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A short sword at their belt, a buckler scarce a span,
They loose gave such a twang as might be heard a mile.” Nor was the poet unaware of the way in which Robin maintained all this bravery:
“From wealthy abbots' chests and churls' abundant store
To him, before he went, but for his pass must pay." In that wild way, and with no better means than his ready wit and his matchless archery, Robin baffled two royal invasions of Sherwood and Barnesdale, repelied with much effusion of blood half a score of incursions made by errant knignts and ariacd sheriffs, and, unmoved by either the prayers or the thunders of the church, ho reigned and ruled till age crept upon him, and illness, arising from his exposure to summer's heat and winter's cold, followed, and made him, for the first time, scek the aid of a leech. This was a fatal step : the lancet of his cousin, the Prioress of Kirklces Nunnery, in Yorkshire, to whom he had recourse in his distress, freed both church and state from farther alarm by treacherously bleeding him to death. “Such," exclaims Ritson, more moved than common, “ was the end of Robin Hood; à man who, in a barbarous age and under complicated tyranny, displayed a spirit of frecdom and independence which has endeared him to the common people whosc cause he maintained, and which, in spite of the malicious endeavours of pitiful monks, by whom history was consecrated to the crimes and follies of titled ruffians and sainted idiots, to suppress all record of his patriotic cxertions and virtuous acts, will render his name immortal.”
The personal character of Robin Hood stands high in the pages of both history and poetry. Fordun, a priest, extols his picty ; Major pronounces him the most humane of robbers ; and Camden, a more judicious authority, calls him the gentlest of thieves, while in the pages of the early drama he is drawn at heroic length, and with many of the best attributes of human nature. His life and deeds have not only supplicd materials for the drama and the ballad, but proverbs have sprung from them : he stands the demi-god of English archery ; men used to swear both by his bow and his clemency ; festivals were once annually held, and games of a sylvan kind celebrated in his honour, in Scotland as well as in England. The grave where he lies bas still its pilgrims; the well out of which he drank still retains his name ; and his bow and one of his broad arrows were within this century to be seen in Fountains Abbey.
250.--A LITTLE GESTE OF ROBIN HOOD. The longest of all the ballads which bear the name of Robin Hood was first printed at the Sun, in Fleet Street, by Wynken de Worde. It is called A little Geste of Robin Hood ;' but so ill-informed was the printer in the outlaw's history, that he describes it as a story of King Edward, Robin Hood, and Little John. It is perhaps one of the oldest of these corn. positions,
The ballad begins somewhat in the minstrel manner :--Come lithe a listen, gertlemen,
I shall tell you of a good ycoman, That be of free-born blood,
llis name wis Robin Iloou,
Robin he was a proud outlaw
So courteous an outlaw as he was As ever walked on ground;
Has never yet been found. It then proceeds to relate how Robin stood in Barnesdale Wood, with all his companions beside him, and refused to go to dinner till he should find some bold baron or unasked guest, either clerical or lay, with wealth sufficient to furnish forth his table. On this Little John, who seems always to have had a clear notion of the work in hand, inquired anxiously,Where shall we take, where shall we leave, There is no force, said bold Robin, Where shall we abide behind,
Can well withstand us now; Where shall we rob, where shall we reave, So look ye, do no husbandman harm
Where shall we beat and bind ? . That tilleth with his plough.
He gives similar directions about tenderly treating honest yeomen, and even knights and squires disposed to be good fellows; “but beat,” said he, “and bind, bishops and arch. bishops; and be sure never to let the high sheriff of Nottingham out of your mind.”—“ Your words shall be our law,” said Little John; " and you will forgive me for wishing for a wealthy customer soon-I long for dinner. One, a knight, with all the external marks of a golden prize, was first observed by Little John, approaching on horseback through one of the long green glades of Barnesdale Wood : the stranger is well drawn:All dreary then was his semblaunt, His hood hung over his two eyne; And little was his pride;
He rode in simple array,
Rode never in summer's day. “I greet you well,” said Little John, “and welcome you to the greenwood; my master has refused to touch his dinner these three hours, expecting your arrival.” “And who is your master,” inquired the stranger, “ that shows me so much courtesy?” “E'en Robin Hood," said the other, meekly. “Ah, Robin Hood !” replied the stranger, “he is a good yeoman and true, and I accept his invitation." Little John, who never doubted but that the stranger was simulating sorrow and poverty, the better to hide his wealth, conducted him at once to the trysting-tree, where Robin received him with a kindly air and a cheerful countenance. They washed together, and wiped both, Swans and pheasants they had full good, And set till their dinere
And fowls of the rivere;
That ever was bred on brere. “I thank thee for thy dinner, Robin,” said the knight, “and if thou ever comest my way I shall repay it.” “I make no such exchanges, Sir Knight," said the outlaw, “nor do I ask any one for dinner. I vow to God, as it is against good manners for a yeoman to treat a knight, that you must pay for your entertainment.” “I have no more in my coffer," said the other composedly, “save ten shillings," and he sighed as he said it. Robin signed to Little John, and he dived into the stranger's luggage at once: he found but ten shillings, and said, “The knight has spoken truly.” “I fear you have been a sorry steward of your inheritance, Sir Knight,” said the outlaw, “ten shillings is but a poor sum to travel with.” “ It was my misfortune, not my fault, Robin," said the knight; “ my only son fell into a quarrel, . “And slew a knight of Lancashire, “My lands are sett to wad, Robin, And a squire full bold,
Until a certain day, And all to save him in his right
To a rich abbot here beside My goods are sett and sold. . Of St. Mary's Abbeye. “My lands," he continued, " are mortgaged for four hundred pounds. the abbot holds them: nor know I any friend whio will help me-not one." Little John wept; Will Scarlett's eyes were moist; and Robin Hood, much affected, cried, “Fill us more wine: this story makes me sad too.” The wine was poured out and drunk, and Robin continued, “Hast thou no friend, Sir Knight, who would give security for the loan of four hundred pounds ?” * None," sighed the other, “not one friend have I save the saints.” Robin shook his head. “ The saints are but middling securities in matters of money : you must find better before I can help you."
