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   English Poetry I: From Chaucer to Gray.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
32. A Gest of Robyn Hode
 
The First Fytte
 
Traditional Ballads
 
 
LYTHE 1 and listin, gentilmen,
  That be of frebore 2 blode;
I shall you tel of a gode yeman,
  His name was Robyn Hode.
 
Robyn was a prude 3 outlaw,        5
  Whyles he walked on grounde;
So curteyse an outlaw as he was one
  Was never non yfounde. 4
 
Robyn stode in Bernesdale,
  And lenyd hym to a tre;        10
And bi him stode Litell Johnn
  A gode yeman was he.
 
And alsoo dyd gode Scarlok,
  And Much, the miller’s son;
There was none ynch of his bodi        15
  But it was worth a grome. 5
 
Than bespake Lytell Johnn
  All untoo Robyn Hode:
Maister, and 6 ye wolde dyne betyme
  It wolde doo you moche gode.        20
 
Than bespake hym gode Robyn:
  To dyne have I noo lust,
Till that I have som bolde baron
  Or som unkouth 7 gest.
 
.  .  .  .  .  .  .

That may pay for the best,
        25
Or some knyght or som squyer
  That dwelleth here bi west.
 
A gode maner than had Robyn;
  In londe where that he were,
Every day or he wold dyne        30
  Thre messis wolde he here.
 
The one in the worship of the Fader,
  And another of the Holy Gost,
The thirde was of Our dere Lady
  That he loved allther 8 moste.        35
 
Robyn loved Oure dere Lady;
  For dout 9 of dydly synne,
Wolde he never do compani harme
  That any woman was in.
 
‘Maistar,’ than sayde Lytil Johnn,        40
  ‘And we our borde shal sprede,
Tell us wheder that we shall go
  And what life that we shall lede.
 
‘Where we shall take, where we shall leve,
  Where we shall abide behynde;        45
Where we shall robbe, where we shall reve,
  Where we shall bete and bynde.’
 
‘Thereof no force,’ 10 than sayde Robyn;
  ‘We shall do well inowe; 11
But loke ye do no husbonde harme        50
  That tilleth with his ploughe.
 
‘No more ye shall no gode yeman
  That walketh by grene-wode shawe;
Ne no knyght ne no squyer
  That wol be a gode felawe.        55
 
‘These bisshoppes and these archebishoppes,
  Ye shall them bete and bynde;
The hye sherif of Notyngham,
  Hym holde ye in your mynde.’
 
‘This worde shalbe holde,’ sayde Lytell Johnn,        60
  ‘And this lesson we shall lere;
It is fer dayes; 12 God sende us a gest,
  That we were at our dynere.’
 
‘Take thy gode bowe in thy honde,’ sayde Robyn;
  ‘Late 13 Much wende with the;        65
And so shal Willyam Scarlok,
  And no man abyde with me.
 
‘And walke up to the Saylis
  And so to Watlinge Strete,
And wayte after some unkuth gest,        70
  Up chaunce ye may them mete.
 
‘Be he erle, or ani baron,
  Abbot, or ani knyght,
Bringhe hym to lodge to me;
  His dyner shall be dight.’ 14        75
 
They wente up to the Saylis,
  These yemen all three;
They loked est, they loked weest,
  They myght no man see.
 
But as they loked in to Bernysdale,        80
  Bi a dernë 15 strete,
Than came a knyght ridinghe;
  Full sone they gan hym mete.
 
All dreri was his semblaunce,
  And lytell was his pryde;        85
His one fote in the styrop stode,
  That othere wavyd beside.
 
His hode hanged in his iyn 16 two;
  He rode in symple aray;
A soriar man than he was one        90
  Rode never in somer day.
 
Litell Johnn was full curteyes,
  And sette hym on his kne:
‘Welcom be ye, gentyll knyght,
  Welcom ar ye to me.        95
 
‘Welcom be thou to grenë wode,
  Hendë 17 knyght and fre;
My maister hath abiden you fastinge,
  Syr, al these oures thre.’
 
‘Who is thy maister?’ sayde the knyght;        100
  Johnn sayde, ‘Robyn Hode’;
‘He is a gode yoman,’ sayde the knyght,
  ‘Of hym I have herde moche gode.
 
‘I graunte,’ he sayde, ‘with you to wende,
  My bretherne, all in fere; 18        105
My purpos was to have dyned to day
  At Blith or Dancastere.’
 
Furth than went this gentyl knight,
  With a carefull chere;
The teris oute of his iyen ran,        110
  And fell downe by his lere. 19
 
They brought him to the lodgë-dore;
  Whan Robyn gan hym see,
Full curtesly dyd of his hode
  And sette hym on his knee.        115
 
‘Welcome, sir knight,’ than sayde Robyn,
  ‘Welcome art thou to me;
I have abyden you fastinge, sir,
  All these ouris thre.’
 
