Verse > Anthologies > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Ballads
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Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. (1863–1944).  The Oxford Book of Ballads.  1910.
 
115. A Little Geste of Robin Hood and his Meiny
 
The Fifth Fytte
 
 
How at Archery in Nottingham Robin Hood was treacherously attacked, but escaped into Sir Richard’s Castle

CCLXXXI

Now hath the Knight his leave i-take,
  And went him on his way;
Robin Hood and his merry men
  Dwelt still full many a day.
 
CCLXXXII

Lithe and listen, Gentlemen,
        5
  And hearken what I shall say,
How the proud Sheriff of Nottingham,
  Did cry a full fair play;
 
CCLXXXIII

That all the best archers of the North
  Should come upon a day,        10
‘And he that shooteth alder-best
  The game shall bear away.
 
CCLXXXIV

‘He that shooteth alder-best,
  Furthest, fair, and law,
At a pair of fynly butts,        15
  Under the green-wood shaw,
 
CCLXXXV

‘A right good arrow he shall have,
  The shaft of silver white,
The head and feathers of rich red gold,
  In England is none like.’        20
 
CCLXXXVI

This then heardè good Robin,
  Under his trystell-tree:
‘Make you ready, ye wight young men;
  That shooting will I see.
 
CCLXXXVII

‘Busk you, my merry young men,
        25
  Ye shall go with me;
And I will wete the Sheriff’s faith,
  True an if he be.
 
CCLXXXVIII

When they had their bows i-bent,
  Their tackles feather’d free,        30
Seven score of wight young men
  Stood by Robin’s knee.
 
CCLXXXIX

When they came to Nottingham,
  The butts were fair and long;
Many was the bold archèr        35
  That shot with bowè strong.
 
CCXC

‘There shall but six shoot with me,
  The other shall keep my heed,
And stand with good bowès bent
  That I be not deceived.’        40
 
CCXCI

The fourth outlaw his bow gan bend,
  And that was Robin Hood,
And that beheld the proud Sheriff,
  All by the butt he stood.
 
CCXCII

Thrice Robin shot about,
        45
  And alway he sliced the wand,
And so did good Gilbert,
  With the white hand.
 
CCXCIII

Little John and good Scathelock
  Were archers good and free;        50
Little Much and good Reynold,
  The worst would they not be.
 
CCXCIV

When they haddè shot about,
  These archers fair and good,
Evermore was the best,        55
  For soothè, Robin Hood.
 
CCXCV

Him was deliver’d the good arròw,
  For best worthy was he;
He took the gift so courteously,
  To greenè-wood would he.        60
 
CCXCVI

They crièd out on Robin Hood
  And great horns gan they blow:
‘Woe worth thee, treason!’ said Robin,
  ‘Full evil thou art to know.
 
CCXCVII

‘And woe be thee, thou proud Sheriff,
        65
  Thus gladding thy guest;
Otherwise thou behotè me
  In yonder wild forèst.
 
CCXCVIII

‘But had I thee in greenè-wood,
  Under my trystell-tree,        70
Thou shouldest leave me a better wed
  Than thy true lewtè.’
 
CCXCIX

Full many a bowè there was bent,
  And arrows let they glide;
Many a kirtle there was rent,        75
  And hurt full many a side.
 
CCC

The outlaws’ shottè was so strong
  That no man might them drive,
And the proudè Sheriff’s men
  They fled away full blive.        80
 
CCCI

Robin saw the bushment broke,
  In green-wood he would be;
Many an arrow there was shot
  Among that company.
 
CCCII

Little John was hurt full sore,
        85
  With an arrow in his knee,
That he might neither go nor ride;
  It was full great pity.
 
CCCIII

‘Master,’ then said Little John,
  ‘If ever thou lovest me,        90
And for that ilk Lordès love,
  That died upon a tree,
 
CCCIV

‘And for the meeds of my service,
  That I have servèd thee,
Let never the proud Sheriff        95
  Alive now findè me;
 
CCCV

‘But take out thy brown sword,
  And smite all off my head
And give me wounds dead and wide,
  No life on me be left.’        100
 
CCCVI

‘I would not that,’ said Robin,
  ‘John, that thou were slawe,
For all the gold in merry England,
  Though it lay now on a rawe.’
 
CCCVII

‘God forbid,’ said little Much,
        105
  ‘That died on a tree,
That thou shouldest, Little John,
  Part our company.’
 
CCCVIII

Up Robin took him on his back,
  And bare him well a mile;        110
Many a time he laid him down,
  And shot another while.
 
CCCIX

Then was there a fair castèll,
  A little within the wood;
Double-ditch’d it was about,        115
  And wallèd, by the rood.
 
CCCX

And there dwelt that gentle Knight,
  Sir Richard at the Lee,
That Robin haddè lent his good,
  Under the green-wood tree.        120
 
CCCXI

In he took good Robin,
  And all his company:
‘Welcome be thou, Robin Hood,
  Welcome art thou to me;
 
CCCXII

‘And much I thank thee of thy comfort,
        125
  And of thy courtesy,
And of thy great kindness,
  Under the green-wood tree;
 
CCCXIII

‘I love no man in all this world
  So much as I do thee;        130
For all the proud Sheriff of Nottingham,
  Right here shalt thou be.
 
CCCXIV

‘Shut the gates and draw the bridge,
  And let no man come in,
And arm you well, and make you ready,        135
  And to the walls ye win.
 
CCCXV

‘For one thing, Robin, I thee behote,
  I swear by Saint Quintìn,
These twelve days thou wonest with me,
  To sup, eat, and dine.’        140
 
CCCXVI

Boards were laid, and cloths spread,
  Readily and anon;
Robin Hood and his merry men
  To meat gan they gone.
 
GLOSS:  alder-best] best of all.  law] low.  fynly] goodly.  wete] know.  tackles] arrows.  worth thee] be to thee.  behotè] didst promise.  wed] pledge, security.  blive] quickly.  bushment] ambush.  meeds] wages.  dead] certain, sure.  rawe] row.  win] go, attain.  behote] promise.  wonest] dwellest.
 

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