Robin Hood And The Monk

A poem by Frank Sidgwick

The Text is modernised from a MS. in the University Library, Cambridge (MS. Ff. v. 48), which belongs to the middle of the fifteenth century. We have also a single leaf of another MS. version, of about the same date, preserved amongst the Bagford Ballads in the British Museum, but this contains a bare half-dozen stanzas.

The Story might be called a counterpart to Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne, inasmuch as it has Little John for its hero, and relates how he set his master free, although Robin had lost his temper with him in the morning. A most unfortunate hiatus after 30.2 prevents us from learning how Robin's fate was reported to his men; but as it stands it is a perfect ballad, straightforward, lively, and picturesque. The first five stanzas, which make a delightful little lyric in themselves, breathe the whole spirit of the greenwood.


In summer, when the shaws be sheen
And leaves be large and long,
It is full merry in fair forest
To hear the fowlës song,

To see the deer draw to the dale,
And leave the hillës hee,
And shadow them in the leavës green,
Under the greenwood tree.

It befel on Whitsuntide,
Early in a May morning,
The sun up fair can shine,
And the briddës merry can sing.

'This is a merry morning,' said Little John,
'By him that died on tree;
A more merry man than I am one
Lives not in Christiantë.

'Pluck up thy heart, my dear master,'
Little John can say,
'And think it is a full fair time
In a morning of May.'

'Yea, one thing grieves me,' said Robin,
'And does my heart much woe;
That I may not no solemn day
To mass nor matins go.

'It is a fortnight and more,' said he,
'Syn I my Saviour see;
To-day will I to Nottingham,
With the might of mild Marie.'

Then spake Much the milner son,
Ever more well him betide!
'Take twelve of thy wight yeomen,
Well weapon'd by thy side.
Such one would thyselfë slon,
That twelve dare not abide.'

'Of all my merry men,' said Robin,
'By my faith I will none have,
But Little John shall bear my bow,
Till that me list to draw.'

'Thou shall bear thine own,' said Little John,
'Master, and I will bear mine,
And we will shoot a penny,' said Little John,
'Under the greenwood lyne.'

'I will not shoot a penny,' said Robin Hood,
'In faith, Little John, with thee,
But ever for one as thou shootës,' said Robin,
'In faith I hold thee three.'

Thus shot they forth, these yeomen two,
Both at bush and broom,
Till Little John won of his master
Five shillings to hose and shoon.

A ferly strife fell them between,
As they went by the way,
Little John said he had won five shillings
And Robin Hood said shortly nay.

With that Robin Hood lied Little John,
And smote him with his hand;
Little John waxëd wroth therewith,
And pulled out his bright brand.

'Were thou not my master,' said Little John,
'Thou shouldest by it full sore;
Get thee a man where thou wilt,
For thou gettest me no more.'

Then Robin goes to Nottingham,
Himself mourning alone,
And Little John to merry Sherwood,
The paths he knew ilkone.

When Robin came to Nottingham,
Certainly withouten layn,
He prayed to God and mild Mary
To bring him out safe again.

He goes into Saint Mary church,
And kneeled down before the rood;
All that ever were the church within,
Beheld well Robin Hood.

Beside him stood a great-headed monk,
I pray to God woe he be!
Full soon he knew good Robin,
As soon as he him see.

Out at the door he ran,
Full soon and anon;
All the gates of Nottingham,
He made to be sparred everychone.

'Rise up,' he said, 'thou proud sheriff,
Busk thee, and make thee bown;
I have spied the kingës felon,
For sooth he is in this town.

'I have spied the false felon,
As he standës at his mass;
It is long of thee,' said the monk,
'And ever he fro us pass.

'This traitor name is Robin Hood,
Under the greenwood lynd;
He robbëd me once of a hundred pound,
It shall never out of my mind.'

Up then rose this proud sheriff,
And radly made him yare;
Many was the mother son,
To the kirk with him can fare.

