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   English Poetry I: From Chaucer to Gray.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
32. A Gest of Robyn Hode
 
The Seventh Fytte
 
Traditional Ballads
 
 
The kynge came to Notynghame,
  With knyghtes in grete araye,
For to take that gentyll knyght
  And Robyn Hode, and yf he may.
 
He asked men of that countrë,        5
  After Robyn Hode,
And after that gentyll knyght,
  That was so bolde and stout.
 
Whan they had tolde hym the case
  Our kynge understode ther tale,        10
And seased in his honde
  The knyghtës londës all.
 
All the passe 1 of Lancasshyre
  He went both ferre and nere,
Tyll he came to Plomton Parke;        15
  He faylyd 2 many of his dere.
 
There 3 our kynge was wont to se
  Herdës many one,
He coud unneth fynde one dere,
  That bare ony good horne.        20
 
The kynge was wonder wroth with all,
  And swore by the Trynytë,
‘I wolde I had Robyn Hode,
  With eyen I myght hym se.
 
‘And he that wolde smyte of the knyghtës hede,        25
  And brynge it to me,
He shall have the knyghtës londes,
  Syr Rycharde at the Le.
 
‘I gyve it hym with my charter,
  And sele it with my honde,        30
To have and holde for ever more,
  In all mery Englonde.’
 
Than bespake a fayre olde knyght,
  That was treue in his fay:
‘A, my leegë lorde the kynge,        35
  One worde I shall you say.
 
‘There is no man in this countrë
  May have the knyghtës londes,
Whyle Robyn Hode may ryde or gone,
  And bere a bowe in his hondes.        40
 
‘That he ne shall lese 4 his hede,
  That is the best ball in his hode:
Give it no man, my lorde the kynge,
  That ye wyll any good.’
 
Half a yere dwelled our comly kynge        45
  In Notyngham, and well more;
Coude he not here of Robyn Hode,
  In what countrë that he were.
 
But alway went good Robyn
  By halke 5 and eke by hyll,        50
And alway slewe the kyngës dere,
  And welt 6 them at his wyll.
 
Than bespake a proude fostere,
  That stode by our kyngës kne:
‘Yf ye wyll see good Robyn,        55
  Ye must do after me.
 
‘Take fyve of the best knyghtes
  That be in your lede, 7
And walke downe by yon abbay,
  And gete you monkës wede. 8        60
 
And I wyll be your ledes-man, 9
  And lede you the way,
And or ye come to Notyngham,
  Myn hede then dare I lay,
 
That ye shall mete with good Robyn,        65
  On lyve 10 yf that he be;
Or ye come to Notyngham,
  With eyen ye shall hym se.
 
Full hastely our kynge was dyght, 11
  So were his knyghtës fyve,        70
Everych of them in monkës wede,
  And hasted them thyder blyve. 12
 
Our kynge was grete above his cole, 13
  A brode hat on his crowne,
Ryght as he were abbot-lyke,        75
  They rode up into the towne.
 
Styf botes our kynge had on,
  Forsoth as I you say;
He rode syngynge to grene wode,
  The covent 14 was clothed in graye.        80
 
His male-hors 15 and his grete somers 16
  Folowed our kynge behynde,
Tyll they came to grene wode,
  A myle under the lynde. 17
 
There they met with good Robyn,        85
  Stondynge on the waye,
And so dyde many a bolde archere,
  For soth as I you say.
 
Robyn toke the kyngës hors,
  Hastely in that stede,        90
And sayd, Syr abbot, by your leve,
  A whyle ye must abyde.
 
‘We be yemen of this foreste,
  Under the grene-wode tre;
We lyve by our kyngës dere,        95
  Other shift have not wee.
 
‘And ye have chyrches and rentës both,
  And gold full grete plentëe
Gyve us some of your spendynge,
  For saynt charytë.’        100
 
Than bespake our cumly kynge,
  Anone than sayd he;
‘I brought no more to grene-wode
  But forty pounde with me.
 
‘I have layne at Notyngham,        105
  This fourtynyght with our kynge,
And spent I have full moche good
  On many a grete lordynge.
 
‘And I have but forty pounde,
  No more than have I me:        110
But if I had an hondred pounde,
  I would give it to thee.’
 
Robyn toke the forty pounde,
  And departed it in two partye;
Halfendell 18 he gave his mery men,        115
  And bad them mery to be.
 
Full curteysly Robyn gan say;
  ‘Syr, have this for your spendyng;
We shall mete another day;’
  ‘Gramercy,’ than sayd our kynge.        120
 
‘But well the greteth Edwarde, our kynge,
  And sent to the his seale,
And byddeth the com to Notyngham,
  Both to mete and mele.’
 
He toke out the brode targe, 19        125
  And sone he lete hym se;
Robyn coud his courteysy,
  And set hym on his kne.
 
‘I love no man in all the worlde
  So well as I do my kynge;        130
Welcome is my lordës seale;
  And, monke, for thy tydynge,
 
‘Syr abbot, for thy tydynges,
  To day thou shalt dyne with me,
For the love of my kynge,        135
  Under my trystell-tre.’
 
Forth he lad our comly kynge,
  Full fayre by the honde;
Many a dere there was slayne,
  And full fast dyghtande. 20        140
 
Robyn toke a full grete horne,
  And loude he gan blowe;
Seven score of wyght yonge men
  Came redy on a rowe.
 
