A True Tale of Robin Hood
No: 154; variant: 154A
- BOTH gentlemen, or yeomen bould,
Or whatsoever you are,
To have a stately story tould,
Attention now prepare.
- It is a tale of Robin Hood,
Which I to you will tell,
Which being rightly understood,
I know will please you well.
- This Robbin, so much talked on,
Was once a man of fame,
Instiled Earle of Huntington,
Lord Robert Hood by name.
- In courtship and magnificence,
His carriage won him prayse,
And greater favor with his prince
Than any in his dayes.
- In bounteous liberality
He too much did excell,
And loved men of quality
More than exceeding well.
- His great revennues all he sould
For wine and costly cheere;
He kept three hundred bowmen bold,
He shooting loved so deare.
- No archer living in his time
With him might well compare;
He practisd all his youthfull prime
That exercise most rare.
- At last, by his profuse expence,
He had consumd his wealth,
And being outlawed by his prince,
In woods he livd by stealth.
- The abbot of Saint Maries rich,
To whom he mony ought,
His hatred to this earle was such
That he his downefall wrought.
- So being outlawed, as ‘tis told,
He with a crew went forth
Of lusty cutters, stout and bold,
And robbed in the North.
- Among the rest, one Little John,
A yeoman bold and free,
Who could, if it stood him upon,
With ease encounter three.
- One hundred men in all he got,
With whom, the story sayes,
Three hundred common men durst not
Hold combate any wayes.
- They Yorkshire woods frequented much,
And Lancashire also,
Wherein their practises were such
That they wrought mickle woe.
- None rich durst travell to and fro,
Though nere so strongly armd,
But by these theeves, so strong in show,
They still were robd and harmd.
- His chiefest spight to the clergie was,
That lived in monstrous pride;
No one of them he would let passe
Along the high-way side,
- But first they must to dinner goe,
And afterwards to shrift:
Full many a one he served so,
Thus while he livd by theft.
- No monkes nor fryers he would let goe,
Without paying their fees:
If they thought much to be usd so,
Their stones he made them leese.
- For such as they the country filld
With bastards in those dayes;
Which to prevent, these sparkes did geld
All that came by their wayes.
- But Robbin Hood so gentle was,
And bore so brave a minde,
If any in distresse did passe,
To them he was so kinde
- That he would give and lend to them,
To helpe them at their neede:
This made all poore men pray for him,
And wish he well might speede.
- The widdow and the fatherlesse
He would send meanes unto,
And those whom famine did oppresse
Found him a friendly foe.
- Nor would he doe a woman wrong,
But see her safe conveid;
He would protect with power strong
All those who crav’d his ayde.
- The abbot of Saint Maries then,
Who him undid before,
Was riding with two hundred men,
And gold and silver store.
- But Robbin Hood upon him set
With his couragious sparkes,
And all the coyne perforce did get,
Which was twelve thousand markes.
- He bound the abbot to a tree,
And would not let him passe
Before that to his men and he
His lordship had sayd masse.
- Which being done, upon his horse
He set him fast astride,
And with his face towards his ar–
He forced him to ride.
- His men were faine to be his guide,
For he rode backward home;
The abbot, being thus villifide,
Did sorely chafe and fume.
- Thus Robbin Hood did vindicate
His former wrongs receivd;
For ‘twas this covetous prelate
That him of land bereavd.
- The abbot he rode to the king
With all the haste he could,
And to his Grace he every thing
Exactly did unfold.
- And sayd if that no course were tane,
By force or stratagem,
To take this rebell and his traine,
No man should passe for them.
- The king protested by and by
Unto the abbot then
That Robbin Hood with speed should dye,
With all his merry men.
- But ere the king did any send,
He did another feate,
Which did his Grace much more offend;
The fact indeed was great.
- For in a short time after that,
The kings receivers went
Towards London with the coyne they got,
For ‘s highnesse northerne rent.
- Bold Robbin Hood and Little John,
With the rest of their traine,
Not dreading law, set them upon,
And did their gold obtaine.
- The king much moved at the same,
And the abbots talke also,
In this his anger did proclaime,
And sent word to and fro,
- That whosoere, alive or dead,
Could bring him Robbin Hood,
Should have one thousand markes, well payd
In gold and silver good.
- This promise of the king did make
Full many yeomen bold
Attempt stout Robbin Hood to take,
With all the force they could.
- But still when any came to him,
Within the gay greene wood,
He entertainement gave to them,
With venison fat and good.
- And shewd to them such martiall sport,
With his long bow and arrow,
That they of him did give report,
How that it was great sorow,
- That such a worthy man as he
Should thus be put to shift,
Being late a lord of high degree,
Of living quite bereft.
- The king, to take him, more and more
Sent men of mickle might,
But he and his still beate them sore,
And conquered them in fight.
