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 Fourth Fytte

The sherif dwelled in Notingham;

He was fayne he was agone;

And Robyn and his mery men

Went to wode anone.

‘Go we to dyner,’ sayde Littell Johnn;

Robyn Hode sayde, ‘Nay;

For I drede Our Lady be wroth with me,

For she sent me nat my pay.’

‘Have no doute, maister,’ sayde Litell Johnn;

‘Yet is not the sonne at rest;

For I dare say, and savely swere,

The knight is true and truste.’

‘Take thy bowe in thy hande,’ sayde Robyn,

‘Late Much wende with the,

And so shal Wyllyam Scarlok,

And no man abyde with me.

‘And walke up under the Sayles,

And to Watlynge-strete,

And wayte after some unketh gest;

Up-chaunce ye may them mete.

‘Whether he be messengere,

Or a man that myrthës can,

Of my good he shall have some,

Yf he be a pore man.’

Forth then stert Lytel Johan,

Half in tray and tene,

And gyrde hym with a full good swerde,

Under a mantel of grene.

They went up to the Sayles,

These yemen all thre;

They loked est, they loked west,

They myght no man se.

But as they loked in Bernysdale,

By the hyë waye,

Than were they ware of two blacke monkes,

Eche on a good palferay.

Then bespake Lytell Johan,

To Much he gan say,

‘I dare lay my lyfe to wedde,

These monkes have brought our pay.

‘Make glad chere,’ sayd Lytell Johan,

‘And frese our bowes of ewe,

And loke your hertes be seker and sad,

Your strynges trusty and trewe.

‘The monke hath two and fifty men,

And seven somers full stronge;

There rydeth no bysshop in this londe

So ryally, I understond.

‘Brethren,’ sayd Lytell Johan,

‘Here are no more but we thre;

But we brynge them to dyner,

Our mayster dare we not se.

‘Bende your bowes,’ sayd Lytell Johan,

‘Make all yon prese to stonde;

The formost monke, his lyfe and his deth

Is closed in my honde.

‘Abyde, chorle monke,’ sayd Lytell Johan,

‘No ferther that thou gone;

Yf thou doost, by dere worthy God,

Thy deth is in my honde.

‘And evyll thryfte on thy hede,’ sayd Lytell Johan,

‘Ryght under thy hattes bonde,

For thou hast made our mayster wroth,

He is fastynge so longe.’

‘Who is your mayster?’ sayd the monke;

Lytell Johan sayd, Robyn Hode;

‘He is a stronge thefe,’ sayd the monke,

‘Of hym herd I never good.’

‘Thou lyest,’ than sayd Lytell Johan,

‘And that shall rewë the;

He is a yeman of the forest,

To dyne he hath bodë the.’

Much was redy with a bolte,

Redly and anone,

He set the monke to-fore the brest,

To the grounde that he can gone.

Of two and fyfty wyght yonge yemen

There abode not one,

Saf a lytell page and a grome,

To lede the somers with Lytel Johan.

They brought the monke to the lodge-dore,

Whether he were loth or lefe,

For to speke with Robyn Hode,

Maugre in theyr tethe.

Robyn dyde a downe his hode,

The monke whan that he se;

The monke was not so curteyse,

His hode then let he be.

‘He is a chorle, mayster, by dere worthy God,’

Than sayd Lytell Johan:

‘Thereof no force,’ sayd Robyn,

‘For curteysy can he none.

‘How many men,’ sayd Robyn,

‘Had this monke, Johan?’

‘Fyfty and two whan that we met,

But many of them be gone.’

‘Let blowe a horne,’ sayd Robyn,

‘That felaushyp may us knowe’;

Seven score of wyght yemen,

Came pryckynge on a rowe.

And everych of them a good mantell

Of scarlet and of raye;

All they came to good Robyn,

To wyte what he wolde say.

They made the monke to wasshe and wype,

And syt at his denere,

Robyn Hode and Lytell Johan

They served him both in-fere.

‘Do gladly, monke,’ sayd Robyn.

‘Gramercy, syr,’ sayd he.

‘Where is your abbay, whan ye are at home,

And who is your avowë?’

‘Saynt Mary abbay,’ sayd the monke,

‘Though I be symple here.’

‘In what offyce?’ said Robyn:

‘Syr, the hye selerer.’

‘Ye be the more welcome,’ sayd Robyn,

‘So ever mote I the:

Fyll of the best wyne,’ sayd Robyn,

‘This monke shall drynke to me.

‘But I have grete mervayle,’ sayd Robyn,

‘Of all this longë day;

I drede Our Lady be wroth with me,

She sent me not my pay.’

‘Have no doute, mayster,’ sayd Lytell Johan,

‘Ye have no nede, I saye;

This monke hath brought it, I dare well swere,

For he is of her abbay.’

‘And she was a borowe,’ sayd Robyn,

‘Betwene a knyght and me,

Of a lytell money that I hym lent,

Under the grene-wode tree.

‘And yf thou hast that sylver ibrought,

I pray the let me se;

And I shall helpë the eftsones,

Yf thou have nede to me.’

The monke swore a full grete othe,

With a sory chere,

‘Of the borowehode thou spekest to me,

Herde I never ere.’

‘I make myn avowe to God,’ sayd Robyn,

‘Monke, thou art to blame;

For God is holde a ryghtwys man,

And so is his dame.

‘Thou toldest with thyn owne tonge,

Thou may not say nay,

How thou arte her servaunt,

And servest her every day.

‘And thou art made her messengere.

My money for to pay;

Therefore I cun the morë thanke

Thou arte come at thy day.

