A Jest of Robin Hood

A Jest of Robin Hood

Original Text
William Hall Clawson, ed., The Gest of Robin Hood, University of Toronto Studies, ilological Series (Toronto: University Library, 1909). PR 2125 C5 Robarts Library
2    All that nowe be here;
4    Goode myrth ye shall here.
5  It was upon a mery day
8    And sayde he wolde them mete.
11The proud{.e} sherif of Notingham
13  The sherif swore a full greate othe:
14    "By hym that dyede on a tre,
15This man is the best arschére
18    What is nowe thy name?
19In what countre were thou borne,
23Men cal me Reynolde Gren{.e}lef
24    Whan I am at home."
25  "Sey me, Reynolde Grenelefe,
26    Wolde thou dwell with me?
27And every yere I woll the gyve
28    Twenty marke to thy fee."
29  "I have a maister," sayde Litell Johnn,
30    "A curteys knight is he;
31May ye lev{.e} gete of hym,
32    The better may it be."
33  The sherif gate Litell John
34    Twelve moneth{.e}s of the knight;
35Therfore he gave him right anone
36    A gode hors and a wight.
37  Nowe is Litell John the sherif{.e}s man,
38    God lende vs well to spede!
39But alwey thought Lytell John
41  "Nowe so God me help{.e}," sayde Litell John,
43I shall be the worst servaunt to hym
44    That ever yet had he."
45  It fell upon a Wednesday
46    The sherif on huntynge was gone,
47And Litel John lay in his bed,
49  Therfore he was fastinge
50    Til it was past the none;
51"Gode sir stuarde, I pray to the,
52    Gyve me my dynere," saide Litell John.
53  "It is longe for Gren{.e}lefe
54    Fastinge thus for to be;
55Therfor I pray the, sir stuarde,
56    Mi dyner gif me."
57  "Shalt thou never ete ne drynke," saide the stuarde,
59"I make myn avowe to God," saide Litell John,
60    "I had lever to crake thy crowne."
61  The boteler was full uncurteys,
62    There he stode on flore;
63He start to the botery
65  Lytell Johnn gave the boteler suche a tap
66    His backe went nere in two;
67Though he lived an hundred ier,
68    The wors shuld he go.
69  He sporned the dore with his fote;
70    It went open wel and fyne;
72    Bothe of ale and of wyne.
73  "Sith ye wol nat dyne," sayde Litell John,
74    "I shall gyve you to drinke;
75And though ye lyve an hundred wynter,
76    On Lytel Johnn ye shall thinke."
77  Litell John ete, and Litel John drank,
78    The whil{.e} that he wolde;
79The sherife had in his kechyn a coke,
80    A stoute man and a bolde.
81  "I make myn avowe to God," saide the coke,
83In ani hous for to dwel,
84    For to aske thus to dyne."
85  And there he lent Litell John
86    God{.e} strokis thre;
87"I make myn avowe to God," sayde Lytell John,
88    "These strokis lyked well me.
89  "Thou arte a bolde man and hardy,
90    And so thinketh me;
91And or I pas fro this place
92    Assayed better shalt thou be."
93  Lytell Johnn drew a ful gode sworde,
94    The coke toke another in hande;
95They thought no thynge for to fle,
96    But stifly for to stande.
97  There they faught sore togedere
98    Two myl{.e} way and well more;
99Myght neyther other harme done,
100    The mountnaunce of an owre.
101  "I make myn avowe to God," sayde Litell Johnn,
102    "And by my true lewté,
103Thou art one of the best sworde-men
104    That ever yit sawe I me.
105  "Cowdest thou shote as well in a bowe,
106    To gren{.e} wode thou shuldest with me,
107And two times in the yere thy clothinge
108    Chaunged shuld{.e} be;
109  "And every yere of Robyn Hode
111"Put up thy swerde," saide the coke,
112    "And felowes woll we be."
113  Thanne he fet to Lytell Johnn
115Gode brede, and full gode wyne,
116    They ete and drank theretoo.
117  And when they had dronkyn well,
118    Theyre trouth{.e}s togeder they plight
119That they wolde be with Robyn
122    As fast as they myght gone;
123The lokk{.e}s, that were of full gode stele,