- Or else, with love and courtesie,
To him he won their hearts:
Thus still he livd by robbery,
Throughout the northerne parts.
- And all the country stood in dread
Of Robbin Hood and ‘s men;
For stouter lads nere livd by bread,
In those dayes nor since then.
- The abbot which before I nam’d
Sought all the meanes he could
To have by force this rebell tane,
And his adherents bold.
- Therefore he armd five hundred men,
With furniture compleate,
But the outlawes slew halfe of them,
And made the rest retreate.
- The long bow and the arrow keene
They were so usd unto
That still they kept the forest greene,
In spight o th’ proudest foe.
- Twelve of the abbots men he tooke,
Who came him to have tane,
When all the rest the field forsooke;
These he did entertaine
- With banquetting and merriment,
And, having usd them well,
He to their lord them safely sent,
And willd them him to tell
- That if he would be pleasd at last
To beg of our good king
That he might pardon what was past,
And him to favour bring,
- He would surrender backe agen
The money which before
Was taken by him and his men,
From him and many more.
- Poore men might safely passe by him,
And some that way would chuse,
For well they knew that to helpe them
He evermore did use.
- But where he knew a miser rich,
That did the poore oppresse,
To feele his coyne his hand did itch;
Hee’de have it, more or lesse.
- And sometimes, when the high-way fayld,
Then he his courage rouses;
He and his men have oft assayld
Such rich men in their houses.
- So that, through dread of Robbin then
And his adventurous crew ,
The mizers kept great store of men,
Which else maintaynd but few.
- King Richard, of that name the first,
Sirnamed Cuer de Lyon,
Went to defeate the Pagans curst,
Who kept the coasts of Syon.
- The bishop of Ely, chancelor,
Was left as vice-roy here,
Who like a potent emperor,
Did proudly domminere.
- Our chronicles of him report
That commonly he rode
With a thousand horse from court to court,
Where he would make abode.
- He, riding downe towards the north,
With his aforesayd traine,
Robbin and his did issue forth,
Them all to entertaine.
- And, with the gallant gray-goose wing,
They shewed to them such play,
That made their horses kicke and fling,
And downe their riders lay.
- Full glad and faine the bishop was,
For all his thousand men,
To seeke what meanes he could to passe
From out of Robbins ken.
- Two hundred of his men were kil’d,
And fourscore horses good;
Thirty, who did as captives yeeld,
Were carryed to the greene wood.
- Which afterwards were ransomed,
For twenty markes a man;
The rest set spurres to horse, and fled
To th’ town of Warrington.
- The bishop, sore enraged then,
Did, in King Richards name,
Muster a power of northerne men,
These outlawes bold to tame.
- But Robbin, with his courtesie,
So wonne the meaner sort,
That they were loath on him to try
What rigor did import.
- So that bold Robbin and his traine
Did live unhurt of them,
Vntill King Richard came againe
From faire Jerusalem.
- And then the talke of Robbin Hood
His royall eares did fill;
His Grace admir’d that ith’ greene wood
He thus continued still.
- So that the country farre and neare
Did give him great applause;
For none of them neede stand in feare,
But such as broke the lawes.
- He wished well unto the king,
And prayed still for his health,
And never practised any thing
Against the common wealth.
- Onely, because he was undone
By th’ crewell clergie then,
All meanes that he could thinke upon
To vexe such kinde of men
- He enterprized, with hatefull spleene;
In which he was to blame,
For fault of some, to wreeke his teene
On all that by him came.
- With wealth which he by robbery got
Eight almes-houses he built,
Thinking thereby to purge the blot
Of blood which he had spilt.
- Such was their blinde devotion then,
Depending on their workes;
Which, it ‘twere true, we Christian men
Inferiour were to Turkes.
- But, to speak true of Robbin Hood,
And wrong him not a iot,
He never would shed any mans blood
That him invaded not.
- Nor would he iniure husbandmen,
That toyld at cart and plough;
For well he knew, were ‘t not for them,
To live no man knew how.
- The king in person, with some lords,
To Notingham did ride,
To try what strength and skill affords
To crush these outlawes pride.
- And, as he once before had done,
He did againe proclaime,
That whosoere would take upon
To bring to Notingham,
- Or any place within the land,
Rebellious Robbin Hood,
Should be preferd in place to stand
With those of noble blood.
- When Robbin Hood heard of the same,
Within a little space,
Into the towne of Notingham
A letter to his Grace
- He shot upon an arrow-head,
One evening cunningly;
Which was brought to the king, and read
Before his Maiestie.
- The tennour of this letter was,
That Robbin would submit,
And be true leigeman to his Grace,
In any thing that’s fit,
- So that his Highnesse would forgive
Him and his merry men all;
If not, he must i th’ greene wood live,
And take what chance did fall.
