Robin Hood And The Potter

Another of the early Robin Hood ballads, Robin Hood and the Potter survives in only one manuscript (Cambridge University Library M.S. Ee.4.35 fos. 14v-19) and appears to have been taken down by recitation. The language is even more difficult than Robin Hood and the Monk and one page of the 24 page manuscript significantly details the expenses for the feast of the marriage of Henry VII’s daughter, Margaret Tudor, to James IV of Scotland on 8th August 1503. The scribe, writing in a ‘clear and bastard hand,’ seems to have omitted a line, but the rest is complete.

Two important features emerge from this story; firstly there is Robin Hood’s unusual dealings- in early ballads- with a woman, in this case the Sheriff’s wife and secondly the hero loses the battle with the potter. This sets the trend for the many later inferior ballads, where Robin challenges and loses to diverse rustics and tradesmen.

The ballad opens with the traditional forest opening:

In schomer, when the leves spryng
The bloschoms on every bowe,
So merey doyt the berdys syng
Yn wodys merey now.

Herkens, god yeman,
Comley, cortessey, and god,
On of the best that yever bare bou,
Hes name was Roben Hode.

Little John warns Robin of a proud potter he had encountered at ‘Wentbreg’ (probably Wentbridge in Yorkshire) who had hit him three times with a staff. They wager forty shillings that Robin can’t make him pay a levy for passing through Barnsdale.

Robin eventually meets the potter:

‘All thes thre yer, and more, potter,’ he seyde,
‘Thow hast hantyd thes wey,
Yet were tow never so cortys a man
On peney* of pavage to pay.’ *1 penny.

They start to fight, Robin with a sword and buckler and the potter with a ‘two-hand’ staff.

Togeder then went thes to yemen,
Het was a god seyt to se;
Thereof low Robyn hes men,
There they stod onder a tre.


The potter, with a caward* stroke, * back-handed.
Smot the bokeler owt of hes honde.

And ar Roben meyt get het agen,
Hes bokeler at hes ffette,
The potter yn the neke hem toke,
To the gronde sone he yede.

The potter teaches Robin a lesson in good manners and Little John wins the bet. Robin, being so impressed with the potter’s skill, befriends him and talks him into exchanging clothes. So dressed as a potter, Robin rides into Nottingham, where he sells fivepenny pots for the price of threepence.

Yn the medys of the towne,
There he showed hes ware;
‘Pottys! Pottys!’ he gan crey foll sone,
‘Haffe hansell ffor the mare!’

Ffoll effen agenest the screffeys gate
Schowed he hes chaffare;
Weyffes and wedowes abowt hem drow,
And chepyd ffast of hes ware.

Eventually he only has five pots left, which he presents as a gift to the sheriff’s wife.

‘Ye schall haffe of the best,’ seyde Roben
And sware be the Treneyte;
Ffoll corteysley he gan hem call,
‘Come deyne with the screfe and me.’

So Robin goes to dine with the sheriff. While they eat, two of the sheriff’s men wager forty shillings over who is the best archer. A contest is held and Robin, still disguised as a potter is invited to join in.

All they schot abowthe agen,
The screffes men and he;
Off the marke he welde not ffayle,
He cleffed the preke on thre.* *He broke the wooden marker into three parts.

The screffes men thowt gret schame
The potter the mastry wan;
The screffe lowe* and made god game, *Laughed.
And seyde, ‘Potter, thow art a man;

They all wonder how a potter could be so skilled with a bow, so Robin reveals a bow to them given to ‘Robin Hood himself!’

‘Knowest thow Robyn Hode?’ seyde the screffe,
‘Potter, y prey the tell thow me;’
‘A hundred torne* y haffe schot with hem, *turns/bouts
Under hes tortyll-tre*.’ *trysting tree

Robin promises the sheriff to take him there. So next day Robin, still disguised as the potter, takes the sheriff deep into the forest. Robin then blows his horn and is soon surrounded by his band of outlaws. Little John laughs and asks Robin how he fared as a potter. The sheriff soon begins to regret his wish to see Robin Hood.

‘Had I west that befforen* *Known that before.
At Notynggam when we were,
Thow scholde not com yn ffeyre fforest
Of all thes thowsande eyre.*’ *Years.

‘That wot y well,’ seyde Roben,
‘Y thanke God that ye be here;
Thereffore schall ye leffe yowre hors with hos*, *Us.
And all yowre hother gere.’

The outlaws take all the sheriffs belongings and send him back to Nottingham on foot, telling him that he would have suffered a lot worse, if it had not been for his wife’s kindness and hospitality towards Robin.

Hether ye cam on hors ffoll hey*, * At rapid speed.

And hom schall ye go on ffote;
And gret well they weyffe at home,
The woman ys ffoll godde.

The sheriff’s wife laughs loud and long at her husband’s discomfort. The ballad ends with Robin paying for the pots.

Thes partyd Robyn, the screffe, and the potter,
Ondernethe the grene-wod tre;
God haffe Mersey on Roben Hodys sole,
And safe all god yemanrey!

1 comment:

Clement of the Glen said...

Robin Hood And The Potter
Robin Hood Ballads