A good bowe in his hond, A brod arewe therine, And fowre and xx goode arwys Trusyd in a thrumme. 40 "Be war the, war the, Gandeleyn, Herof thu xalt han summe:
"Be war the, war the, Gandeleyn, Herof thu gyst plente."
"Euere on for an other," seyde Gandeleyn, 45 "Mysaunter haue he xal fle."
"Qwerat xal our marke be?"
Seyde Gandeleyn: "Eueryche at otheris herte,"
Seyde Wrennok ageyn. 50
"Ho xal zeue the ferste schote?"
Seyde Gandeleyn: "And I xal zeue the on beforn,"
Seyd Wrennok ageyn.
Wrennok schette a ful good schote, 55 And he schet not too hye; Throw the sanchothis of his bryk, It towchyd neyther thye.
"Now hast thu zouyn me on beforn,"
Al thus to Wrennok seyde he, 60 "And throw the myzt of our lady[L61]
A bettere I xal zeue the."
Gandeleyn bent his goode bowe, And set therin a flo, He schet throw his grene certyl, 65 His herte he clef on too.
"Now zalt thu neuer zelpe, Wrennok, At ale ne at wyn, That thu hast slawe goode Robyn And his knaue Gandeleyn. 70
"Now xalt thu neuer zelpe, Wrennok, At wyn ne at ale, That thu hast slawe goode Robyn And Gandeleyyn his knave."[L74]
_Robyn lyzth in grene wode bow[n]dyn._
4, MS. gynge.
19, MS. went.
24, cut of, Ritson.
61, MS. thu.
74, MS. knawe.
A LYTELL GESTE OF ROBYN HODE.
Three complete editions of this highly popular poem are known, all without date. The earliest, (perhaps not later than 1520,) is by Wynken de Worde, and has this title: _Here beginneth a mery geste of Robyn Hode and his meyne, and of the proude sheryfe of Notyngham_. A second is by William Copland, and is apparently made from the former.
A third was printed from Copland's, for Edward White, and though without date is entered in the Stationers' Registers in 1594. Portions have been preserved of two other editions, earlier than any of these three. Ritson had in his hands a few leaves of an "old 4to.
black-letter impression," by Wynken de Worde, "probably in 1489." _The Gest of Robyn Hode_ was also printed at Edinburgh, in 1508, by Chepman and Myllar, who in the same year issued a considerable number of poetical tracts. A volume of these, containing a large fragment of the piece in question, was most fortunately recovered towards the end of the last century, and has been reprinted in fac simile by the Messrs.
Laing, Edinburgh, 1827.
The _Lytell Geste_ is obviously to be regarded as an heroic poem, constructed, partly or entirely, out of previously existing unconnected "rhymes of Robin Hood." The earlier ballads employed for this purpose have not been handed down to us in their primitive form.
Whatever this may have been, they were probably very freely treated by the rhapsodist that strung them together, who has indeed retold the ancient stories with such skill as might well cause the ruder originals to be forgotten. Nevertheless, the third fit of our little epic is indisputably of common derivation with the last part of the older ballad of _Robin Hood and the Potter_, and other portions of this tale occur separately in ballads, which, though modern in their structure, may have had a source independent of the _Lytell Geste_.
It will be observed that each fit of this piece does not constitute a complete story. Mr. Hunter has correctly enough indicated the division into ballads as follows: The first ballad is comprised in the first two fits, and may be called Robin Hood and the Knight; the second ballad is the third fit, and may be called Little John and the Sheriff of Nottinghamshire; in the fourth fit we have the ballad of Robin Hood and the Monks of St. Mary; in the fifth and sixth, Robin Hood, the Sheriff of Nottingham, and the Knight; the seventh and part of the eighth contain the ballad of Robin Hood and the King; and the remaining stanzas of the eighth the Death of Robin Hood.
Concerning the imagined historical foundation of the _Lytell Geste_, see the general remarks on Robin Hood prefixed to this volume.
Lithe and lysten, gentylmen, That be of frebore blode; I shall you tell of a good yeman, His name was Robyn Hode.
Robyn was a proude outlawe, 5 Whyles he walked on grounde; So curteyse an outlawe as he was one Was never none yfounde.
Robyn stode in Bernysdale,[L9]
And lened hym to a tre, 10 And by hym stode Lytell Johan, A good yeman was he;
And also dyde good Scathelock, And Much the millers sone; There was no ynche of his body, 15 But it was worthe a grome.
Than bespake hym Lytell Johan All unto Robyn Hode, "Mayster, yf ye wolde dyne betyme, It wolde do you moch good." 20
Then bespake good Robyn, "To dyne I have no lest,[L22]
Tyll I have some bolde barn, Or some unketh gest,
"[Or els some byshop or abbot] 25 That may paye for the best; Or some knyght or some squyere That dwelleth here by west."
A good maner than had Robyn, In londe where that he were, 30 Every daye or he woulde dyne Thre messes wolde he here:
The one in the worshyp of the fader, The other of the holy goost, The thyrde was of our dere lady, 35 That he loved of all other moste.
Robyn loved our dere lady; For doute of dedely synne, Wolde he never do company harme That ony woman was ynne. 40
"Mayster," than sayd Lytell Johan, "And we our borde shall sprede, Tell us whether we shall gone, And what lyfe we shall lede;
"Where we shall take, where we shall leve, 45 Where we shall abide behynde, Where we shall robbe, where we shall reve, Where we shall bete and bynde."
"Therof no fors," said Robyn, "We shall do well ynough; 50 But loke ye do no housbonde harme That tylleth with his plough;
"No more ye shall no good yeman, That walketh by grene wode shawe, Ne no knyght, ne no squyer, 55 That wolde be a good felawe.
"These byshoppes, and thyse archebysshoppes, Ye shall them bete and bynde; The hye sheryfe of Notynghame, Hym holde in your mynde." 60
"This worde shall be holde," sayd Lytyll Johan, "And this lesson shall we lere; It is ferre dayes, god sende us a gest, That we were at our dynere."
"Take thy good bowe in thy hande," said Robyn, 65 "Let Moche wende with the, And so shall Wyllyam Scathelocke, And no man abyde with me:
"And walke up to the Sayles,[L69]
And so to Watlynge-strete,[L70] 70 And wayte after some unketh gest, Up-chaunce ye mowe them mete.
"Be he erle or ony barn, Abbot or ony knyght, Brynge hym to lodge to me, 75 Hys dyner shall be dyght."
They wente unto the Sayles, These yemen all thre, They loked est, they loked west, They myght no man see. 80
But as they loked in Barnysdale, By a derne strete, Then came there a knyght rydynge, Full sone they gan hym mete.
All dreri then was his semblaunte,[L85] 85 And lytell was hys pryde, Hys one fote in the sterope stode, That other waved besyde.