Verse > Anthologies > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Ballads
Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. (1863–1944).  The Oxford Book of Ballads.  1910.
115. A Little Geste of Robin Hood and his Meiny
The Fourth Fytte
How Robin Hood was repaid his Loan


The Sheriff dwelled in Nottingham,
  He was fain that he was gone;
And Robin and his merry men
  Went to wood anon.

‘Go we to dinner,’ said Little John:
  Robin Hood said ‘Nay;
For I fear Our Lady be wroth with me,
  For she sent me not my pay.’

‘Have no doubt, master,’ said Little John;
  ‘Yet is not the sun at rest;        10
For I dare say and safely swear,
  The Knight is true and trest.’

‘Take thy bow in hande,’ said Robin,
  ‘Let Much wend with thee,
And so shall William Scathèlock.        15
  And no man abide with me.

‘And walk ye up unto the Sayles,
  And so to Watling Street,
And wait after some uncouth guest,
  Upchance ye may them meet.        20

‘Whether he be a messenger,
  Or a man that mirthès can,
Of my good he shall have some,
  If he be a poorè man.’

Forth then started Little John,
  Half in tray and teen,
And girt him with a full good sword,
  Under a mantle of green.

They wenten up unto the Sayles,
  Those yeomen allè three;        30
They lookèd east, they lookèd west,
  They mightè no man see.

But as they looked in Barnèsdale,
  By the highè-way,
Then were they ware of a Black Monk,        35
  Upon a good palfrèy.

Then bespake him Little John,
  To Muchè gan he say:
‘I dare well lay my life to wed,
  That Monk hath brought our pay.        40

‘Make glad cheer,’ said Little John,
  ‘And dress your bows of yew,
And look your hearts be seker and sad,
  Your strings trusty and true.

‘The Monk hath two and fifty men,
  And seven somers strong;
There rideth no bishop in this land
  So royally along.

‘Bretheren,’ said Little John,
  ‘Here are no more but three;        50
But we bring them to dinnèr,
  Our master we dare not see.

‘Bend your bows,’ said Little John,
  ‘Make all yon press to stand;
The foremost Monk, his life and death        55
  Is closèd in my hand.

‘Abide, churl Monk!’ said Little John,
  ‘No further that thou wend;
If thou dost, by dear-worth God,
  Thy death is in my hend.        60

‘And evil thrift upon thy head,
  Right under thy hat’s band!
For thou hast made our master wroth,
  He is so lang fastand.’

‘Who is your master?’ said the Monk.—
  Little John said, ‘Robin Hood.’—
‘He is a strong thief,’ said the Monk,
  ‘Of him I never heard good.’

‘Thou liest,’ then said Little John,
  ‘And that shall ruè thee;        70
He is a yeoman of the forest,
  To dine he hath bidden thee.’

Much was ready with a bolt,
  Rathely and anon,
He set the Monk to-fore the breast        75
  To the ground that he gan gon.

Of two and fifty wight yeomen
  There abode not one,
Save a little page and a groom
  To lead the somers on.        80

They brought the Monk to the lodgè door,
  Whether he were loath or lief,
For to speak with Robin Hood,
  Maugre in his teeth.

Robin did a-down his hood,
  The Monk when that he see;
The Monk was not so courteous,
  His hood he lettè be.

‘He is a churl, by dear-worth God,’
  Then said Little John.        90
‘Thereof no force,’ said Robin Hood,
  ‘For courtesy can be none.’

‘How many men,’ said Robin Hood,
  ‘Haddè this Monk, Johan?’—
‘Fifty and two when that we met,        95
  But many of them be gane.’

‘Let blow a horn,’ said Robin Hood,
  ‘That fellowship may us know.’—
Seven score of wight yeomen
  Came pricking on a row.        100

Each of them had a good mantèl
  Of scarlet and of ray;
All they came to good Robin,
  To wit what he would say.

They made the Monk to wash and wipe,
  And sit at his dinnere,
Robin Hood and Little John
  They served him both in fere.

