The beggar smil'd, and answer made, "Far better let me be; 70 Think not that I will be afraid For thy nip crooked tree.
"Or that I fear thee any whit For thy curn nips of sticks; I know no use for them so meet 75 As to be pudding-pricks.
"Here I defy thee to do me ill, For all thy boisterous fare; Thou'st get nothing from me but ill, Would'st thou seek evermair." 80
Good Robin bent his noble bow, He was an angery man, And in it set a broad arrw; Yet erst was drawn a span,
The beggar, with his noble tree, 85 Reach'd him so round a rout, That his bow and his broad arrw In flinders flew about.
Good Robin bound him to his brand, But that prov'd likewise vain, The beggar lighted on his hand With his pike-staff again.
I wot he might not draw a sword For forty days and mair; Good Robin could not speak a word, 95 His heart was never so sair.
He could not fight, he could not flee, He wist not what to do; The beggar with his noble tree Laid lusty flaps him to. 100
He paid good Robin back and side, And beft him up and down, And with his pike-staff still laid on hard, Till he fell in a swoon.
"Fy, stand up, man," the beggar said, 105 "'Tis shame to go to rest; Stay still till thou get my money, I think it were the best.
"And syne go to the tavern house, And buy both wine and ale; 110 Hereat thy friends will crack full crouse, Thou hast been at a dale."
Good Robin answer'd never a word, But lay still as a stane; His cheeks were white as any clay, 115 And closed were his eyen.
The beggar thought him dead but fail, And boldly bown'd away;-- I would you had been at the dale, And gotten part of the play. 120
[THE SECOND PART.]
Now three of Robin's men, by chance, Came walking by the way, And found their master in a trance, On ground where he did lay.
Up have they taken good Robin, 5 Making a piteous beir, Yet saw they no man there at whom They might the matter speir.
They looked him all round about, But wounds on him saw none, 10 Yet at his mouth came bocking out The blood of a good vein.
Cold water they have taken syne, And cast into his face; Then he began to lift his eyne, 15 And spake within short space.
"Tell us, dear master," said his men, "How with you stands the case?"
Good Robin sigh'd e'er he began To tell of his disgrace. 20
"I have been watchman in this wood Near hand this forty year, Yet I was never so hard bestead As you have found me here.
"A beggar with a clouted cloak, 25 In whom I fear'd no ill, Hath with his pike-staff claw'd my back, I fear 'twill never be well.
See, where he goes o'er yonder hill, With hat upon his head; 30 If e'er you lov'd your master well, Go now revenge this deed.
"And bring him back again to me, If it lie in your might, That I may see, before I die, 35 Him punisht in my sight.
"And if you may not bring him back, Let him not go loose on; For to us all it were great shame If he escap't again." 40
"One of us shall with you remain, Because you're ill at ease, The other two shall bring him back, To use him as you please."
"Now, by my troth," says good Robin, 45 "I trow there's enough said; If he get scouth to wield his tree, I fear you'll both be paid."
"Be ye not fear'd, our good master, That we two can be dung 50 With any blutter base beggar, That has nought but a rung.
"His staff shall stand him in no stead; That you shall shortly see; But back again he shall be led, 55 And fast bound shall he be, To see if ye will have him slain, Or hanged on a tree."
"But cast you slily in his way, Before he be aware, 60 And on his pike-staff first hands lay, You'll speed the better far."
Now leave we Robin with his man, Again to play the child, And learn himself to stand and gang 65 By haulds, for all his eild.
Now pass we to the bold beggar That raked o'er the hill, Who never mended his pace no more Nor he had done no ill. 70
The young men knew the country well, So soon where he would be,[L72]
And they have taken another way,[L73]
Was nearer by miles three.
They rudely ran with all their might, 75 Spared neither dub nor mire, They started neither at laigh nor hight, No travel made them tire.
Till they before the beggar wan, And coost them in his way; 80 A little wood lay in a glen, And there they both did stay.
They stood up closely by a tree, In ilk side of the gate, Until the beggar came them to, 85 That thought not of such fate.
And as he was betwixt them past, They leapt upon him baith; The one his pike-staff gripped fast, They feared for its scaith. 90
The other he held in his sight A drawen dirk to his breast, And said, "False carl, quit thy staff, Or I shall be thy priest."
His pike-staff they have taken him frae, 95 And stuck it in the green, He was full loath to let gae, If better might have been.
The beggar was the feardest man Of one that ever might be; 100 To win away no way he can, Nor help him with his tree.
He wist not wherefore he was tane, Nor how many was there; He thought his life-days had been gane, 105 He grew into despair.
"Grant me my life," the beggar said, "For him that died on tree, And take away that ugly knife, Or then for fear I'll die. 110
"I griev'd you never in all my life, Nor late nor yet by ayre, Ye have great sin, if ye would slay A silly poor beggar."
"Thou lies, false lown," they said again, 115 "By all that may be sworn; Thou hast near slain the gentlest man That ever yet was born.
"And back again thou shalt be led, And fast bound shalt thou be, 120 To see if he will have thee slain, Or hanged on a tree."
The beggar then thought all was wrong; They were set for his wrack; He saw nothing appearing then, 125 But ill upon worse back.
Were he out of their hands, he thought, And had again his tree, He should not be had back for nought, With such as he did see. 130
Then he bethought him on a wile, If it could take effect, How he the young men might beguile, And give them a begeck.
Thus for to do them shame or ill, 135 His beastly breast was bent; He found the wind grew something shril, To further his intent.