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English Poetry I: From Chaucer to Gray.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

Traditional Ballads

32. A Gest of Robyn Hode

The First Fytte

LYTHE and listin, gentilmen,

That be of frebore blode;

I shall you tel of a gode yeman,

His name was Robyn Hode.

Robyn was a prude outlaw,

Whyles he walked on grounde;

So curteyse an outlaw as he was one

Was never non yfounde.

Robyn stode in Bernesdale,

And lenyd hym to a tre;

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

But it was worth a grome.

Than bespake Lytell Johnn

All untoo Robyn Hode:

Maister, and ye wolde dyne betyme

It wolde doo you moche gode.

Than bespake hym gode Robyn:

To dyne have I noo lust,

Till that I have som bolde baron

Or som unkouth gest.


That may pay for the best,

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

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 moste.

Robyn loved Oure dere Lady;

For dout of dydly synne,

Wolde he never do compani harme

That any woman was in.

‘Maistar,’ than sayde Lytil Johnn,

‘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;

Where we shall robbe, where we shall reve,

Where we shall bete and bynde.’

‘Thereof no force,’ than sayde Robyn;

‘We shall do well inowe;

But loke ye do no husbonde harme

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.

‘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,

‘And this lesson we shall lere;

It is fer dayes; God sende us a gest,

That we were at our dynere.’

‘Take thy gode bowe in thy honde,’ sayde Robyn;

‘Late Much wende with the;

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,

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.’

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,

Bi a dernë strete,

Than came a knyght ridinghe;

Full sone they gan hym mete.

All dreri was his semblaunce,

And lytell was his pryde;

His one fote in the styrop stode,

That othere wavyd beside.

His hode hanged in his iyn two;

He rode in symple aray;

A soriar man than he was one

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.

‘Welcom be thou to grenë wode,

Hendë knyght and fre;

My maister hath abiden you fastinge,

Syr, al these oures thre.’

‘Who is thy maister?’ sayde the knyght;

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;

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,

And fell downe by his lere.

They brought him to the lodgë-dore;

Whan Robyn gan hym see,

Full curtesly dyd of his hode

And sette hym on his knee.

‘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,

With wordes fayre and fre:

‘God the save, goode Robyn,

And all thy fayre meyne.’

They wasshed togeder and wyped bothe,

And sette to theyr dynere;

Brede and wyne they had right ynoughe,

And noumbles of the dere.

Swannes and fessauntes they had full gode,

And foules of the ryvere;

There fayled none so litell a birde

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.

‘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;

‘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;

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,

‘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.’

‘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,

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,

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;

‘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.

‘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,

And lyved in stroke and strife;

An okerer, 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;

An hundred wynter here before

Myn auncetres knyghtes have be.

‘But oft it hath befal, Robyn,

A man hath be disgrate;

But God that sitteth in heven above

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.

‘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,

‘Hast thou lorne thy rychesse?’

‘For my greate foly,’ he sayde,

‘And for my kyndenesse.

‘I had a sone, forsoth, Robyn,

That shulde have ben myn ayre,

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

My godes beth sette and solde.

‘My londes beth sette to wedde, Robyn,

Untyll a certayn day,

To a ryche abbot here besyde

Of Seynt Mari Abbey.’

‘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 thy lond,’ sayde Robyn,

‘What shall fall of the?’

‘Hastely I wol me buske [sayd the knyght]

Over the saltë see,

‘And se where Criste was quyke and dede,

On the mount of Calverë

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,

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.

‘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,

Scarlok and Much in fere;

‘Fyl of the best wyne,’ sayde Robyn,

‘For here is a symple chere.

‘Hast thou any frends,’ sayde Robyn,

‘Thy borowes that wyll be?’

‘I have none,’ than sayde the knyght,

‘But God that dyed on tree.’

‘Do away thy japis,’ sayde Robyn,

‘Thereof wol I right none;

Wenest thou I wolde have God to borowe,

Peter, Poule, or Johnn?

‘Nay, by hym that made me,

And shope both sonne and mone,

Fynde me a better borowe,’ sayde Robyn,

‘Or money getest thou none.’

‘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,

‘To seche all Englonde thorowe,

Yet fonde I never to my pay

A moche better borowe.

‘Come nowe furth, Litell Johnn,

And go to my tresourë,

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

By eight and twenty score.

‘Is thys well tolde?’ sayde litell Much;

Johnn sayde: ‘What greveth the?

It is almus to helpe a gentyll knyght

That is fal in povertë.

‘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,

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 that it be’;

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,

‘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.’

‘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,

‘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’;

‘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;

God bringe hym oute of tene.’

‘Whan shal mi day be,’ said the knight,

‘Sir, and your wyll be?’

‘This day twelve moneth,’ saide Robyn,

‘Under this grene-wode tre.

‘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,

For he shalbe thy knave,

In a yeman’s stede he may the stande,

If thou greate nedë have.’