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   English Poetry I: From Chaucer to Gray.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
32. A Gest of Robyn Hode
 
The Thirde Fytte
 
Traditional Ballads
 
 
Lyth and lystyn, gentilmen,
  All that nowe be here;
Of Litell Johnn, that was the knightes man,
  Goode myrth ye shall here.
 
It was upon a mery day        5
  That yonge men wolde go shete;
Lytell Johnn fet his bowe anone,
  And sayde he wolde them mete.
 
Thre tymes Litell Johnn shet aboute,
  And alway cleft the wande;        10
The proude sherif of Notingham
  By the markes gan stande.
 
The sherif swore a full greate othe:
  By hym that dyede on a tre,
This man is the best arschere        15
  That ever I dyd see.
 
‘Say me nowe, wight yonge man,
  What is nowe thy name?
In what countre were thou borne,
  And where is thy wonynge wane?’ 1        20
 
‘In Holdernes, sir, I was borne,
  I-wys al of my dame;
Men cal me Reynolde Grenelef
  Whan I am at home.’
 
‘Sey me, Reynolde Grenelefe,        25
  Wolde thou dwell with me?
And every yere I woll the gyve
  Twenty marke to thy fee.’
 
‘I have a maister,’ sayde Litell Johnn,
  ‘A curteys knight is he;        30
May ye levë gete of hym,
  The better may it be.’
 
The sherif gate Litell John
  Twelve moneths of the knight;
Therefore he gave him right anone        35
  A gode hors and a wight. 2
 
Nowe is Litell John the sherifes man,
  God lende us well to spede!
But alwey thought Lytell John
  To quyte hym wele his mede. 3        40
 
‘Nowe so God me helpe,’ sayde Litell John,
  ‘And by my true leutye, 4
I shall be the worst servaunt to hym
  That ever yet had he.’
 
It fell upon a Wednesday        45
  The sherif on huntynge was gone,
And Litel John lay in his bed,
  And was foriete 5 at home.
 
Therfore he was fastinge
  Til it was past the none;        50
‘Gode sir stuarde, I pray to the,
  Gyve me my dynere,’ saide Litell John.
 
‘It is to longe for Grenelefe
  Fastinge thus for to be;
Therfor I pray the, sir stuarde,        55
  Mi dyner gif thou me.’
 
‘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.’        60
 
The boteler was full uncurteys,
  There he stode on flore;
He start to the botery
  And shet fast the dore.
 
Lytell Johnn gave the boteler suche a tap        65
  His backe went nere in two;
Though he liveth an hundred wynter,
  The wors he still shall goe.
 
He sporned the dore with his fote;
  It went open wel and fyne;        70
And there he made large lyveray, 6
  Bothe of ale and of wyne.
 
‘Sith ye wol nat dyne,’ sayde Litell John,
  ‘I shall gyve you to drinke;
And though ye lyve an hundred wynter,        75
  On Lytel Johnn ye shall thinke.’
 
Litell John ete, and Litel John drank,
  The whilë that he wolde;
The sherife had in his kechyn a coke,
  A stoute man and a bolde.        80
 
‘I make myn avowe to God,’ saide the coke,
  ‘Thou arte a shrewde hyne 7
In ani householde for to dwel,
  For to aske thus to dyne.’
 
And there he lent Litell John        85
  Godë strokis thre;
‘I make myn avowe,’ sayde Lytell John,
  ‘These strokis lyked well me.
 
‘Thou arte a bolde man and a hardy,
  And so thinketh me;        90
And or I pas fro this place
  Assayed better shalt thou be.’
 
Lytell Johnn drew a ful gode sworde,
  The coke toke another in hande;
They thought no thynge for to fle,        95
  But stifly for to stande.
 
There they faught sore togedere
  Two mylë way 8 and more;
Myght neyther other harme done,
  The mountnaunce of an owre. 9        100
 
‘I make myn avowe to God,’ sayde Litell Johnn,
  ‘And by my true lewtë;
Thou art one of the best sworde-men
  That ever yit sawe I me.
 
‘Cowdest thou shote as well in a bowe,        105
  To grene wode thou shuldest with me,
And two times in the yere thy clothinge
  Chaunged shuldë be;
 
‘And every yere of Robyn Hode
  Twenty merke to thy fe;’        110
‘Put up thy swerde,’ saide the coke
  ‘And felowes woll we be.’
 
Thanne he fet to Lytell Johnn
  The nowmbles of a do,
Gode brede and full gode wyne;        115
  They ete and drank theretoo.
 
And when they had dronkyn well,
  Theyre trouthes togeder they plight
That they wolde by with Robyn
  That ylkë samë 10 nyght.        120
 
They dyd them 11 to the tresoure-hows,
  As fast as they myght gone;
The lokkes, that were of full gode stele,
  They brake them everichone.
 
They toke away the silver vessell,        125
  And all that thei might get;
Pecis, 12 masars, 13 ne sponis,
  Wolde thei not forget.
 
Also they toke the gode pens,
  Thre hundred pounde and more,        130
And did them streyte to Robyn Hode,
  Under the grene wode hore.
 
