Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. I. Chaucer to Donne
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Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. I. Early Poetry: Chaucer to Donne
 
Robin Hood Ballads
Robin Hood Rescuing the Widow’s Three Sons
 
THERE are twelve months in all the year,
  As I hear many say,
But the merriest month in all the year
  Is the merry month of May.
 
Now Robin Hood is to Nottingham gone,        5
  With a link a down, and a day,
And there he met a silly old woman,
  Was weeping on the way.
 
‘What news? what news? thou silly old woman,
  What news hast thou for me?’        10
Said she, ‘There ’s my three sons in Nottingham town
  To-day condemned to die.’
 
‘O, have they parishes burnt?’ he said,
  ‘Or have they ministers slain?
Or have they robbed any virgin?        15
  Or other men’s wives have ta’en?’
 
‘They have no parishes burnt, good sir,
  Nor yet have ministers slain,
Nor have they robbed any virgin,
  Nor other men’s wives have ta’en.’        20
 
‘O, what have they done?’ said Robin Hood,
  ‘I pray thee tell to me.’
‘It ’s for slaying of the king’s fallow deer,
  Bearing their long bows with thee.’
 
‘Dost thou not mind, old woman,’ he said,        25
  ‘How thou madest me sup and dine?
By the truth of my body,’ quoth bold Robin Hood,
  ‘You could not tell it in better time.’
 
Now Robin Hood is to Nottingham gone,
  With a link a down, and a day,        30
And there he met with a silly old palmer,
  Was walking along the highway.
 
‘What news? what news? thou silly old man,
  What news, I do thee pray?’
Said he, ‘Three squires in Nottingham town        35
  Are condemn’d to die this day.’
 
‘Come change thy apparel with me, old man,
  Come change thy apparel for mine;
Here is ten shillings in good silvèr,
  Go drink it in beer or wine.’        40
 
‘O, thine apparel is good,’ he said,
  ‘And mine is ragged and torn;
Wherever you go, wherever you ride,
  Laugh not an old man to scorn.’
 
‘Come change thy apparel with me, old churl,        45
  Come change thy apparel with mine;
Here is a piece of good broad gold,
  Go feast thy brethren with wine.’
 
Then he put on the old man’s hat,
  It stood full high on the crown:        50
‘The first bold bargain that I come at,
  It shall make thee come down.’
 
Then he put on the old man’s cloak,
  Was patch’d black, blue, and red;
He thought it no shame, all the day long,        55
  To wear the bags of bread.
 
Then he put on the old man’s breeks,
  Was patch’d from leg to side:
‘By the truth of my body,’ bold Robin can say,
  ‘This man loved little pride.’        60
 
Then he put on the old man’s hose,
  Were patch’d from knee to wrist:
‘By the truth of my body,’ said bold Robin Hood,
  ‘I ’d laugh if I had any list.’
 
Then he put on the old man’s shoes,        65
  Were patch’d both beneath and aboon;
Then Robin Hood swore a solemn oath,
  ‘It ’s good habit that makes a man.’
 
Now Robin Hood is to Nottingham gone,
  With a link a down and a down,        70
And there he met with the proud sherìff,
  Was walking along the town.
 
‘Save you, save you, sheriff!’ he said;
  ‘Now heaven you save and see!
And what will you give to a silly old man        75
  To-day will your hangman be?’
 
‘Some suits, some suits,’ the sheriff he said,
  ‘Some suits I ’ll give to thee;
Some suits, some suits, and pence thirteen,
  To-day ’s a hangman’s fee.’        80
 
Then Robin he turns him round about,
  And jumps from stock to stone:
‘By the truth of my body,’ the sheriff he said,
  ‘That ’s well jumpt, thou nimble old man.’
 
‘I was ne’er a hangman in all my life,        85
  Nor yet intends to trade;
But curst be he,’ said bold Robin,
  ‘That first a hangman was made!
 
‘I ’ve a bag for meal, and a bag for malt,
  And a bag for barley and corn;        90
A bag for bread, and a bag for beef,
  And a bag for my little small horn.
 
‘I have a horn in my pockèt,
  I got it from Robin Hood,
And still when I set it to my mouth,        95
  For thee it blows little good.’
 
‘O, wind thy horn, thou proud fellòw!
  Of thee I have no doubt.
I wish that thou give such a blast,
  Till both thy eyes fall out.’        100
 
The first loud blast that he did blow,
  He blew both loud and shrill;
A hundred and fifty of Robin Hood’s men
  Came riding over the hill.
 
The next loud blast that he did give,        105
  He blew both loud and amain,
And quickly sixty of Robin Hood’s men
  Came shining over the plain.
 
‘O, who are these,’ the sheriff he said,
  ‘Come tripping over the lee?’        110
‘They ’re my attendants,’ brave Robin did say;
  ‘They ’ll pay a visit to thee.’
 
They took the gallows from the slack,
  They set it in the glen,
They hanged the proud sherìff on that,        115
  Released their own three men.
 
 
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