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 Seventh Fytte
How the King rode out to punish Robin Hood, and how he was entertained


The King came to Nottingham,
  With knights in great array,
For to take that gentle Knight
  And Robin, if he may.

He askèd men of that country
  After Robin Hood,
And eke after that gentle Knight
  That was so bold and good.

When they had him told the case
  Our King understood their tale,        10
And he seizèd in his hand
  The Knightès landès all.

All the pass of Lancashire
  He went both far and near,
Till he came to Plompton Park,        15
  He fail’d many of his deer.

There our King was wont to see
  Herdès many one,
He could unneth find one deer
  That bare any good horn.        20

The King was wonder wroth withall,
  And swore by the Trinity,
‘I would I haddè Robin Hood,
  With eyes I might him see.

‘And he that would smite off the Knightès head,
  And bring it unto me
He shall have the Knightès lands,
  Sir Richard at the Lee.

‘I give it him with my chartèr,
  And seal it with my hand,        30
To have and hold for evermore
  In all merry England.’

Then bespake a fair old Knight
  That was true in his fay:
‘Ah! my liegè lord the King,        35
  One word I shall you say.

‘There is no man in this country
  May have the Knightès lands,
While Robin Hood may ride or go,
  And bear a bow in his hands.        40

‘That he ne shall not lose his head,
  The best ball in his hood;
Give it no man, my lord the King,
  That ye will any good.’

Half a year dwelt our comely King
  In Nottingham, and more;
Could he not hear of Robin Hood,
  In what country he wore.

But alway wentè good Robin
  By halk and eke by hill,        50
And alway slew the Kingès deer,
  And wielded them at will.

Then bespake a proud forstèr,
  That stood by our Kingès knee:
‘If ye will see good Robin Hood,        55
  Ye must do after me.

‘Take five of the bestè knights
  That be in yourè lede,
And walkè down by yon Abbèy,
  And get you monkès weed.        60

‘And I will be your leadès-man,
  And leadè you the way,
And ere ye come to Nottingham,
  Mine head then dare I lay

‘That ye shall meet with good Robin,
  Alive if that he be;
Ere ye come to Nottingham
  With eyes ye shall him see.’

Full hastily our King was dight,
  So were his knightès five,        70
Each of them in monkès weed,
  And hasted thither blive.

Our King was great above his cowl,
  A broad hat on his crown,
Right as he were abbot-like,        75
  They rode into the town.

Stiff boots our King had on,
  Forsooth as I you say;
Singing he rode to the greenè-wood,
  The convent was clothed in gray.        80

His mail-horse and his great somèrs
  Followed our King behind,
Till they came to greenè-wood
  A mile under the lind.

There they met with good Robin,
  Standing on the way,
And so did many a bold archèr,
  For sooth as I you say.

Robin took the Kingè’s horse
  Hastily in that stide,        90
And said, ‘Sir Abbot, by your leave,
  A while ye must abide.

‘We be yeomen of this forèst
  Under the green-wood tree;
We livè by our Kingès deer,        95
  None other shift have we.

‘And ye have churches and rentès both
  And gold full great plenty;
Give us some of your spending,
  For saintè charity.’        100

Then bespake our comely King,
  Anon then saidè he,
‘I have brought no more to greenè-wood
  But forty pound with me.

‘I have lain at Nottingham
  This fortnight with our King,
And spent I have full muchè good
  On many a great lording.

‘And I have but forty pound,
  No more I have with me:        110
But if I had an hundred pound,
  I vouch it half on thee.’

Robin took the forty pound,
  And departed it in twain;
Halfen-deal he gave his men,        115
  And bade them be full fain.

Full courteously Robin gan say,
  ‘Sir, this for your spending!
We shall meet another day.’—
  ‘Gramerci!’ said our King.        120

‘But well thee greeteth Edward our King,
  And sent to thee his seal,
And biddeth thee come to Nottingham,
  Both to meat and meal.’

He took out the broadè targe,
  And soon he let him see;
Robin could his courtesy,
  And set him on his knee.

‘I love no man in all the world
  So well as I do my King;        130
Welcome is my lordès seal;
  And, Monk, for thy tiding.

‘Sir Abbot, for thy tidings,
  Today thou shalt dine with me,
For the lovè of my King,        135
  Under my trystell-tree.’

Forth he led our comely King
  Full fairè by the hand;
Many a deer there was slain,
  They were full fast dightànd.        140

Robin took a full great horn,
  And loudè he gan blow;
Seven score of wight young men
  Came ready on a row.

