A Jest Of Robin Hood


Lyth and lystyn, gentilmen,
All that nowe be here;
Of Litell Johnn, that was the knighes man,
Goode myrth ye shall here.

It was upon a mery day
That yonge men wolde go shete;
Lytell Johnn fet his bowe anone,
And sayde he wolde them mete.

Thre tymes Litell Johnn shet aboute,
And alwey he slet the wande;
The proud sherif of Notingham
By the marks can stande.

The sherif swore a full greate othe:
‘By hym that dyede on a tre,
This man is the best arschére
That ever yet sawe I me.

‘Say me nowe, wight yonge man,
What is nowe thy name?
In what countre were thou borne,
And where is thy wonynge wane?’

‘In Holdernes, sir, I was borne,
I-wys al of my dame;
Men cal me Reynolde Grenlef
Whan I am at home.’

‘Sey me, Reynolde Grenelefe,
Wolde thou dwell with me?
And every yere I woll the gyve
Twenty marke to thy fee.’

‘I have a maister,’ sayde Litell Johnn,
‘A curteys knight is he;
May ye lev gete of hym,
The better may it be.’

The sherif gate Litell John
Twelve moneths of the knight;
Therfore he gave him right anone
A gode hors and a wight.

Nowe is Litell John the sherifs man,
God lende vs well to spede!
But alwey thought Lytell John
To quyte hym wele his mede.

‘Nowe so God me help,’ sayde Litell John,
‘And by my true leutye,
I shall be the worst servaunt to hym
That ever yet had he.’

It fell upon a Wednesday
The sherif on huntynge was gone,
And Litel John lay in his bed,
And was foriete at home.

Therfore he was fastinge
Til it was past the none;
‘Gode sir stuarde, I pray to the,
Gyve me my dynere,’ saide Litell John.

‘It is longe for Grenlefe
Fastinge thus for to be;
Therfor I pray the, sir stuarde,
Mi dyner gif me.’

‘Shalt thou never ete ne drynke,’ saide the stuarde,
‘Tyll my lorde be come to towne:’
‘I make myn avowe to God,’ saide Litell John,
‘I had lever to crake thy crowne.’

The boteler was full uncurteys,
There he stode on flore;
He start to the botery
And shet fast the dore.

Lytell Johnn gave the boteler suche a tap
His backe went nere in two;
Though he lived an hundred ier,
The wors shuld he go.

He sporned the dore with his fote;
It went open wel and fyne;
And there he made large lyveray,
Bothe of ale and of wyne.

‘Sith ye wol nat dyne,’ sayde Litell John,
‘I shall gyve you to drinke;
And though ye lyve an hundred wynter,
On Lytel Johnn ye shall thinke.’

Litell John ete, and Litel John drank,
The whil that he wolde;
The sherife had in his kechyn a coke,
A stoute man and a bolde.

‘I make myn avowe to God,’ saide the coke,
‘Thou arte a shrewde hynde
In ani hous for to dwel,
For to aske thus to dyne.’

And there he lent Litell John
God strokis thre;
‘I make myn avowe to God,’ sayde Lytell John,
‘These strokis lyked well me.

‘Thou arte a bolde man and hardy,
And so thinketh me;
And or I pas fro this place
Assayed better shalt thou be.’

Lytell Johnn drew a ful gode sworde,
The coke toke another in hande;
They thought no thynge for to fle,
But stifly for to stande.

There they faught sore togedere
Two myl way and well more;
Myght neyther other harme done,
The mountnaunce of an owre.

‘I make myn avowe to God,’ sayde Litell Johnn,
‘And by my true lewté,
Thou art one of the best sworde-men
That ever yit sawe I me.

‘Cowdest thou shote as well in a bowe,
To gren wode thou shuldest with me,
And two times in the yere thy clothinge
Chaunged shuld be;

‘And every yere of Robyn Hode
Twenty merke to thy fe:’
‘Put up thy swerde,’ saide the coke,
‘And felowes woll we be.’

Thanne he fet to Lytell Johnn
The nowmbles of a do,
Gode brede, and full gode wyne,
They ete and drank theretoo.

And when they had dronkyn well,
Theyre trouths togeder they plight
That they wolde be with Robyn
That ylk same nyght.

They dyd them to the tresoure-hows,
As fast as they myght gone;
The lokks, that were of full gode stele,
They brake them everichone.

