Imágenes de páginas

suppress all record of his patriotic exertions and virtuous acts, will render his name immortal.”

The personal character of Robin Hood stands high in the pages of both history and poetry. Fordun, a priest, extols his piety; Major pronounces him the most humane of robbers ; and Camden, a more judicious authority, calls him the gentlest of thieves, while in the pages of the early drama he is drawn at heroic length, and with many of the best attributes of human nature. His life and deeds have not only supplied materials for the drama and the ballad, but proverbs have sprung from them: he stands the demi-god of English archery; men used to swear both by his bow and his clemency; festivals were once annually held, and games of a sylvan kind celebrated in his honour, in Scotland as well as in England. The grave where he lies has still its pilgrims; the well out of which he drank still retains his name; and his bow and one of his broad arrows were within this century to be seen in Fountains Abbey.

270.-A LITTLE GESTE OF ROBIN HOOD. The longest of all the ballads which bear the name of Robin Hood was first printed at the Sun, in Fleet Street, by Wynken de Worde. It is called - A little Geste of Robin Hood ;' but so ill-informed was the printer in the outlaw's history, that he describes it as a story of King Edward, Robin Hood, and Little John. It is perhaps one of the oldest of these compositions. The ballad begins somewhat in the minstrel manner:

Come lithe a listen, gentlemen,

That be of free-born blood,
I shall tell you of a good yeoman,

His name was Robin Hood.

Robin he was a proud outlaw

As ever walked on ground;
So courteous an outlaw as he was

Has never yet been found.

It then proceeds to relate how Robin stood in Barnesdale Wood, with all his companions beside him, and refused to go to dinner till he should find some bold baron or unasked guest, either clerical or lay, with wealth sufficient to furnish forth his table. On this, Little John, who seems always to have had a clear notion of the work in hand, inquired anxiously,-

Where shall we take, where shall we leave,

Where shall we abide behind,
Where shall we rob, where shall we reave,

Where shall we beat and bind ?
There is no force, said bold Robin,

Can well withstand us now;
So look ye, do no husbandman harm

That tilleth with his plough. He gives similar directions about tenderly treating honest yeomen, and even knights and squires disposed to be good fellows; “but beat,' said he," and bind, bishops and archbishops ; and be sure never to let the high sheriff of Nottingham out of your mind."_“Your words shall be our law,” said Little John; “and you will forgive me for wishing for a wealthy customer soon—I long for dinner.” One, a knight, with all the external marks of a golden prize, was first observed by Little John, approaching on horseback through one of the long green glades of Barnesdale Wood : the stranger is well drawn:

All dreary then was his semblaunt,

And little was his pride;
His one foot in the stirrup stood,

The other waved beside.
His hood hung over his two eyne;

He rode in simple array,
A sorriet man than he was one

Rode never in summer's day. •I greet you well,” said Little John, “and welcome you to the greenwood; my master has refused to touch his dinner these three hours, expecting your arrival.” “ And who is your master," inquired the stranger, " that shows me so much courtesy?” “ E'en Robin Hood," said the other, meekly. “Ah, Robin Hood !” replied the stranger, “he is a good yeoman and true, and I accept his invitation.” Little John, who never doubted but that the stranger was simulating sorrow

[ocr errors]

and poverty, the better to hide his wealth, conducted him at once to the trysting-tree, where Robin received him with a kindly air and a cheerful countenance.

They washed together, and wiped both,

And set till their dinere
Of bread and wine they had enough,

And numbles of the deere;
Swans and pheasants they had full good,

And fowls of the rivere;
There failed never so little a bird

That ever was bred on brere.