All they kneled on theyr kne,        145
  Full fayre before Robyn:
The kynge sayd hym selfe untyll,
  And swore by Saynt Austyn,
 
‘Here is a wonder semely sight;
  Me thynketh, by Goddës pyne, 21        150
His men are more at his byddynge
  Then my men be at myn.’
 
Full hastely was theyr dyner idyght, 22
  And therto gan they gone;
They served our kynge with all theyr myght,        155
  Both Robyn and Lytell Johan.
 
Anone before our kynge was set
  The fattë venyson,
The good whyte brede, the good rede wyne,
  And therto the fyne ale and browne.        160
 
‘Make good chere,’ said Robyn,
  ‘Abbot, for charytë
And for this ylkë 23 tydynge,
  Blyssed mote thou be.
 
‘Now shalte thou se what lyfe we lede,        165
  Or 24 thou hens wende;
Than thou may enfourme our kynge,
  Whan ye togyder lende.’ 25
 
Up they sterte all in hast,
  Theyr bowes were smartly bent;        170
Our kynge was never so sore agast,
  He wende 26 to have be shente. 27
 
Two yerdes there were up set,
  Thereto gan they gange;
By fyfty pase, our kynge sayd,        175
  The merkës were to longe.
 
On every syde a rose-garlonde,
  They shot under the lyne: 28
‘Who so fayleth of the rose-garlonde,’ sayd Robyn,
  ‘His takyll he shall tyne. 29        180
 
‘And yelde it to his mayster,
  Be it never so fyne;
For no man wyll I spare,
  So drynke I ale or wyne;
 
‘And bere a buffet on his hede,        185
  I-wys ryght all bare’:
And all that fell in Robyns lote,
  He smote them wonder sare.
 
Twyse Robyn shot aboute,
  And ever he cleved the wande,        190
And so dyde good Gylberte
  With the whytë hande.
 
Lytell Johan and good Scathelocke,
  For nothynge wolde they spare;
When they fayled of the garlonde,        195
  Robyn smote them full sore.
 
At the last shot that Robyn shot,
  For all his frendës fare, 30
Yet he fayled of the garlonde
  Thre fyngers and mare.        200
 
Than bespake good Gylberte,
  And thus he gan say;
‘Mayster,’ he sayd, ‘your takyll is lost,
  Stande forth and take your pay.’
 
‘If it be so,’ sayd Robyn,        205
  ‘That may no better be,
Syr abbot, I delyver the myn arowe,
  I pray the, syr, serve thou me.’
 
‘It falleth not for myn ordre,’ sayd our kynge,
  ‘Robyn, by thy leve,        210
For to smyte no good yeman,
  For doute I sholde hym greve.’
 
‘Smyte on boldely,’ sayd Robyn,
  ‘I give the largë leve’:
Anone our kynge, with that worde,        215
  He folde up his sleve.
 
And sych a buffet he gave Robyn,
  To grounde he yede 31 full nere:
‘I make myn avowe to God,’ sayd Robyn,
  ‘Thou arte a stalworthe frere.        220
 
‘There is pith in thyn arme,’ sayd Robyn,
  ‘I trowe thou canst well shete’;
Thus our kynge and Robyn Hode
  Togeder gan they mete.
 
Robyn behelde our comly kynge        225
  Wystly 32 in the face,
So dyde Syr Rycharde at the Le,
  And kneled downe in that place.
 
And so dyde all the wylde outlawes,
  Whan they se them knele:        230
‘My lorde the kynge of Englonde,
  Now I knowe you well.’
 
‘Mercy then, Robyn,’ sayd our kynge,
  ‘Under your trystyll-tre,
Of thy goodnesse and thy grace,        235
  For my men and me!’
 
‘Yes, for God,’ sayd Robyn,
  ‘And also God me save,
I aske mercy, my lorde the knyge,
  And for my men I crave.’        240
 
‘Yes, for God,’ than sayd our kynge,
  ‘And therto sent I me,
With that thou leve the grene-wode,
  And all thy company;
 
‘And come home, syr, to my courte,        245
  And there dwell with me.’
‘I make myn avowe to God,’ sayd Robyn,
  ‘And ryght so shall it be.
 
‘I wyll come to your courte,
  Your servyse for to se,        250
And brynge with me of my men
  Seven score and thre.
 
‘But me lyke 33 well your servyse,
  I wyll come agayne full soone,
And shote at the donnë 34 dere,        255
  As I am wonte to done.’
 
Note 1. Requited. [back]
Note 2. Went. [back]
Note 3. May. [back]
Note 4. Quickly. [back]
Note 5. Extent(?).  [back]
Note 6. Missed. [back]
Note 7. Where. [back]
Note 8. Lose. [back]
Note 9. Hiding place. [back]
Note 10. Controlled. [back]
Note 11. Company. [back]
Note 12. Garments. [back]
Note 13. Guide. [back]
Note 14. Alive. [back]
Note 15. Prepared. [back]
Note 16. Quickly. [back]
Note 17. Cowl. [back]
Note 18. The knights dressed as members of a convent. [back]
Note 19. Pack-horse. [back]
Note 20. Sumpter-horse. [back]
Note 21. Linden. [back]
Note 22. Half. [back]
Note 23. Charter. [back]
Note 24. Preparing. [back]
Note 25. Passion. [back]
Note 26. Got ready. [back]
Note 27. Same. [back]
Note 28. Before. [back]
Note 29. Dwell. [back]
Note 30. Thought. [back]
Note 31. Injured. [back]
Note 32. Linden-tree. [back]
Note 33. Lose. [back]
Note 34. In spite of what his friends had done. [back]
 

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