They toke away the silver vessell,
And all that thei might get;
Pecis, masars, ne sponis,
Wolde thei not forget.

Also they toke the gode pens,
Thre hundred pounde and more,
And did them streyte to Robyn Hode,
Under the gren wode hore.

‘God the save, my dere mayster,
And Criste the save and se!’
And thanne sayde Robyn to Litel Johnn,
Welcome myght thou be.

‘Also be that fayre yeman
Thou bryngest there with the;
What tydyngs fro Notyngham?
Lytill Johnn, tell thou me.’

‘Well the gretith the proud sheryf,
And sendeth the here by me
His coke and his silver vessell,
And thre hundred pounde and thre.’

‘I make myne avowe to God,’ sayde Robyn,
‘And to the Trenyté,
It was never by his gode wyll
This gode is come to me.’

Lytyll Johnn there hym bethought
On a shrewde wyle;
Fyve myle in the forest he ran,
Hym happed all his wyll.

Than he met the proud sheref,
Huntynge with houndes and horne;
Lytell Johnn coude of curtesye,
And knelyd hym beforne.

‘God the save, my der mayster,
And Criste the save and se!’
‘Reynolde Grenlefe,’ sayde the shryef,
‘Where hast thou nowe be?’

‘I have be in this forest;
A fayre syght can I se;
It was one of the fayrest syghtes
That ever yet sawe I me.

‘Yonder I sawe a ryght fayre harte,
His coloure is of grene;
Seven score of dere upon a herde
Be with hym all bydene.

‘Their tynds are so sharpe, maister,
Of sexty, and well mo,
That I durst not shote for drede,
Lest they wolde me slo.’

‘I make myn avowe to God,’ sayde the shyref,
‘That syght wolde I fayne se:’
‘Buske you thyderwarde, mi der mayster,
Anone, and wende with me.’

The sherif rode, and Litell Johnn
Of fote he was full smerte,
And whane they came before Robyn,
‘Lo, sir, here is the mayster-herte.’

Still stode the proud sherief,
A sory man was he;
‘Wo the worthe, Raynolde Grenlefe,
Thou hast betrayed nowe me.’

‘I make myn avowe to God,’ sayde Litell Johnn,
‘Mayster, ye be to blame;
I was mysserved of my dynere
Whan I was with you at home.’

Sone he was to souper sette,
And served well with silver white,
And whan the sherif sawe his vessell,
For sorowe he myght nat ete.

‘Make glad chere,’ sayde Robyn Hode,
‘Sherif, for charité,
And for the love of Litill Johnn
Thy lyfe I graunt to the.’

Whan they had souped well,
The day was al gone;
Robyn commaunded Litell Johnn
To drawe of his hosen and his shone;

His kirtell and his cote of pie,
That was fured well and fine,
And toke hym a grene mantel,
To lap his body therin.

Robyn commaundyd his wight yonge men,
Under the gren-wode tree,
They shulde lye in that same sute,
That the sherif myght them see.

All nyght lay the proud sherif
In his breche and in his schert;
No wonder it was, in gren wode,
Though his syds gan to smerte.

‘Makeglade chere,’ sayde Robyn Hode,
‘Sheref, for charité;
For this is our ordre i-wys,
Under the gren-wode tree.’

‘This is harder order,’ sayde the sherief,
‘Than any ankir or frere;
For all the golde in mery Englonde
I wolde nat longe dwell her.’

‘All this twelve monthes,’ sayde Robin,
‘Thou shalt dwell with me;
I shall the tech, proud sherif,
An outlaw for to be.’

‘Or I be here another nyght,’ sayde the sherif,
‘Robyn, nowe pray I the,
Smyte of mijn hede rather to-morowe,
And I forgyve it the.

‘Lat me go,’ than sayde the sherif.
‘For saynt charité,
And I woll be the best frende
That ever yet had ye.’

‘Thou shalt swere me an othe,’ sayde Robyn,
‘On my bright bronde;
Shalt thou never awayte me scathe,
By water ne by lande.

‘And if thou fynde any of my men,
By nyght or by day,
Upon thyn oth thou shalt swere
To helpe them that thou may.’

Nowe hathe the sherif sworne his othe,
And home he began to gone;
He was as full of gren wode
As ever was hepe of stone.

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