Then Robin Hood stept to a thicket of trees, 45 And chose him a staff of ground oak; Now this being done, away he did run To the stranger, and merrily spoke:
"Lo! see my staff, it is lusty and tough, Now here on the bridge we will play; 50 Whoever falls in, the other shall win The battel, and so we'll away."
"With all my whole heart," the stranger reply'd; "I scorn in the least to give out;"
This said, they fell to't without more dispute, 55 And their staffs they did flourish about.
And first Robin he gave the stranger a bang, So hard that it made his bones ring: The stranger he said, "This must be repaid, I'll give you as good as you bring. 60
"So long as I'm able to handle my staff To die in your debt, friend, I scorn:"
Then to it each goes, and follow'd their blows, As if they had been threshing of corn.
The stranger gave Robin a crack on the crown, 65 Which caused the blood to appear; Then Robin enrag'd, more fiercely engag'd, And follow'd his blows more severe.
So thick and so fast did he lay it on him, With a passionate fury and ire, 70 At every stroke he made him to smoke, As if he had been all on fire.
O then into fury the stranger he grew, And gave him a damnable look, And with it a blow that laid him full low, 75 And tumbl'd him into the brook.
"I prithee, good fellow, O where art thou now?"
The stranger, in laughter, he cry'd.
Quoth bold Robin Hood, "Good faith, in the flood, And floating along with the tide. 80
"I needs must acknowledge thou art a brave soul; With thee I'll no longer contend; For needs must I say, thou hast got the day, Our battel shall be at an end."
Then unto the bank he did presently wade, 85 And pull'd himself out by a thorn; Which done, at the last, he blow'd a loud blast Straitway on his fine bugle-horn:
The eccho of which through the vallies did fly, At which his stout bowmen appear'd, 90 All cloathed in green, most gay to be seen, So up to their master they steer'd.
"O what's the matter?" quoth William Stutely; "Good master, you are wet to the skin."
"No matter," quoth he; "the lad which you see 95 In fighting hath tumbl'd me in."
"He shall not go scot-free," the others reply'd; So strait they were seizing him there, To duck him likewise; but Robin Hood cries, "He is a stout fellow, forbear. 100
"There's no one shall wrong thee, friend, be not afraid; These bowmen upon me do wait; There's threescore and nine; if thou wilt be mine, Thou shalt have my livery strait:
"And other accoutrements fit for a man; 105 Speak up, jolly blade, never fear.
I'll teach you also the use of the bow, To shoot at the fat fallow-deer."
"O here is my hand," the stranger reply'd, "I'll serve you with all my whole heart; 110 My name is John Little, a man of good mettle; Ne'er doubt me, for I'll play my part."
"His name shall be alter'd," quoth William Stutely, "And I will his godfather be; Prepare then a feast, and none of the least, 115 For we will be merry," quoth he.
They presently fetch'd in a brace of fat does, With humming strong liquor likewise; They lov'd what was good; so, in the green-wood, This pretty sweet babe they baptize. 120
He was, I must tell you, but seven foot high, And, may be, an ell in the waste; A pretty sweet lad; much feasting they had; Bold Robin the christ'ning grac'd,
With all his bowmen, which stood in a ring, 125 And were of the Nottingham breed; Brave Stutely comes then, with seven yeomen, And did in this manner proceed.
"This infant was called John Little," quoth he; "Which name shall be changed anon; 130 The words we'll transpose, so whereever he goes, His name shall be call'd Little John."
They all with a shout made the elements ring, So soon as the office was o'er; To feasting they went, with true merriment, 135 And tippl'd strong liquor gillore.
Then Robin he took the pretty sweet babe, And cloath'd him from top to the toe In garments of green, most gay to be seen, And gave him a curious long bow. 140
"Thou shalt be an archer as well as the best, And range in the green-wood with us; "Where we'll not want gold nor silver, behold, While bishops have ought in their purse.
"We live here like 'squires, or lords of renown, 145 Without e'er a foot of free land; We feast on good cheer, with wine, ale, and beer, And ev'ry thing at our command."
Then music and dancing did finish the day; At length, when the sun waxed low, 150 Then all the whole train the grove did refrain, And unto their caves they did go.
And so ever after, as long as he liv'd, Altho' he was proper and tall, Yet, nevertheless, the truth to express, 155 Still Little John they did him call.
ROBIN HOOD AND THE TANNER;
OR, ROBIN HOOD MET WITH HIS MATCH.
A merry and pleasant song relating the gallant and fierce combat fought between Arthur Bland, a tanner of Nottingham, and Robin Hood, the greatest and most noblest archer of England. Tune is, Robin Hood and the Stranger.
Ritson's _Robin Hood_, ii. 33, from an old black-letter copy in the collection of Anthony a Wood.
There is a copy with a few unimportant variations in _A Collection of Old Ballads_, i. 83, from which a single reading has been admitted.
In Nottingham there lives a jolly tanner, _With a hey down, down, a down, down_, His name is Arthur-a-Bland; There is nere a squire in Nottinghamshire, Dare bid bold Arthur stand.
With a long pike-staff upon his shoulder, 5 So well he can clear his way; By two and by three he makes them to flee, For he hath no list to stay.
And as he went forth, in a summers morning, Into the forrest of merry Sherwood, 10 To view the red deer, that range here and there, There met he with bold Robin Hood.
As soon as bold Robin he did espy,[L13]
He thought some sport he would make, Therefore out of hand he bid him to stand, 15 And thus to him he spake:
"Why, what art thou, thou bold fellow, That ranges so boldly here?
In sooth, to be brief, thou lookst like a thief, That comes to steal our kings deer. 20
"For I am keeper in this forrest; The king puts me in trust To look to his deer, that range here and there; Therefore stay thee I must."
"If thou beest a keeper in this forrest, 25 And hast such a great command, Yet thou must have more partakers in store, Before thou make me to stand."
"Nay, I have no more partakers in store, Or any that I do not need; 30 But I have a staff of another oke graff, I know it will do the deed.
"For thy sword and thy bow I care not a straw, Nor all thine arrows to boot; If thou get'st a knop upon the bare scop,[L35] 35 Thou canst as well sh--e as shoote."
"Speak cleanly, good fellow," said jolly Robin, "And give better terms to me; Else Ile thee correct for thy neglect, And make thee more mannerly. 40
"Marry gep with a wenion!" quod Arthur-a-Bland, "Art thou such a goodly man?
I care not a fig for thy looking so big; Mend thou thyself where thou can."