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 Sixth Fytte
How Sir Richard was cast by the Sheriff into Prison, and rescued by Robin Hood


Lithe and listen, Gentlemen,
  And hearken to my song;
How the proud Sheriff of Nottingham
  And men of armès strong

Full fast came to the High Sheriff,
  The country up to rout,
And they beset the Knight’s castell,
  The wallès all about.

The proudè Sheriff loud gan cry,
  And said, ‘Thou traitor Knight,        10
Thou keep’st here the King’s enemies,
  Against the law and right.’—

‘Sir, I will avow that I have done,
  The deeds that here be dight,
Upon all the lands that I have,        15
  As I am a true knight.

‘Wend forth, sirs, on your way,
  And doth no more to me,
Till ye wit our King his will
  What he will say to thee.’        20

The Sheriff thus had his answère,
  Without any leasing;
Forth he yede to London town,
  All for to tell our King.

There he told him of that Knight,
  And eke of Robin Hood,
And also of the bold archers
  That were so noble and good.

‘He would avow that he had done,
  To maintain the outlaws strong,        30
He would be lord, and set you at nought,
  In all the north londe.’

‘I will be at Nottingham,’ said our King,
  ‘Within this fortènight,
And take I willè Robin Hood,        35
  And so I will that Knight.

‘Go home, thou proud Sheriff,
  And do as I bid thee,
And ordain good archers enough,
  Of all the wide countrey.’        40

The Sheriff had his leave i-take,
  And went him on his way;
And Robin Hood to green-wood went
  Upon a certain day;

And Little John was whole of the arrow,
  That shot was in his knee,
And did him straight to Robin Hood,
  Under the green-wood tree.

Robin Hood walked in the forest
  Under the leavès green;        50
The proud Sheriff of Nottingham
  Thereof he had great teen.

The Sheriff there fail’d of Robin Hood,
  He might not have his prey;
Then he awaited this gentle Knight,        55
  Both by night and day.

Ever he waited that gentle Knight,
  Sir Richard at the Lee,
As he went hawking by the river-side,
  And let his hawkès flee.        60

Took he there this gentle Knight,
  With men of armès strong,
And led him to Nottingham-ward,
  Bound both foot and hond.

The Sheriff swore a full great oath,
  By Him that died on a tree,
He had liefer than an hundred pound,
  That Robin Hood had he.

This heard the Knightès wife,
  A fair lady and a free;        70
She set her on a good palfrey,
  To green-wood anon rode she.

When she came in the forèst,
  Under the green-wood tree,
Found she there Robin Hood        75
  And all his fair meinèe.

‘God thee save, thou good Robin,
  And all thy company;
For Ourè dearè Lady’s sake,
  A boon grant thou me!        80

‘Let thou never my wedded Lord
  Shamefully slayen be;
He is fast bound at Nottingham,
  For the love of thee.’

Anon then said good Robin,
  To that lady free,
‘What man hath your lord i-take?’—
  ‘The proud Sheriff,’ then said she.

‘The proud Sheriff hath him i-take
  Forsooth as I thee say;        90
He is not yet three miles,
  Passèd on his way.’

Up then started good Robin
  As a man that had been wood;
‘Buskè you, my merry men,        95
  For Him that died on rood!

‘And he that this sorròw forsaketh,
  By Him that died on a tree,
And by Him that all things maketh,
  No longer shall dwell with me.’        100

Soon there were good bows y-bent,
  More than seven score;
Hedge nor ditch they sparèd none
  That was them before.

‘I make mine avow to God,’ said Robin,
  ‘The Knight would I fain see,
And if I may him takè,
  I-quit then shall he be.’

And when they came to Nottingham,
  They walkèd in the street;        110
And with the proud Sheriff i-wis
  Soonè gan they meet.

‘Abide, thou proud Sheriff,’ he said,
  ‘Abide, and speak with me;
Of some tidings of our King        115
  I would fain hear of thee.

‘This seven year, by dear-worthy God,
  Ne yede I so fast on foot,
I make mine avow to God, thou proud Sheriff,
  It is not for thy good.’        120

Robin bent a full good bow,
  An arrow he drew at will;
He hit so the proud Sheriff,
  On the ground he lay full still.

And or he might up arise,
  On his feet to stand,
He smote off the Sheriff’s head,
  With his bright brand.

‘Lie thou there, thou proud Sheriff;
  Evil mote thou thrive:        130
There might no man to thee trust
  The while thou wert alive.’

His men drew out their brightè swords
  That were so sharp and keen,
And laiden on the Sheriff’s men,        135
  And drave them down bidene.

Robin started to the Knight,
  And cut in two his band,
And took him in his hand a bow,
  And bade him by him stand.        140

‘Leave thy horsè thee behind,
  And learnè for to ren;
Thou shalt with me to greenè-wood,
  Through mire, moss, and fen.

‘Thou shalt with me to greenè-wood,
  Without any leasing,
Till that I have got us grace
  Of Edward, our comely King.’
GLOSS:  up to rout] to assemble in a band, to call to arms.  dight] done, performed.  leasing] lying.  yede] went.  whole] healed.  wood] furious, mad.  bidene] together.  took] gave.  ren] run.


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