Robin Hood And The Potter

A poem by Frank Sidgwick

The Text is modernised, as far as is possible, from a MS. of about 1500 in the University Library at Cambridge (Ee. 4, 35). The ballad was first printed therefrom by Ritson in his Robin Hood (1795), vol. i. p. 81, on the whole very accurately, and with a few necessary emendations. He notes that the scribe was evidently 'a vulgar and illiterate person' who 'irremediably corrupted' the ballad. In several places, however, a little ingenuity will restore a lost rhyme.

The Story, of an outlaw disguising himself in order to gain information from his enemies, is common to the legends of Hereward the Saxon, Wallace, Eustace the monk, and Fulk Fitz Warine, the first three of whom assumed the guise of a potter at one time or another.

The ballad of Robin Hood and the Butcher is a tale similar to this; and part of the Play of Robin Hood is based on this ballad (see Introduction, p. xxiii.).


In summer, when the leavës spring,
The blossoms on every bough,
So merry doth the birdës sing
In woodës merry now.

Hearken, good yeomen,
Comely, courteous, and good;
One of the best that ever bare bow,
His name was Robin Hood.

Robin Hood was the yeoman's name,
That was both courteous and free;
For the love of Our Lady
All women worshipped he.

But as the good yeoman stood on a day,
Among his merry meynë,
He was ware of a proud potter
Came driving over the lee.

'Yonder cometh a proud potter,' said Robin,
'That long hath haunted this way;
He was never so courteous a man
One penny of pavage to pay.'

'I met him but at Wentbridge,' said Little John,
'And therefore evil mote he thee!
Such three strokës he me gave,
That by my sides cleft they.

'I lay forty shillings,' said Little John,
'To pay it this same day,
There is not a man among us all
A wed shall make him lay.'

'Here is forty shillings,' said Robin,
'More, and thou dare say,
That I shall make that proud potter,
A wed to me shall he lay.'

There this money they laid,
They toke it a yeoman to keep.
Robin before the potter he breyde
And bade him stand still.

Hands upon his horse he laid,
And bade the potter stand full still;
The potter shortly to him said,
'Fellow, what is thy will?'

'All this three year and more, potter,' he said,
'Thou hast haunted this way,
Yet were thou never so courteous a man
One penny of pavage to pay.'

'What is thy name,' said the potter,
''Fore pavage thou ask of me?'
'Robin Hood is my name,
A wed shall thou leave me.'

'Wed will I none leave,' said the potter,
'Nor pavage will I none pay;
Away thy hand fro my horse!
I will thee tene else, by my fay.'

The potter to his cart he went,
He was not to seek;
A good two-hand staff he hent,
Before Robin he leaped.

Robin out with a sword bent,
A buckler in his hand;
The potter to Robin he went
And said, 'Fellow, let my horse go.'

Together then went these two yeomen,
It was a good sight to see;
Thereof low Robin his men,
There they stood under a tree.

Little John to his fellows said,
'Yon potter will stiffly stand':
The potter, with an ackward stroke,
Smote the buckler out of his hand.

And ere Robin might get it again
His buckler at his feet,
The potter in the neck him took,
To the ground soon he yede.

That saw Robin his men
As they stood under a bough;
'Let us help our master,' said Little John,
'Yonder potter else will him slo.'

These yeomen went with a breyde,
To their master they came.
Little John to his master said
'Who hath the wager won?'

'Shall I have your forty shillings,' said Little John,
'Or ye, master, shall have mine?'
'If they were a hundred,' said Robin,
'I' faith, they been all thine.'

'It is full little courtesy,' said the potter,
'As I have heard wise men say,
If a poor yeoman come driving on the way
To let him of his journey.'

'By my troth, thou says sooth,' said Robin,
'Thou says good yeomanry;
And thou drive forth every day,
Thou shalt never be let for me.

'I will pray thee, good potter,
A fellowship will thou have?
Give me thy clothing, and thou shalt have mine;
I will go to Nottingham.'

'I grant thereto,' said the potter;
'Thou shalt find me a fellow good;
But thou can sell my pottës well,
Come again as thou yode.'

'Nay, by my troth,' said Robin,
'And then I beshrew my head,
If I bring any pottës again,
And any wife will them chepe.'

Then spake Little John,
And all his fellows hend;
'Master, be well ware of the sheriff of Nottingham,
For he is little our friend.'

'Heyt war howt,' said Robin;
'Fellows, let me alone;
Through the help of Our Lady,
To Nottingham will I gone.'

Robin went to Nottingham,
These pottës for to sell;
The potter abode with Robin's men,
There he fared not ill.

Though Robin drove on his way,
So merry over the land:
Here is more, and after is to say
The best is behind.

When Robin came to Nottingham,
The sooth if I should say,
He set up his horse anon,
And gave him oats and hay.

In the midst of the town,
There he showed his ware;
'Pottës, pottës,' he gan cry full soon,
'Have hansel for the mare!'

Full often against the sheriff's gate
Showëd he his chaffare;
Wives and widows about him drew
And chepëd fast of his ware.

Yet, 'Pottës, great chepe!' cried Robin,
'I love evil thus to stand.'
And all that saw him sell
Said he had be no potter long.

The pottës that were worth pence five,
He sold them for pence three;
Privily said man and wife,
'Yonder potter shall never thee.'

Thus Robin sold full fast,
Till he had pottës but five;
Up he them took off his car
And sent them to the sheriff's wife.

Thereof she was full fain;
'Gramercy, sir,' then said she;
'When ye come to this country again
I shall buy of thy pottës, so mote I thee.'

'Ye shall have of the best,' said Robin,
And sware by the Trinity;
Full courteously she gan him call,
'Come dine with the sheriff and me.'

