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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne
The Ballad
 
1.  WHEN 1 shawes 2 beene sheene, 3 and shradds 4 full fayre,
      And leeves both large and longe,
  It is merry, walking in the fayre forrest,
      To heare the small birds’ songe.
 
2.  The woodweele 5 sang, and wold not cease,        5
      Amongst the leaves a lyne; 6
  And it is by two wight 7 yeomen,
      By deare God, that I meane.
*        *        *        *        *
3.  “Me thought they 8 did me beate and binde,
      And tooke my bow me fro;        10
  If I bee Robin alive in this lande,
      I’ll be wrocken 9 on both them two.”
 
4.  “Sweavens 10 are swift, master,” quoth John,
      “As the wind that blowes ore a hill;
  For if it be never soe lowde this night,        15
      To-morrow it may be still.”
 
5.  “Buske ye, bowne ye, 11 my merry men all,
      For John shall go with me;
  For I’ll goe seeke yond wight yeomen
      In greenwood where they bee.”        20
 
6.  They cast on their gowne of greene,
      A shooting gone are they,
  Until they came to the merry greenwood,
      Where they had gladdest bee;
  There were they ware of a wight yeoman,        25
      His body leaned to a tree.
 
7.  A sword and a dagger he wore by his side,
      Had beene many a man’s bane, 12
  And he was cladd in his capull-hyde, 13
      Topp, and tayle, and mayne.        30
 
8.  “Stand you still, master,” quoth Litle John,
      “Under this trusty tree,
  And I will goe to yond wight yeoman,
      To know his meaning trulye.”
 
9.  “A, John, by me thou setts noe store,        35
      And that’s a farley 14 thinge;
  How offt send I my men before,
      And tarry myselfe behinde?
 
10.  “It is noe cunning a knave to ken,
      And a man but heare him speake;        40
  And it were not for bursting of my bowe,
      John, I wold thy head breake.”
 
11.  But often words they breeden bale,
      That parted Robin and John;
  John is gone to Barnesdale,        45
      The gates 15 he knowes eche one.
 
12.  And when hee came to Barnesdale,
      Great heavinesse there hee hadd;
  He found two of his fellowes
      Were slaine both in a slade, 16        50
 
13.  And Scarlett a foote flyinge was,
      Over stockes and stone,
  For the sheriffe with seven score men
      Fast after him is gone.
 
14.  “Yet one shoote I’ll shoote,” sayes Litle John,        55
      “With Crist his might and mayne;
  I’ll make yond fellow that flyes soe fast
      To be both glad and faine.”
 
15.  John bent up a good veiwe bow, 17
      And fetteled 18 him to shoote;        60
  The bow was made of a tender boughe,
      And fell downe to his foote.
 
16.  “Woe worth 19 thee, wicked wood,” sayd Litle John,
      “That ere thou grew on a tree!
  For this day thou art my bale,        65
      My boote 20 when thou shold bee!”
 
17.  This shoote it was but looselye shott,
      The arrowe flew in vaine,
  And it mett one of the sheriffe’s men;
      Good William a Trent was slaine.        70
 
18.  It had beene better for William a Trent
      To hange upon a gallowe
  Then for to lye in the greenwoode,
      There slaine with an arrowe.
 
19.  And it is sayed, when men be mett,        75
      Six can doe more than three:
  And they have tane Litle John,
      And bound him fast to a tree.
 
20.  “Thou shalt be drawen by dale and downe,” quoth the sheriffe, 21
      “And hanged hye on a hill:”        80
  “But thou may fayle,” quoth Litle John
      “If it be Christ’s owne will.”
 
21.  Let us leave talking of Litle John,
      For hee is bound fast to a tree,
  And talke of Guy and Robin Hood        85
      In the green woode where they bee.
 
22.  How these two yeomen together they mett,
      Under the leaves of lyne,
  To see what marchandise they made
      Even at that same time.        90
 
23.  “Good morrow, good fellow,” quoth Sir Guy;
      “Good morrow, good fellow,” quoth hee;
  “Methinkes by this bow thou beares in thy hand,
      A good archer thou seems to bee.”
 
24.  “I am wilfull of my way,” 22 quoth Sir Guy,        95
      “And of my morning tyde:”
  “I’ll lead thee through the wood,” quoth Robin,
      “Good fellow, I’ll be thy guide.”
 
