Home  »  English Poetry I  »  32. A Gest of Robyn Hode

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

Traditional Ballads

32. A Gest of Robyn Hode

The Thirde Fytte

Lyth and lystyn, gentilmen,

All that nowe be here;

Of Litell Johnn, that was the knightes man,

Goode myrth ye shall here.

It was upon a mery day

That yonge men wolde go shete;

Lytell Johnn fet his bowe anone,

And sayde he wolde them mete.

Thre tymes Litell Johnn shet aboute,

And alway cleft the wande;

The proude sherif of Notingham

By the markes gan stande.

The sherif swore a full greate othe:

By hym that dyede on a tre,

This man is the best arschere

That ever I dyd see.

‘Say me nowe, wight yonge man,

What is nowe thy name?

In what countre were thou borne,

And where is thy wonynge wane?’

‘In Holdernes, sir, I was borne,

I-wys al of my dame;

Men cal me Reynolde Grenelef

Whan I am at home.’

‘Sey me, Reynolde Grenelefe,

Wolde thou dwell with me?

And every yere I woll the gyve

Twenty marke to thy fee.’

‘I have a maister,’ sayde Litell Johnn,

‘A curteys knight is he;

May ye levë gete of hym,

The better may it be.’

The sherif gate Litell John

Twelve moneths of the knight;

Therefore he gave him right anone

A gode hors and a wight.

Nowe is Litell John the sherifes man,

God lende us well to spede!

But alwey thought Lytell John

To quyte hym wele his mede.

‘Nowe so God me helpe,’ sayde Litell John,

‘And by my true leutye,

I shall be the worst servaunt to hym

That ever yet had he.’

It fell upon a Wednesday

The sherif on huntynge was gone,

And Litel John lay in his bed,

And was foriete at home.

Therfore he was fastinge

Til it was past the none;

‘Gode sir stuarde, I pray to the,

Gyve me my dynere,’ saide Litell John.

‘It is to longe for Grenelefe

Fastinge thus for to be;

Therfor I pray the, sir stuarde,

Mi dyner gif thou me.’

‘Shalt thou never ete ne drynke,’ saide the stuarde,

‘Tyll my lorde be come to towne’:

‘I make myn avowe to God,’ saide Litell John,

‘I had lever to crake thy crowne.’

The boteler was full uncurteys,

There he stode on flore;

He start to the botery

And shet fast the dore.

Lytell Johnn gave the boteler suche a tap

His backe went nere in two;

Though he liveth an hundred wynter,

The wors he still shall goe.

He sporned the dore with his fote;

It went open wel and fyne;

And there he made large lyveray,

Bothe of ale and of wyne.

‘Sith ye wol nat dyne,’ sayde Litell John,

‘I shall gyve you to drinke;

And though ye lyve an hundred wynter,

On Lytel Johnn ye shall thinke.’

Litell John ete, and Litel John drank,

The whilë that he wolde;

The sherife had in his kechyn a coke,

A stoute man and a bolde.

‘I make myn avowe to God,’ saide the coke,

‘Thou arte a shrewde hyne

In ani householde for to dwel,

For to aske thus to dyne.’

And there he lent Litell John

Godë strokis thre;

‘I make myn avowe,’ sayde Lytell John,

‘These strokis lyked well me.

‘Thou arte a bolde man and a hardy,

And so thinketh me;

And or I pas fro this place

Assayed better shalt thou be.’

Lytell Johnn drew a ful gode sworde,

The coke toke another in hande;

They thought no thynge for to fle,

But stifly for to stande.

There they faught sore togedere

Two mylë way and more;

Myght neyther other harme done,

The mountnaunce of an owre.

‘I make myn avowe to God,’ sayde Litell Johnn,

‘And by my true lewtë;

Thou art one of the best sworde-men

That ever yit sawe I me.

‘Cowdest thou shote as well in a bowe,

To grene wode thou shuldest with me,

And two times in the yere thy clothinge

Chaunged shuldë be;

‘And every yere of Robyn Hode

Twenty merke to thy fe;’

‘Put up thy swerde,’ saide the coke

‘And felowes woll we be.’

Thanne he fet to Lytell Johnn

The nowmbles of a do,

Gode brede and full gode wyne;

They ete and drank theretoo.

And when they had dronkyn well,

Theyre trouthes togeder they plight

That they wolde by with Robyn

That ylkë samë nyght.