‘Do gladly, Monk,’ said Robin Hood;
  ‘Gramerci, sir,’ said he.        110
‘Where is your Abbey, when you are at home,
  And who is your avowè?’

‘Saint Mary’s Abbey,’ said the Monk,
  ‘Though I be simple here.’—
‘In what office?’ said Robin;        115
  ‘Sir, the High Cellerèr.’

‘Ye be the more welcome,’ said Robin,
  ‘So ever mote I the:
Fill of the best wine,’ said Robin,
  ‘This Monk shall drink to me.        120

‘But I have great marvel,’ said Robin,
  ‘Of all this longè day;
I dread Our Lady be wroth with me,
  She sent me not my pay.’

‘Have no doubt, master,’ said Little John,
  ‘Ye have no need, I say,
This Monk hath brought it, I dare well swear,
  For he is of her Abbèy.’

‘And she was a borrow,’ said Robin,
  ‘Between a Knight and me,        130
Of a little money that I him lent,
  Under the green-wood tree.

‘And if thou hast that silver brought,
  I pray thee let me see;
And I shall helpè thee eftsoons,        135
  If thou have need to me.’

The Monk swore a full great oath,
  With a sorry cheer,
‘Of the borrowhood thou speak’st to me
  Heard I never ere.’—        140

‘I makè mine avow to God,
  Monk, thou art to blame;
For God is held a righteous Man,
  And so is eke his Dame.

‘Thou toldest with thine ownè tongue,
  Thou mayst not sayè naye,
How thou art her servant,
  And servest her every day.

‘And thou art made her messenger,
  My money for to pay;        150
Therefore I can thee morè thank
  Thou art come at thy day.

‘What is in your coffers?’ said Robin,
  ‘Truthè tell thou me.’—
‘Sir,’ he saidè, ‘twenty mark,        155
  All so mote I the.’

‘If there be no more,’ said Robin,
  ‘I will not one penny;
If thou hast myster of any more,
  More I shall lend to thee.        160

‘And if I find more,’ said Robin,
  ‘I-wis thou shalt it forgone;
For of thy spending-silver, Monk,
  Thereof will I right none.

‘Go now forth, Little John,
  The truthè tell thou me;
If there be no more but twenty mark,
  No penny that I see.’

Little John spread his mantle down,
  As he had done before,        170
And he told out of the Monkès mail
  Eight hundred pound and more.

Little John let it lie full still,
  And went to his master in haste;
‘Sir,’ he said, ‘the Monk is true enough,        175
  Our Lady hath doubled your cast!’—

‘I makè mine avow to God,
  Monk, what told I thee?
Our Lady is the truest woman
  That ever found I me.        180

‘By dear-worth God,’ said Robin Hood,
  ‘To seek all England thorough,
Yet found I never to my pay
  A muchè better borrow.

‘Fill of the best wine,’ said Robin,
  ‘And greet thy Lady hend,
And if she have need to Robin Hood
  She shall him find a friend.

‘And if she need any more silvèr,
  Come thou again to me,        190
And, by this token she hath me sent,
  She shall have suchè three.’

The Monk was going to Londonward,
  There to hold great moot,
The Knight that rode so high on horse,        195
  To bring him under foot.

‘Whither be ye away?’ said Robin.—
  ‘Sir, to manors in this londe,
To reckon with our revès,
  That have done much wrong.’—        200

‘Come now forth, Little John,
  And hearken to my tale,
A better yeoman I know none,
  To seek a Monkès mail.’

‘How much is in yon other forcèr?
  The soothè must we see:’
‘By our Lady,’ then said the Monk,
  ‘That were no courtesy,

‘A man to biddè to dinnèr,
  And sith him beat and bind.’—        210
‘It is our old manner,’ said Robin,
  ‘To leave but little behind.’

The Monk took the horse with spur,
  No longer would he abide;
‘Ask to drink,’ then said Robin,        215
  ‘Ere that ye further ride.’

‘Nay, ‘fore God,’ then said the Monk,
  ‘Me rueth I came so near;
For better cheap I might have dined
  In Blyth or Doncastere.’        220

‘Greet well your Abbot,’ said Robin,
  ‘And your prior, I you pray,
And bid him send me such a Monk
  To dinner every day!’

