A Gest Of Robyn Hode - The Eighth Fytte (418-456)

A poem by Frank Sidgwick

Argument.--For a jest, the king disguises himself and his men once more, this time in Lincoln green, which he purchases off Robin Hood. The whole party proceeds to Nottingham, where the appearance of so many green mantles causes a general flight of the inhabitants. The king, however, reveals himself, and after a feast, pardons the knight.

Robin dwells in the king's court for fifteen months, at the end of which time he has spent much money, and has lost all his men except Little John and Scathlock. He therefore begs the king's leave to go on a pilgrimage to a shrine of St. Mary Magdalen in Barnsdale, and the king consents, but allows him only seven nights' absence. Robin comes to the greenwood, and shoots a great hart; and on blowing his horn, seven score yeomen come and welcome him back, and he dwells two-and-twenty years in the greenwood. In the end he was betrayed by his kinswoman, the Prioress of Kirkesly Abbey, and her lover, Sir Roger of Doncaster.

It has been suggested (by Professor Brandl) that the episode of the king's disguise in green is an intentional variation of the episode in the Third Fytte, where the Sheriff of Nottingham is forced to wrap himself in a green mantle. In any case it is probable that most of this Eighth Fytte is the work of the compiler of the Gest; possibly even the delightful verses (stt. 445-6) in which the joy of greenwood life overcomes Robin.

One could wish the Gest ended with st. 450; but it is clear that the compiler knew of a ballad which narrated the death of Robin Hood, no doubt an earlier version of the Robin Hood's Death of the Percy Folio, a ballad unfortunately incomplete (see p. 140).

Every famous outlaw of English tradition visits the king's court sooner or later, and makes peace with the king; but Robin's independence was too dear to him--and to the ballad-singers whose ideal he was--to allow him to go to the king voluntarily. Therefore the king must come to Robin; and here the compiler, perhaps, saw his opportunity to introduce the king-in-disguise theme, and so evolved the two last fyttes of the Gest.


'Haste thou ony grene cloth,' sayd our kynge,
'That thou wylte sell nowe to me?'
'Ye, for God,' sayd Robyn,
'Thyrty yerdes and three.'

'Robyn,' sayd our kynge,
'Now pray I thee,
Sell me some of that cloth
To me and my meynë.'

'Yes, for God,' then sayd Robyn,
'Or elles I were a fole;
Another day ye wyll me clothe,
I trowe, ayenst the Yole.'

The kynge kest of his colë then,
A grene garment he dyde on,
And every knyght also, i-wys,
Another had full sone.

When they were clothed in Lyncolne grene,
They keste away theyr graye.
'Now we shall to Notyngham,'
All thus our kynge gan say.

They bente theyr bowes, and forth they went,
Shotynge all in fere,
Towarde the towne of Notyngham,
Outlawes as they were.

Our kynge and Robyn rode togyder,
For soth as I you say;
And they shote plucke-buffet,
As they went by the way.

And many a buffet our kynge wan
Of Robyn Hode that day,
And nothynge spared good Robyn
Our kynge in his pay.

'So God me helpë,' sayd our kynge,
'Thy game is nought to lere;
I sholde not get a shote of thee,
Though I shote all this yere.'

All the people of Notyngham
They stode and behelde;
They sawe nothynge but mantels of grene
That covered all the felde.

Than every man to other gan say,
'I drede our kynge be slone;
Come Robyn Hode to the towne, i-wys
On lyve he lefte never one.'

Full hastëly they began to fle,
Both yemen and knaves,
And olde wyves that myght evyll goo,
They hyppëd on theyr staves.

The kynge loughe full fast,
And commaunded theym agayne;
When they se our comly kynge,
I-wys they were full fayne.

They ete and dranke, and made them glad,
And sange with notës hye;
Than bespake our comly kynge
To Syr Richarde at the Lee.

He gave hym there his londe agayne,
A good man he bad hym be;
Robyn thanked our comly kynge,
And set hym on his kne.

Had Robyn dwelled in the kyngës courte
But twelve monethes and thre,
That he had spent an hondred pounde,
And all his mennës fe.

In every place where Robyn came
Ever more he layde downe,
Both for knyghtës and for squyres,
To gete hym grete renowne.

By than the yere was all agone
He had no man but twayne,
Lytell Johan and good Scathelocke,
With hym all for to gone.

Robyn sawe yonge men shote
Full fayre upon a day;
'Alas!' than sayd good Robyn,
'My welthe is went away.

'Somtyme I was an archere good,
A styffe and eke a stronge;
I was compted the best archere
That was in mery Englonde.

'Alas!' then sayd good Robyn,
'Alas and well a woo!
Yf I dwele lenger with the kynge,
Sorowe wyll me sloo.'

Forth than went Robyn Hode
Tyll he came to our kynge:
'My lorde the kynge of Englonde,
Graunte me myn askynge.

'I made a chapell in Bernysdale,
That semely is to se,
It is of Mary Magdaleyne,
And thereto wolde I be.

'I myght never in this seven nyght
No tyme to slepe ne wynke,
Nother all these seven dayes
Nother ete ne drynke.

'Me longeth sore to Bernysdale,
I may not be therfro;
Barefote and wolwarde I have hyght
Thyder for to go.'

'Yf it be so,' than sayd our kynge,
'It may no better be;
Seven nyght I gyve thee leve,
No lengre, to dwell fro me.'

'Gramercy, lorde,' then sayd Robyn,
And set hym on his kne;
He toke his leve full courteysly,
To grene wode then went he.

When he came to grene wode,
In a mery mornynge,
There he herde the notës small
Of byrdës mery syngynge.

'It is ferre gone,' sayd Robyn,
'That I was last here;
Me lyste a lytell for to shote
At the donnë dere.'

Robyn slewe a full grete harte;
His horne than gan he blow,
That all the outlawes of that forest
That horne coud they knowe,

And gadred them togyder,
In a lytell throwe.
Seven score of wyght yonge men
Came redy on a rowe,

And fayre dyde of theyr hodes,
And set them on theyr kne:
'Welcome,' they sayd, 'our derë mayster,
Under this grene-wode tre.'

Robyn dwelled in grenë wode
Twenty yere and two;
For all drede of Edwarde our kynge,
Agayne wolde he not goo.

Yet he was begyled, i-wys,
Through a wycked woman,
The pryoresse of Kyrkësly,
That nye was of hys kynne:

For the love of a knyght,
Syr Roger of Donkesly,
That was her ownë speciall;
Full evyll mote they the!

They toke togyder theyr counsell
Robyn Hood for to sle,
And how they myght best do that dede,
His banis for to be.

Than bespake good Robyn,
In place where as he stode,
'Tomorow I muste to Kyrkësly,
Craftely to be leten blode.'

Syr Roger of Donkestere
By the pryoresse he lay,
And there they betrayed good Robyn Hode,
Through theyr falsë playe.

Cryst have mercy on his soul,
That dyëd on the rode!
For he was a good outlawe,
And dyde pore men moch gode.

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