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 Eighth Fytte
How Robin Hood lived a while at the King’s Court, but returned to the Green-wood


‘Hast thou any green cloth?’ said our King,
  ‘That thou wilt sell now to me?’—
‘Yea, ’fore God,’ said Robin,
  ‘Thirty yards and three.’

‘Robin,’ said our King,
  ‘Now pray I thee,
To sell me some of that cloth,
  To me and my meinèe.’

‘Yes, ’fore God,’ then said Robin,
  ‘Or else I were a fool;        10
Another day ye will me clothe,
  I trow, against the Yule.’

The King cast off his coat then,
  A green garment he did on,
And every knight had so, i-wis,        15
  They clothèd them full soon.

When they were clothed in Lincoln green,
  They cast away their gray.
‘Now we shall to Nottingham,’
  All thus our king gan say.        20

Their bows bent and forth they went,
  Shooting all in fere,
Toward the town of Nottingham,
  Outlaws as they were.

Our King and Robin rode together
  Forsooth as I you say,
And they shot pluck-buffet,
  As they went by the way;

And many a buffet our King won,
  Of Robin Hood that day:        30
And nothing spared good Robin
  Our King in his pay.

‘So God me help,’ said our King,
  ‘Thy game is nought to lere,
I should not get a shot of thee,        35
  Though I shot all this year.’

All the people of Nottingham
  They stood and beheld,
They saw nothing but mantles of green
  That cover’d all the felde;        40

Then every man to other gan say,
  ‘I dread our King be slone;
Come Robin Hood to the town, i-wis,
  On life he leaveth not one.’

Full hastily they began to flee,
  Both yeoman and knaves,
The old wives that might evil go,
  They hippèd on their staves.

The King laughed full fast,
  And commanded them again;        50
When they saw our comely King,
  I-wis they were full fain.

They ate and drank, and made them glad,
  And sang with notès high.
Then bespake our comely King        55
  To Sir Richard at the Lee:

He gave him there his land again,
  A good man he bade him be.
Robin thanked our comely King,
  And set him on his knee.        60

Robin had dwelt in the Kingès court
  But twelvè months and three,
That he had spent an hundred pound,
  And all his mennès fee.

In every place where Robin came,
  Evermore he laid down
Both for knightès and for squires,
  To get him great renown.

By then the year was all agone
  He had no man but twain,        70
Little John and good Scathèlock
  With him all for to gane.

Robin saw the young men shoot
  Full far upon a day;
‘Alas!’ then said good Robin Hood,        75
  ‘My wealth is went away.

‘Sometime I was an archer good,
  A stiff and eke a strong;
I was counted the best archèr
  That was in merry Englond.        80

‘Alas!’ then said good Robin Hood,
  ‘Alas and well-a-way!
If I dwell longer with the King.
  Sorrow will me slay.’

Forth then wentè Robin Hood
  Till he came to our King:
‘My lord the King of Engèland,
  Grant me mine asking!

‘I made a chapel in Barnèsdale
  That seemly is to see,        90
It is of Mary Magdalen,
  And thereto would I be.

‘I might never in this seven night
  No timè sleep nor wink,
Neither all these seven days        95
  Neither eat nor drink.

‘Me longeth sore to Barnèsdale,
  I may not be therefro;
Barefoot and woolward I have hight
  Thither for to go.’        100

‘If it be so,’ then said our King,
  ‘It may no better be;
Seven night I give thee leave,
  No longer, to dwell from me.’

‘Gramerci, lord,’ then said Robin,
  And set him on his knee:
He took his leave full courteously,
  To green-wood then went he.

When he came to greenè-wood
  In a merry mornìng,        110
There he heard the notès small
  Of birds merry singìng.

‘It is far gone,’ said Robin Hood,
  ‘That I was latest here;
Me list a little for to shoot        115
  At the dunnè deer.’

Robin slew a full great hart;
  His horn then gan he blow,
That all the outlaws of that forèst
  That horn they couldè know,        120

And them together gatherèd
  In a little throw;
Seven score of wight young men
  Came ready on a row,

And fairè didden off their hoods,
  And set them on their knee:
‘Welcome,’ they said, ‘our dear mastèr,
  Under this green-wood tree!’

Robin dwelt in greenè-wood
  Twenty year and two;        130
For all dread of Edward our King,
  Again would he not go.

Yet he was beguiled, i-wis,
  Through a wicked woman,
The prioress of Kirksley,        135
  That nigh was of his kin,

For the love of a knight,
  Sir Roger of Doncastèr,
That was her own special;
  Full evil might they fare!        140

They took together their counsel
  Robin Hood for to sle,
And how they might best do that deed,
  His banis for to be.

Then bespake good Robin,
  In place where as he stood,
‘To-morrow I must to Kirksley,
  Craftily to be letten blood.’

Sir Roger [and the prioress
  A springe for him did] lay,        150
And there they betray’d good Robin Hood,
  Through their falsè play.

Christ have mercy on his soul,
  That died upon the rood!
For he was a good outlàw,        155
  And did poor men much good.
GLOSS:  pluck-buffet] ‘app a competition between archers, in which he who missed or failed “caught” a buffet from his competitor’ (N. E. D.).  lere] learn.  hippèd] hopped, limped.  laid down] spent money.  By then] by the time that.  therefro] turned from it.  woolward] in a rough woollen shirt (as penance).  hight] promised.  Me list] it pleases me.  throw] interval of time.  Again] back.  banis] bane, destruction.  craftily] skilfully.  springe] trap.


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