A Gest Of Robyn Hode - The Third Fytte (144-204)

A poem by Frank Sidgwick

Argument.--The narrative of the knight's loan is for the moment dropped, in order to relate a gest of Little John, who is now (81.2) the knight's 'knave' or squire. Going forth 'upon a mery day,' Little John shoots with such skill that he attracts the attention of the Sheriff of Nottingham (who is here and elsewhere the type of Robin Hood's enemies), and enters his service for a year under the name of Reynold Greenleaf. While the sheriff is hunting, Little John fights his servants, robs his treasure-house, and escapes back to Robin Hood with 'three hundred pound and more.' He then bethinks him of a shrewd wile, and inveigles the sheriff to leave his hunting in order to see a right fair hart and seven score of deer, which turn out to be Robin and his men. Robin Hood exacts an oath of the sheriff, equivalent to an armistice; and he returns home, having had his fill of the greenwood.


Lyth and lystyn, gentilmen,
All that now be here;
Of Litell Johnn, that was the knightës man,
Goode myrth ye shall here.

It was upon a mery day
That yonge men wolde go shete;
Lytell Johnn fet his bowe anone,
And sayde he wolde them mete.

Thre tymes Litell Johnn shet aboute,
And alwey he slet the wande;
The proudë sherif of Notingham
By the markës can stande.

The sherif swore a full greate othe:
'By hym that dyede on a tre,
This man is the best arschere
That ever yet sawe I me.

'Say me nowe, wight yonge man,
What is nowe thy name?
In what countrë were thou borne,
And where is thy wonynge wane?'

'In Holdernes, sir, I was borne,
I-wys al of my dame;
Men cal me Reynolde Grenëlef
Whan I am at home.'

'Sey me, Reynolde Grenëlefe,
Wolde thou dwell with me?
And every yere I woll thee gyve
Twenty marke to thy fee.'

'I have a maister,' sayde Litell Johnn,
'A curteys knight is he;
May ye levë gete of hym,
The better may it be.'

The sherif gate Litell John
Twelve monethës of the knight;
Therefore he gave him right anone
A gode hors and a wight.

Nowe is Litell John the sherifes man,
God lende us well to spede!
But alwey thought Lytell John
To quyte hym wele his mede.

'Nowe so God me helpe,' sayde Litell John,
'And by my true leutye,
I shall be the worst servaunt to hym
That ever yet had he.'

It fell upon a Wednesday
The sherif on huntynge was gone,
And Litel John lay in his bed,
And was foriete at home.

Therfore he was fastinge
Til it was past the none;
'Gode sir stuarde, I pray to thee,
Gyve me my dynere,' saide Litell John.

'It is longe for Grenëlefe
Fastinge thus for to be;
Therfor I pray thee, sir stuarde,
Mi dyner gif me.'

'Shalt thou never ete ne drynke' saide the stuarde,
'Tyll my lorde be come to towne.'
'I make myn avowe to God,' saide Litell John,
'I had lever to crake thy crowne.'

The boteler was full uncurteys,
There he stode on flore;
He start to the botery
And shet fast the dore.

Lytell Johnn gave the boteler suche a tap
His backe went nere in two;
Though he lived an hundred ier,
The wors shuld he go.

He sporned the dore with his fote;
It went open wel and fyne;
And there he made large lyveray,
Bothe of ale and of wyne.

'Sith ye wol nat dyne,' sayde Litell John,
'I shall gyve you to drinke;
And though ye lyve an hundred wynter,
On Lytel Johnn ye shall thinke.'

Litell John ete, and Litel John drank,
The while that he wolde;
The sherife had in his kechyn a coke,
A stoute man and a bolde.

'I make myn avowe to God,' said the coke,
'Thou arte a shrewde hynde
In ani hous for to dwel,
For to aske thus to dyne.'

And there he lent Litell John
Godë strokis thre;
'I make myn avowe to God,' sayde Lytell John,
'These strokis lyked well me.

'Thou arte a bolde man and hardy,
And so thinketh me;
And or I pas fro this place
Assayed better shalt thou be.'

Lytell Johnn drew a ful gode sworde,
The coke took another in hande;
They thought no thynge for to fle,
But stifly for to stande.

There they faught sore togedere
Two mylë way and well more;
Myght nether other harme done,
The mountnaunce of an owre.

'I make myn avowe to God,' sayde Litell Johnn,
'And by my true lewtë;
Thou art one of the best sworde-men
That ever yit sawe I me.

'Cowdest thou shote as well in a bowe,
To grene wode thou shuldest with me,
And two times in the yere thy clothinge
Chaunged shuldë be;

'And every yere of Robyn Hode
Twenty merke to thy fe.'
'Put up thy swerde,' saide the coke,
'And felowes woll we be.'