'God amercy,' said Robin,
'Your bidding shall be done.'
A maiden in the pottës gan bear,
Robin and the sheriff wife followed anon.

When Robin into the hall came,
The sheriff soon he met;
The potter could of courtesy,
And soon the sheriff he gret.

'Lo, sir, what this potter hath give you and me;
Five pottës small and great!'
'He is full welcome,' said the sheriff,
'Let us wash, and go to meat.'

As they sat at their meat,
With a noble cheer,
Two of the sheriff's men gan speak
Of a great wager;

Of a shooting was good and fine,
Was made the other day,
Of forty shillings, the sooth to say,
Who should this wager win.

Still then sat this proud potter,
Thus then thought he;
'As I am a true Christian man,
This shooting will I see.'

When they had fared of the best,
With bread, and ale, and wine,
To the butts they made them prest,
With bows and bolts full fine.

The sheriff's men shot full fast,
As archers that were good;
There came none near nigh the mark
By half a good archer's bow.

Still then stood the proud potter,
Thus then said he;
'And I had a bow, by the rood,
One shot should ye see.'

'Thou shall have a bow,' said the sheriff,
'The best that thou will choose of three;
Thou seemest a stalwart and a strong,
Assay[ed] shall thou be.'

The sheriff commanded a yeoman that stood them by,
After bows to wend;
The best bow that the yeoman brought,
Robin set on a string.

'Now shall I wot and thou be good,
And pull it up to thine ear.'
'So God me help,' said the proud potter,
'This is but right weak gear.'

To a quiver Robin went,
A good bolt out he took;
So nigh unto the mark he went,
He failëd not a foot.

All they shot about again,
The sheriff's men and he;
Of the mark he would not fail,
He cleft the prick in three.

The sheriff's men thought great shame
The potter the mastery won;
The sheriff laughed and made good game,
And said, 'Potter, thou art a man.

... ... ...
... ... ...
'Thou art worthy to bear a bow
In what place that thou go.'

'In my cart I have a bow,
Forsooth,' he said, 'and that a good;
In my cart is the bow
That gave me Robin Hood.'

'Knowest thou Robin Hood?' said the sheriff;
'Potter, I pray thee tell thou me.'
'A hundred turn I have shot with him,
Under his trystell-tree.'

'I had liefer nor a hundred pound,' said the sheriff,
And sware by the Trinity,
' ... ... ...
That the false outlaw stood by me.'

'And ye will do after my rede,' said the potter,
'And boldly go with me,
And tomorrow, ere we eat bread,
Robin Hood will we see.'

'I will quite thee,' quoth the sheriff,
'I swear by God of might.'
Shooting they left and home they went,
Their supper was ready dight.

Upon the morrow, when it was day,
He busked him forth to ride;
The potter his cart forth gan ray,
And would not leave behind.

He took leave of the sherriff's wife,
And thanked her of all thing:
'Dame, for my love and you will this wear,
I give you here a gold ring.'

'Gramercy,' said the wife,
'Sir, God yield it thee.'
The sheriff's heart was never so light,
The fair forest to see.

And when he came into the forest,
Under the leavës green,
Birdës there sang on boughës prest,
It was great joy to see.

'Here it is merry to be,' said Robin,
'For a man that had ought to spend;
By my horn I shall awit
If Robin Hood be here.'

Robin set his horn to his mouth,
And blew a blast that was full good;
That heard his men that there stood,
Far down in the wood.

'I hear my master blow,' said Little John,
... ... ...
... ... ...
They ran as they were wood.

When they to their master came,
Little John would not spare;
'Master, how have you fare in Nottingham?
How have you sold your ware?'

'Yea, by my troth, Little John,
Look thou take no care;
I have brought the sheriff of Nottingham,
For all our chaffare.'

'He is full welcome,' said Little John,
'This tiding is full good.'
The sheriff had liefer nor a hundred pound
He had never seen Robin Hood.

'Had I wist that before,
At Nottingham when we were,
Thou should not come in fair forest
Of all this thousand year.'

'That wot I well,' said Robin,
'I thank God that ye be here;
Therefore shall ye leave your horse with us
And all your other gear.'

'That fend I god's forbode,' quoth the sheriff,
So to loose my good;
... ... ...
... ... ...

'Hither ye came on horse full high,
And home shall ye go on foot;
And greet well thy wife at home,
The woman is full good.

'I shall her send a white palfrey,
It ambleth, by my fay,
... ... ...
... ... ...

'I shall her send a white palfrey,
It ambleth as the wind;
Nere for the love of your wife,
Of more sorrow should you sing!'

Thus parted Robin Hood and the sheriff;
To Nottingham he took the way;
His wife fair welcomed him home,
And to him gan she say:

'Sir, how have you fared in green forest?
Have ye brought Robin home?'
'Dame, the devil speed him, both body and bone;
I have had a full great scorn.

'Of all the good that I have led to green wood,
He hath take it fro me;
All but this fair palfrey,
That he hath sent to thee.'

With that she took up a loud laughing,
And sware by him that died on tree,
'Now have you paid for all the pottës
That Robin gave to me.

'Now ye be come home to Nottingham,
Ye shall have good enow.'
Now speak we of Robin Hood,
And of the potter under the green bough.

'Potter, what was thy pottës worth
To Nottingham that I led with me?'
'They were worth two nobles,' said he,
'So mote I thrive or thee;
So could I have had for them
And I had there be.'

'Thou shalt have ten pound,' said Robin,
'Of money fair and free;
And ever when thou comest to green wood,
Welcome, potter, to me.'

Thus parted Robin, the sheriff, and the potter,
Underneath the green wood tree;
God have mercy on Robin Hood's soul,
And save all good yeomanry!

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