124    They brake them everichone.
125  They toke away the silver vessell,
126    And all that thei might get;
128    Wolde thei not forget.
129  Also they toke the gode pens,
130    Thre hundred pounde and more,
131And did them streyte to Robyn Hode,
133  "God the save, my dere mayster,
135And thanne sayde Robyn to Litel Johnn,
136    Welcome myght thou be.
137  "Also be that fayre yeman
138    Thou bryngest there with the;
139What tydyng{.e}s fro Notyngham?
140    Lytill Johnn, tell thou me."
141  "Well the gretith the proud{.e} sheryf,
142    And sendeth the here by me
143His coke and his silver vessell,
144    And thre hundred pounde and thre."
145  "I make myne avowe to God," sayde Robyn,
146    "And to the Trenyté,
147It was never by his gode wyll
148    This gode is come to me."
149  Lytyll Johnn there hym bethought
151Fyve myle in the forest he ran,
153  Than he met the proud{.e} sheref,
154    Huntynge with houndes and horne;
156    And knelyd hym beforne.
157  "God the save, my der{.e} mayster,
158    And Criste the save and se!"
159"Reynolde Gren{.e}lefe," sayde the shryef,
161  "I have be in this forest;
162    A fayre syght can I se;
163It was one of the fayrest syghtes
164    That ever yet sawe I me.
165  "Yonder I sawe a ryght fayre harte,
166    His coloure is of grene;
167Seven score of dere upon a herde
170    Of sexty, and well mo,
171That I durst not shote for drede,
173  "I make myn avowe to God," sayde the shyref,
174    "That syght wolde I fayne se:"
176    Anone, and wende with me."
177  The sherif rode, and Litell Johnn
178    Of fote he was full smerte,
179And whane they came before Robyn,
180    "Lo, sir, here is the mayster-herte."
181  Still stode the proud{.e} sherief,
182    A sory man was he;
184    Thou hast betrayed nowe me."
185  "I make myn avowe to God," sayde Litell Johnn,
186    "Mayster, ye be to blame;
187I was mysserved of my dynere
188    Whan I was with you at home."
189  Sone he was to souper sette,
190    And served well with silver white,
191And whan the sherif sawe his vessell,
192    For sorowe he myght nat ete.
193  "Make glad chere," sayde Robyn Hode,
194    "Sherif, for charité,
195And for the love of Litill Johnn
196    Thy lyfe I graunt to the."
197  Whan they had souped well,
198    The day was al gone;
199Robyn commaunded Litell Johnn
200    To drawe of his hosen and his shone;
202    That was fured well and fine,
204    To lap his body therin.
205  Robyn commaundyd his wight yonge men,
206    Under the gren{.e}-wode tree,
207They shulde lye in that same sute,
208    That the sherif myght them see.
209  All nyght lay the proud{.e} sherif
210    In his breche and in his schert;
211No wonder it was, in gren{.e} wode,
212    Though his syd{.e}s gan to smerte.
213  "Makeglade chere," sayde Robyn Hode,
214    "Sheref, for charité;
215For this is our ordre i-wys,
216    Under the gren{.e}-wode tree."
217  "This is harder order," sayde the sherief,
219For all the golde in mery Englonde
220    I wolde nat longe dwell her."
221  "All this twelve monthes," sayde Robin,
222    "Thou shalt dwell with me;
223I shall the tech{.e}, proud{.e} sherif,
224    An outlaw{.e} for to be."
225  "Or I be here another nyght," sayde the sherif,
226    "Robyn, nowe pray I the,
227Smyte of mijn hede rather to-morowe,
228    And I forgyve it the.
229  "Lat me go," than sayde the sherif.
230    "For saynt{.e} charité,
231And I woll be the best{.e} frende
232    That ever yet had ye."
233  "Thou shalt swere me an othe," sayde Robyn,
234    "On my bright bronde;
236    By water ne by lande.
237  "And if thou fynde any of my men,
238    By nyght or by day,
239Upon thyn oth{.e} thou shalt swere
240    To helpe them that thou may."
241  Nowe hathe the sherif sworne his othe,
242    And home he began to gone;
244    As ever was hepe of stone.


