The Text.--The only text of this ballad is in the Percy Folio, from which it is here rendered in modern spelling. Although the original is written continuously, it is almost impossible not to suspect an omission after 2.2. Child points out, however, that the abrupt transition is found in other ballads (see Adam Bell, 2.2), and Hales and Furnivall put 2.3,4 in inverted commas as part of Robin's relation of his dream. Percy's emendation was:
'The woodweete sang, and wold not cese,
Sitting upon the spraye,
Soe lowde, he wakend Robin Hood
In the greenwood where he lay.
Now by my faye, said jollye Robin,
A sweaven I had this night;
I dreamt me of tow mighty yemen
That fast with me can fight.'
The Story.--Whether verses have been lost or not, the story has become confused, as there is nothing to show how Robin knows that the Sheriff of Nottingham holds Little John captive; yet he makes careful preparations to pass himself off as Sir Guy, in order to set John free.
There has come down to us a fragment of a play of Robin Hood and the Sheriff. In this dramatic fragment, an unnamed knight is promised a reward by the sheriff if he takes Robin Hood. The knight and Robin shoot and wrestle and fight; Robin wins, cuts off the knight's head, puts on his clothes, and takes the head away with him. A second scene shows how the sheriff takes prisoner the other outlaws, amongst whom is Friar Tuck; but the allocation of the parts in the dialogue is mostly conjectural.
[Footnote 1: sweaven, dream.]
ROBIN HOOD AND GUY OF GISBORNE
When shaws been sheen, and shradds full fair,
And leaves both large and long,
It is merry, walking in the fair forest,
To hear the small bird's song.
The woodweel sang, and would not cease,
Amongst the leaves o' lyne,
And it is by two wight yeomen,
By dear God, that I mean.
*** *** ***
'Methought they did me beat and bind,
And took my bow me fro;
If I be Robin alive in this land,
I'll be wroken on both them two.'
'Swevens are swift, master,' quoth John,
'As the wind that blows o'er a hill;
For if it be never so loud this night,
Tomorrow it may be still.'
'Busk ye, bown ye, my merry men all,
For John shall go with me;
For I'll go seek yond wight yeomen
In greenwood where they be.'
They cast on their gown of green,
A shooting gone are they,
Until they came to the merry greenwood,
Where they had gladdest be;
There were they 'ware of a wight yeoman,
His body leaned to a tree.
A sword and a dagger he wore by his side,
Had been many a man's bane,
And he was clad in his capul-hide,
Top and tail and mane.
'Stand you still, master,' quoth Little John,
'Under this trusty tree,
And I will go to yond wight yeoman,
To know his meaning truly.'
'Ah, John, by me thou sets no store,
And that's a ferly thing;
How oft send I my men before,
And tarry myself behind?
'It is no cunning a knave to ken,
And a man but hear him speak;
And it were not for bursting of my bow,
John, I would thy head break.'
But often words they breeden bale;
That parted Robin and John;
John is gone to Barnësdale,
The gates he knows each one.
And when he came to Barnësdale,
Great heaviness there he had;
He found two of his fellows
Were slain both in a slade,
And Scarlet afoot flying was,
Over stocks and stone,
For the sheriff with seven score men
Fast after him is gone.
'Yet one shot I'll shoot,' says Little John,
'With Christ his might and main;
I'll make yond fellow that flies so fast
To be both glad and fain.'
John bent up a good yew bow,
And fettled him to shoot;
The bow was made of a tender bough,
And fell down to his foot.
'Woe worth thee, wicked wood,' said Little John,
'That e'er thou grew on a tree!
For this day thou art my bale,
My boot when thou should be.'
This shot it was but loosely shot,
The arrow flew in vain,
And it met one of the sheriff's men;
Good William a Trent was slain.
It had been better for William a Trent
To hang upon a gallow
Than for to lie in the greenwood,
There slain with an arrow.
And it is said, when men be met,
Six can do more than three:
And they have ta'en Little John,
And bound him fast to a tree.
'Thou shalt be drawn by dale and down,
And hanged high on a hill.'
'But thou may fail,' quoth Little John,
'If it be Christ's own will.'
Let us leave talking of Little John,
For he is bound fast to a tree,
And talk of Guy and Robin Hood
In the greenwood where they be;
How these two yeomen together they met,
Under the leaves of lyne,
To see what merchandise they made
Even at that same time.
'Good morrow, good fellow,' quoth Sir Guy;
'Good morrow, good fellow,' quoth he;
'Methinks by this bow thou bears in thy hand,
A good archer thou seems to be.
'I am wilful of my way,' quoth Sir Guy,
'And of my morning tide.'
'I'll lead thee through the wood,' quoth Robin,
'Good fellow, I'll be thy guide.'
