Robin Hoode his Death

I have posted this for Adele Treskillard who has a strong interest in the Robin Hood legend and the site of his grave. The link to her excellent web site can be found amongst my favourite blog links.

In the eighteenth century, Thomas Percy (1729-1811), Bishop of Dromore, rescued a manuscript from a Shropshire house, which contained two of the most intriguing Robin Hood ballads, ‘Robin Hoode his Death’ and ‘Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne.’ These are chance survivals. ‘Robin Hoode his Death’ appears to have been known to the compiler of the Geste and ‘Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne is connected with the dramatic fragment of the late fifteenth century.

This mid-seventeenth century copy of ‘Robin Hoode his Death’ is in a mutilated state with sections of the ballad badly torn away in three places.

The ballad begins:
‘I will never eate nor drinke,’ Robin Hood said,
‘Nor meate will doo me noe good,
Till I have beene att merry Church Lees,
My vaines for to let blood.’

‘That I reade [advise] not,’ said Will Scarllett,
‘Master, by the assente of me,
Without halfe a hundred of your best bowman
You take to goe with yee.

Robin will only take Little John to carry his bow. But John insists that Robin should carry his own bow and shoot for pennies, which they eventually do all day long.

They two bolde children shotten together
All day theire selfe in ranke,
Untill they came to blacke water,
And over it laid a planke.

Upon it there kneeled an old woman,
Was banning Robin Hoode;
‘Why dost thou bann Robin Hoode?’ said Robin

(Half a page missing)


‘To give to Robin Hoode;
Wee weepen for his deare body,
That this day must be let bloode.’

‘The dame prior is my aunts daughter,
And nie unto my kinne;
I know shee wold me noe harme this day,
For all the world to winne.’

Upon reaching Church Lees, Robin gives the Prioress twenty pounds in gold and promises her more if she needs it.

And downe then came dame prioresse,
Downe she came in that ilke,
With a pair off blood irons [lancing knives] in her hands
Were wrapped all in silke.

‘Sett a chaffing-dish to the fyer,’ said dame prioresse,
‘And strpp thou up thy sleeve:’
I hold him but an unwise man
That wil noe warning leeve [believe].’

Shee laid the blood irons to Robin Hoods vaine,
Alacke, the more pitye!
And pearct the vaine, and let out the bloode,
That full red was to see.

And first it bled, the thicke, thicke bloode,
And afterwards the thinne,
And well then wist good Robin Hoode
Treason there was within

‘What cheere my master?’ said Litle John;
‘In faith, John, little goode;’

(Half a page is missing)

Nine stanzas are now missing from the manuscript; next Robin appears to be talking to ‘Red Roger.’

‘I have upon a gowne of greene,
Is cut short by my knee,
And in my hand a bright browne brand
That will well bite of thee.’

As Robin tries to escape through a shot window, Red Roger thrusts him through the side with a sword. But Robin in return, strikes him ‘betwixt his head and his shoulders.’

Says, ‘Ly there, ly there Red Roger,
The dogs they must thee eate:
‘For I may have my houzle[ housel; receive the last sacraments], he said,
‘For I may both goe and speake.’

Little John asks Robin to give him leave to burn Church Lees to the ground.

‘That I reade not,’ said Robin Hoode then,
Litle John, for it may not be;
If I shold doe any widow hurt, at my latter end,
God,’ he said, ‘wold blame me;

‘But take me upon thy backe, Litle John,
And beare me to yonder streete,
And there make me a full fayre grave,
Of gravell and of greete [grit].

‘And sett my bright sword at my head,
Mine arrows at my feete,
And lay my vew-bow [yew-bow] by my side,
My met-yard [measuring rod] wi ………………………
(Half a page is missing)

1 comment:

Clement Glen said...

Robin Hood Ballads
Robin Hoode his Death