Verse > Anthologies > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Ballads
Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. (1863–1944).  The Oxford Book of Ballads.  1910.
120. Robin Hood and the Bishop of Hereford

COME, gentlemen all, and listen a while;
  A story I’II to you unfold—
How Robin Hood servèd the Bishop,
  When he robb’d him of his gold.

As it befel in merry Barnsdale,
  And under the green-wood tree,
The Bishop of Hereford was to come by,
  With all his companye.

‘Come, kill a ven’son,’ said bold Robin Hood,
  ‘Come, kill me a good fat deer;        10
The Bishop’s to dine with me to day,
  And he shall pay well for his cheer.

‘We’ll kill a fat ven’son,’ said bold Robin Hood,
  ‘And dress’t by the highway-side,
And narrowly watch for the Bishop,        15
  Lest some other way he should ride.’

He dress’d himself up in shepherd’s attire,
  With six of his men also;
And the Bishop of Hereford came thereby,
  As about the fire they did go.        20

‘What matter is this?’ said the Bishop;
  ‘Or for whom do you make this a-do?
Or why do you kill the King’s ven’son,
  When your company is so few?’

‘We are shepherds,’ said bold Robin Hood,
  ‘And we keep sheep all the year;
And we are disposed to be merry this day,
  And to kill of the King’s fat deer.’

‘You are brave fellowes,’ said the Bishop,
  ‘And the King of your doings shall know;        30
Therefore make haste, come along with me,
  For before the King you shall go.’

‘O pardon, O pardon,’ says bold Robin Hood,
  ‘O pardon, I thee pray!
For it never becomes your lordship’s coat        35
  To take so many lives away.’

‘No pardon, no pardon!’ the Bishop says;
  ‘No pardon I thee owe;
Therefore make haste, come along with me,
  For before the King you shall go.’        40

Robin set his back against a tree,
  And his foot against a thorn,
And from underneath his shepherd’s coat
  He pull’d out a bugle horn.

He put the little end to his mouth,
  And a loud blast did he blow,
Till threescore and ten of bold Robin’s men
  Came running all on a row;

All making obeisance to bold Robin Hood;
  —’Twas a comely sight for to see:        50
‘What matter, my master,’ said Little John.
  ‘That you blow so hastilye?’—

‘O here is the Bishop of Hereford,
  And no pardon we shall have.’—
‘Cut off his head, master,’ said Little John,        55
  ‘And throw him into his grave.’—

‘O pardon, O pardon,’ said the Bishop,
  ‘O pardon, I thee pray!
For if I had known it had been you,
  I’d have gone some other way.’—        60

‘No pardon, no pardon!’ said Robin Hood;
  ‘No pardon I thee owe;
Therefore make haste, come along with me,
  For to merry Barnsdale you shall go.’

Then Robin has taken the Bishop’s hand
  And led him to merry Barnsdale;
He made him to stay and sup with him that night,
  And to drink wine, beer and ale.

‘Call in the reckoning,’ said the Bishòp,
  ‘For methinks it grows wondrous high.’—        70
‘Lend me your purse, Bishop,’ said Little John,
  ‘And I’ll tell you by-and-by.’

Then Little John took the Bishop’s cloak,
  And spread it upon the ground,
And out of the Bishop’s portmantua        75
  He told three hundred pound.

‘So now let him go,’ said Robin Hood;
  Said Little John, ‘That may not be;
For I vow and protest he shall sing us a mass
  Before that he go from me.’        80

Robin Hood took the Bishop by the hand,
  And bound him fast to a tree,
And made him to sing a mass, God wot,
  To him and his yeomandrye.

Then Robin Hood brought him through the wood
  And causèd the music to play,
And he made the Bishop to dance in his boots,
  And they set him on’s dapple-grey,
And they gave the tail within his hand—
  And glad he could so get away!        90


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