Old Robin Of Portingale

A poem by Frank Sidgwick

Text.-- The Percy Folio is the sole authority for this excellent ballad, and the text of the MS. is therefore given here literatim, in preference to the copy served up 'with considerable corrections' by Percy in the Reliques. I have, however, substituted a few obvious emendations suggested by Professor Child, giving the Folio reading in a footnote.

The Story is practically identical with that of Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard; but each is so good, though in a different vein, that neither could be excluded.

The last stanza narrates the practice of burning a cross on the flesh of the right shoulder when setting forth to the Holy Land--a practice which obtained only among the very devout or superstitious of the Crusaders. Usually a cross of red cloth attached to the right shoulder of the coat was deemed sufficient.


God! let neuer soe old a man
Marry soe yonge a wiffe
As did old Robin of Portingale!
He may rue all the dayes of his liffe.

Ffor the Maior's daughter of Lin, God wott,
He chose her to his wife,
& thought to haue liued in quiettnesse
With her all the dayes of his liffe.

They had not in their wed bed laid,
Scarcly were both on sleepe,
But vpp she rose, & forth shee goes
To Sir Gyles, & fast can weepe.

Saies, 'Sleepe you, wake you, faire Sir Gyles
Or be not you within?'
... ... ...
... ... ...

'But I am waking, sweete,' he said,
'Lady, what is your will?'
'I haue vnbethought me of a wile,
How my wed lord we shall spill.

'Four and twenty knights,' she sayes,
'That dwells about this towne,
Eene four and twenty of my next cozens,
Will helpe to dinge him downe.'

With that beheard his litle foote page,
As he was watering his master's steed,
Soe ... ... ...
His verry heart did bleed;

He mourned, sikt, & wept full sore;
I sweare by the holy roode,
The teares he for his master wept
Were blend water & bloude.

With that beheard his deare master
As in his garden sate;
Sayes, 'Euer alacke, my litle page,
What causes thee to weepe?

'Hath any one done to thee wronge,
Any of thy fellowes here?
Or is any of thy good friends dead,
Which makes thee shed such teares?

'Or if it be my head kookes man
Greiued againe he shalbe,
Nor noe man within my howse
Shall doe wrong vnto thee.'

'But it is not your head kookes man,
Nor none of his degree,
But or tomorrow ere it be noone,
You are deemed to die;

'& of that thanke your head steward,
& after your gay ladie.'
'If it be true, my litle foote page,
Ile make thee heyre of all my land.'

'If it be not true, my deare master,
God let me neuer thye.'
'If it be not true, thou litle foot page,
A dead corse shalt thou be.'

He called downe his head kooke's man:
'Cooke, in kitchen super to dresse':
'All & anon, my deare master,
Anon att your request.'

'& call you downe my faire Lady,
This night to supp with mee.'
... ... ...
... ... ...

& downe then came that fayre Lady,
Was cladd all in purple & palle,
The rings that were vpon her fingers
Cast light thorrow the hall.

'What is your will, my owne wed Lord,
What is your will with me?'
'I am sicke, fayre Lady,
Sore sicke, & like to dye.'

'But & you be sicke, my owne wed Lord,
Soe sore it greiueth mee,
But my 5 maydens & my selfe
Will goe & make your bedd,

'& at the wakening of your first sleepe,
You shall haue a hott drinke made,
& at the wakening of your next sleepe
Your sorrowes will haue a slake.'

He put a silke cote on his backe,
Was 13 inches folde,
& put a steele cap vpon his head,
Was gilded with good red gold;

& he layd a bright browne sword by his side
& another att his ffeete,
& full well knew old Robin then
Whether he shold wake or sleepe.

& about the middle time of the night
Came 24 good knights in,
Sir Gyles he was the formost man,
Soe well he knew that ginne.

Old Robin with a bright browne sword
Sir Gyles' head he did winne,
Soe did he all those 24,
Neuer a one went quicke out [agen];

None but one litle foot page
Crept forth at a window of stone,
& he had 2 armes when he came in
And [when he went out he had none].

Vpp then came that ladie light
With torches burning bright;
Shee thought to haue brought Sir Gyles a drinke,
But shee found her owne wedd knight;

& the first thing that this ladye stumbled vpon,
Was of Sir Gyles his ffoote;
Sayes, 'Euer alacke, & woe is me,
Heere lyes my sweete hart roote!'

& the 2d. thing that this ladie stumbled on,
Was of Sir Gyles his head;
Sayes, 'Euer alacke, & woe is me,
Heere lyes my true loue deade!'

Hee cutt the papps beside her brest,
& bad her wish her will,
& he cutt the eares beside her heade,
& bade her wish on still.

'Mickle is the man's blood I haue spent
To doe thee & me some good';
Sayes, 'Euer alacke, my fayre Lady,
I thinke that I was woode!'

He call'd then vp his litle foote page,
& made him heyre of all his land,
... ... ...
... ... ...

& he shope the crosse in his right sholder
Of the white flesh & the redd,
& he went him into the holy land,
Wheras Christ was quicke and dead.

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