Than answered the gentyll knight,        120
  With wordes fayre and fre:
‘God the save, goode Robyn,
  And all thy fayre meyne.’ 20
 
They wasshed togeder and wyped bothe,
  And sette to theyr dynere;        125
Brede and wyne they had right ynoughe,
  And noumbles 21 of the dere.
 
Swannes and fessauntes 22 they had full gode,
  And foules of the ryvere;
There fayled none so litell a birde        130
  That ever was bred on bryre.
 
‘Do gladly, sir knight,’ sayde Robyn;
  ‘Gramarcy, sir,’ sayde he;
‘Suche a dinere had I nat
  Of all these wekys thre.        135
 
‘If I come ageyne, Robyn,
  Here by thys contrë,
As gode a dyner I shall the make
  As thou haest made to me.’
 
‘Gramarcy, knyght,’ sayde Robyn;        140
  ‘My dyner whan I have,
I was never so gredy, by dere worthi God,
  My dyner for to crave.
 
‘But pay or ye wende,’ sayde Robyn;
  ‘Me thynketh it is gode ryght;        145
It was never the maner, by dere worthi God,
  A yoman to pay for a knyght.’
 
‘I have nought in my coffers,’ saide the knyght,
  ‘That I may profer for shame’:
‘Litell John, go loke,’ sayde Robyn,        150
  ‘Ne lat not for no blame.
 
‘Tel me truth,’ than saide Robyn,
  ‘So God have parte of the’:
‘I have no more but ten shelynges,’ sayde the knyght,
  ‘So God have parte of me.’        155
 
‘If thou have no more,’ sayde Robyn,
  ‘I woll nat one peny;
And yf thou have nede of any more,
  More shall I lend the.
 
‘Go nowe furth, Litell Johnn,        160
  The truth tell thou me;
If there be no more but ten shelinges,
  No peny that I se.’
 
Lytell Johnn sprede downe hys mantell
  Full fayre upon the grounde,        165
And there he fonde in the knyghtes cofer
  But even halfe a pounde.
 
Litell Johnn let it lye full styll,
  And went to hys maysteer full lowe;
‘What tydynges, Johnn?’ sayde Robyn;        170
  ‘Sir, the knyght is true inowe.’
 
‘Fyll of the best wine,’ sayde Robyn,
  ‘The knyght shall begynne;
Moche wonder thinketh me
  Thy clothynge is so thinne.        175
 
‘Tell me one worde,’ sayde Robyn,
  ‘And counsel shal it be;
I trowe thou wert made a knyght of force,
  Or ellys of yemanry.
 
‘Or ellys thou hast been a sori husbande, 23        180
  And lyved in stroke and strife;
An okerer, 24 or ellis a lechoure,’ sayde Robyn,
  ‘Wyth wronge hast led thy lyfe.’
 
‘I am none of those,’ sayde the knyght,
  ‘By God that madë me;        185
An hundred wynter here before
  Myn auncetres knyghtes have be.
 
‘But oft it hath befal, Robyn,
  A man hath be disgrate; 25
But God that sitteth in heven above        190
  May amende his state.
 
‘Withyn this two yere, Robyne,’ he sayde,
  ‘My neghbours well it knowe,
Foure hundred pounde of gode money
  Ful well than myght I spende.        195
 
‘Nowe have I no gode,’ saide the knyght,
  ‘God hath shapen such an ende,
But my chyldren and my wyfe,
  Tyll God yt may amende.’
 
‘In what maner,’ than sayde Robyn,        200
  ‘Hast thou lorne 26 thy rychesse?’
‘For my greate foly,’ he sayde,
  ‘And for my kyndenesse.
 
‘I had a sone, forsoth, Robyn,
  That shulde have ben myn ayre,        205
Whanne he was twenty wynterolde,
  In felde wolde just full fayre.
 
‘He slewe a knyght of Lancashire,
  And a squyer bolde;
For to save him in his ryght        210
  My godes beth sette and solde.
 
‘My londes beth sette to wedde, 27 Robyn,
  Untyll a certayn day,
To a ryche abbot here besyde
  Of Seynt Mari Abbey.’        215
 
‘What is the som?’ sayde Robyn;
  ‘Trouth than tell thou me’;
‘Sir,’ he sayde, ‘foure hundred pounde;
  The abbot told it to me.’
 
‘Nowe and thou lese 28 thy lond,’ sayde Robyn,        220
  ‘What shall fall of the?’
‘Hastely I wol me buske 29 [sayd the knyght]
  Over the saltë see,
 
‘And se where Criste was quyke and dede,
  On the mount of Calverë        225
Fare wel, frende, and have gode day;
  It may not better be.’
 
Teris fell out of hys eyen two;
  He wolde have gone hys way;
‘Farewel, frendes, and have gode day,        230
  I have no more to pay.’
 
‘Where be thy frendes?’ sayde Robyn:
  ‘Syr, never one wol me knowe;
While I was ryche ynowe at home
  Great boste than wolde they blowe.        235
 
‘And nowe they renne away fro me,
  As bestis on a rowe;
They take no more hede of me
  Thanne they me never sawe.’
 