I have none other then, said the knight, Except that it be our dear Ladye,
Who never fail'd me a day. Robin at length accepted the Virgin's security, and bade Little John tell out four hundred pounds for the knight; and, as he was ill apparelled, he desired him to give him three yards, and no more, of each colour of cloth for his use. John counted out the cash with the accuracy of a miser; but, as his heart was touched with the knight's misfortunes, he measured out the cloth even more than liberally: he called for his bow and ell wand, and every timo he applied it, he skipped, as the ballad avers, “ footes three.” Scathlock he stood still and laugh'd, Give him a grey steed too, Robin he said,
And swore by Mary's might, . Besides a saddle new,
God send that he prove true. 6 Now,” inquires the knight, “when shall my day of payment be?” “If it so please you, Sir,” said Robin, “on this day twelvemonth, and the place shall be this good oak.” “ So be it," answered the knight, and rode on his way.
The day of payment came, and Robin Hood and his chivalry sat below his trysting oak: their conversation turned on the absent knight and on his spiritual security. Go we to dinner, said Little John; Have no doubt, master, quoth Little John, Robin Hood, he said nay,
Yet is not the sun at rest, For I dread our Ladye be wroth with me, For I dare say and safely swear She hath sent me not my pay.
The knight is true and trest. The confidence of little John was not misplaced; for, while he took his bow and with Will Scarlett and Much the Miller's son walked into the glades of Barnesdale Forest to await for the coming of baron or bishop with gold in their purses, the knight was on his way to the trysting-tree with the four hundred pounds in his pocket, and a noble present for the liberal outlaw: the present was in character :He purveyed him an hundred bows, And every arrow was an ell long,
The strings they were well dight; With peacock plume y-dight, An hundred sheafs of arrows good, Y-nocked to all with white silver,
The heads burnish'd full bright. It was a seemly sight. The knight was, however, detained on the way by a small task of mercy; he came to a place where a horse, saddled and bridled, and a pipe of wine, were set up as the prizes at a public wrestling-match; and as they were won by a strange yeoman, the losers raised a tumult, and, but for the interference of the knight and the men who accompanied him, would have deprived the yeoman of his prizes and done him some personal harm. The Abbot, too, of St. Mary's had raised difficulties in the restoring of his land and the receipt of the redemption money; and the sun was down, and the hour of payment stipulated with Robin expired, when the good knight arrived at the trysting-tree. Events in the meanwhile had happened which require notice.
As Little John with his two companions stood watch in the wood of Barnesdale, the former, who loved his dinner almost as well as he loved a fray, began not only to grow impatient, but to entertain doubts about the hour of payment being kept. He was now to be relieved from his anxiety:For as they look'd in Barnesdale wood, Then up bespake he, Little John, And by the wide highway,
To Much he thus 'gan say, Then they were aware of two black monks, By Mary, I'll lay my life to wad, Each on a good palfraye.
These monks have brought our pay. To stop and seize two strong monks with fifty armed men at their back seemed a daring task for three outlaws: it was ventured on without hesitation: My brethren twain, said Little John, Now bend your bows, said Little John, We are no more but three ;
Make all yon press to stand ; But an we bring them not to dinner. The foremost monk, his life and his death. Fuil wroth will our master be.
Is closed in my hand.
