Ballad – A True Tale of Robin Hood
BOTH gentlemen, or yeomen bould,
Or whatsoever you are,
To have a stately story tould,
Attention now prepare.
It is a tale of Robin Hood,
Which I to you will tell,
Which being rightly understood,
I know will please you well.
This Robbin, so much talked on,
Was once a man of fame,
Instiled Earle of Huntington,
Lord Robert Hood by name.
In courtship and magnificence,
His carriage won him prayse,
And greater favor with his prince
Than any in his dayes.
In bounteous liberality
He too much did excell,
And loved men of quality
More than exceeding well.
His great revennues all he sould
For wine and costly cheere;
He kept three hundred bowmen bold,
He shooting loved so deare.
No archer living in his time
With him might well compare;
He practisd all his youthfull prime
That exercise most rare.
At last, by his profuse expence,
He had consumd his wealth,
And being outlawed by his prince,
In woods he livd by stealth.
The abbot of Saint Maries rich,
To whom he mony ought,
His hatred to this earle was such
That he his downefall wrought.
So being outlawed, as ’tis told,
He with a crew went forth
Of lusty cutters, stout and bold,
And robbed in the North.
Among the rest, one Little John,
A yeoman bold and free,
Who could, if it stood him upon,
With ease encounter three.
One hundred men in all he got,
With whom, the story sayes,
Three hundred common men durst not
Hold combate any wayes.
They Yorkshire woods frequented much,
And Lancashire also,
Wherein their practises were such
That they wrought mickle woe.
None rich durst travell to and fro,
Though nere so strongly armd,
But by these theeves, so strong in show,
They still were robd and harmd.
His chiefest spight to the clergie was,
That lived in monstrous pride;
No one of them he would let passe
Along the high-way side,
But first they must to dinner goe,
And afterwards to shrift:
Full many a one he served so,
Thus while he livd by theft.
monkes nor fryers he would let goe,
Without paying their fees:
If they thought much to be usd so,
Their stones he made them leese.
For such as they the country filld
With bastards in those dayes;
Which to prevent, these sparkes did geld
All that came by their wayes.
But Robbin Hood so gentle was,
And bore so brave a minde,
If any in distresse did passe,
To them he was so kinde
That he would give and lend to them,
To helpe them at their neede:
This made all poore men pray for him,
And wish he well might speede.
The widdow and the fatherlesse
He would send meanes unto,
And those whom famine did oppresse
Found him a friendly foe.
Nor would he doe a woman wrong,
But see her safe conveid;
He would protect with power strong
All those who crav’d his ayde.
The abbot of Saint Maries then,
Who him undid before,
Was riding with two hundred men,
And gold and silver store.
But Robbin Hood upon him set
With his couragious sparkes,
And all the coyne perforce did get,
Which was twelve thousand markes.
He bound the abbot to a tree,
And would not let him passe
Before that to his men and he
His lordship had sayd masse.
Which being done, upon his horse
He set him fast astride,
And with his face towards his ar–
He forced him to ride.
His men were faine to be his guide,
For he rode backward home;
The abbot, being thus villifide,
Did sorely chafe and fume.
Thus Robbin Hood did vindicate
His former wrongs receivd;
For ’twas this covetous prelate
That him of land bereavd.
The abbot he rode to the king
With all the haste he could,
And to his Grace he every thing
Exactly did unfold.
And sayd if that no course were tane,
By force or stratagem,
To take this rebell and his traine,
No man should passe for them.
The king protested by and by
Unto the abbot then
That Robbin Hood with speed should dye,
With all his merry men.
But ere the king did any send,
He did another feate,
Which did his Grace much more offend;
The fact indeed was great.
in a short time after that,
The kings receivers went
Towards London with the coyne they got,
For ’s highnesse northerne rent.
Bold Robbin Hood and Little John,
With the rest of their traine,
Not dreading law, set them upon,
And did their gold obtaine.
The king much moved at the same,
And the abbots talke also,
In this his anger did proclaime,
And sent word to and fro,
That whosoere, alive or dead,
Could bring him Robbin Hood,
Should have one thousand markes, well payd
In gold and silver good.
This promise of the king did make
Full many yeomen bold
Attempt stout Robbin Hood to take,
With all the force they could.
But still when any came to him,
Within the gay greene wood,
He entertainement gave to them,
With venison fat and good.
And shewd to them such martiall sport,
With his long bow and arrow,
That they of him did give report,
How that it was great sorow,
That such a worthy man as he
Should thus be put to shift,
Being late a lord of high degree,
Of living quite bereft.
