Verse > Anthologies > Harvard Classics > English Poetry I: From Chaucer to Gray
   English Poetry I: From Chaucer to Gray.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
32. A Gest of Robyn Hode
The Fyfth Fytte
Traditional Ballads
Now hath the knyght his leve i-take,
  And wente hym on his way;
Robyn Hode and his mery men
  Dwelled styll full many a day.
Lyth and lysten, gentil men,        5
  And herken what I shall say,
How the proud sheryfe of Notyngham
  Dyde crye 1 a full fayre play;
That all the best archers of the north
  Sholde come upon a day,        10
And he that shoteth allther 2 best
  The game shall bere away.
He that shoteth allther best,
  Furthest fayre and lowe,
At a payre of fynly 3 buttes,        15
  Under the grene wode shawe,
A ryght good arowe he shall have,
  The shaft of sylver whyte,
The hede and feders of ryche rede golde,
  In Englond is none lyke.        20
This than herde good Robyn,
  Under his trystell-tre:
‘Make you redy, ye wyght yonge men;
  That shotynge wyll I se.
‘Buske 4 you, my mery yonge men;        25
  Ye shall go with me;
And I wyll wete 5 the shryvës fayth,
  Trewe and yf he be.’
Whan they had theyr bowes i-bent,
  Theyr takles fedred fre,        30
Seven score of wyght yonge men
  Stode by Robyns kne.
Whan they cam to Notyngham,
  The buttes were fayre and longe;
Many was the bolde archere        35
  That shot with bowës stronge.
‘There shall but syx shote with me;
  The other shal kepe my he [ve] de, 6
And stande with good bowes bent,
  That I be not desceyved.’        40
The fourth outlawe his bowe gan bende,
  And that was Robyn Hode,
And that behelde the proud sheryfe,
  All by the but he stode.
Thryës Robyn shot about,        45
  And alway he slist the wand,
And so dyde good Gylberte
  With the whytë hande.
Lytell Johan and good Scatheloke
  Were archers good and fre;        50
Lytell Much and good Reynolde,
  The worste wolde they not be.
Whan they had shot aboute,
  These archours fayre and good,
Evermore was the best,        55
  For soth, Robyn Hode.
Hym was delyvered the good arowe,
  For best worthy was he;
He toke the yeft 7 so curteysly,
  To grene-wode wolde he.        60
They cryed out on Robyn Hode,
  And grete hornes gan they blowe:
‘Wo worth the, 8 treason!’ sayd Robyn
  ‘Full evyl thou art to knowe.
‘An wo be thou! thou proude sheryf,        65
  Thus gladdynge thy gest;
Other wyse thou behote 9 me
  In yonder wylde forest.
‘But had I the in grene-wode,
  Under my trystell-tre,        70
Thou sholdest leve me a better wedde
  Than thy trewe lewtë.
Full many a bowë there was bent,
  And arowes let they glyde;
Many a kyrtell there was rent,        75
  And hurt many a syde.
The outlawes shot was so stronge
  That no man myght them dryve,
And the proud sheryfes men,
  They fled away full blyve. 10        80
Robyn sawe the busshement 11 to-broke,
  In grene wode he wolde have be;
Many an arowe there was shot
  Amonge that company.
Lytell Johan was hurte full sore,        85
  With an arowe in his kne,
That he myght neyther go 12 nor ryde;
  It was full grete pytë.
‘Mayster,’ then sayd Lytell Johan,
  ‘If ever thou lovedst me,        90
And for that ylkë lordës love
  That dyed upon a tre,
‘And for the medes of my servyce,
  That I have served the,
Lete never the proud sheryf        95
  Alyve now fyndë me.
‘But take out thy browne swerde,
  And smyte all of my hede,
And gyve me woundës depe and wyde;
  No lyfe on me be lefte.’        100
‘I wolde not that,’ sayd Robyn,
  ‘Johan, that thou were slawe, 13
For all the golde in merry Englonde,
  Though it lay now on a rawe.’
‘God forbede,’ sayd Lytell Much,        105
  ‘That dyed on a tre,
That thou sholdest, Lytell Johan,
  Parte our company.’
Up he toke hym on his backe,
  And bare hym well a myle;        110
Many a tyme he layd him downe,
  And shot another whyle.
Then was there a fayre castell,
  A lytell within the wode;
Double-dyched it was about,        115
  And walled, by the rode.
And there dwelled that gentyll knyght,
  Syr Rychard at the Lee,
That Robyn had lent his good,
  Under the grene-wode tree.        120
In he toke good Robyn,
  And all his company:
‘Welcome be thou, Robyn Hode,
  Welcome art thou to me;
‘And moche I thanke the of thy comfort,        125
  And of thy curteysye,
And of thy grete knydnesse,
  Under the grene-wode tre.
‘I love no man in all this worlde
  So much as I do the;        130
For all the proud sheryf of Notyngham,
  Ryght here shalt thou be.
‘Shutte the gates, and drawe the brydge,
  And let no man come in,
And arme you well, and make you redy,        135
  And to the walles ye wynne. 14
‘For one thynge, Robyn, I the behote;
  I swere by Saynt Quyntyne,
These forty dayes thou wonnest 15 with me,
  To soupe, ete, and dyne.’        140
Bordes were layde, and clothes were spredde,
  Redely 16 and anone;
Robyn Hode and his merry men
  To metë can they gone. 17
Note 1. Enjoy. [back]
Note 2. Tree appointed for meetings. [back]
Note 3. Feathered. [back]
Note 4. Sitteth. [back]
Note 5. Caused to be announced. [back]
Note 6. Of all. [back]
Note 7. Goodly. [back]
Note 8. Prepare. [back]
Note 9. Know. [back]
Note 10. Head, safety. [back]
Note 11. Gift. [back]
Note 12. Woe be to thee. [back]
Note 13. Promised. [back]
Note 14. Quickly. [back]
Note 15. Ambuscade. [back]
Note 16. Walk. [back]
Note 17. Slain. [back]


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