“ Stand, churl monks,” said the outlaws; “how dared you be so long in coming, when our master is not only angry, but fasting ?”—“Who is your master?" inquired the astonished monks. “Robin Hood," answered Little John. "I never heard good of him," exclaimed the monk; “he is a strong thief.” He spoke his mind in an ill time for himself: one called him a false monk; another, it was Much, shot him dead with an arrow, and, slaying or dispersing the whole armed retinue of the travellers, the three outlaws seized the surviving monk and the sumpter-horses, and took them all to their master below the trysting-tree. Robin welcomed his dismayed guest, caused him to wash, and sitting down with him to dinner, and passing the wine, inquired who he was and whence he came. “I am a monk, sir, as you see,” was the reply, “and the cellarer of St. Mary's Abbey.” Robin bethought him on this of the knight and his security :I have great marvel, then Robin Hood said, Have no doubt, master, said Little John, "And all this livelong day,
Ye have no need, I say, I dread our Ladye is wroth with me, This monk hath got it, I dare well swear, She hath sent me not my pay.
For he is of her abbaye. « That is well said, John," answered Robin Hood. “Monk, you must know that our Lady stands security for four hundred pounds; the hour of payment is come; hast thou the money?” The monk swore roundly that he now heard of this for the first time, and that he had only twerty marks about him for travelling expenses. “We shall see that,” said the outlaw: “I marvel that our Ladye should send her messenger so ill provided : go thou, Little John, and examine, and report truly"Little John spread his mantle down, I make mine avow to God, said Robyne; He had done the same before ;
Monk, what said I to thee ?
Eight hundred pounds and more. That ever yet found I me.
I vow by St. Paule, said Robin Hood then, And went to his master in haste; I have sought all England thorowe, Sir, he said, the monk is true enough, Yet found I never for punctual pay
Our Ladye bath doubled your cost. Half so secure a borrowe. Little John enjoyed this scene of profit and humour, and stood ready to fill the monk's cup when Robin ordered wine. “Monk, you are the best of monks,” said the outlaw; “when you return to your abbey, greet our Lady well, and say she shall ever find me a friend; and for thyself, hark, in thine ear: a piece of silver and a dinner worthy of an abbot shall always be thine when you ride this way.”—“ To invite a man to dinner that you may beat and bind and rob him," replied the monk, “looks little like courtesy.”—“It is our usual way, monk," answered Robin dryly; “we leave little behind."
As the monk departed, the knight made his appearance, but Robin refused the four hundred pounds. “You were late in coming," he said, “and our Lady, who was your security, "sent and paid it double.” The knight looked strangely on the outlaw, and answered, “ Had I not stayed to help a poor yeoman, who was suffering wrong, I had kept my time.”-“ For that good deed, Sir Knight,” said Robin Hood, “I hold you fully excused; and more, you will ever find me a friend”Come now forth, Little John, .
And, by my troth, thou shalt none fail And go to my treasury,
The whiles I have any good. And bring me there four hundred pound, And broke well thy four hundred pound The monk over told it me.
Which I lent to thee, Have here four hundred pound,
And make thyself no more so bare, Thou gentle knight and true,
By the council of me, And buy horse and harness good,
Thus then holp him good Robin, And gilt thy spurs all new :
The knight all of his care. And if thou fail any spending,
God, that sitteth in heaven high, Come to Robin Hood,
Grant us well to fare.
I have none other then, said the knight, Except that it be our dear Lady
Who never fail'd me a day.
Besides a saddle new, John may give him the better measure, For he is our Ladye's mes For by Peter it cost him light.
God send that he prove “ Now,” inquires the knight, “when shall my day of payment be?” “If Sir,” said Robin, “on this day twelvemonth, and the place shall be this goc it,” answered the knight, and rode on his way.
The day of payment came, and Robin Hood and his chivalry sat below their conversation turned on the absent knight and on his spiritual securit Go we to dinner, said Little John; Have no doubt, master, Robin Hood, he said nay,
Yet is not the sun a For I dread our Ladye be wroth with me, For I dare say and saf She hath sent me not my pay.
The knight is true : The confidence of little John was not misplaced; for, while he took h Scarlett and Much the Miller's son walked into the glades of Barnesda the coming of baron or bishop with gold in their purses, the knight w trysting-tree with the four hundred pounds in his pocket, and a noble outlaw: the present was in character:He purveyed him an hundred bows, And every arrow wa
The strings they were well dight; With peacock plu An hundred sheafs of arrows good, Y-nocked to all wit The heads burnish'd full bright.
It was a seemly The knight was, however, detained on the way by a small task of me where a horse, saddled and bridled, and a pipe of wine, were set up wrestling-match; and as they were won by a strange yeoman, the lo but for the interference of the knight and the men who accompani prived the yeoman of his prizes and done him some personal harn Mary's had raised difficulties in the restoring of his land and the r money; and the sun was down, and the hour of payment stipulated the good knight arrived at the trysting-tree. Events in the mean require notice.
As Little John with his two companions stood watch in th former, who loved his dinnermost as well as he loved a fray, 1 patient, but to entertain doul about the hour of payment bein relieved from his anxiety For as they look'd in dale wood, Then up bespa And by the wide hi
Each on a good
The foremos Ful
iste Be cad