Verse > Anthologies > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Ballads
Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. (1863–1944).  The Oxford Book of Ballads.  1910.
116. Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne

WHEN shaws beene sheene, and shradds full fayre,
  And leves both large and longe,
Itt is merrye walking in the fayre forrèst
  To heare the small birds’ songe.

The woodweele sang, and wold not cease,
  [Sitting upon the spraye,
Soe lowde, he wakened Robin Hood,
  In the grenewood where he lay.

‘Now by my faye,’ sayd jollye Robìn,
  ‘A sweaven I had this night;        10
I dreamt me of two wight yemen,
  That fast with me can fight.]

‘Methought they did mee beate and binde,
  And tooke my bow mee fro;
If I be Robin alive in this lande,        15
  I’ll be wroken on them towe.’

‘Sweavens are swift, Master,’ quoth John,
  ‘As the wind that blowes ore a hill;
For if itt be never so loude this night,
  To-morrow itt may be still.’        20

‘Buske yee, bowne yee, my merry men all,
  And John shall goe with mee,
For I’le goe seeke yond wight yemen,
  In grenewood where they bee.

They cast on them their gownes of grene,
  [And tooke theyr bowes each one;
And all away to the grene forrèst]
  A shooting forth are gone;

Until they came to the merry grenewood,
  Where they had gladdest bee,        30
There were they ware of a wight yemàn,
  His body lean’d to a tree.

A sword and a dagger he wore by his side,
  Of manye a man the bane;
And he was clad in his capull-hyde        35
  Topp and tayll and mayne.

‘Stand you still, Master,’ quoth Little John,
  ‘Under this trusty tree,
And I will go to yond wight yeoman
  To know his meaning trulye.’        40

‘A! John, by me thou settest noe store,
  And that’s a farley finde.
How offt send I my men beffore,
  And tarry my selfe behinde?

‘It is noe cunning a knave to ken,
  An a man but heare him speake;
An itt were not for bursting of my bowe,
  John, I wold thy head breake.’

As often wordes they breeden bale,
  So they parted Robin and John:        50
And John is gone to Barnèsdale;
  The gates he knoweth eche one.

But when he came to Barnèsdale,
  Great heavinesse there hee hadd,
For he found two of his owne fellòwes        55
  Were slaine both in a slade.

And Scarlette à-foote he flyinge was
  Fast over stocke and stone,
For the Sheriffe with seven score men
  Fast after him is gone.        60

‘Yet one shoote I’le shoote,’ quoth Little John,
  ‘With Christ his might and mayne;
I’le make yond fellow that flyes soe fast,
  To stopp he shall be fayne.’

Then John bent up his good yewe-bowe
  And fettl’d him to shoote:
The bow was made of a tender boughe,
  And fell downe to his foote.

‘Woe worth thee, wicked wood,’ sayd John,
  ‘That ere thou grew on a tree!        70
For now this day thou art my bale,
  My boote when thou shold bee.’

His shoote it was but loosely shott,
  Yet it flewe not in vaine,
For itt met one of the Sherriff’s men,        75
  Good William à Trent was slaine.

It had bene better of William à Trent
  To have hangèd upon a gallòw,
Than to be that day in the grene-wood
  To meet Little John’s arrowe.        80

But as it is said, when men be mett
  Fyve can doe more than three,
The Sheriffe hath taken Little John,
  And bound him fast to a tree.

‘Thou shalt be drawen by dale and downe,
  And hangèd hye on a hill.’—
‘But thou mayst fayle,’ quoth Little John,
  ‘If itt be Christ his will.’

Let us leave talking of Little John,
  And thinke of Robin Hood,        90
How he is gone to the wight yemàn,
  Where under the leaves he stood.

‘Good morrowe, good fellowe,’ sayd Robin so fayre,
  ‘Good morrowe, good fellow,’ quoth he:
‘Methinkes by this bowe thou beares in thy hande        95
  A good archere thou sholdst bee.’

‘I am wilfull of my waye,’ quo’ the yeman,
  ‘And of my morning tyde.’
‘I’le lead thee through the wood,’ sayd Robin;
  ‘Good fellow, I’le be thy guide.’        100

‘I seeke an outlàwe,’ the straunger sayd,
  ‘Men call him Robin Hood;
Rather I’ld meet with that proud outlàwe,
  Than fortye pound of go’d.’—

‘If you two met, it wold be seene
  Whether were better man:
But let us under the levès grene
  Some other pastime plan.

‘Let us some other masteryes make
  Among the woods so even,        110
Wee may chance meet with Robin Hood
  Here att some unsett steven.’

They cutt them downe two summer shroggs,
  That grew both under a breere,
And sett them threescore rood in twinne        115
  To shoot the prickes y-fere

‘Leade on, good fellowe,’ quoth Robin Hood,
  ‘Leade on, I doe bidd thee.’—
‘Nay by my faith, good fellowe,’ hee sayd,
  ‘My leader thou shalt bee.’        120

The first good shoot that Robin led,
  He mist but an inch it fro’:
The yeoman he was an archer good,
  But he cold ne’er shoote soe.

The second shoote had the wight yemàn,
  He shote within the garlànde:
But Robin he shott far better than hee,
  For he clave the good pricke wande.

