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 Seventh Fytte

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,

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,

And seased in his honde

The knyghtës londës all.

All the passe of Lancasshyre

He went both ferre and nere,

Tyll he came to Plomton Parke;

He faylyd many of his dere.

There our kynge was wont to se

Herdës many one,

He coud unneth fynde one dere,

That bare ony good horne.

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,

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,

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,

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.

‘That he ne shall lese 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

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 and eke by hyll,

And alway slewe the kyngës dere,

And welt them at his wyll.

Than bespake a proude fostere,

That stode by our kyngës kne:

‘Yf ye wyll see good Robyn,

Ye must do after me.

‘Take fyve of the best knyghtes

That be in your lede,

And walke downe by yon abbay,

And gete you monkës wede.

And I wyll be your ledes-man,

And lede you the way,

And or ye come to Notyngham,

Myn hede then dare I lay,

That ye shall mete with good Robyn,

On lyve yf that he be;

Or ye come to Notyngham,

With eyen ye shall hym se.

Full hastely our kynge was dyght,

So were his knyghtës fyve,

Everych of them in monkës wede,

And hasted them thyder blyve.

Our kynge was grete above his cole,

A brode hat on his crowne,

Ryght as he were abbot-lyke,

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 was clothed in graye.

His male-hors and his grete somers

Folowed our kynge behynde,

Tyll they came to grene wode,

A myle under the lynde.

There they met with good Robyn,

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,

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,

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.’

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,

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:

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 he gave his mery men,

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.

‘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,

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;

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,

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.

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,

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,

His men are more at his byddynge

Then my men be at myn.’

Full hastely was theyr dyner idyght,

And therto gan they gone;

They served our kynge with all theyr myght,

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.

‘Make good chere,’ said Robyn,

‘Abbot, for charytë

And for this ylkë tydynge,

Blyssed mote thou be.

‘Now shalte thou se what lyfe we lede,

Or thou hens wende;

Than thou may enfourme our kynge,

Whan ye togyder lende.’

Up they sterte all in hast,

Theyr bowes were smartly bent;

Our kynge was never so sore agast,

He wende to have be shente.

Two yerdes there were up set,

Thereto gan they gange;

By fyfty pase, our kynge sayd,

The merkës were to longe.

On every syde a rose-garlonde,

They shot under the lyne:

‘Who so fayleth of the rose-garlonde,’ sayd Robyn,

‘His takyll he shall tyne.

‘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,

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,

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,

Robyn smote them full sore.

At the last shot that Robyn shot,

For all his frendës fare,

Yet he fayled of the garlonde

Thre fyngers and mare.

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,

‘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,

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,

He folde up his sleve.

And sych a buffet he gave Robyn,

To grounde he yede full nere:

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

‘Thou arte a stalworthe frere.

‘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

Wystly 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:

‘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,

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.’

‘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,

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,

And brynge with me of my men

Seven score and thre.

‘But me lyke well your servyse,

I wyll come agayne full soone,

And shote at the donnë dere,

As I am wonte to done.’