For ruthe thanne wept Litell Johnn,        240
  Scarlok and Much in fere;
‘Fyl of the best wyne,’ sayde Robyn,
  ‘For here is a symple chere. 30
 
‘Hast thou any frends,’ sayde Robyn,
  ‘Thy borowes 31 that wyll be?’        245
‘I have none,’ than sayde the knyght,
  ‘But God that dyed on tree.’
 
‘Do away thy japis,’ 32 sayde Robyn,
  ‘Thereof wol I right none;
Wenest thou I wolde have God to borowe,        250
  Peter, Poule, or Johnn?
 
‘Nay, by hym that made me,
  And shope 33 both sonne and mone,
Fynde me a better borowe,’ sayde Robyn,
  ‘Or money getest thou none.’        255
 
‘I have none other,’ sayde the knyght,
  ‘The sothe for to say,
But yf yt be Our dere Lady;
  She fayled me never or thys day.’
 
‘By dere worthy God,’ sayde Robyn,        260
  ‘To seche all Englonde thorowe,
Yet fonde I never to my pay 34
  A moche better borowe.
 
‘Come nowe furth, Litell Johnn,
  And go to my tresourë,        265
And bringe me foure hundered pound,
  And loke well tolde it be.’
 
Furth than went Litell Johnn,
  And Scarlok went before;
He told oute four hundred pounde        270
  By eight and twenty score.
 
‘Is thys well tolde?’ sayde litell Much;
  Johnn sayde: ‘What greveth the?
It is almus 35 to helpe a gentyll knyght
  That is fal in povertë.        275
 
‘Master,’ than sayde Lityll John,
  ‘His clothinge is full thynne;
Ye must gyve the knight a lyveray,
  To lappe his body therein.
 
‘For ye have scarlet and grene, mayster,        280
  And many a riche aray;
Ther is no marchaunt in mery Englond
  So ryche, I dare well say.’
 
‘Take hym thre yerdes of every colour,
  And loke well mete 36 that it be’;        285
Lytell Johnn toke none other mesure
  But his bowë-tree.
 
And at every handfull that he met
  He lept over fotes three;
‘What devylles drapar,’ sayd litell Much,        290
  ‘Thynkest thou for to be?’
 
Scarlok stode full stil and loughe,
  And sayd, ‘By God Almyght,
Johnn may gyve hym gode mesure,
  For it costeth hym but lyght.’        295
 
‘Mayster,’ than said Litell Johnn
  All unto Robyn Hode,
‘Ye must give the knight a hors
  To lede home al this gode.’
 
‘Take him a gray coursar,’ sayde Robyn,        300
  ‘And a saydle newe;
He is Oure Ladye’s messangere;
  God graunt that he be true.’
 
‘And a gode palfray,’ sayde lytell Much,
  ‘To mayntene hym in his right’;        305
‘And a peyre of botes,’ sayde Scarlok,
  ‘For he is a gentyll knight.’
 
‘What shalt thou gyve hym, Litell John?’ [said Robyn;]
  ‘Sir, a peyre of gilt sporis clene,
To pray for all this company;        310
  God bringe hym oute of tene.’ 37
 
‘Whan shal mi day be,’ said the knight,
  ‘Sir, and your wyll be?’
‘This day twelve moneth,’ saide Robyn,
  ‘Under this grene-wode tre.        315
 
‘It were greate shame,’ sayde Robyn,
  ‘A knight alone to ryde,
Withoutë squyre, yoman, or page,
  To walkë by his syde.
 
‘I shal the lende Litell Johnn, my man,        320
  For he shalbe thy knave, 38
In a yeman’s stede he may the stande,
  If thou greate nedë have.’
 
Note 1. Soon. [back]
Note 2. Wonders. [back]
Note 3. Leapt. [back]
Note 4. Mole-hill. [back]
Note 5. Listen. [back]
Note 6. Freeborn. [back]
Note 7. Proud. [back]
Note 8. Found. [back]
Note 9. Worthy of a man. [back]
Note 10. If. [back]
Note 11. Strange. [back]
Note 12. Of all. [back]
Note 13. Fear. [back]
Note 14. No matter. [back]
Note 15. Enough. [back]
Note 16. Late in the day. [back]
Note 17. Let. [back]
Note 18. Prepared. [back]
Note 19. Secret. [back]
Note 20. Eyes. [back]
Note 21. Gentle. [back]
Note 22. Together. [back]
Note 23. Cheek. [back]
Note 24. Retinue. [back]
Note 25. Entrails. [back]
Note 26. Pheasants. [back]
Note 27. Manager. [back]
Note 28. Usurer. [back]
Note 29. Fallen in fortune. [back]
Note 30. Lost. [back]
Note 31. Pledge. [back]
Note 32. Lose. [back]
Note 33. Get ready to go. [back]
Note 34. Entertainment. [back]
Note 35. Securities. [back]
Note 36. Jests. [back]
Note 37. Created. [back]
Note 38. Satisfaction. [back]
 

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