"I thank thee for thy dinner, Robin,” said the knight, “and if thou ever comest my way I shall repay it.” “I make no such exchanges, Sir Knight,” said the outlaw, nor do I ask any one for dinner. I vow to God, as it is against good manners for a yeoman to treat a knight, that you must for


entertainment." “ I have no more in my coffer," said the other composedly, save ten shillings," and he sighed as he said it. Robin signed to Little John, and he dived into the stranger's luggage at once : he found but ten shillings, and said, " The knight has spoken truly.” “I fear you have been a sorry steward of your inheritance, Sir Knight,” said the outlaw, “ ten shillings is but a poor sum to travel with." “ It was my misfortune, not my fault, Robin," said the knight; “my only son fell into a quarrel,

“And slew a knight of Lancashire,

And a squire full bold,
And all to save him in his right

My goods are sett and sold.
" My lands are sett to wad, Robin,

Until a certain day,
To a rich abbot here beside

Of St. Mary's Abbeye. "My lands," he continued, “are mortgaged for four hundred pounds; the abbot holds them : nor know I any friend who will help me—not one." Little John wept; Will Scarlett's eyes were moist; and Robin Hood, much affected, cried, “ Fill us more wine : this story makes me sad too.” The wine was poured out and drunk, and Robin continued, “ Hast thou no friend, Sir Knight, who would give security for the loan of four hundred pounds ?" “ None,” sighed the other, “not one friend have I save the saints." Robin shook his head." The saints are but middling securities in matters of money: you must find better before I can help you."

I have none other then, said the knight,

The very sooth to say,
Except that it be our dear Ladye,

Who never fail'd me a day. Robin at length accepted the Virgin's security, and bade Little John tell out four hundred pounds for the knight; and, as he was ill apparelled, he desired him to give him three yards, and no more, of each colour of cloth for his use. John counted out the cash with the accuracy of a miser; but, as his heart was touched with the knight's misfortunes, he measured out the cloth even more than liberally: he called for his bow and ell wand, and every time he applied it, he skipped, as the ballad avers, “ footes three.”

Scathlock he stood still and laugh'd,

And swore by Mary's might,
John may give him the better measure,

For by Peter it cost him light.
Give him a grey steed too, Robin he said,

Besides a saddle new,
For he is our Ladye's messenger;

God send that he prove true. “Now," inquires the knight," when shall my day of payment be?" "If it so please you, Sir,” said Robin, “on this day twelvemonth, and the place shall be this good oak. “So be it," answered the knight, and rode on his way.

The day of payment came, and Robin Hood and his chivalry sat below his trysting oak: their conversation turned on the absent knight and on his spiritual security.

Go we to dinner, said Little John;

Robin Hood, he said nay,
For I dread our Ladye be wroth with me,

She hath sent me not my pay.
Have no doubt, master, quoth Little John,

Yet is not the sun at rest,
For I dare say and safely swear

The knight is true and trest.

The confidence of little John was not misplaced; for, while he took his bow and with Will Scarlett and Much the Miller's son walked into the glades of Barnesdale Forest to await for the coming of baron or bishop with gold in their purses, the knight was on his way to the trysting-tree with the four hundred pounds in his pocket, and a noble present for the liberal outlaw: the present was in character :

He purveyed him an hundred bows,

The strings they were well dight;
An hundred sheafs of arrows good,

The heads burnish'd full bright.
And every arrow was an ell long,

With peacock plume y-dight,
Y-nocked too all with white silver,

It was a seemly sight.

The knight was, however, detained on the way by a small task of mercy; he came to a place where a horse, saddled and bridled, and a pipe of wine, were set up as the prizes at a public wrestling-match; and as they were won by a strange yeoman, the losers raised a tumult, and, but for the interference of the knight and the men who accompanied him, would have deprived the yeoman of his prizes and done him some personal harm. The Abbot, too, of St. Mary's had raised difficulties in the restoring of his land and the receipt of the redemption money; and the sun was down, and the hour of payment stipulated with Robin expired, when the good knight arrived at the trystingtree. Events in the meanwhile had happened which require notice.

As Little John with his two companions stood watch in the wood of Barnesdale, the former, who loved his dinner almost as well as he loved a fray, began not only to grow impatient, but to entertain doubts about the hour of payment being kept. He was now to be relieved from his anxiety :

For as they look'd in Barnesdale wood,

And by the wide highway,
Then they were aware of two black monks,

Each on a good palfraye.
Then up bespake he, Little John,

To Much he thus 'gan say,
By Mary, I 'll lay my life to wad,

These monks have brought our pay.

« AnteriorContinuar »