In at the doors they throly thrast,
With stavës full good wone;
'Alas, alas!' said Robin Hood,
'Now miss I Little John.'

But Robin took out a two-hand sword
That hangëd down by his knee;
Thereas the sheriff and his men stood thickest,
Thitherward would he.

Thrice throughout them he ran then
For sooth as I you say,
And wounded many a mother son,
And twelve he slew that day.

His sword upon the sheriff head
Certainly he brake in two;
'The smith that thee made,' said Robin,
'I pray God work him woe.'

'For now am I weaponless,' said Robin,
'Alas! against my will;
But if I may flee these traitors fro,
I wot they will me kill.'

Robin into the churchë ran,
Throughout them everilkone,
... ... ...
... ... ...

Some fell in swooning as they were dead,
And lay still as any stone;
None of them were in their mind
But only Little John.

'Let be your rule,' said Little John,
'For his love that died on tree;
Ye that should be doughty men;
It is great shame to see.

'Our master has been hard bestood,
And yet scapëd away;
Pluck up your hearts and leave this moan,
And hearken what I shall say.

'He has servëd Our Lady many a day,
And yet will, securly;
Therefore I trust her specially
No wicked death shall he die.

'Therefore be glad,' said Little John,
'And let this mourning be;
And I shall be the monkës guide,
With the might of mild Marie.'

... ... ...
'We will go but we two;
And I meet him,' said Little John,
... ... ...

'Look that ye keep well our tristel-tree,
Under the leavës smale,
And spare none of this venison
That goës in this vale.'

Forth then went these yeomen two,
Little John and Much on fere,
And lookëd on Much emës house,
The highway lay full near.

Little John stood at a window in the morning,
And lookëd forth at a stage;
He was ware where the monk came riding,
And with him a little page.

'By my faith,' said Little John to Much,
'I can thee tell tidingës good;
I see where the monkë comës riding,
I know him by his wide hood.'

They went into the way, these yeomen both,
As curteis men and hend;
They spyrrëd tidingës at the monk,
As they had been his friende.

'Fro whence come ye?' said Little John,
'Tell us tidingës, I you pray,
Of a false outlaw, called Robin Hood,
Was taken yesterday.

'He robbed me and my fellows both
Of twenty mark in certain;
If that false outlaw be taken;
For sooth we would be fain.'

'So did he me,' said the monk,
'Of a hundred pound and more;
I laid first hand him upon,
Ye may thank me therefore.'

'I pray God thank you,' said Little John,
'And we will when we may;
We will go with you, with your leave,
And bring you on your way.

'For Robin Hood has many a wild fellow,
I tell you in certain;
If they wist you rode this way,
In faith ye should be slain.'

As they went talking by the way,
The monk and Little John,
John took the monkës horse by the head,
Full soon and anon.

John took the monkës horse by the head,
Forsooth as I you say;
So did Much the little page,
For he should not scape away.

By the gullet of the hood
John pulled the monkë down;
John was nothing of him agast,
He let him fall on his crown.

Little John was sore aggrieved,
And drew out his sword on high;
This monkë saw he should be dead,
Loud mercy can he cry.

'He was my master,' said Little John,
'That thou hast brought in bale;
Shall thou never come at our king,
For to tell him tale.'

John smote off the monkës head,
No longer would he dwell;
So did Much the little page,
For fear lest he would tell.

There they buriëd them both,
In neither moss nor ling,
And Little John and Much in fere
Bare the letters to our king.

... ... ...
He kneelëd down upon his knee:
'God you save, my liegë lord,
Jesus you save and see!

'God you save, my liegë king!'
To speak John was full bold;
He gave him the letters in his hand,
The king did it unfold.

The king read the letters anon,
And said, 'So mote I the,
There was never yeoman in merry England
I longëd so sore to see.

'Where is the monk that these should have brought?'
Our king can say:
'By my troth,' said Little John,
'He died after the way.'

The king gave Much and Little John
Twenty pound in certain,
And made them yeomen of the crown,
And bade them go again.

