Sidor som bilder

whom four hundred (were they ever so strong) durst not give the onset. He suffered no woman to be oppressed, violated, or otherwise molested: poore mens goods he spared, abundantlie relieving them with that which by theft he got from abbeys and the houses of rich carles: whom Maior (the historian) blameth for his rapine and theft, but of all theeves he affirmeth him to be the prince and the most gentle theefe." — Annals, p. 159.

The personal courage of this celebrated outlaw, his skill in archery, his humanity, and especially his levelling principle of taking from the rich and giving to the poor, have in all ages rendered him the favourite of the common people: who, not content to celebrate his memory by innumerable songs and stories, have erected him into the dignity of an earl. Indeed it is not impossible but our hero, to gain the more respect from his followers, or they to derive the more credit to their profession, may have given rise to such a report themselves: for we find it recorded in an epitaph, which, if genuine, must have been inscribed on his tombstone near the nunnery of Kirk-lees in Yorkshire; where (as the story goes) he was bled to death by a treacherous nun, to whom he applied for phlebotomy:

Hear undernead dis laitl stean
laiz robert earl of huntingtun
nea arcir ver az hie sae geud
an pipl kauld im Robin Heud
sick utlawz as hi an is men
vil England nivir si agen

obiit 24 kal. dekembris, 12471

This epitaph appears to me suspicious; however, a late Antiquary has given a pedigree of Robin Hood, which, if genuine, shows that he had real pretensions to the earldom of Huntington, and that his true name was ROBERT FITZOотн2. Yet the most ancient poems on Robin Hood make no

1 See Thoresby's Ducat. Leod. p. 576. Biog. Brit. vi. 3933.
2 Stukeley, in his Palæographia Britannica, No. II. 1746.

mention of this earldom. He is expressly asserted to have been a yeoman3 in a very old legend in verse, preserved in the archives of the public library at Cambridge in eight FYTTES or Parts, printed in black letter, quarto, thus inscribed, " Here begynneth a lytell geste of Robyn hode and his meyne, and of the proude sheryfe of Notyngham." The first lines are,

"Lythe and lysten, gentylmen,

That be of fre-bore blode:

I shall you tell of a good YEMAN,
His name was Robyn hode.

Robyn was a proude out-lawe,

Whiles he walked on grounde;

So curteyse an outlawe as he was one,
Was never none yfounde," &c.

The printer's colophon is, " Explicit Kinge Edwarde and Robin hode and Lyttel Johan. Enprented at London in Fletestrete at the sygne of the sone by Wynkin de Worde." In Mr. Garrick's collection 5 is a different edition of the same poem, "Imprinted at London upon the thre Crane wharfe by Wyllyam Copland," containing at the end a little dramatic piece on the subject of Robin Hood and the Friar, not found in the former copy, called, "A newe playe for to be played in Maye games very plesaunte and full of pastyme. C(..) D."

I shall conclude these preliminary remarks with observing, that the hero of this ballad was the famous subject of popular songs so early as the time of K. Edw. III. In the Visions of Pierce Plowman, written in that reign, a monk says,

I can rimes of Roben Hod, and Randal of Chester, But of our Lorde and our Lady, I lerne nothyng at all. Fol. 26, ed. 1550.

See also in Bp. Latimer's Sermons 6 a very curious and characteristical story, which shows what respect was shown to the memory of our archer in the time of that prelate.

3 See also the following ballad, v. 147.

4 Num. D. 5, 2.

5 Old Plays, 4to. K. vol. x.

6 Serm. 6th before K. Ed. Apr. 12, fol. 75. Gilpin's Life of Lat. p. 122.

The curious reader will find many other particulars relating to this celebrated outlaw, in Sir John Hawkins's Hist. of Music, vol. iii. p. 410. 4to.

For the catastrophe of Little John, who, it seems, was executed for a robbery on Arbor-hill, Dublin, (with some curious particulars relating to his skill in archery,) see Mr. J. C. Walker's ingenious "Memoir on the Armour and Weapons of the Irish,” p. 129, annexed to his “Historical Essay on the Dress of the ancient and modern Irish.” Dublin, 1788. 4to.

Some liberties were, by the Editor, taken with this ballad; which, in this edition, hath been brought nearer to the folio MS.

WHEN Shaws beene sheene, and shradds full fayre,

And leaves both large and longe,

Itt is merrye walkyng in the fayre forrest

To heare the small birdes songe.

[blocks in formation]

Methought they did mee beate and binde,
And tooke my bow mee froe;


Iff I be Robin alive in this lande,

Ile be wroken on them towe.

Ver. 1. It should perhaps be swards: i. e. the surface of the ground: viz. "when the fields are in their beauty."

Sweavens are swift, master, quoth John,
As the wind blowes ore the hill;

For if itt be never so loude this night,
To-morrow it may be still.


Buske yee, bowne yee, my merry men all,
And John shall goe with mee,

For Ile goe seeke yond wight yeomen,
In greenwood where the bee.


Then they cast on their gownes of
And tooke theyr bowes each one;
And they away to the greene forrèst
A shooting forth are gone;

Untill they came to the merry greenwood,
Where they had gladdest to bee,

There were the ware of a wight yeoman,

That body leaned to a tree.

A sword and a dagger he wore by his side,

Of manye a man the bane;

[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

And he was clad in his capull hyde here - hille 35

Topp and tayll and mayne.

Stand you still, master, quoth Little John,

Under this tree so grene,

And I will go to yond wight yeoman

To know what he doth meane.

Ah! John, by me thou settest noe store,

And that I farley finde:

How offt send I my men beffore,

And tarry my selfe behinde?


It is no cunning a knave to ken,


And a man but heare him speake;

And itt were not for bursting of my bowe,
John, I thy head wold breake.

As often wordes they breeden bale, fed nuronè
So they parted Robin and John;
And John is gone to Barnesdale:

The gates he knoweth eche one.

But when he came to Barnesdale,
Great heavinesse there hee hadd,
For he found tow of his owne fellowes
Were slaine both in a slade.





And Scarlette he was flying a-foote
Faste over stocke and stone,

For the proud sheriffe with seven score men
Fast after him is gone.


One shoote now I will shoote, quoth John,


With Christ his might and mayne;

Ile make yond fellow that flyes soe fast,

To stopp he shall be fayne. quart Jolly

Then John bent up his long bende-bowe,

And fetteled him to shoote:

The bow was made of tender boughe,
And fell down at his foote.



[ocr errors]

Woe worth, woe worth thee, wicked wood,
That ere thou grew on a tree;
For now this day thou art my bale,
My boote when thou shold bee.

His shoote it was but loosely shott,
Yet flewe not the arrowe in vaine,
For itt mett one of the sherriffes men,
Good William a Trent was slaine.

It had bene better of William a Trent
To have bene abed with sorrowe,


7 i. e. ways, passes, paths, ridings. Gate is a common word in the North for way.

« FöregåendeFortsätt »