Verse > Anthologies > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Ballads
Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. (1863–1944).  The Oxford Book of Ballads.  1910.
125. The Death of Robin Hood

  WHEN Robin Hood and Little John
  Down a-down, a-down, a-down
  Went o’er yon bank of broom,
Said Robin Hood bold to Little John,
  ‘We have shot for many a pound        5
    Hey, down a-down, a-down!

‘But I am not able to shoot one shot more,
  My broad arrows will not flee;
But I have a cousin lives down below,
  Please God, she will bleed me.        10

‘I will never eat nor drink,’ he said,
  ‘Nor meat will do me good,
Till I have been to merry Kirkleys
  My veins for to let blood.

‘The dame prior is my aunt’s daughter,
  And nigh unto my kin;
I know she wo’ld me no harm this day,
  For all the world to win.’

‘That I rede not,’ said Little John,
  ‘Master, by th’assent of me,        20
Without half a hundred of your best bowmen
  You take to go with yee.’—

‘An thou be afear’d, thou Little John,
  At home I rede thee be.’—
‘An you be wroth, my deare mastèr        25
  You shall never hear more of me.’

Now Robin is gone to merry Kirkleys
  And knockèd upon the pin:
Up then rose Dame Priorèss
  And let good Robin in.        30

Then Robin gave to Dame Priorèss
  Twenty pound in gold,
And bade her spend while that did last,
  She sho’ld have more when she wo’ld.

‘Will you please to sit down, cousin Robin,
  And drink some beer with me?’—
‘No, I will neither eat nor drink
  Till I am blooded by thee.’

Down then came Dame Priorèss
  Down she came in that ilk,        40
With a pair of blood-irons in her hands,
  Were wrappèd all in silk.

‘Set a chafing-dish to the fire,’ she said,
  ‘And strip thou up thy sleeve.’
—I hold him but an unwise man        45
  That will no warning ’leeve!

She laid the blood-irons to Robin’s vein,
  Alack, the more pitye!
And pierc’d the vein, and let out the blood
  That full red was to see.        50

And first it bled the thick, thick blood,
  And afterwards the thin,
And well then wist good Robin Hood
  Treason there was within.

And there she blooded bold Robin Hood
  While one drop of blood wou’d run;
There did he bleed the live-long day,
  Until the next at noon.

He bethought him then of a casement there,
  Being lockèd up in the room;        60
But was so weak he could not leap,
  He could not get him down.

He bethought him then of his bugle-horn,
  That hung low down to his knee;
He set his horn unto his mouth,        65
  And blew out weak blasts three.

Then Little John he heard the horn
  Where he sat under a tree:
‘I fear my master is now near dead,
  He blows so wearilye.’        70

Little John is gone to merry Kirkleys,
  As fast as he can dree;
And when he came to merry Kirkleys,
  He broke locks two or three:

Until he came bold Robin to see,
  Then he fell on his knee;
‘A boon, a boon!’ cries Little John,
  ‘Master, I beg of thee!’

‘What is that boon,’ said Robin Hood,
  ‘Little John, thou begs of me?’—        80
‘It is to burn fair Kirkleys-hall,
  And all their nunnerye.’

‘Now nay, now nay,’ quoth Robin Hood,
  ‘That boon I’ll not grant thee;
I never hurt woman in all my life,        85
  Nor men in their company.

‘I never hurt maid in all my time,
  Nor at mine end shall it be;
But give me my bent bow in my hand,
  And a broad arrow I’ll let flee;        90
And where this arrow is taken up
  There shall my grave digg’d be.

‘But lay me a green sod under my head,
  And another at my feet;
And lay my bent bow at my side,        95
  Which was my music sweet;
And make my grave of gravel and green,
  Which is most right and meet.

‘Let me have length and breadth enough,
  And under my head a sod;        100
That they may say when I am dead,
  —Here lies bold Robin Hood!’
GLOSS:  rede]advise.  in that ilk]in that same (moment), then and there.  ’leeve]believe.


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