‘What is in your cofers?’ sayd Robyn,

‘Trewe than tell thou me’:

‘Syr,’ he sayd, ‘twenty marke,

Al so mote I the.’

‘Yf there be no more,’ sayd Robyn,

‘I wyll not one peny;

Yf thou hast myster of ony more,

Syr, more I shall lende to the.’

‘And yf I fynde more,’ sayd Robyn,

‘I-wys thou shalte it for gone;

For of thy spendynge-sylver, monke,

Thereof wyll I ryght none.

‘Go nowe forthe, Lytell Johan,

And the trouth tell thou me;

If there be no more but twenty marke,

No peny that I se.’

Lytell Johan spred his mantell downe,

As he had done before,

And he tolde out of the monkes male

Eyght hondred pounde and more.

Lytell Johan let it lye full styll,

And went to his mayster in hast;

‘Syr,’ he sayd, ‘the monke is trewe ynowe,

Our Lady hath doubled your cast.

‘I make myn avowe to God,’ sayd Robyn—

‘Monke, what tolde I the?—

Our Lady is the trewest woman

That ever yet founde I me.

‘By dere worthy God,’ sayd Robyn,

‘To seche all Englond thorowe,

Yet founde I never to my pay

A moche better borowe.

‘Fyll of the best wyne, and do hym drynke,’ sayd Robyn,

‘And grete well thy lady hende,

And yf she have nede to Robyn Hode,

A frende she shall hym fynde.

‘And yf she nedeth ony more sylver,

Come thou agayne to me,

And, by this token she hath me sent,

She shall have such thre.’

The monke was goynge to London ward,

There to hold grete mote,

The knyght that rode so hye on hors,

To brynge hym under fote.

‘Whether be ye away?’ sayd Robyn:

‘Syr, to maners in this londe,

Too reken with our reves,

That have done moch wronge.’

‘Come now forth, Lytell Johan,

And harken to my tale;

A better yemen I knowe none,

To seke a monkës male.’

‘How moch is in yonder other corser?’ sayd Robyn,

‘The soth must we see’;

By Our Lady,’ than sayd the monke,

‘That were no curteysye,

‘To bydde a man to dyner,

And syth hym bete and bynde.’

‘It is our olde maner,’ sayd Robyn,

‘To leve but lytell behynde.’

The monke toke the hors with spore,

No lenger wolde he abyde:

‘Aske to drynke,’ than sayd Robyn,

‘Or that ye forther ryde.’

‘Nay, for God,’ than sayd the monke,

‘Me reweth I cam so nere;

For better chepe I myght have dyned

In Blythe or in Dankestere.’

‘Grete well your abbot,’ sayd Robyn,

‘And your pryour, I you pray,

And byd hym send me such a monke

To dyner every day.’

Now lete we that monke be styll,

And speke we of that knyght:

Yet he came to holde his day,

Whyle that it was lyght.

He dyde him streyt to Bernysdale,

Under the grene-wode tre,

And he founde there Robyn Hode,

And all his mery meynë.

The knyght lyght doune of his good palfray;

Robyn whan he gan see,

So curteysly he dyde adoune his hode,

And set hym on his knee.

‘God the save, Robyn Hode,

And all this company’:

‘Welcome be thou, gentyll knyght,

And ryght welcome to me.’

Than bespake hym Robyn Hode,

To that knyght so fre:

What nede dryveth the to grene-wode?

I praye the, syr knyght, tell me.

‘And welcome be thou, gentyll knyght,

Why hast thou be so longe?’

‘For the abbot and the hye iustyce

Wolde have had my londe.’

‘Hast thou thy londe agayne?’ sayd Robyn;

‘Treuth than tell thou me’:

‘Ye, for God,’ sayd the knyght,

‘And that thanke I God and the.

‘But take no grefe, that I have be so longe;

I came by a wrastelynge,

And there I holpe a pore yeman,

With wronge was put behynde.’

‘Nay, for God,’ sayd Robyn,

‘Syr knyght, that thanke I the;

What man that helpeth a good yeman,

His frende than wyll I be.’

‘Have here foure hondred pounde,’ sayd the knyght,

‘The whiche ye lent to me;

And here is also twenty marke

For your curteysy.’

‘Nay, for God,’ sayd Robyn,

‘Thou broke it well for ay;

For Our Lady, by her hye selerer,

Hath sent to me my pay.

‘And yf I toke it i-twyse,

A shame it were to me;

But trewely, gentyll knyght,

Welcome arte thou to me.’

Whan Robyn had tolde his tale,

He leugh and made good chere:

‘By my trouthe,’ then sayd the knyght,

‘Your money is redy here.’

‘Broke it well,’ said Robyn,

‘Thou gentyll knyght so fre;

And welcome be thou, gentyll knyght,

Under my trystell-tre.

‘But what shall these bowes do?’ sayd Robyn,

‘And these arowes ifedred fre?

‘By God,’ than sayd the knyght,

‘A pore present to the.’

‘Come now forth, Lytell Johan,

And go to my treasurë,

And brynge me there foure hondred pounde;

The monke over-tolde it me.

‘Have here foure hondred pounde,

Thou gentyll knyght and trewe,

And bye thee hors and harnes good,

And gylte thy spores all newe.

‘And yf thou fayle ony spendynge,

Com to Robyn Hode,

And by my trouth thou shalt none fayle,

The whyles I have any good.

‘And broke well thy foure hondred pound,

Whiche I lent to the,

And make thy selfe no more so bare,

By the counsell of me.’

Thus than holpe hym good Robyn,

The knyght all of his care:

God, that syt in heven hye,

Graunte us well to fare!