Robin Hood's Death

A poem by Frank Sidgwick

The Text is modernised from the Percy Folio MS. (c. 1650). At two points, after 8.3 and 18.2, half a page of the MS., or about nine stanzas, is missing--torn out and 'used by maids to light the fire' in Humphry Pitt's house, where Percy discovered the volume (see Introduction, First Series, xxxix.). At the end another half-page is lacking, but Child thinks that it represents only a few verses. He also indicates a lacuna after st. 4, though none appears in the MS.

The Story of this version, mutilated as it is, agrees in its main incidents with that given at the end of the Gest (stt. 451-455). Another variant, Robin Hood's Death and Burial, extant in two or three eighteenth-century 'Garlands,' but none the less of good derivation, gives no assistance at either hiatus, and we are left with a couple of puzzles.

The opening of the ballad, stt. 1-6, should be compared with Robin Hood and the Monk, stt. 6-10, where Much takes Will Scarlett's place. Robin, shooting for a penny with Little John along the way, comes to a black water with a plank across it, and an old woman on the plank is cursing Robin Hood. He has been already reminded by Scarlett that he has a yeoman foe at Kirklees; but neither the banning of the witch, nor the weeping of others ('We,' 9.3), presumably women, deter him. The explanation of the witch is lost.

Having arrived at Kirklees and submitted to being bled, Robin at length suspects treason, and hints as much to Little John. The latter may be indoors with his master, or, as Child thinks, calling to Robin through a window from below. Here the second hiatus occurs; and when the ballad resumes, we can only guess that st. 19 is Robin's final retort after an altercation with somebody, presumably Red Roger, who is perhaps the 'yeoman' referred to by Will Scarlett. A final difficulty is raised by the word 'mood' in st. 23; but Child's emendation is not improbable, and Robin himself realises that he must take his 'housel' in an irregular way.

In the Garland version Robin goes alone to Kirklees, where his 'cousin' bleeds him, and leaves him to bleed all day and all night in a locked room. He summons Little John with 'weak blasts three' of his horn, and bids him dig a grave where the last arrow shot by Robin Hood falls.


'I will never eat nor drink,' Robin Hood said,
'Nor meat will do me no good,
Till I have been at merry Churchlees,
My veins for to let blood.'

'That I rede not,' said Will Scarlett,
'Master, by the assent of me,
Without half a hundred of your best bowmen
You take to go with ye.

'For there a good yeoman doth abide,
Will be sure to quarrel with thee,
And if thou have need of us, master,
In faith we will not flee.'

'And thou be fear'd, thou William Scarlett,
At home I rede thee be.'
'And you be wroth, my dear master,
You shall never hear more of me.'
... ... ...

'For there shall no man with me go,
Nor man with me ride,
And Little John shall be my man,
And bear my benbow by my side.'

'You'st bear your bow, master, yourself,
And shoot for a penny with me.'
'To that I do assent,' Robin Hood said,
'And so, John, let it be.'

They two bold children shotten together,
All day theirself in rank,
Until they came to black water,
And over it laid a plank.

Upon it there kneeled an old woman,
Was banning Robin Hood,
'Why dost thou ban Robin Hood?' said Robin,
... ... ...

... ... ...
To give to Robin Hood;
We weepen for his dear body,
That this day must be let blood.'

'The dame prior is my aunt's daughter,
And nigh unto my kin;
I know she would me no harm this day,
For all the world to win.'

Forth then shotten these children two,
And they did never lin,
Until they came to merry Churchlees,
To merry Churchlees within.

And when they came to merry Churchlees,
They knocked upon a pin;
Up then rose dame prioress,
And let good Robin in.

Then Robin gave to dame prioress
Twenty pound in gold,
And bade her spend while that would last,
And she should have more when she wold.

And down then came dame prioress,
Down she came in that ilk,
With a pair of blood-irons in her hands,
Were wrapp√ęd all in silk.

'Set a chafing-dish to the fire,' said dame prioress,
'And strip thou up thy sleeve!'
I hold him but an unwise man
That will no warning 'lieve.

She laid the blood-irons to Robin Hood's vein,
Alack, the more pity!
And pierced the vein, and let out the blood,
That full red was to see.

And first it bled the thick, thick blood,
And afterwards the thin,
And well then wist good Robin Hood
Treason there was within.

'What cheer, my master?' said Little John;
'In faith, Little John, little good;
... ... ...
... ... ...

*** *** ***

'I have upon a gown of green,
Is cut short by my knee,
And in my hand a bright brown brand
That will well bite of thee.'

But forth then of a shot-window,
Good Robin Hood he could glide;
Red Roger, with a grounden glaive,
Thrust him through the milk-white side.

But Robin was light and nimble of foot,
And thought to abate his pride,
For between his head and his shoulders
He made a wound full wide.

Says, 'Lie there, lie there, Red Roger,
The dogs they must thee eat;
For I may have my housel,' he said,
'For I may both go and speak.

'Now give me mood,' Robin said to Little John,
'Give me mood with thy hand;
I trust to God in heaven so high
My housel will me bestand.'

'Now give me leave, give me leave, master,' he said,
'For Christ's love give leave to me
To set a fire within this hall,
And to burn up all Churchlee.'

'That I rede not,' said Robin Hood then,
'Little John, for it may not be;
If I should do any widow hurt, at my latter end,
God,' he said, 'would blame me;

'But take me upon thy back, Little John,
And bear me to yonder street,
And there make me a full fair grave
Of gravel and of greet.

And set my bright sword at my head,
Mine arrows at my feet,
And lay my yew-bow by my side,
My met-yard wi . . .'

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