25.  “I seeke an outlaw,” quoth Sir Guy,
      “Men call him Robin Hood;        100
  I had rather meet with him upon a day
      Then forty pound of golde.”
 
26.  “If you tow mett, it wold be seene whether were better
      Afore yee did part awaye;
  Let us some other pastime find,        105
      Good fellow, I thee pray.
 
27.  “Let us some other masteryes make,
      And we will walke in the woods even;
  Wee may chance meet with Robin Hood
      At some unsett steven.” 23        110
 
28.  They cutt them downe the summer shroggs 24
      Which grew both under a bryar,
  And sett them three score rood in twinn, 25
      To shoote the prickes 26 full neare.
 
29.  “Leade on, good fellow,” sayd Sir Guye,        115
      “Leade on, I doe bidd thee:”
  “Nay, by my faith,” quoth Robin Hood,
      “The leader thou shalt bee.”
 
30.  The first good shoot that Robin ledd,
      Did not shoote an inch the pricke froe,        120
  Guy was an archer good enoughe,
      But he could neere shoote soe.
 
31.  The second shoote Sir Guy shott,
      He shott within the garlande, 27
  But Robin Hoode shott it better than hee,        125
      For he clove the good pricke-wande.
 
32.  “God’s blessing on thy heart!” sayes Guye,
      “Goode fellow, thy shooting is goode;
  For an thy hart be as good as thy hands,
      Thou were better than Robin Hood.”        130
 
33.  “Tell me thy name, good fellow,” quoth Guye,
      “Under the leaves of lyne:”
  “Nay, by my faith,” quoth good Robin,
      “Till thou have told me thine.”
 
34.  “I dwell by dale and downe,” quoth Guye,        135
      “And I have done many a curst turne;
  And he that calles me by my right name,
      Calles me Guye of good Gysborne.”
 
35.  “My dwelling is in the wood,” sayes Robin;
      “By thee I set right nought;        140
  My name is Robin Hood of Barnesdale,
      A fellow thou hast long sought.”
 
36.  He that had neither beene a kithe nor kin
      Might have seene a full fayre sight.
  To see how together these yeomen went,        145
      With blades both browne and bright.
 
37.  To have seene how these yeomen together fought
      Two howers of a summer’s day;
  It was neither Guy nor Robin Hood
      That fettled them to flye away.        150
 
38.  Robin was reacheles 28 on a roote,
      And stumbled at that tyde,
  And Guy was quicke and nimble with-all,
      And hitt him ore the left side.
 
39.  “Ah, deere Lady!” sayd Robin Hoode,        155
      “Thou art both mother and may! 29
  I thinke it was never man’s destinye
      To dye before his day.”
 
40.  Robin thought on Our Lady deere,
      And soone leapt up againe,        160
  And thus he came with an awkwarde 30 stroke;
      Good Sir Guy hee has slayne.
 
41.  He tooke Sir Guy’s head by the hayre,
      And sticked it on his bowe’s end:
  “Thou has beene traytor all thy life,        165
      Which thing must have an ende.”
 
42.  Robin pulled forth an Irish kniffe,
      And nicked Sir Guy in the face,
  That he was never on 31 a woman borne
      Could tell who Sir Guye was.        170
 
43.  Saies, Lye there, lye there, good Sir Guye,
      And with me not wrothe;
  If thou have had the worse stroakes at my hand,
      Thou shalt have the better cloathe.
 
44.  Robin did off his gowne of greene,        175
      Sir Guye he did it throwe;
  And he put on that capull-hyde
      That clad him topp to toe.
 
45.  “Tis bowe, the arrowes, and litle horne,
      And with me now I’ll beare;        180
  For now I will goe to Barnesdale,
      To see how my men doe fare.”
 
46.  Robin sett Guye’s horne to his mouth,
      A lowd blast in it he did blow;
  That beheard the sheriffe of Nottingham,        185
      As he leaned under a lowe. 32
 
47.  “Hearken! hearken!” sayd the sheriffe,
      “I heard noe tydings but good;
  For yonder I heare Sir Guye’s horne blowe,
      For he hath slaine Robin Hoode.        190
 
48.  “For yonder I heare Sir Guye’s horne blowe,
      It blowes soe well in tyde,
  For yonder comes that wighty yeoman
      Cladd in his capull-hyde.
 
49.  “Come hither, thou good Sir Guy,        195
      Aske of mee what thou wilt have:”
  “I’ll none of thy gold,” sayes Robin Hood,
      “Nor I’ll none of it have.
 