He gave John the seal in hand,
The sheriff for to bear,
To bring Robin him to,
And no man do him dere.

John took his leave at our king,
The sooth as I you say;
The next way to Nottingham
To take, he yede the way.

When John came to Nottingham
The gatës were sparred each one;
John callëd up the porter,
He answerëd soon anon.

'What is the cause,' said Little John,
'Thou sparrës the gates so fast?'
'Because of Robin Hood,' said the porter,
'In deep prison is cast.

'John and Much and Will Scathlock,
For sooth as I you say,
They slew our men upon our wallës,
And sauten us every day.'

Little John spyrred after the sheriff,
And soon he him found;
He opened the kingës privy seal
And gave him in his hond.

When the sheriff saw the kingës seal,
He did off his hood anon;
'Where is the monk that bare the letters?'
He said to Little John.

'He is so fain of him,' said Little John,
'For sooth as I you say,
He has made him abbot of Westminster,
A lord of that abbay.'

The sheriff made John good cheer,
And gave him wine of the best;
At night they went to their bed,
And every man to his rest.

When the sheriff was on sleep,
Drunken of wine and ale,
Little John and Much for sooth
Took the way unto the jail.

Little John callëd up the jailor;
And bade him rise anon;
He said Robin Hood had broken prison,
And out of it was gone.

The porter rose anon certain,
As soon as he heard John call;
Little John was ready with a sword,
And bare him to the wall.

'Now will I be porter,' said Little John,
'And take the keys in hond';
He took the way to Robin Hood,
And soon he him unbound.

He gave him a good sword in his hand,
His head therewith for to keep,
And thereas the wall was lowest
Anon down can they leap.

By that the cock began to crow,
The day began to spring;
The sheriff found the jailor dead,
The comyn bell made he ring.

He made a cry throughout all the town,
Whether he be yeoman or knave,
That could bring him Robin Hood,
His warison he should have.

'For I dare never,' said the sheriff,
'Come before our king;
For if I do, I wot certain
For sooth he will me hing.'

The sheriff made to seek Nottingham,
Both by street and sty,
And Robin was in merry Sherwood,
As light as leaf on lynd.

Then bespake good Little John,
To Robin Hood can he say,
'I have done thee a good turn for an evil;
Quite thee when thou may.

'I have done thee a good turn,' said Little John,
'For sooth as I you say;
I have brought thee under green wood lyne;
Farewell, and have good day.'

'Nay, by my troth,' said Robin Hood,
'So shall it never be:
I make thee master,' said Robin Hood,
'Of all my men and me.'

'Nay, by my troth,' said Little John,
'So shall it never be;
But let me be a fellow,' said Little John,
'No nother keep I be.'

Thus John gat Robin Hood out of prison,
Certain withouten layn;
When his men saw him whole and sound,
For sooth they were full fain.

They filled in wine, and made them glad,
Under the leavës smale,
And gat pasties of venison,
That goodë was with ale.

Then wordë came to our king
How Robin Hood was gone,
And how the sheriff of Nottingham
Durst never look him upon.

Then bespake our comely king,
In an anger hee:
'Little John has beguiled the sheriff,
In faith so has he me.

'Little John has beguiled us both,
And that full well I see;
Or else the sheriff of Nottingham
High hangëd should he be.

'I made them yeomen of the crown,
And gave them fee with my hand;
I gave them grith,' said our king;
'Throughout all merry England.

'I gave them grith,' then said our king;
'I say, so mote I the,
Forsooth such a yeoman as he is one
In all England are not three.

'He is true to his master,' said our king;
'I say, by sweet Saint John,
He lovës better Robin Hood
Than he does us each one.

'Robin Hood is ever bound to him,
Both in street and stall;
Speak no more of this matter,' said our king;
'But John has beguiled us all.'

Thus ends the talking of the monk,
And Robin Hood i-wis;
God, that is ever a crownëd king,
Bring us all to his bliss!

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