All they kneelèd on their knee
  Full fair before Robin;
The King said himself until,
  And swore by Saint Austìn,

‘Here is a wonder seemly sight;
  Me thinketh, by God’s pine,        150
His men are more at his bidding
  Than my men be at mine.’

Full hastily was their dinner dight,
  And thereto gan they gon;
They servèd our King with all their might,        155
  Both Robin and Little John.

Anon before our King was set
  The fattè venisoun,
The good white bread, the good red wine,
  Thereto fine ale and brown.        160

‘Make good cheer,’ said Robin Hood,
  ‘Abbot, for charity,
And for this ilkè tiding, Sir,
  Blessed mote thou be.

‘Now shalt thou see what life we lead,
  Ere thou hennès wend;
Then thou mayst inform our King,
  When ye together lend.’

Up they started all in haste,
  Their bows were smartly bent;        170
Our King was never so aghast,
  He weened to have been shent.

Two yards there were up set,
  Thereto gan they gang;
By fifty paces, our King said,        175
  The markès were too lang.

On every side a rose garlànd,
  They shot under the line:
‘Who fails of the garland,’ said Robin,
  ‘His tackle he shall tine,        180

‘And yield it unto his mastèr,
  Be it never so fine;
For no man will I spare,’ he said,
  ‘So drink I ale or wine;

‘And bear a buffet on his head
  I-wis aright all bare:’
And all that fell to Robin’s lot
  He smote them wonder sair.

Twice Robin shot about,
  And ever he cleft the wand,        190
And so did eke the good Gilbèrt
  With the white hand.

Little John and good Scathèlock,
  For nothing would they spare;
When they fail’d of the garlànd        195
  Robin smote them sair.

At the last shot that Robin shot,
  For all his friendès fare,
Yet he fail’d of the garlànd
  Three fingers and mair.        200

Then bespake him good Gilbèrt,
  And thus he gan him say:
‘Master,’ he said, ‘your tackle is lost,
  Stand forth and take your pay.’

‘If it be so,’ said Robin Hood,
  ‘That may no better be,
Sir Abbot, I deliver thee mine arrow,
  I pray thee, serve thou me.’

‘It falls not for mine order,’ said our King,
  ‘Robin, by thy leave,        210
For to smite no good yeomàn,
  For doubt I should him grieve.’

‘Smite on boldly,’ said Robin,
  ‘I give thee largè leave.’
Anon our King with that same word        215
  He folded up his sleeve,

And such a buffet he gave Robin,
  To ground he yede full near:
‘I make mine avow to God,’ said Robin,
  ‘Thou art a stalwart frere.        220

‘There is pith in thine arm,’ said Robin,
  ‘I trow thou canst well shoot.’
Thus our King and Robin Hood
  Together then they met.

Robin beheld our comely King
  Wistly in the face,
So did Sir Richard at the Lea,
  And knelt down in that place.

And so did all the wild outlàws,
  When they saw them kneel:        230
‘My lord the King of Engèland,
  Now I know you weel!’

‘Mercy then, Robin,’ said our King,
  ‘Under your trystell-tree,
Of thy goodness and thy grace,        235
  For my men and me!’

‘Yes, ’fore God,’ said Robin Hood,
  ‘And also God me save!
I ask mercy, my lord the King,
  And for my men I crave.’        240

‘Yes, ’fore God,’ then said our King,
  ‘And thereto sent I me,
With that thou leave the greenè-wood,
  And all thy company;

‘And come home, sir, unto my court,
  And there dwell with me.’—
‘I make mine avow to God,’ said Robin,
  ‘And right so shall it be.

‘I will come unto your court,
  Your service for to see,        250
And bringè with me of my men
  Seven score and three.

‘But me like well your service,
  I will come again full soon,
And shooten at the dunnè deer,        255
  As I am wont to doon.’
GLOSS:  pass] limits, extent.  There] where.  unneth] scarcely.  fay] faith.  That ye will] to whom you wish.  halk] nook, hiding-place.  forstèr] forester.  lede] following, retinue.  leadès-man] guide.  convent] company of monks.  mail-horse] baggage-horse.  lind] linden, lime tree.  stide] stead, place.  lording] gentleman.  Halfen-deal] half.  targe] disk (seal).  dightànd] making preparations.  pine] pain, passion.  hennès] hence.  lend] dwell.  shent] put to shame, hurt.  yards] rods.  tine] forfeit.  falls] is proper.  frere] friar.  But me like] unless I like.


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