Verse > Anthologies > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Ballads
Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. (1863–1944).  The Oxford Book of Ballads.  1910.
123. Robin Hood’s Golden Prize

I HAVE heard talk of bold Robin Hood,
  And of brave Little John,
Of Friar Tuck, and Will Scarlet,
  Locksley, and Maid Marion.

But such a tale as this before
  I think there was never none;
For Robin Hood disguised himself,
  And to the wood is gone.

Like to a friar bold Robin Hood
  Was accouter’d in his array;        10
With hood, gown, beads and crucifix,
  He pass’d upon the way.

He had not gone miles two or three,
  But it was his chance to spy
Two lusty priests, clad all in black,        15
  Come riding gallantly.

‘Benedicite,’ then said Robin Hood,
  ‘Some pity on me take;
Cross you my hand with a silver groat,
  For Our dear Ladye’s sake!        20

‘For I have been wand’ring all this day,
  And nothing could I get;
Not so much as one poor cup or drink,
  Nor bit of bread to eat.’

‘By my holydame,’ the priests repli’d,
  ‘We never a penny have;
For we this morning have been robb’d,
  And could no money save.’

‘I am much afraid,’ said bold Robin Hood,
  ‘That you both do tell a lye;        30
And now before that you go hence,
  I am resolv’d to try.’

When as the priests heard him say so,
  They rode away amain;
But Robin betook him to his heels,        35
  And soon overtook them again.

Then Robin Hood laid hold of them both,
  And pull’d them down from their horse:
‘O spare us, friar!’ the priests cry’d out,
  ‘On us have some remorse!’        40

‘You said you had no money,’ quoth he;
  ‘Wherefore without delay
We three will fall down on our knees,
  And for money we will pray.’

The priests they could not him gainsay,
  But down they kneel’d with speed;
‘Send us, O send us,’ then quoth they,
  ‘Some money to serve our need!’

The priests did pray with mournful chear,
  Sometimes their hands did wring,        50
Sometimes they wept and cried aloud,
  Whilst Robin did merrily sing.

When they had pray’d an hour’s space,
  The priests did still lament;
Then quoth bold Robin, ‘Now let’s see        55
  What money heaven hath us sent.

‘We will be sharers all alike
  Of the money that we have;
And there is never a one of us
  That his fellows shall deceive.’        60

The priests their hands in their pockets put,
  But money would find none:
‘We’ll search ourselves,’ said Robin Hood,
  ‘Each other, one by one.’

Then Robin took pains to search them both,
  And he found good store of gold;
Five hundred pieces presently
  Upon the grass was told.

‘Here’s a brave show,’ said Robin Hood,
  ‘Such store of gold to see!        70
And you shall each one have a part,
  ’Cause you pray’d so heartily.’

He gave them fifty pound a-piece,
  And the rest for himself did keep;
The priests they durst not speak one word,        75
  But they sighèd wondrous deep.

With that the priests rose up from their knees,
  And thought to have parted so;
‘Nay, stay,’ said Robin Hood, ‘one thing more
  I have to say ere you go.        80

‘You shall be sworn,’ said Robin Hood,
  ‘Upon this holy grass,
That you will never tell lies again,
  Which way soever you pass.

‘The second oath that you here must take,
  All the days of your lives
You never shall tempt maids to sin,
  Nor covet other men’s wives.

‘The last oath you shall take, it is this,
  Be charitable to the poor;        90
Say you have met with a holy friar,
  And I desire no more.’

He set them upon their horses again,
  And away then they did ride;
And he return’d to the merry green-wood,        95
  With great joy, mirth and pride.


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