« FöregåendeFortsätt »
and especially of such as were the best marksmen. These naturally fled to the woods for shelter, and, forming into troops, endeavoured by their numbers to protect themselves from the dreadful penalties of their delinquency. The ancient punishment for killing the king's deer was loss of eyes and castration, a punishment far worse than death. This will easily account for the troops of banditti which formerly lurked in the royal forests, and, from their superior skill in archery and knowledge of all the recesses of *hose unfrequented solitudes, found it no difficult matter to resist or elude the civil power.
Among all those, none was ever more famous than the hero of this ballad, whose chief residence was in Shirewood forest, in Nottinghamshire, and the heads of whose story, as collected by Stow, are briefly these.
"In this time [about the year 1190, in the reign of Richard I.] were many robbers, and outlawes, among the which Robin Hood, and Little John, renowned theeves, continued in woods, despoyling and robbing the goods of the rich. They killed none but such as would invade them; or by resistance for their own defence.
"The saide Robert entertained an hundred tall men and good archers with such spoiles and thefts as he got, upon 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 Kirklees 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
sick utlaw as hi an is men
obiit 24 kal. dekembris. 1247.”*
This epitaph appears to me suspicious; however, a late an tiquary has given a pedigree of Robin Hood, which, if genuine, shows that he had real pretensions to the Earldom of Huntingdon, and that his true name was Robert Fitz-ooth. Yet the most ancient poems on Robin Hood make no mention of this earldom. He is expressly asserted to have been a yeoman 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
"Lithe and lysten, gentylmen,
"Robyn was a proude out-lawe,
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 || 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. (..) D."
I shall conclude these preliminary remarks with observing, that the hero of this ballad was the favourite subject of popular songs so early as the time of King Edward III. In the Visions of Pierce Plowman, written in that reign, a monk says:
"I can rimes of Roben Hod, and Randal of Chester,
* See Thoresby's Ducat. Leod. p. 576.
Biog. Brit. vi. 3933.
See also in Bishop Latimer's Sermons* a very curious and characteristic story, which shows what respect was shown to the memory of our archer in the time of that prelate.
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 ne 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.
[Robin Hood is first mentioned in literature in Piers Plowman, the earliest of the three forms of which poem was written probably about the year 1362. The ballad of Robin Hood and the Monk, printed in Child's English and Scottish Ballads, as the oldest of its class, and possibly as old as the reign of Edward II., com
"In somer when the shawes be sheyne
Hit is full mery in feyre foreste
Verses which bear a strong likeness to the opening lines of the present ballad.
Gisborne is a market town in the West Riding of the county of York on the borders of Lancashire, and Guy of that place is mentioned by William Dunbar in a satirical piece on "Schir Thomas Nory," where he is named in company with Adam Bell and other well-known worthies.
It is not needful to extend this note with any further particulars of Robin Hood, as he possesses, in virtue of his position as a popular hero, a literature of his own. Those who wish to know more of his exploits should consult Ritson's (1795) and Gutch's (1847) Collections of Robin Hood Ballads, Child's Ballads, vol. v. and Chappell's Popular Music of the Olden Time, vol. i. pp. 387-400.
There are several Robin Hood Ballads in the folio MS., but Percy only chose the one containing an account of the encounter with Guy for printing. Ritson copied this ballad from Percy's book, but indulged at the same time in a tirade against the bishop's treatment of his original.]
* Ser. 6th before K. Ed. Apr. 12. fol. 75 Gilpin's Life of Lat., P. 122.
HEN shaws beene sheene,' and shradds' full fayre,
And leaves both large and longe,
Itt is merrye walking in the fayre forrèst To heare the small birdes songe.
The woodweele3 sang, and wold not cease,
Soe lowde, he wakened Robin Hood,
Now by my faye,* sayd jollye Robin,
Methought they did mee beate and binde,
Ile be wroken on them towe.
Sweavens are swift, Master, quoth John,
"Amongst the leaves a lyne
1 when woods are bright.
[Ver. 1. shales, f. MS. V. 4. birds singe, f. MS. V. 5. woodweete, f. MS. In place of ver. 6-12 between brackets the f. MS. has
3 woodpecker or thrush. strong. 7 from me.
Buske yee, bowne yee,1 my merry men all,
Thé cast on their
Untill they came to the merry greenwood,
A sword and a dagger he wore by his side,
Stand you still, master, quoth Litle John,
And I will go to yond wight yeoman
Ah! John, by me thou settest noe store,
It is no cunning a knave to ken,
1 dress ye, get ye ready.
2 were they aware.
[Ver. 28. a shooting gone are they, f. MS. V. 34. had beene many a mans bane, f. MS. V. 40. to know his meaning trulye, f. MS. V. 42. and thats a ffarley thinge, f. MS.