The king, to take him, more and more
Sent men of mickle might,
But he and his still beate them sore,
And conquered them in fight.
Or else, with love and courtesie,
To him he won their hearts:
Thus still he livd by robbery,
Throughout the northerne parts.
And all the country stood in dread
Of Robbin Hood and ’s men;
For stouter lads nere livd by bread,
In those dayes nor since then.
The abbot which before I nam’d
Sought all the meanes he could
To have by force this rebell tane,
And his adherents bold.
Therefore he armd five hundred men,
With furniture compleate,
But the outlawes slew halfe of them,
And made the rest retreate.
The long bow and the arrow keene
They were so usd unto
That still they kept the forest greene,
In spight o th’ proudest foe.
Twelve of the abbots men he tooke,
Who came him to have tane,
When all the rest the field forsooke;
These he did entertaine
With banquetting and merriment,
And, having usd them well,
He to their lord them safely sent,
And willd them him to tell
That if he would be pleasd at last
To beg of our good king
That he might pardon what was past,
And him to favour bring,
He would surrender backe agen
The money which before
Was taken by him and his men,
From him and many more.
Poore men might safely passe by him,
And some that way would chuse,
For well they knew that to helpe them
He evermore did use.
But where he knew a miser rich,
That did the poore oppresse,
To feele his coyne his hand did itch;
Hee’de have it, more or lesse.
And sometimes, when the high-way fayld,
Then he his courage rouses;
He and his men have oft assayld
Such rich men in their houses.
So that, through dread of Robbin then
And his adventurous crew,
The mizers kept great store of men,
Which else maintaynd but few.
King Richard, of that name the first,
Sirnamed Cuer de Lyon,
Went to defeate the Pagans curst,
Who kept the coasts of Syon.
The bishop of Ely, chancelor,
Was left as vice-roy here,
Who like a potent emperor,
Did proudly domminere.
Our chronicles of him report
That commonly he rode
With a thousand horse from court to court,
Where he would make abode.
He, riding downe towards the north,
With his aforesayd traine,
Robbin and his did issue forth,
Them all to entertaine.
And, with the gallant gray-goose wing,
They shewed to them such play,
That made their horses kicke and fling,
And downe their riders lay.
Full glad and faine the bishop was,
For all his thousand men,
To seeke what meanes he could to passe
From out of Robbins ken.
Two hundred of his men were kil’d,
And fourscore horses good;
Thirty, who did as captives yeeld,
Were carryed to the greene wood.
Which afterwards were ransomed,
For twenty markes a man;
The rest set spurres to horse, and fled
To th’ town of Warrington.
The bishop, sore enraged then,
Did, in King Richards name,
Muster a power of northerne men,
These outlawes bold to tame.
But Robbin, with his courtesie,
So wonne the meaner sort,
That they were loath on him to try
What rigor did import.
So that bold Robbin and his traine
Did live unhurt of them,
Vntill King Richard came againe
From faire Jerusalem.
And then the talke of Robbin Hood
His royall eares did fill;
His Grace admir’d that ith’ greene wood
He thus continued still.
So that the country farre and neare
Did give him great applause;
For none of them neede stand in feare,
But such as broke the lawes.
He wished well unto the king,
And prayed still for his health,
And never practised any thing
Against the common wealth.
Onely, because he was undone
By th’ crewell clergie then,
All meanes that he could thinke upon
To vexe such kinde of men
He enterprized, with hatefull spleene;
In which he was to blame,
For fault of some, to wreeke his teene
On all that by him came.
With wealth which he by robbery got
Eight almes-houses he built,
Thinking thereby to purge the blot
Of blood which he had spilt.
Such was their blinde devotion then,
Depending on their workes;
Which, it ’twere true, we Christian men
Inferiour were to Turkes.
But, to speak true of Robbin Hood,
And wrong him not a iot,
He never would shed any mans blood
That him invaded not.
Nor would he iniure husbandmen,
That toyld at cart and plough;
For well he knew, were ’t not for them,
To live no man knew how.
The king in person, with some lords,
To Notingham did ride,
To try what strength and skill affords
To crush these outlawes pride.
And, as he once before had done,
He did againe proclaime,
That whosoere would take upon
To bring to Notingham,
Or any place within the land,
Rebellious Robbin Hood,
Should be preferd in place to stand
With those of noble blood.
When Robbin Hood heard of the same,
Within a little space,
Into the towne of Notingham
A letter to his Grace
He shot upon an arrow-head,
One evening cunningly;
Which was brought to the king, and read
Before his Maiestie.
The tennour of this letter was,
That Robbin would submit,
And be true leigeman to his Grace,
In any thing that’s fit,
So that his Highnesse would forgive
Him and his merry men all;
If not, he must i th’ greene wood live,
And take what chance did fall.
