Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne
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Lesley Nelson-Burns

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This is Child Ballad #118. William Chappell combined this air to the ballad in Popular Music of Olden Times (1859).

The ballad was printed in Percy's Reliques of Ancient Poetry (1765). There is a fragment of a ballad of Guy of Gisborne which is in a manuscript dated 1475 or earlier.

Chappell writes that this tune is included in the English airs in Nederlandetsche Gedenck-Clanck (1626). There the English name is not given. In The Dancing Master (1650-1690) the air is titled, The Chirping of the Lark. Chappell combined this air to Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne because Robin Hood is wakened from his dream by the song of a woodlark.

Three ballads of Robin Hood; The Tale of Robin Hood and the Monk, Robin Hood and the Potter and Robin Hood and Gandeleyn, are in manuscripts that date no later than the fourteenth century. The poem The Lytel Geste of Robin Hood by Winkyn de Worde was printed circa 1495.

Chappell attributes Robin Hood's continual popularity not only to the character of the man and his protection of the oppressed, but also to the facts that archery was encouraged and characters representing Robin Hood and his companions were incorporated into May-day games.

For a complete list of Child Ballads at this site go to Francis J. Child Ballads.

When shawes beene sheene, and
     shradds full fayre,
And leeves both large and longe,
It is merry, walking in the fayre forrest,
To heare the small birds songe.

The woodweele sang, and wold not cease,
Amongst the leaves a lyne:
And it is by two wight yeomen,
By deare God, that I meane.

* * *

Me thought they did mee beate and binde,
And tooke my bow mee froe;
If I bee Robin a-live in this lande,
I'le be wrocken on both them towe."

"Sweavens are swift, master," quoth Iohn,
"As the wind that blowes ore a hill;
For if itt be never soe lowde this night,
To-morrow it may be still."

"Buske yee, bowne yee, my merry men all,
For Iohn shall goe with mee;
For I'le goe seeke yond wight yeomen
In greenwood where the bee."

The cast on their gowne of greene,
A shooting gone are they,
Untill they came to the merry greenwood,
Where they had gladdest bee;
There were the ware of [a] wight yeoman,
His body leaned to a tree.

A sword and a dagger he wore by his side,
Had beene many a mans bane,
And he was cladd in his capull-hyde,
Topp, and tayle, and mayne.

"Stand you still, master," quoth Litle Iohn,
"Under this trusty tree,
And I will goe to yond wight yeomen,
To know his meaning trulye.'

"A, Iohn, by me thou sets noe store,
And that's a ffarley thinge;
How offt send I my men beffore,
And tarry my-selfe behinde?

"It is noe cunning a knave to ken,
And a man but heare him speake;
And itt were not for bursting of my bowe,
Iohn, I wold thy head breake"

But often words they breeden bale,
That parted Robin and Iohn;
Iohn is gone to Barnesdale,
The gates he knowes eche one.

And when hee came to Barnesdale,
Great heavinesse there hee hadd;
He found two of his fellowes
Were slaine both in a slade,

And Scarlett a foote flyinge was,
Over stockes and stone,
For the sheriffe with seven score men
Fast after him is gone.

"Yett one shot, I;le shoote," sayes Litle Iohn,
"with Crist his might and mayne;
I'le make yon fellow that flyes soe fast
To be both glad and faine."

Iohn bent up a good viewe bow,
And fetteled him to shoote;
The bow was made of a tender boughe,
And fell downe to his foote.

"woe worth thee, wicked wood," sayd Litle Iohn,
"That ere thou grew on a tree!
For this day thou art my bale,
My boote when thou shold bee!"

This shoote it was but looselye shott,
The arrowe flew in vaine,
And it mett one of the sheriffes men;
Good William a Trent was slaine.

It had beene better for William a Trent
To hange upon a gallowe
Then for to lye in the greenwoode,
There slaine with an arrowe.

And it is sayd when men be mett,
Six can doe more then three:
And they have tane Litle Iohn,
And bound him fast to a tree.

Thou shalt be drawen by dale and downe,"
     quote the sheriffe,
And hanged hye on a hill:"
"But thou may fayle," quoth Little Iohn,
"If itt be Christs owne will."

Let us leave talking of Litle Iohn,
For hee is bound fast to a tree,
And talke of Guy and Robin Hood,
In the green woode where they bee.

How these two yeomen together they mett,
Under the leaves of lyne,
To see what merchandise they made
Even at that same time.

"Good morrow, good fellow," quoth Sir Guy:
"Good morrow, good fellow," quoth hee;
"Me thinkes by this bow thou beares in thy hand,
A good archer thou seems to bee."

"I am wilful of my way," quoth Sir Guye,
"And of my morning tyde:"
"I'le lead thee through the wood," quoth Robin,
"Good fellow, I'le be thy guide."

"I seeke an outlaw," quoth Sir Guye,
"Men call him Robin Hood;
I had rather meet with him upon a day
Then forty pound of golde."

"If you tow mett it wold be seene
     whether were better
Afore yee did part awaye;
Let us some other pastime find,
Good fellow, I thee pray.