Now lettè we that Monk be still,
  And speak we of that Knight:
Yet he came to hold his day,
  The while that it was light.

He did him straight to Barnèsdale,
  Under the green-wood tree,        230
And he found there Robin Hood,
  And all his merry meinèe.

The Knight lit down off his good palfrèy,
  Robin when he gan see;
Courteously he did a-down his hood,        235
  And set him on his knee.

‘God thee savè, Robin Hood,
  And all this company!’—
‘Welcome be thou, gentle Knight,
  Right welcome unto me.’        240

Then bespake him Robin Hood
  To that Knight so free:
‘What need driveth thee to greenè-wood?
  I pray, sir Knight, tell me.

‘And welcome be thou, gentle Knight,
  Why hast thou been so long?’—
‘For the Abbot and the High Justice
  Would have had my land with wrong.’

‘Hast thou thy land again?’ said Robin;
  ‘Truthè tell thou me.’—        250
‘Yea, ‘fore God,’ said the Knight,
  ‘That thank I God and thee.

‘But take no grief I have been so long;
  I came by a wrestèling,
And there I holp a poor yeoman,        255
  With wrong was put behind.’

‘Nay, ‘fore God,’ said Robin Hood,
  ‘Sir Knight, that thank I thee;
What man that helpeth a good yeoman,
  His friend I willè be.’        260

‘Have here four hundred pound,’ said the Knight,
  ‘The which ye lent to me;
And here is also twenty mark
  For your courtesy.’

‘Nay, ’fore God,’ said Robin Hood,
  ‘Thou brook it well for aye;
For Our Lady, by her Cellarèr,
  Hath sent to me my pay.

‘And if I would it twicè take
  A shame it were to me;        270
But truly now, thou gentle Knight,
  Welcome art thou to me.’

When Robin Hood had told his tale,
  He laugh’d and made good cheer.
‘By my truthè,’ said the Knight,        275
  ‘Your money is ready here.’

‘Brook it well,’ said Robin Hood,
  ‘Thou gentle Knight so free;
And welcome be thou, gentle knight,
  Under my trystell-tree!        280

‘But what shall these bows do,’ said Robin,
  ‘And these arrows feather’d free?’—
‘With your will,’ then said the Knight,
  ‘A poor present to thee.’—

‘Come now forth, Little John,
  And go to my treasury,
And bring me thence four hundred pound;
  The Monk overtold it me.

‘Have here four hundred pound,
  Thou gentle Knight and true,        290
And buy thee horse and harness good,
  And giltè spurs all new.

‘And if thou fail any spending,
  Come to Robin Hood,
And by my troth thou shalt none fail,        295
  While I have any good.

‘And brook well thy four hundred pound,
  Which I lent to thee,
And make thyself no more so bare,
  By the counsel of me.’        300

Thus then holp him good Robin,
  The Knight all of his care:
God, that sitt’st in heaven high,
  Grant us well to fare!
GLOSS:  trest] trusty.  that mirthès can] that can crack a joke.  tray and teen] grief and trouble.  a Black Monk] a Benedictine.  wed] wager.  seker and sad] sure and steady.  somers] pack-horses.  But] unless.  press] crowd.  hend] hands.  thrift] thriving, luck.  bolt] a blunt arrow.  Rathely] quickly.  set … to-fore] hit upon.  gan gon] did go.  lief] glad.  Maugre in his teeth] in spite of him.  no force] no matter.  ray] striped cloth.  avowè] founder, patron.  So … mote I the] so may I prosper.  eftsoons] soon.  borrowhood] surety.  Dame] Mother.  mark] 13s. 4d.  myster] need.  cast] throw, as in dice.  hend] gracious.  moot] meeting, assembly.  seek] search.  mail] wallet, bag.  forcèr] coffer, strong-box.  sith] then.  For better cheap] more cheaply.  brook] enjoy, use.  overtold] counted over.


Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2015 · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors · World Lit.