Verse > Anthologies > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Ballads
Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. (1863–1944).  The Oxford Book of Ballads.  1910.
118. Robin Hood and the Curtal Friar
But how many months be in the year?
  There are thirteen, I say;
The midsummer moon is the merryest of all
  Next to the merry month of May.

IN summer time, when leaves grow green,
  And flowers are fresh and gay,
Robin Hood and his merry men
  Were [all] disposed to play.

Then some would leap, and some would run,
  And some use artillery:        10
‘Which of you can a good bow draw,
  A good archer to be?

‘Which of you can kill a buck?
  Or who can kill a doe?
Or who can kill a hart of grease,        15
  Five hundred foot him fro?’

Will Scadlock he kill’d a buck,
  And Midge he kill’d a doe,
And Little John kill’d a hart of grease,
  Five hundred foot him fro.        20

‘God’s blessing on thy heart,’ said Robin Hood,
  ‘That hath [shot] such a shot for me;
I would ride my horse an hundred miles,
  To finde one could match with thee.’

That caus’d Will Scadlock to laugh,
  He laugh’d full heartily:
‘There lives a curtal friar in Fountains Abbey
  Will beat both him and thee.

‘That curtal friar in Fountains Abbey
  Well can a strong bow draw;        30
He will beat you and your yeomen,
  Set them all on a row.’

Robin Hood took a solemn oath,
  It was by Mary free,
That he would neither eat nor drink        35
  Till the friar he did see.

Robin Hood put on his harness good,
  And on his head a cap of steel,
Broad sword and buckler by his side,
  And they became him weel.        40

He took his bow into his hand,
  It was made of a trusty tree,
With a sheaf of arrows at his belt,
  To the Fountains Dale went he.

And coming unto Fountain[s] Dale,
  No further would he ride;
There was he aware of a curtal friar,
  Walking by the water-side.

The friar had on a harness good,
  And on his head a cap of steel,        50
Broad sword and buckler by his side,
  And they became him weel.

Robin Hood lighted off his horse,
  And tied him to a thorn:
‘Carry me over the water, thou curtal friar,        55
  Or else thy life’s forlorn.’

The friar took Robin Hood on his back,
  Deep water he did bestride,
And spake neither good word nor bad,
  Till he came at the other side.        60

Lightly leapt Robin Hood off the friar’s back;
  The friar said to him again,
‘Carry me over this water, fine fellow,
  Or it shall breed thy pain.’

Robin Hood took the friar on’s back,
  Deep water he did bestride,
And spake neither good word nor bad,
  Till he came at the other side.

Lightly leapt the friar off Robin Hood’s back;
  Robin Hood said to him again,        70
‘Carry me over this water, thou curtal friar,
  Or it shall breed thy pain.’

The friar took Robin Hood on’s back again,
  And stept up to the knee;
Till he came at the middle stream,        75
  Neither good nor bad spake he.

And coming to the middle stream,
  There he threw Robin in:
‘And chuse thee, chuse thee, fine fellow,
  Whether thou wilt sink or swim!’        80

Robin Hood swam to a bush of broom,
  The friar to a wicker wand;
Bold Robin Hood is gone to shore,
  And took his bow in hand.

One of his best arrows under his belt
  To the friar he let flye;
The curtal friar, with his steel buckler,
  He put that arrow by.

‘Shoot on, shoot on, thou fine fellòw,
  Shoot on as thou hast begun;        90
If thou shoot here a summer’s day,
  Thy mark I will not shun.’

Robin Hood shot passing well,
  Till his arrows all were gone;
They took their swords and steel bucklers,        95
  And fought with might and maine;

From ten o’ th’ clock that day,
  Till four i’ th’ afternoon;
Then Robin Hood came to his knees,
  Of the friar to beg a boon.        100

A boon, a boon, thou curtal friar!
  I beg it on my knee;
Give me leave to set my horn to my mouth,
  And to blow blasts three.’

‘That will I do,’ said the curtal friar!
  ‘Of thy blasts I have no doubt;
I hope thou’lt blow so passing well
  Till both thy eyes fall out.’

Robin Hood set his horn to his mouth
  He blew but blasts three;        110
Half a hundred yeomen, with bows bent,
  Came raking over the lee.

‘Whose men are these,’ said the friar,
  ‘That come so hastily?’
‘These men are mine,’ said Robin Hood        115
  ‘Friar, what is that to thee?’

‘A boon, a boon,’ said the curtal friar,
  ‘The like I gave to thee!
Give me leave to set my fist to my mouth,
  And to whute whutès three.’        120

‘That will I do,’ said Robin Hood,
  ‘Or else I were to blame;
Three whutès in a friar’s fist
  Would make me glad and fain.’

The friar he set his fist to his mouth,
  And whuted whutès three;
Half a hundred good ban-dogs
  Came running the friar unto.

‘Here’s for every man of thine a dog,
  And I my self for thee!’—        130
‘Nay, by my faith,’ quoth Robin Hood,
  ‘Friar, that may not be.’

Two dogs at once to Robin Hood did go,
  T’ one behind, the other before;
Robin Hood’s mantle of Lincoln green        135
  Off from his back they tore.

And whether his men shot east or west,
  Or they shot north or south,
The curtal dogs, so taught they were,
  They kept their arrows in their mouth.        140

‘Take up thy dogs,’ said Little John,
  ‘Friar, at my bidding be.’—
‘Whose man art thou,’ said the curtal friar,
  ‘Comes here to prate with me?’—

‘I am Little John, Robin Hood’s man,
  Friar, I will not lie;
If thou take not up thy dogs soon,
  I’le take up them and thee.’

Little John had a bow in his hand,
  He shot with might and main;        150
Soon half a score of the friar’s dogs
  Lay dead upon the plain.

‘Hold thy hand, good fellow,’ said the curtal friar,
  ‘Thy master and I will agree;
And we will have new orders taken,        155
  With all the haste that may be.’

‘If thou wilt forsake fair Fountains Dale,
  And Fountains Abbey free,
Every Sunday throughout the year,
  A noble shall be thy fee.        160

‘And every holy day throughout the year,
  Changed shall thy garment be,
If thou wilt go to fair Nottingham,
  And there remain with me.’

This curtal friar had kept Fountains Dale
  Seven long years or more;
There was neither knight, lord, nor earl
  Could make him yield before.
GLOSS:  raking] advancing.  whute] whistle.


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