ROBIN HOOD AND THE POTTER.
From Ritson's _Robin Hood_, i. 81. "This curious, and hitherto unpublished, and even unheard of old piece," remarks that editor, "is given from a manuscript among Bishop More's collections, in the Public Library of the University of Cambridge (Ee. 4. 35). The writing, which is evidently that of a vulgar and illiterate person, appears to be of the age of Henry VII., that is, about the year 1500; but the composition (which he has irremediably corrupted) is probably of an earlier period, and much older, no doubt, than _The Play of Robyn Hode_, which seems allusive to the same story."
Mr. Wright thinks the manuscript is proved to be of the time of Henry VI. by a memorandum on one page, setting forth the expenses of the feast on the marriage of the king with Margaret:--"Thys ys exspences of fflesche at the mariage of my ladey Marg'et, that sche had owt off Eynglonde." But this memorandum is more likely to apply to Margaret, daughter of Henry VII., who was married "_out_ of England," that is, in Scotland, to James IV., than to the Margaret who was married _in_ England to Henry VI. (_Ed. Rev._ lxxxvi. 126.)
The adventure in the first part of this story,--the encounter between Robin Hood and a sturdy fellow who proves his match or his superior--forms the subject of a large number of this circle of ballads, the antagonist being in one case a beggar, in another a tanner, a tinker, the pinder of Wakefield, &c. (See the preface to _Robin Hood and the Beggar_, p. 188.) The story of the second part is found again in _Robin Hood and the Butcher_, and, with considerable differences, in the third fit of the _Lytell Geste_.
It is in the disguise of a potter that the Saxon Hereward penetrates into the Norman court, and that Eustace the Monk eludes the vengeance of the Count of Boulogne. Eustace also drew his enemy into an ambush by nearly the same stratagem which Robin employs to entice the sheriff of Nottingham into the forest. (See the romances abridged in Wright's _Essays_, ii. 108, 133, 135, 184.)
In schomer, when the leves spryng, The bloschems on every bowe, So merey doyt the berdys syng Yn wodys merey now.
Herkens, god yemen, 5 Comley, corteysse, and god,[L6]
On of the best that yever bar bou, Hes name was Roben Hode.
Roben Hood was the yemans name, That was boyt corteys and fre; 10 For the loffe of owr ladey, All wemen werschep he.[L12]
Bot as the god yemen stod on a day, Among hes mery maney, He was war of a prowd potter, 15 Cam dryfyng owyr the ley.[L16]
"Yonder comet a prod potter," seyde Roben,[L17]
"That long hayt hantyd this wey; He was never so corteys a man On peney of pawage to pay." 20
"Y met hem bot at Wentbreg," seyde Lytyll John,[L21]
"And therfor yeffell mot he the, Seche thre strokes he me gafe, Yet they cleffe by my seydys.
"Y ley forty shillings," seyde Lytyll John, 25 "To pay het thes same day, Ther ys nat a man among hus all A wed schall make hem ley."[L28]
"Her ys forty shillings," seyde Roben, "Mor, and thow dar say, 30 That y schall make that prowde potter, A wed to me schall he ley."
Ther thes money they leyde, They toke het a yeman to kepe; Roben befor the potter he breyde, 35 And bad hem stond stell.[L36]
Handys apon hes horse he leyde, And bad the potter stonde foll stell; The potter schorteley to hem seyde, "Felow, what ys they well?" 40
"All thes thre yer, and mor, potter," he seyde, "Thow hast hantyd thes wey, Yet wer tow never so cortys a man One peney of pauage to pay."
"What ys they name," seyde the potter, 45 "For pauage thow ask of me?"
"Roben Hod ys mey name, A wed schall thow leffe me."
"Wed well y non leffe," seyde the potter, "Nor pavag well y non pay; 50 Awey they honde fro mey horse, Y well the tene eyls, be mey fay."
The potter to hes cart he went, He was not to seke; A god to-hande staffe therowt he hent, 55 Befor Roben he lepe.[L56]
Roben howt with a swerd bent, A bokeler en hes honde [therto]; The potter to Roben he went, And seyde, "Felow, let mey horse go." 60
Togeder then went thes two yemen, Het was a god seyt to se; Therof low Robyn hes men, Ther they stod onder a tre.
Leytell John to hes felowhes seyde,[L65] 65 "Yend potter welle steffeley stonde:"
The potter, with an acward stroke,[L67]
Smot the bokeler owt of hes honde;
And ar Roben meyt get hem agen[L69]
Hes bokeler at hes fette, 70 The potter yn the neke hem toke, To the gronde sone he yede.
That saw Roben hes men, As thay stode ender a bow; "Let us helpe owr master," seyed Lytell John, 75 "Yonder potter els well hem sclo."[L76]
Thes yemen went with a breyde,[L77]
To ther master they cam.[L78]
Leytell John to hes master seyde, "Ho haet the wager won? 80
"Schall y haff yowr forty shillings," seyde Lytel John, "Or ye, master, schall haffe myne?"
"Yeff they wer a hundred," seyde Roben, "Y feythe, they ben all theyne."
"Het ys fol leytell cortesey," seyde the potter, 85 "As y haffe harde weyse men saye, Yeff a por yeman com drywyng ower the wey, To let hem of hes gorney."
"Be mey trowet, thow seys soyt," seyde Roben, "Thow seys god yemenrey;[L90] 90 And thow dreyffe forthe yevery day, Thow schalt never be let for me.
"Y well prey the, god potter, A felischepe well thow haffe?
Geffe me they clothyng, and thow schalt hafe myne; 95 Y well go to Notynggam."
"Y grant therto," seyde the potter,[L97]
"Thow schalt feynde me a felow gode; Bot thow can sell mey pottes well, Come ayen as thow yode."[L100] 100
"Nay, be mey trowt," seyde Roben, "And then y bescro mey hede Yeffe y bryng eney pottes ayen, And eney weyffe well hem chepe."
Than spake Leytell John, 105 And all hes felowhes heynd, "Master, be well war of the screffe of Notynggam, For he ys leytell howr frende."
"Heyt war howte," seyde Roben,[L109]
"Felowhes, let me alone; 110 Thorow the helpe of howr ladey, To Notynggam well y gon."
Robyn went to Notynggam,[L113]
Thes pottes for to sell; The potter abode with Robens men, 115 Ther he fered not eylle.
Tho Roben droffe on hes wey, So merey ower the londe: Heres mor and affter ys to saye, The best ys beheynde. 120
MS. 6, cortessey.
MS. 17, 21, syde.
MS. 56, leppyd.
MS. 65, felow he.