‘God’s blessing upon thy heart!’ he sayd;
  ‘Good fellowe, thy shooting is goode;        130
For an thy hart be as good as thy hand,
  Thou wert better than Robin Hood.’

‘Now tell me thy name, good fellowe,’ sayd he,
  ‘Under the leaves of lyne.’—
‘Nay by my faith,’ quoth good Robin,        135
  ‘Till thou have told me thine.’

‘I dwell by dale and downe,’ quoth hee,
  ‘And Robin to take I’me sworne;
And when I am callèd by my right name
  I am Guy of good Gisborne.’—        140

‘My dwelling is in this wood,’ sayes Robin,
  ‘By thee I set right nought:
I am Robin Hood of Barnèsdale,
  Whom thou so long hast sought.’

He that had neither beene kithe nor kin,
  Might have seene a full fayre sight,
To see how together these yemen went
  With blades both browne and bright:

To see how these yemen together they fought
  Two howres of a summer’s day:        150
Yett neither Sir Guy nor Robin Hood
  Them fettled to flye away.

Robin was reachles on a roote,
  And stumbled at that tyde;
And Guy was quick and nimble with-all,        155
  And hitt him o’er the left side.

‘Ah deere Lady!’ sayd Robin Hood,
  ‘That art both mother and may,
I think it was never man’s destinye
  To dye before his day.’        160

Robin thought on Our Ladye deere,
  And soone leapt up againe,
And strait he came with an aukward stroke,
  And he Sir Guy hath slayne.

He took Sir Guy’s head by the hayre,
  And stickèd itt on his bowes end:
‘Thou hast been traytor all thy liffe,
  Which thing must have an ende.’

Robin pulled forth an Irish kniffe,
  And nicked Sir Guy in the face,        170
That he was never on woman born,
  Cold tell whose head it was.

Saies, ‘Lye there, lye there, good Sir Guy,
  And with me be not wrothe;
If thou have had the worse strokes at my hand,        175
  Thou shalt have the better clothe.’

Robin did off his gowne of greene,
  And on Sir Guy did it throwe,
And hee put on that capull-hyde,
  That clad him topp to toe.        180

‘The bowe, the arrowes, and litle horne,
  Now with me I will beare;
For I will away to Barnèsdale,
  To see how my men doe fare.’

Robin sett Guy’s horne to his mouth,
  A loud blast in it he did blow.
That beheard the Sheriffe of Nottingham,
  As he leaned under a lowe.

‘Hearken! hearken!’ sayd the Sheriffe,
  ‘I heare now tydings good,        190
For yonder I heare Sir Guy’s horne blowe,
  And he hath slaine Robin Hood.

‘Yonder I heare Sir Guy’s horne blowe,
  Itt blowes soe well in tyde,
And yonder comes that wight yemàn,        195
  Cladd in his capull-hyde.

‘Come hyther, come hyther, thou good Sir Guy,
  Aske what thou wilt of mee.’—
‘O I will none of thy gold,’ sayd Robin,
  ‘Nor I will none of thy fee:        200

‘But now I have slaine the master,’ he sayes,
  ‘Let me go strike the knave;
This is all the rewarde I aske;
  Nor noe other will I have.’

‘Thou art a madman,’ said the Sheriffe,
  ‘Thou sholdest have had a knight’s fee:
But seeing thy asking hath beene so bad,
  Well granted it shall be.’

When Little John heard his master speake,
  Well knewe he it was his steven:        210
‘Now shall I be looset,’ quoth Little John,
  With Christ his might in heaven.’

Robin hee hyed him to Little John,
  He thought to loose him belive;
The Sheriffe and all his companye        215
  Fast after him did drive.

‘Stand abacke! stand abacke!’ sayd Robin Hood;
  ‘Why draw you mee soe neere?
Itt was never the use in our countrye,
  One’s shrift another shold heere.’        220

But Robin pull’d forth an Irysh kniffe,
  And losed John hand and foote,
And gave him Sir Guy’s bow into his hand,
  And bade it be his boote.

Then John he took Guy’s bow in his hand,
  His boltes and arrowes eche one:
When the Sheriffe saw Little John bend his bow,
  He fettled him to be gone.

Towards his house in Nottingham towne
  He fled full fast away;        230
And soe did all his companye:
  Not one behind wold stay.

But he cold neither goe soe fast,
  Nor away soe fast cold runne,
But Little John with an arrowe soe broad,        235
  Did cleave his herte in twinne.
GLOSS:  shaws] woods.  sheene] bright.  shradds] coppices (?).  woodweele] woodlark, thrush (?).  sweaven] dream.  wight] sturdy.  wroken] revenged.  Buske] dress.  bowne] get ready.  capull-hyde] horse-hide.  farley] wondrous strange.  gates] ways, paths.  slade] hollow.  fettl’d] prepared.  boote] help.  wilfull] astray.  tyde] time of day.  masteryes] trials of skill.  unsett steven] time not appointed.  shroggs] shrubs.  threescore rood in twinne] sixty rods apart.  prickes] marks.  lyne] linden.  reachles on] reckless, careless of.  may] maid.  aukward] back-handed.  capull-hyde] horse-hide.  lowe] hillock.  steven] voice.  belive] straightway.


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