"Let us some other masteryes make,
And wee will walke in the woods even;
Wee may chance meet with Robin Hoode
Att some unsett steven."

They cutt them downe the summer shroggs
Which grew both under a bryar,
And sett them three score rood in twinn,
To shoote the prickes full neare.

"Leade on good fellow," sayd Sir Guye,
"Lead on, I doe bidd thee:"
"Nay by my faith," quoth Robin Hood,
The leader thou shalt bee."

The first good shoot that Robin ledd
Did not shoote an inch the pricke froe;
Guy was an archer good enoughe,
But he cold neere shoote soe.

The seconde shoote Sir Guy shott,
He shott within the garlande;
But Robin Hoode shott it better then hee,
For he clove the good pricke-wande.

"Gods blessing on thy heart!" sayes Guye,
"Goode fellow, thy shooting is goode;
For an thy hart be as good as thy hands,
Thou were better then Robin Hood.

"Tell me thy name, good fellow," quoth Guy,
Under the leaves of lyne:"
"Nay, by my faith," quoth good Robin,
"Till thou have told me thine."

"I dwell by dale and downe," quoth Guye,
"And I have done many a curst turne;
And he that calles me by my right name
Calles me Guye of good Gysborne."

"My dwelling is in the wood," sayes Robin;
"By thee I set right nought;
My name is Robin Hood of Barnesdale,
A fellow thou has long sought."

He that had neither beene a kithe nor kin
Might have seene a full fayre sight,
To see how together these yeomen went,
With blades both browne and bright.

To have seene how these yeomen together fought,
Two howers of a summers day;
Itt was neither Guy nor Robin Hood
That fettled them to flye away.

Robin was reacheles on a roote,
And stumbled at that tyde,
And Guy was quicke and nimble withall,
And hitt him ore the left side.

"Ah, deere Lady!" sayd Robin Hoode,
"Thou art both mother and may!
I thinke it was never mans destinye
To dye before his day."

Robin thought on Our Lady deere,
And soone leapt up againe,
And thus he came with an awkwarde stroke;
Good Sir Guy hee has slayne.

He tooke Sir Guys head by the hayre,
And sticked itt on his bowes end:
"Thou hast beene traytor all thy liffe,
Which thing must have an ende."

Robin pulled forth an Irish kniffe,
And nicked Sir Guy in the face,
That hee was never on a woman borne
Cold tell who Sir Guye was.

Saies, "Lye there, lye there, good Sir Guye,
And with me be not wrothe;
If thou have had the worse stroakes at my hand,
Thou shalt have the better cloathe."

Robin did off his gowne of greene,
Sir Guye hee did it throwe;
And hee put on that capull-hyde,
That cladd him toppe to toe.

"The bowe, the arrowes, and litle horne,
And with me now I'le beare;
For now I will goe to Barnesdale,
To see how my men doe fare."

Robin sett Guyes horne to his mouth,
A lowd blast in it he did blow;
That beheard the sheriffe of Nottingham,
As he leaned under a lowe.

"Hearken! hearken!" sayd the sheriffe,
"I heard noe tydings but good;
For yonder I heare Sir Guyes horne blowe,
For he hath slaine Robin Hoode.

"For yonder I heare Sir Guyes horne blow,
Itt blowes soe well in tyde,
For yonder comes that wighty yoeman,
Cladd in his capull-hyde.

Come hither, thou good Sir Guye,
Aske of me what thou wilt have:"
"I'le none of thy gold." sayes Robin Hood,
"Nor I'll none of it have.

But now I have slaine the master," he sayd,
"Let me goe strike the knave;
This is all the reward I aske,
Nor noe other will I have."

"Thou art a madman," said the shiriffe,
"Thou sholdest have had a knights fee;
Seeing thy asking [hath] beene soe badd,
Well granted it shall be."

But Litle Iohn heard his master speake,
Well he knew that was his steven;
Now shall I be loset," quoth Litle Iohn,
"with Christs might in heaven"

But Robin hee hyed him towards Litle Iohn,
Hee thought hee wold loose hiin believe;
The sheriffe and all his companye
Fast after him did drive.

"Stand abacke! stand abacke!" sayd Robin;
"why draw you mee soe neere?
Itt was never the use in our countrye
One's shrift another shoul heere.

But Robin pulled forth an Iryshe kniffe,
And losed Iohn hand and foote,
And gave him Sir Guyes bow in his hand,
And bade it be his boote

But Iohn tooke Guyes bow in his hand -
His arrowes were rawstye by the roote -;
The sheriffe saw Litke Iohn draw a bow
And fettle him to shoote.

Towards his house in Nottingham
He fled full fast away,
And soe did all his companye,
Not one behind did stay.

But he could neither soe fast goe,
Noraway soe fast runn,
But Litle Iohn, with an arrow broade,
Did cleave his heart in twinn.

Additional Versions
Related Links
From Popular Music of Olden Time, and
The English and Scottish Popular Ballads
See Bibliography for full information.