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To see how these yeomen together they fought Two howres of a summers day :
Yett neither Robin Hood nor sir Guy
Them fettled to flye away.
Robin was reachles1 on a roote,
And stumbled at that tyde;
And Guy was quicke and nimble with-all,
Ah deere Lady, sayd Robin Hood, tho
I think it was never mans destinye
Robin thought on our ladye deere,
And soone leapt up againe,
And strait he came with a " backward" stroke,
And he sir Guy hath slayne.
He took sir Guys head by the hayre,
Observ. vol. ii. p. 62. It should seem, from this particularity, that our ancestors did not pique themselves upon keeping their weapons bright perhaps they deemed it more honourable to carry them stained with the blood of their enemies. [As the swords are here said to be bright as well as brown, they could not have been rusty. The expression nut-brown sword was used to designate a Damascus blade.
"to have seen how these yeomen together fought."
"itt was neither Guy nor Robin Hood
V. 163. awkwarde, MS. [V. 164. "good sir Guy hee has slayne,"
Robin pulled forth an Irish kniffe,
Saies, Lye there, lye there, now sir Guye,
If thou have had the worse strokes at my hand, 175
Robin did off his gowne of greene,
The bowe, the arrowes, and little horne,
Now with me I will beare;
For I will away to Barnèsdale,
To see how my men doe fare.
Robin Hood sett Guyes horne to his mouth,
That beheard the sheriffe of Nottingham,
As he leaned under a lowe.1
Hearken, hearken, sayd the sheriffe,
I heare nowe tydings good,
For yonder I heare sir Guyes horne blowe,
Yonder I heare sir Guyes horne blowe,
And yonder comes that wightye yeoman,
[Ver. 172. cold tell who Sir Guye was. V. 173. good Sir Guye.
"and with me now Ile beare
ffor now I will goe to Barnesdale," f. MS.
1 small hill.]
Come hyther, come hyther, thou good sir Guy,
o I will none of thy gold, sayd Robin,
Nor I will none of thy fee:
But now I have slaine the master, he sayes,
Let me go strike the knave;
This is all the rewarde I aske;
Nor noe other will I have.
Thou art a madman, said the sheriffe,
When Litle John heard his master speake,
Fast Robin hee hyed him to Little John,
Stand abacke, stand abacke, sayd Robin;
But Robin pulled forth an Irysh kniffe,
And gave him sir Guyes bow into his hand,
"Ile none of thy gold, sayes Robin Hood
Then John he took Guyes bow in his hand,
When the sheriffe saw Little John bend his bow, He fettled him to be
Towards his house in Nottingham towne,
He fled full fast away;
And soe did all his companye :
Not one behind wold stay.
But he cold neither runne soe fast,
Nor away soe fast cold ryde,
But Litle John with an arrowe soe broad,
The title of Sir was not formerly peculiar to knights, it was given to priests, and sometimes to very inferior personages.
Dr. Johnson thinks this title was applied to such as had taken the degree of A. B. in the universities, who are still stiled, Domini, "Sirs," to distinguish them from Undergraduates, who have no prefix, and from Masters of Arts, who are stiled Magistri, "Masters."
"But John tooke Guyes bow in his hand,
V. 229. Towards his house in Nottingham. V. 233-6:-
nor away soe fast runn,
but litle John with an arrow broade
did cleave his head in twinn," f. MS.]
AN ELEGY ON HENRY FOURTH EARL
HE subject of this poem, which was written by Skelton, is the death of Henry Percy, fourth earl of Northumberland, who fell a victim to the avarice of Henry VII. In 1489 the parliament had granted the king a subsidy for carrying on the war in Bretagne. This tax was found so heavy in the North, that the whole country was in a flame. The E. of Northumberland, then lord lieutenant for Yorkshire, wrote to inform the king of the discontent, and praying an abatement. But nothing is so unrelenting as avarice: the king wrote back that not a penny should be abated. This message being delivered by the earl with too little caution, the populace rose, and, supposing him to be the promoter of their calamity, broke into his house, and murdered him, with several of his attendants, who yet are charged by Skelton with being backward in their duty on this occasion. This melancholy event happened at the earl's seat at Cocklodge, near Thirske, in Yorkshire, April 28, 1489. See Lord Bacon, &c.
If the reader does not find much poetical merit in this old poem (which yet is one of Skelton's best), he will see a striking picture of the state and magnificence kept up by our ancient nobility during the feudal times. This great earl is described here as having, among his menial servants, knights, squires, and even barons: see v. 32. 183. &c. which, however different from modern manners, was formerly not unusual with our greater barons, whose castles had all the splendour and offices of a royal court before the laws against retainers abridged and limited the number of their attendants.
John Skelton, who commonly styled himself Poet Laureat, died June 21, 1529. The following poem, which appears to have been written soon after the event, is printed from an ancient MS. copy preserved in the British Museum, being much more correct than that printed among Skelton's Poems in bl. let. 12mo. 1568.—It is addressed to Henry Percy, fifth earl of Northumberland, and is pre faced, &c. in the following manner: