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Adam Bell, Clym of the Clough, and William of

WERE three noted outlaws, whose skill in archery rendered them formerly as famous in the North of England, as Robin Hood and his fellows were in the midland counties. Their place of residence was in the forest of Englewood, not far from Carlisle (called corruptly in the ballad Englishwood, whereas Engle- or Ingle-wood, signifies wood for firing). At what time they lived does not appear. The author of the common ballad on The Pedigree, Education, and Marriage of Robin Hood, makes them contemporary with Robin Hood's father, in order to give him the honour of beating them: viz.

The father of Robin a forrester was,

And he shot in a lusty long-bow

Two north-country miles and an inch at a shot,
As the Pindar of Wakefield does know:

For he brought Adam Bell, and Clim of the Clough,
And William a Clowdéslee

To shoot with our Forester for forty mark;

And our Forester beat them all three.

Collect. of Old Ballads, 1727, vol. i. p. 67.

This seems to prove that they were commonly thought to have lived before the popular hero of Sherwood.

Our northern archers were not unknown to their southern countrymen, their excellence at the long-bow is often alluded to by our ancient poets. Shakspeare,, in his comedy of Much Ado about Nothing, act i., makes Benedicke confirm his resolves of not yielding to love by this protestation, "If I do, hang me in a bottle like a cat1, and shoot at me; and he that hits me, let him be clapt on the shoulder and called Adam:"

1 Bottles formerly were of leather; though perhaps a wooden bottle might be here meant. It is still a diversion in Scotland to hang up a cat in a small cask, or firkin, half filled with soot; and then a parcel of clowns on horseback try to beat out the ends of it, in order to show their dexterity in escaping before the contents fall upon them.

Percy. I.


meaning Adam Bell, as Theobald rightly observes, who refers to one or two other passages in our old poets wherein he is mentioned. The Oxford editor has also well conjectured that "Abraham Cupid," in Romeo and Juliet, act ii. sc. 1, should be "Adam Cupid," in allusion to our archer. Ben Jonson has mentioned Clym o' the Clough in his Alchemist, act i. sc. 2. And Sir William Davenant, in a mock poem of his, called The long Vacation in London, describes the attorneys and proctors as making matches to meet in Finsbury-fields.

"With loynes in canvas bow-case tyde2:
Where arrowes stick with mickle pride; .
Like ghosts of Adam Bell and Clymme.
Sol sets for fear they'l shoot at him."

Works, p. 291, fol. 1673.

I have only to add further, concerning the principal hero of this ballad, that the BELLS were noted rogues in the North so late as the time of Queen Elizabeth. See in Rymer's Fadera, a letter from Lord William Howard to some of the officers of state, wherein he mentions them.

As for the following stanzas, which will be judged from the style, orthography, and numbers, to be very ancient, they are given (corrected in some places by a MS. in the Editor's old folio) from a black-letter quarto, Imprinted at London in Lothburye by Myllyam Copland (no date). That old quarto edition seems to be exactly followed in "Pieces of Ancient Popular Poetry, &c. Lond. 1791,” 8vo., the variations from which that occur in the following copy, are selected from many others in the folio MS. above mentioned; and when distinguished by the usual inverted 'comma,' have been assisted by conjecture.

In the same MS. this ballad is followed by another, entitled Young Cloudeslee, being a continuation of the present story, and reciting the adventures of William of Cloudesly's son: but greatly inferior to this both in merit and antiquity.

2 i. e. Each with a canvass bow-case tied round his loins.


MERY it was in the grene forèst
Amonge the levès grene,
Wheras men hunt east and west
Wyth bowes and arrowes kene;

To raise the dere out of theyr denne;
Suche sightes hath ofte bene sene;

As by thre yemen of the north countrèy,
By them it is I meane.

The one of them hight Adam Bel,
The other Clym of the Clough3,

The thyrd was William of Cloudesly,
An archer good ynough.

They were outlawed for venyson,
These yemen everychone;

They swore them brethren upon a day,
To Englyshe wood for to gone.

Now lith and lysten, gentylmen,
That of myrthes loveth to here:
Two of them were single men,

The third had a wedded fere.

Wyllyam was the wedded man,

Muche more then was hys care:

He sayde to hys brethren upon a day,
To Carleile he would fare,

For to speke with fayre Alyce his wife,
And with hys chyldren thre.

By my trouth, sayde Adam Bel,
Not by the counsell of me:

Ver. 24, Caerlel in P. C. passim.

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3 Clym of the Clough means Clem. [Clement] of the Cliff: for so Clough signifies in the North.

For if ye go to Carlile, brother,

And from thys wylde wode wende,
If that the justice may you take,
Your lyfe were at an ende.

If that I come not to-morrowe, brother,
By pryme to you agayne,

Truste you then that I am 'taken'
Or else that I am slayne.

He toke hys leave of hys brethren two,

And to Carlile he is gon:

There he knocked at his owne windowe

Shortlye and anone.

Wher be you, fayre Alyce, he sayd,
My wife and chyldren three?
Lyghtly let in thyne owne husbande,
Wyllyam of Cloudeslee.

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Thys place hath ben besette for you
Thys halfe a yere and more.

Now am I here, sayde Cloudeslee,

I would that in I were.

Now fetche us meate and drynke ynoughe,
And let us make good chere.

She fetched hym meate and drynke plentye,
Lyke a true wedded wyfe;

And pleased hym with that she had,
Whome she loved as her lyfe.

There lay an old wyfe in that place,

A lytle besyde the fyre,

V. 35, take. P. c., tane. MS.

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Whych Wyllyam had found of charytyè
More than seven yere.

Up she rose, and forth shee goes,
Evill mote shee speede therfore;
For shee had sett no foote on ground
In seven yere before.


She went unto the justice hall,


As fast as she could hye:

Thys night, shee sayd, is come to town

Wyllyam of Cloudeslyè.

Thereof the justice was full fayne,

And so was the shirife also:


Thou shalt not trauaile hither, dame, for nought,

Thy meed thou shalt have ere thou go.

They gave to her a ryght good goune

Of scarlate, and of graine:'

She toke the gyft, and home she wente,
And couched her doune agayne.

They raysed the towne of



In all the haste they can;

And came thronging to Wyllyames house,
As fast as they might gone.

There they besette that good yemàn

Round about on every syde:

Wyllyam hearde great noyse of folkes

That thither-ward fast hyed.

Alyce opened a backe wyndòwe

And loked all aboute,

She was ware of the justice and shirife bothe,
Wyth a full great route.

V. 85, sic MS., shop window. P. C.

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