Thanne he fet to Lytell Johnn
The nowmbles of a do,
Gode brede, and full gode wyne;
They ete and drank theretoo.

And when they had dronkyn well,
Theyre trouthes togeder they plight
That they wolde be with Robyn
That ylkë samë nyght.

They dyd them to the tresoure-hows,
As fast as they myght gone;
The lokkes, that were of full gode stele,
They brake them everichone.

They toke away the silver vessell,
And all that thei might get;
Pecis, masars, ne sponis,
Wolde thei not forget.

Also they toke the godë pens,
Thre hundred pounde and more,
And did them streyte to Robyn Hode,
Under the grene wode hore.

'God thee save, my dere mayster,
And Criste thee save and se!'
And thanne sayde Robyn to Litell Johnn,
'Welcome myght thou be.

'Also be that fayre yeman
Thou bryngest there with thee;
What tydyngës fro Notyngham?
Lytill Johnn, tell thou me.'

'Well thee gretith the proude sheryf,
And sendeth thee here by me
His coke and his silver vessell,
And thre hundred pounde and thre.'

'I make myne avowe to God,' sayde Robyn,
'And to the Trenytë,
It was never by his gode wyll
This gode is come to me.'

Lytyll Johnn there hym bethought
On a shrewde wyle;
Fyve myle in the forest he ran,
Hym happëd all his wyll.

Than he met the proude sheref,
Huntynge with houndes and horne;
Lytell Johnn coude of curtesye,
And knelyd hym beforne.

'God thee save, my dere mayster,
Ande Criste thee save and se!'
'Reynolde Grenelefe,' sayde the shryef,
'Where hast thou nowe be?'

'I have be in this forest;
A fayre syght can I se;
It was one of the fayrest syghtes
That ever yet sawe I me.

'Yonder I sawe a ryght fayre harte,
His coloure is of grene;
Seven score of dere upon a herde
Be with hym all bydene.

'Their tyndes are so sharp, maister,
Of sexty, and well mo,
That I durst not shote for drede,
Lest they wolde me slo.'

'I make myn avowe to God,' sayde the shyref,
'That syght wolde I fayne se.'
'Buske you thyderwarde, my dere mayster,
Anone, and wende with me.'

The sherif rode, and Litell Johnn
Of fote he was full smerte,
And whane they came before Robyn,
'Lo, sir, here is the mayster-herte.'

Still stode the proude sherief,
A sory man was he;
'Wo the worthe, Raynolde Grenelefe,
Thou hast betrayed nowe me.'

'I make myn avowe to God,' sayde Litell Johnn,
'Mayster, ye be to blame;
I was mysserved of my dynere
When I was with you at home.'

Sone he was to souper sette,
And served well with silver white,
And when the sherif sawe his vessell,
For sorowe he myght nat ete.

'Make glad chere,' sayde Robyn Hode,
'Sherif, for charitë,
And for the love of Litill Johnn
Thy lyfe I graunt to thee.'

Whan they had soupëd well,
The day was al gone;
Robyn commaunded Litell Johnn
To drawe of his hosen and his shone;

His kirtell, and his cote of pie,
That was fured well and fine,
And toke hym a grene mantel,
To lap his body therein.

Robyn commaundyd his wight yonge men,
Under the grene-wode tree,
They shulde lye in that same sute
That the sherif myght them see.

All nyght lay the proude sherif
In his breche and in his schert;
No wonder it was, in grene wode,
Though his sydës gan to smerte.

'Make glad chere,' sayde Robyn Hode,
'Sheref, for charitë;
For this is our ordre i-wys
Under the grene-wode tree.'

'This is harder order,' sayde the sherief,
'Than any ankir or frere;
For all the golde in mery Englonde
I wolde nat longe dwell her.'

'All this twelve monthes,' sayde Robin,
'Thou shalt dwell with me;
I shall thee techë, proude sherif,
An outlawe for to be.'

'Or I be here another nyght,' sayde the sherif,
'Robyn, nowe pray I thee,
Smyte of min hede rather to-morrowe,
And I forgyve it thee.

'Lat me go,' than sayde the sherif,
'For sayntë charitë,
And I woll be the bestë frende
That ever yet had ye.'

'Thou shalt swere me an othe,' sayde Robyn,
'On my bright bronde;
Shalt thou never awayte me scathe
By water ne by lande.

'And if thou fynde any of my men,
By nyght or by day,
Upon thyn othë thou shalt swere
To helpe them that thou may.'

Now hath the sherif sworne his othe,
And home he began to gone;
He was as full of grenë-wode
As ever was hepe of stone.

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