They dyd them to the tresoure-hows,

As fast as they myght gone;

The lokkes, that were of full gode stele,

They brake them everichone.

They toke away the silver vessell,

And all that thei might get;

Pecis, masars, ne sponis,

Wolde thei not forget.

Also they toke the gode pens,

Thre hundred pounde and more,

And did them streyte to Robyn Hode,

Under the grene wode hore.

‘God the save, my dere mayster,

And Criste the save and se!’

And thanne sayde Robyn to Litell Johnn

‘Welcome myght thou be.

‘Also be that fayre yeman

Thou bryngest there with the;

What tydynges fro Notyngham?

Lytill Johnn, tell thou me.’

‘Well the gretith the proude sheryf.

And sendeth the here by me

His cok and his silver vessell,

And thre hundred pounde and thre.’

‘I make myne avowe to God,’ sayde Robyn,

‘And to the Trenytë,

It was never by his gode wyll

This gode is come to me.’

Lytyll Johnn there hym bethought

On a shrewde wyle;

Fyve myle in the forest he ran,

Hym happed all his wyll.

Than he met the proude sheref,

Huntynge with houndes and horne;

Lytell Johnn coude of curtesye,

And knelyd hym beforne.

‘God the save, my dere mayster,

And Criste the save and se!’

‘Reynolde Grenelefe,’ sayde the shyref,

‘Where hast thou nowe be?’

‘I have be in this forest;

A fayre syght can I se;

It was one of the fayrest syghtes

That ever yet sawe I me.

‘Yonder I sawe a ryght fayre harte,

His coloure is of grene;

Seven score of dere upon a herde

Be with hym all bydene.

‘Their tyndes are so sharp, maister,

Of sexty, and well mo,

That I durst not shote for drede,

Lest they wolde me slo.

‘I make myn avowe to God,’ sayde the shyref,

‘That syght wolde I fayne se’:

‘Buske you thyderwarde, mi dere mayster,

Anone, and wende with me.’

The sherif rode, and Litell Johnn

Of fote he was full smerte,

And whane they came before Robyn,

‘Lo, here is the mayster-herte.’

Still stode the proude sherief,

A sory man was he;

‘Wo the worthe, Raynolde Grenelefe,

Thou hast betrayed me.’

‘I make myn avowe to God,’ sayde Litell Johnn,

‘Mayster, ye be to blame;

I was mysserved of my dynere

When I was with you at home.’

Sone he was to souper sette,

And served with silver white,

And when the sherif sawe his vessell,

For sorowe he myght nat ete.

‘Make glad chere,’ sayde Robyn Hode,

‘Sherif, for charitë,

And for the love of Litill Johnn

Thy lyfe I graunt to the.’

Whan they had souped well,

The day was al gone;

Robyn commaunded Litell Johnn

To drawe of his hose and shone;

His kirtell, and his cote a pye,

That was fured well and fine

And toke hym a grene mantel,

To lap his body therein.

Robyn commaundyd his wight yonge men,

Under the grene wode tree,

They shulde lye in that same sute

That the sherif myght them see.

All nyght lay the proude sherif

In his breche and in his schert;

No wonder it was, in grene wode;

Though his sydes gan to smerte.

‘Make glad chere,’ sayde Robyn Hode,

‘Sheref, for charitë

For this is our ordre i-wys

Under the grene-wode tree.

‘This is harder order,’ sayde the sherief,

‘Than any ankir or frere;

For all the golde in mery Englonde

I wolde nat longe dwell her.’

‘All this twelve monthes,’ sayde Robin,

‘Thou shalt dwell with me;

I shall the teche, proude sherif,

An outlawe for to be.’

‘Or I here another nyght lye,’ sayde the sherif,

‘Robyn, nowe pray I the,

Smyte of mijn hede rather to-morowe,

And I forgyve it the.

‘Lat me go,’ than sayde the sherif,

‘For sayntë charitë,

And I woll be the best frende

That ever yet had ye.’

‘Thou shalt swere me an othe,’ sayde Robyn,

‘On my bright bronde;

Shalt thou never awayte me scathe

By water ne by lande.

‘And if thou fynde any of my men,

By nyght or by day,

Upon thyn othe thou shalt swere

To helpe them that thou may.’

Nowe hathe the sherif sworne his othe,

And home he began to gone;

He was as full of grene wode

As ever was hepe of stone.