50.  “But now I have slaine the master,” he sayd,
      “Let me goe strike the knave;        200
  This is all the reward I aske,
      Nor noe other will I have.”
 
51.  “Thou art a madman,” said the sheriffe,
      “Thou sholdest have had a knight’s fee;
  Seeing thy asking hath beene soe badd,        205
      Well granted it shall be.”
 
52.  But Litle John heard his master speake,
      Well he knew that was his steven; 33
  “Now shall I be loset,” quoth Litle John,
      “With Christ’s might in heaven.”        210
 
53.  But Robin hee hyed him towards Litle John,
      Hee thought hee wold loose him belive;
  The sheriffe and all his companye
      Fast after him did drive.
 
54.  “Stand abacke! stand abacke!” sayd Robin;        215
      “Why draw you mee soe neere?
  It was never the use in our countrye
      One’s shrift another should heere.”
 
55.  But Robin pulled forth an Irysh kniffe,
      And losed John hand and foote,        220
  And gave him Sir Guye’s bow in his hand,
      And bade it be his boote.
 
56.  But John tooke Guye’s bow in his hand
      (His arrowes were rawstye 34 by the roote);
  The sherriffe saw Litle John draw a bow        225
      And fettle him to shoote.
 
57.  Towards his house in Nottingham
      He fled full fast away,
  And so did all his companye,
      Not one behind did stay.        230
 
58.  But he cold neither soe fast goe,
      Nor away soe fast runn,
  But Litle John, with an arrow broade,
      Did cleave his heart in twinn.
 
Note 1. This ballad is a good specimen of the Robin Hood Cycle, and is remarkable for its many proverbial and alliterative phrases. A few lines have been lost between stanzas 2 and 3. Gisborne is a “market-town in the West Riding of the County of York, on the borders of Lancashire.” For the probable tune of the ballad, see Chappell’s ‘Popular Music of the Olden Time,’ ii. 397. [back]
Note 2. Woods, groves.—This touch of description at the outset is common in our old ballads, as well as in the mediæval German popular lyric, and may perhaps spring from the old “summer-lays” and chorus of pagan times. [back]
Note 3. Beautiful; German, schön. [back]
Note 4. Coppices or openings in a wood. [back]
Note 5. In some glossaries the woodpecker, but here of course a song-bird,—perhaps, as Chappell suggests, the woodlark. [back]
Note 6. A, on; lyne, lime or linden. [back]
Note 7. Sturdy, brave. [back]
Note 8. Robin now tells of a dream in which “they” (= the two “wight yeomen,” who are Guy and, as Professor Child suggests, the Sheriff of Nottingham) maltreat him; and he thus foresees trouble “from two quarters.” [back]
Note 9. Revenged. [back]
Note 10. Dreams. [back]
Note 11. Tautological phrase,—“prepare and make ready.” [back]
Note 12. Murder, destruction. [back]
Note 13. Horse’s hide. [back]
Note 14. Strange. [back]
Note 15. Paths. [back]
Note 16. Green valley between woods. [back]
Note 17. Perhaps the yew-bow. [back]
Note 18. Made ready. [back]
Note 19. “Woe be to thee.” Worth is the old subjunctive present of an exact English equivalent to the modern German werden. [back]
Note 20. Note these alliterative phrases. Boote, remedy. [back]
Note 21. As Percy noted, this “quoth the sheriffe,” was probably added by some explainer. The reader, however, must remember the license of slurring or contracting the syllables of a word, as well as the opposite freedom of expansion. Thus in the second line of stanza 7, man’s is to be pronounced man-ës. [back]
Note 22. I have lost my way. [back]
Note 23. At some unappointed time,—by chance. [back]
Note 24. Stunted shrubs. [back]
Note 25. Apart. [back]
Note 26. “Prickes seem to have been the long-range targets, butts the near.”—Furnivall. [back]
Note 27. Garlande, perhaps “the ring within which the prick was set”; and the pricke-wande perhaps a pole or stick. The terms are not easy to understand clearly. [back]
Note 28. Reckless, careless. [back]
Note 29. Maiden. [back]
Note 30. Dangerous, or perhaps simply backward, backhanded. [back]
Note 31. On is frequently used for of. [back]
Note 32. Hillock. [back]
Note 33. Voice. [back]
Note 34. Rusty. [back]
 
 
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