The king would faine have pardoned him,
But that some lords say,
This president will much condemne
Your Grace another day.
While that the king and lords did stay
Debating on this thing,
Some of these outlawes fled away
Unto the Scottish king.
For they supposed, if he were tane,
Or to the king did yeeld,
By th’ commons all the rest on ’s traine
Full quickely would be quelld.
Of more than full a hundred men
But forty tarryed still,
Who were resolvd to sticke to him,
Let fortune worke her will.
If none had fled, all for his sake
Had got their pardon free;
The king to favour meant to take
His merry men and he.
But ere the pardon to him came,
This famous archer dy’d:
His death, and manner of the same,
I’le presently describe.
For, being vext to thinke upon
His followers revolt,
In melancholly passion
He did recount their fault.
‘Perfideous traytors!’ sayd he then,
‘In all your dangers past
Have I you guarded as my men
To leave me thus at last?’
This sad perplexity did cause
A fever, as some say,
Which him unto confusion drawes,
Though by a stranger way.
This deadly danger to prevent,
He hide him with all speede
Vnto a nunnery, with intent
For his healths sake to bleede.
A faithlesse fryer did pretend
In love to let him blood;
But he by falshood wrought the end
Of famous Robbin Hood .
The fryer, as some say, did this
To vindicate the wrong
Which to the clergie he and his
Had done by power strong.
Thus dyed he by trechery,
That could not dye by force;
Had he livd longer, certainely,
King Richard, in remorse,
Had unto favour him receavd;
He brave men elevated;
’Tis pitty he was of life bereavd
By one which he so hated.
A treacherous leech this fryer was,
To let him bleed to death;
And Robbin was, me thinkes, an asse,
To trust him with his breath.
His corpes the priores of the place,
The next day that he dy’d,
Caused to be buried, in mean case,
Close by the high-way side.
And over him she caused a stone
To be fixed on the ground;
An epitaph was set thereon,
Wherein his name was found.
The date o th’ yeare, and day also,
Shee made to be set there,
That all who by the way did goe
Might see it plaine appeare
That such a man as Robbin Hood
Was buried in that place;
And how he lived in the greene wood,
And robd there for a space.
It seems that although the clergie he
Had put to mickle woe,
He should not quite forgotten be,
Although he was their foe.
This woman, though she did him hate,
Yet loved his memory;
And thought it wondrous pitty that
His fame should with him dye.
This epitaph, as records tell,
Within this hundred yeares
By many was discerned well,
But time all things outweares.
His followers, when he was dead,
Were some received to grace;
The rest to forraigne countries fled,
And left their native place.
Although his funerall was but meane,
This woman had in minde
Least his fame should be buried cleane
From those that came behind.
For certainely, before nor since,
No man ere understood,
Vnder the reigne of any prince,
Of one like Robbin Hood.
Full thirteene yeares, and something more,
These outlawes lived thus,
Feared of the rich, loved of the poore,
A thing most marvelous.
A thing impossible to us
This story seemes to be;
None dares be now so venturous;
But times are chang’d, we see.
We that live in these latter dayes
Of civill government,
If neede be, have a hundred wayes
Such outlawes to prevent.
In those dayes men more barbarous were,
And lived lesse in awe;
Now, God be thanked! people feare
More to offend the law.
No roaring guns were then in use,
They dreampt of no such thing;
Our English men in fight did chuse
The gallant gray-goose wing.
In which activity these men,
Through practise, were so good,
That in those dayes non equald them,
Specially Robbin Hood.
So that, it seemes, keeping in caves,
In woods and forrests thicke,
Thei’d beate a multitude with staves,
Their arrowes did so pricke.
And none durst neare unto them come,
Unlesse in courtesie;
All such he bravely would send home,
With mirth and iollity.
Which courtesie won him such love,
As I before have told;
’Twas the cheefe cause that he did prove
More prosperous than he could.
Let us be thankefull for these times
Of plenty, truth, and peace,
And leave our great and horrid crimes,
Least they cause this to cease.
I know there’s many fained tales
Of Robbin Hood and ’s crew;
But chronicles, which seldome fayles,
Reports this to be true.
Let none then thinke this a lye,
For, if ’twere put to th’ worst,
They may the truth of all discry
I th’ raigne of Richard the first.
If any reader please to try,
As I direction show,
The truth of this brave history,
Hee’l finde it true I know.
And I shall thinke my labour well
Bestowed, to purpose good,
When ’t shall be sayd that I did tell
True tales of Robbin Hood.