- The king would faine have pardoned him,
But that some lords say,
This president will much condemne
Your Grace another day.
- While that the king and lords did stay
Debating on this thing,
Some of these outlawes fled away
Unto the Scottish king.
- For they supposed, if he were tane,
Or to the king did yeeld,
By th’ commons all the rest on ‘s traine
Full quickely would be quelld.
- Of more than full a hundred men
But forty tarryed still,
Who were resolvd to sticke to him,
Let fortune worke her will.
- If none had fled, all for his sake
Had got their pardon free;
The king to favour meant to take
His merry men and he.
- But ere the pardon to him came,
This famous archer dy’d:
His death, and manner of the same,
I’le presently describe.
- For, being vext to thinke upon
His followers revolt,
In melancholly passion
He did recount their fault.
- ‘Perfideous traytors!’ sayd he then,
‘In all your dangers past
Have I you guarded as my men
To leave me thus at last?’
- This sad perplexity did cause
A fever, as some say,
Which him unto confusion drawes,
Though by a stranger way.
- This deadly danger to prevent,
He hide him with all speede
Vnto a nunnery, with intent
For his healths sake to bleede.
- A faithlesse fryer did pretend
In love to let him blood;
But he by falshood wrought the end
Of famous Robbin Hood .
- The fryer, as some say, did this
To vindicate the wrong
Which to the clergie he and his
Had done by power strong.
- Thus dyed he by trechery,
That could not dye by force;
Had he livd longer, certainely,
King Richard, in remorse,
- Had unto favour him receavd;
He brave men elevated;
‘Tis pitty he was of life bereavd
By one which he so hated.
- A treacherous leech this fryer was,
To let him bleed to death;
And Robbin was, me thinkes, an asse,
To trust him with his breath.
- His corpes the priores of the place,
The next day that he dy’d,
Caused to be buried, in mean case,
Close by the high-way side.
- And over him she caused a stone
To be fixed on the ground;
An epitaph was set thereon,
Wherein his name was found.
- The date o th’ yeare, and day also,
Shee made to be set there,
That all who by the way did goe
Might see it plaine appeare
- That such a man as Robbin Hood
Was buried in that place;
And how he lived in the greene wood,
And robd there for a space.
- It seems that although the clergie he
Had put to mickle woe,
He should not quite forgotten be,
Although he was their foe.
- This woman, though she did him hate,
Yet loved his memory;
And thought it wondrous pitty that
His fame should with him dye.
- This epitaph, as records tell,
Within this hundred yeares
By many was discerned well,
But time all things outweares.
- His followers, when he was dead,
Were some received to grace;
The rest to forraigne countries fled,
And left their native place.
- Although his funerall was but meane,
This woman had in minde
Least his fame should be buried cleane
From those that came behind.
- For certainely, before nor since,
No man ere understood,
Vnder the reigne of any prince,
Of one like Robbin Hood.
- Full thirteene yeares, and something more,
These outlawes lived thus,
Feared of the rich, loved of the poore,
A thing most marvelous.
- A thing impossible to us
This story seemes to be;
None dares be now so venturous;
But times are chang’d, we see.
- We that live in these latter dayes
Of civill government,
If neede be, have a hundred wayes
Such outlawes to prevent.
- In those dayes men more barbarous were,
And lived lesse in awe;
Now, God be thanked! people feare
More to offend the law.
- No roaring guns were then in use,
They dreampt of no such thing;
Our English men in fight did chuse
The gallant gray-goose wing.
- In which activity these men,
Through practise, were so good,
That in those dayes non equald them,
Specially Robbin Hood.
- So that, it seemes, keeping in caves,
In woods and forrests thicke,
Thei’d beate a multitude with staves,
Their arrowes did so pricke.
- And none durst neare unto them come,
Unlesse in courtesie;
All such he bravely would send home,
With mirth and iollity.
- Which courtesie won him such love,
As I before have told;
‘Twas the cheefe cause that he did prove
More prosperous than he could.
- Let us be thankefull for these times
Of plenty, truth, and peace,
And leave our great and horrid crimes,
Least they cause this to cease.
- I know there’s many fained tales
Of Robbin Hood and ‘s crew;
But chronicles, which seldome fayles,
Reports this to be true.
- Let none then thinke this a lye,
For, if ‘twere put to th’ worst,
They may the truth of all discry
I th’ raigne of Richard the first.
- If any reader please to try,
As I direction show,
The truth of this brave history,
Hee’l finde it true I know.
- And I shall thinke my labour well
Bestowed, to purpose good,
When ‘t shall be sayd that I did tell
True tales of Robbin Hood.
- Robert Earle of Huntington
Lies under this little stone.
No archer was like him so good:
His wildnesse named him Robbin Hood.
Full thirteene yeares, and something more,
These northerne parts he vexed sore.
Such out-lawes as he and his men
May England never know agen.