of Robin's release, at the request of his wife, of a knight taken captive by the sheriff—comes probably from a separate ballad: Robin Hood rescuing Three Squires tells a similar story. This the compiler of the Gest has apparently woven in with the story of the previous fyttes, though he has not done so very thoroughly (e.g., the inconsistency of Robin's question to the knight's wife, 'What man hath your lord i-take?' with his knowledge of the knight's defiance of the sheriff). The compiler has also neatly prepared the way for the introduction of the seventh and eighth fyttes by the knight's appeal to the king; but, having done so, he has apparently forgotten the king's undertaking to come to Nottingham, and has allowed the sheriff to anticipate that plan and capture the knight without assistance.


317. Lythe and lysten, gentylmen, And herkyn to your songe; Howe the proude shyref of Notyngham, And men of armys stronge,

318. Full fast cam to the hye shyref, The contre up to route, And they besette the knyghtes castell, The walles all aboute.

319. The proude shyref loude gan crye, And sayde, 'Thou traytour knight, Thou kepest here the kynges enemys, Agaynst the lawe and right.'

320. 'Syr, I wyll avowe that I have done, The dedys that here be dyght, Upon all the landes that I have, As I am a trewe knyght.

321. 'Wende furth, sirs, on your way, And do no more to me Tyll ye wyt oure kynges wille, What he wyll say to thee.'

322. The shyref thus had his answere, Without any lesynge; Forth he yede to London towne, All for to tel our kinge.

323. Ther he telde him of that knight, And eke of Robyn Hode, And also of the bolde archars, That were soo noble and gode.

324. 'He wyll avowe that he hath done, To mayntene the outlawes stronge; He wyll be lorde, and set you at nought, In all the northe londe.'

325. 'I wil be at Notyngham,' sayde our kynge, 'Within this fourteennyght, And take I wyll Robyn Hode And so I wyll that knight.

326. 'Go nowe home, shyref,' sayde our kynge, 'And do as I byd thee; And ordeyn gode archers ynowe, Of all the wyde contre.'

327. The shyref had his leve i-take, And went hym on his way; And Robyn Hode to grene wode, Upon a certen day.

328. And Lytel John was hole of the arowe That shot was in his kne, And dyd hym streyght to Robyn Hode, Under the grene wode tree.

329. Robyn Hode walked in the forest, Under the levys grene; The proud shyref of Notyngham Thereof he had grete tene.

330. The shyref there fayled of Robyn Hode, He myght not have his pray; Than he awayted this gentyll knyght, Bothe by nyght and day.

331. Ever he wayted the gentyll knyght, Syr Richarde at the Lee, As he went on haukynge by the ryver-syde And lete his haukes flee.

332. Toke he there this gentyll knight, With men of armys stronge, And led hym to Notynghamwarde, Bounde bothe fote and hande.

333. The sheref sware a full grete othe, Bi him that dyed on rode, He had lever than an hundred pound That he had Robyn Hode.

334. This harde the knyghtes wyfe, A fayr lady and a free; She set hir on a gode palfrey, To grene wode anone rode she.

335. Whanne she cam in the forest, Under the grene wode tree, Fonde she there Robyn Hode, And all his fayre mene.

336. 'God thee save, gode Robyn, And all thy company; For Our dere Ladyes sake, A bone graunte thou me.

337. 'Late never my wedded lorde Shamefully slayne be; He is fast bowne to Notinghamwarde, For the love of thee.'

338. Anone than saide goode Robyn To that lady so fre, 'What man hath your lorde ytake?' ['The proude shirife,' than sayd she.

339. 'You may them overtake, Robyn,] For soth as I thee say; He is nat yet thre myles Passed on his way.'

340. Up than sterte gode Robyn, As man that had ben wode: 'Buske you, my mery men, For hym that dyed on rode.

341. 'And he that this sorowe forsaketh, By hym that dyed on tre, Shall he never in grene wode No lenger dwel with me.'

342. Sone there were gode bowes bent, Mo than seven score; Hedge ne dyche spared they none That was them before.

343. 'I make myn avowe to God,' sayde Robyn, 'The sherif wolde I fayne see; And if I may him take, I-quyt then shall he be.'

344. And when they came to Notingham, They walked in the strete; And with the proude sherif i-wys Sone can they mete.

345. 'Abyde, thou proude sherif,' he sayde, 'Abyde, and speke with me; Of some tidinges of oure kinge I wolde fayne here of thee.

346. 'This seven yere, by dere worthy God, Ne yede I this fast on fote; I make myn avowe to God, thou proude sherif, It is not for thy gode.'

347. Robyn bent a full goode bowe, An arrowe he drowe at wyll; He hit so the proude sherife Upon the grounde he lay full still.

348. And or he myght up aryse, On his fete to stonde, He smote of the sherifs hede With his brighte bronde.

349. 'Lye thou there, thou proude sherife; Evyll mote thou cheve! There myght no man to thee truste The whyles thou were a lyve.'

350. His men drewe out theyr bryght swerdes, That were so sharpe and kene, And layde on the sheryves men, And dryved them downe bydene.

351. Robyn stert to that knyght, And cut a two his bonde, And toke hym in his hand a bowe, And bad hym by hym stonde.

352. 'Leve thy hors thee behynde, And lerne for to renne; Thou shalt with me to grene wode, Through myre, mosse, and fenne.

353. 'Thou shalt with me to grene wode, Without ony leasynge, Tyll that I have gete us grace Of Edwarde, our comly kynge.'

[Annotations: 320.2: 'dyght,' concerted. 322.3: 'yede,' went. 326.3: 'ordeyn,' levy, summon. 328.: See st. 302. 329.4: 'tene,' anger. 'Thereof' means 'of Robin's escape.' 333.3: 'lever,' rather. 334.1: 'harde,' = heard. 336.4: 'bone,' boon. 338.4, 339.1: supplied from later versions. 340.2: 'wode,' mad. 346.2: 'this' = thus. 348.1: 'And or' = ere. 349.2: 'cheve,' gain, win. 350.4: 'bydene,' one after another. 351.3: 'toke,' gave.]


Argument.—The king, coming with a great array to Nottingham to take Robin Hood and the knight, and finding nothing but a great scarcity of deer, is wondrous wroth, and promises the knight's lands to any one who will bring him his head. For half a year the king has no news of Robin; at length, at the suggestion of a forester, he disguises himself as an abbot and five of his men as monks, and goes into the greenwood. He is met and stopped by Robin Hood, gives up forty pounds to him, and alleges he is a messenger from the king. Thereupon Robin entertains him and his men on the king's own deer, and the outlaws hold an archery competition, Robin smiting those that miss. At his last shot, Robin himself misses, and asks the abbot to smite him in his turn. The abbot gives him such a buffet that Robin is nearly felled; on looking more closely, he recognises the king, of whom he and his men ask pardon on their knees. The king grants it, on condition that they will enter his service. Robin agrees, but reserves the right to return to the greenwood if he mislikes the court.

This fytte is based on the story, extremely common and essentially popular, especially in England, of a meeting between a king in disguise and one of his subjects. Doubtless there was a ballad of Robin Hood and the king; but the only one we possess, The King's Disguise and Friendship with Robin Hood, is a late and a loose paraphrase of this fytte and the next. The commonest stories and ballads of this type in English are The King and the Barker (i.e. Tanner), King Edward the Fourth and the Tanner of Tamworth, King James and the Tinker, and King Henry II. and the Miller of Mansfield. Usually the point of the story is the lack of ceremony displayed by the subject, and the royal good-humour and largesse of the king.

1  2  3     Next Part
Home - Random Browse