1] "A Gets of Robin Hode" is extant in seven early printed copies without date. The publication of the earliest may be dated about 1500. The Middle English grammatical forms in the text justify us in placing its composition, in whole or in part, a hundred years earlier. The poem is a little epic or romance (Gest -- Latin gesta -- is a tale of deeds done) made by the combination and adaptation of a number of separate ballads concerning a popular hero. It contains 456 stanzas divided into seven fyttes or cantos and narrating three main adventures: (a) Robin Hood's loan to a poor knight is recovered by robbing a rich monk; (b) Robin Hood's revenge on the Sheriff of Nottingham for his breach of faith; and (c) the King's visit to Robin Hood and Robin's visit to the court. The third fytte, here printed entire, is the link between (a) and (b). It might almost stand by itself as a ballad and is very similar in style and compass to the separate Robin Hood ballads recorded in the fifteenth century. One of these, Robin Hood and and the Potter (Child, 121) with a group of similar ballads (Child, 122-24), was perhaps the basis of this fytte. "Rymes of Robyn Hode" are mentioned as early as 1377 (B-text of Piers the Plowman) and Child has printed thirty-seven, of which at least seven are of ancient tradition. Robin Hood has not been historically identified, but may have been an actual outlaw of Barnsdale or Sherwood Forest. The ballads express the dissatisfaction of yeomen and labourers with the harsh forest laws and the exactions of the higher clergy and monastic orders.

Lyth: hearken. Back to Line

3] Robin Hood lent the knight foru hundred pounds and also the services of his lieutenant, Little John. Back to Line
6] shete: shoot. Back to Line
7] fet: fetched. Back to Line
9] shet: shot. Back to Line
10] slet: slit. Back to Line
12] can stande: did stand. Back to Line
16] me: for myself. Back to Line
17] wight: sturdy. Back to Line
20] wonynge wane: both words mean `habitation.' Back to Line
21] Holdernes: district in Yorkshire. Back to Line
22] I-wis: surely. Back to Line
40] To pay him his reward; to give him his just deserts. Back to Line
42] leutye: loyalty. Back to Line
48] foriete: forgotten. Back to Line
58] to towne: to the manor. Back to Line
64] shet: shut. Back to Line
71] lyveray: purveyance. Back to Line
82] shrewde hynde: cursed fellow. Back to Line
110] merke: a mark, a coin of 13s.4d. Back to Line
114] nowmbles: heart, spleen, lungs, and liver of the deer. Back to Line
120] ylke same: very same. Back to Line
121] dyd them: betook themselves. Back to Line
127] pecis: probably cups.
masars: drinking vessels made of maple-wood, often mounted with previous metals. Back to Line
132] hore: hoary or gray (the trunks). Back to Line
134] se: protect. Back to Line
150] shrewde wyle: clever trick. Back to Line
152] Everything happened as he wished. Back to Line
155] Could of courtesye: knew the rules of chivalrous courtesy. Back to Line
160] be: been. Back to Line
168] bydene: together. Back to Line
169] tyndes: tynes, antlers. Back to Line
172] slo: slay. Back to Line
175] buske: betake yourself, go. Back to Line
183] Wo the worthe: woe come unto thee. Back to Line
201] cote of pie: corruption of Old French courtepi, short coat. Cf. Prologue to the Canterbury Tales, line 290. Back to Line
203] Toke: took, i.e., gave. Back to Line
218] Than any hermit or friar. Back to Line
235] awayte me scathe: lie in wait to do me harm. Back to Line
243] He was as full of greenwood as ever the hip (fruit of the wild rose) was of stones. Back to Line
Publication Start Year
RPO poem Editors
N. J. Endicott
RPO Edition
2RP.1.66; RPO 1996-2000.