'I seek an outlaw,' quoth Sir Guy,
'Men call him Robin Hood;
I had rathèr meet with him upon a day
Than forty pound of gold.'
'If you two met, it would be seen whether were better
Afore ye did part away;
Let us some other pastime find,
Good fellow, I thee pray.
'Let us some other masteries make,
And we will walk in the woods even;
We may chance meet with Robin Hood
At some unset steven.'
They cut them down the summer shroggs
Which grew both under a briar,
And set them three score rood in twain,
To shoot the pricks full near.
'Lead on, good fellow,' said Sir Guy,
'Lead on, I do bid thee.'
'Nay by my faith,' quoth Robin Hood,
'The leader thou shalt be.'
The first good shot that Robin led,
Did not shoot an inch the prick fro;
Guy was an archer good enough,
But he could ne'er shoot so.
The second shot Sir Guy shot,
He shot within the garland;
But Robin Hood shot it better than he,
For he clove the good prick-wand.
'God's blessing on thy heart!' says Guy,
'Good fellow, thy shooting is good;
For an thy heart be as good as thy hands,
Thou were better than Robin Hood.
'Tell me thy name, good fellow,' quoth Guy,
Under the leaves of lyne:
'Nay, by my faith,' quoth good Robin,
'Till thou have told me thine.'
'I dwell by dale and down,' quoth Guy,
'And I have done many a curst turn;
And he that calls me by my right name
Calls me Guy of good Gisborne.'
'My dwelling is in the wood,' says Robin;
'By thee I set right nought;
My name is Robin Hood of Barnesdale,
A fellow thou hast long sought.'
He that had neither been kith nor kin
Might have seen a full fair sight,
To see how together these yeomen went,
With blades both brown and bright;
To have seen how these yeomen together fought
Two hours of a summer's day;
It, was neither Guy nor Robin Hood
That fettled them to fly away.
Robin was reckless on a root,
And stumbled at that tide,
And Guy was quick and nimble withal,
And hit him o'er the left side.
'Ah, dear Lady!' said Robin Hood,
'Thou art both mother and may!
I think it was never man's destiny
To die before his day.'
Robin thought on Our Lady dear,
And soon leapt up again,
And thus he came with an awkward stroke;
Good Sir Guy he has slain.
He took Sir Guy's head by the hair,
And sticked it on his bow's end:
'Thou hast been traitor all thy life,
Which thing must have an end.'
Robin pulled forth an Irish knife,
And nicked Sir Guy in the face,
That he was never on a woman born
Could tell who Sir Guy was.
Says, 'Lie there, lie there, good Sir Guy,
And with me be not wroth;
If thou have had the worse strokes at my hand,
Thou shalt have the better cloth.'
Robin did off his gown of green,
Sir Guy he did it throw;
And he put on that capul-hide
That clad him top to toe.
'The bow, the arrows, and little horn,
And with me now I'll bear;
For now I will go to Barnësdale,
To see how my men do fare.'
Robin set Guy's horn to his mouth,
A loud blast in it he did blow;
That beheard the sheriff of Nottingham,
As he leaned under a low.
'Hearken! hearken!' said the sheriff,
'I heard no tidings but good;
For yonder I hear Sir Guy's horn blow,
For he hath slain Robin Hood.'
'For yonder I hear Sir Guy's horn blow,
It blows so well in tide,
For yonder comes that wighty yeoman,
Clad in his capul-hide.
'Come hither, thou good Sir Guy,
Ask of me what thou wilt have':
'I'll none of thy gold,' says Robin Hood,
'Nor I'll none of it have.'
'But now I have slain the master,' he said,
'Let me go strike the knave;
This is all the reward I ask,
Nor no other will I have.'
'Thou art a madman,' said the sheriff,
'Thou shouldest have had a knight's fee;
Seeing thy asking hath been so bad,
Well granted it shall be.'
But Little John heard his master speak,
Well he knew that was his steven;
'Now shall I be loosed,' quoth Little John,
'With Christ's might in heaven.'
But Robin he hied him towards Little John,
He thought he would loose him belive;
The sheriff and all his company
Fast after him did drive.
'Stand aback! stand aback!' said Robin;
'Why draw you me so near?
It was never the use in our country
One's shrift another should hear.'
But Robin pulled forth an Irish knife,
And loosed John hand and foot,
And gave him Sir Guy's bow in his hand,
And bade it be his boot.
But John took Guy's bow in his hand
(His arrows were rawsty by the root);
The sheriff saw Little John draw a bow
And fettle him to shoot.
Towards his house in Nottingham
He fled full fast away,
And so did all his company,
Not one behind did stay.
But he could neither so fast go,
Nor away so fast run,
But Little John, with an arrow broad,
Did cleave his heart in twain.