‘God the save, my dere mayster,
  And Criste the save and se!’
And thanne sayde Robyn to Litell Johnn        135
  ‘Welcome myght thou be.
 
‘Also be that fayre yeman
  Thou bryngest there with the;
What tydynges fro Notyngham?
  Lytill Johnn, tell thou me.’        140
 
‘Well the gretith the proude sheryf.
  And sendeth the here by me
His cok and his silver vessell,
  And thre hundred pounde and thre.’
 
‘I make myne avowe to God,’ sayde Robyn,        145
  ‘And to the Trenytë,
It was never by his gode wyll
  This gode is come to me.’
 
Lytyll Johnn there hym bethought
  On a shrewde wyle; 14        150
Fyve myle in the forest he ran,
  Hym happed all his wyll. 15
 
Than he met the proude sheref,
  Huntynge with houndes and horne;
Lytell Johnn coude 16 of curtesye,        155
  And knelyd hym beforne.
 
‘God the save, my dere mayster,
  And Criste the save and se!’
‘Reynolde Grenelefe,’ sayde the shyref,
  ‘Where hast thou nowe be?’        160
 
‘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.
 
‘Yonder I sawe a ryght fayre harte,        165
  His coloure is of grene;
Seven score of dere upon a herde
  Be with hym all bydene. 17
 
‘Their tyndes 18 are so sharp, maister,
  Of sexty, and well mo,        170
That I durst not shote for drede,
  Lest they wolde me slo. 19
 
‘I make myn avowe to God,’ sayde the shyref,
  ‘That syght wolde I fayne se’:
‘Buske you thyderwarde, mi dere mayster,        175
  Anone, and wende with me.’
 
The sherif rode, and Litell Johnn
  Of fote he was full smerte,
And whane they came before Robyn,
  ‘Lo, here is the mayster-herte.’        180
 
Still stode the proude sherief,
  A sory man was he;
‘Wo the worthe, Raynolde Grenelefe,
  Thou hast betrayed me.’
 
‘I make myn avowe to God,’ sayde Litell Johnn,        185
  ‘Mayster, ye be to blame;
I was mysserved of my dynere
  When I was with you at home.’
 
Sone he was to souper sette,
  And served with silver white,        190
And when the sherif sawe his vessell,
  For sorowe he myght nat ete.
 
‘Make glad chere,’ sayde Robyn Hode,
  ‘Sherif, for charitë,
And for the love of Litill Johnn        195
  Thy lyfe I graunt to the.’
 
Whan they had souped well,
  The day was al gone;
Robyn commaunded Litell Johnn
  To drawe of his hose and shone;        200
 
His kirtell, and his cote a pye, 20
  That was fured well and fine
And toke hym a grene mantel,
  To lap his body therein.
 
Robyn commaundyd his wight yonge men,        205
  Under the grene wode tree,
They shulde lye in that same sute
  That the sherif myght them see.
 
All nyght lay the proude sherif
  In his breche and in his schert;        210
No wonder it was, in grene wode;
  Though his sydes gan to smerte.
 
‘Make glad chere,’ sayde Robyn Hode,
  ‘Sheref, for charitë
For this is our ordre i-wys        215
  Under the grene-wode tree.
 
‘This is harder order,’ sayde the sherief,
  ‘Than any ankir 21 or frere;
For all the golde in mery Englonde
  I wolde nat longe dwell her.’        220
 
‘All this twelve monthes,’ sayde Robin,
  ‘Thou shalt dwell with me;
I shall the teche, proude sherif,
  An outlawe for to be.’
 
‘Or I here another nyght lye,’ sayde the sherif,        225
  ‘Robyn, nowe pray I the,
Smyte of mijn hede rather to-morowe,
  And I forgyve it the.
 
‘Lat me go,’ than sayde the sherif,
  ‘For sayntë charitë,        230
And I woll be the best frende
  That ever yet had ye.’
 
‘Thou shalt swere me an othe,’ sayde Robyn,
  ‘On my bright bronde;
Shalt thou never awayte me scathe 22        235
  By water ne by lande.
 
‘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.’        240
 
Nowe hathe the sherif sworne his othe,
  And home he began to gone;
He was as full of grene wode
  As ever was hepe 23 of stone.
 
Note 1. Punish. [back]
Note 2. Know. [back]
Note 3. Ground. [back]
Note 4. Tapped and left running. [back]
Note 5. Dwelling place. [back]
Note 6. Strong. [back]
Note 7. To reward him well. [back]
Note 8. Loyalty. [back]
Note 9. Forgotten. [back]
Note 10. Delivery of rations. [back]
Note 11. Cursed fellow. [back]
Note 12. As long as it would take to go two miles. [back]
Note 13. The length of an hour. [back]
Note 14. Very same. [back]
Note 15. Went. [back]
Note 16. Cups. [back]
Note 17. Bowls. [back]
Note 18. Wicked trick. [back]
Note 19. What he wished happened to him. [back]
Note 20. Knew. [back]
Note 21. At once. [back]
Note 22. Tines. [back]
Note 23. Slay. [back]
 

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