Robin Hood's Progress to Nottingham


1 The Forresters text opens strangely with the line "Randolph kept Robin fifteen winters." It is hard to believe this is the Randolph, Earle of Chester, mentioned in Piers Plowman as appearing in "rhymes" with (or against) Robin, yet there seems no other link between the names. Perhaps the literary interests evident elsewhere in Forresters inspire a rationalization of the Piers Plowman reference, just as Robin Hood and Will Scarlet seems to rationalize the link between Gamelyn and the king of the outlaws.

7 It is not clear where Robin is coming from. The implication is that the end of the ballad is when he takes to the forest for the first time, so he must be coming to Nottingham from one of the surrounding villages, presumably those to the north, adjacent to or even within Sherwood forest.

11-14 The number of the speakers in this stanza is, according to Child, unclear. He feels that Robin speaks the first and last line, and the foresters the middle two lines, though he admits in his notes it is unlikely "in an older ballad" to have "three speeches in one stanza" (III, 177). But as he places this ballad fairly late, he presumably feels his punctuation is correct. In fact it seems quite improbable. There is no difficulty with Robin speaking the whole stanza, informing the foresters that there is news, and what it is.

15 The earliest text reads ho'd, a dialectal form of "hold."

21 A hundred rod, or five hundred and fifty yards, is about the limit of possible archery skills in the early ballads, especially for a fifteen year old. In the Forresters, no mark is mentioned, just the hart, which is clearer.

28 The broad-headed arrow is used for felling sizeable game, including men. Robin is heavily armed for a shooting-match.

39 Characteristic of Forresters' literary tone is "thou dost provoke us," the Forresters' response instead of the colloquial The wager's none of thine.

54 Presumably the text means that Robin stopped his flight with a near miss, made him run in the other direction back towards his dead colleagues, and then killed him.

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Robin Hood's Progress to Nottingham















Robin Hood hee was and a tall young man,
Derry derry down
And fifteen winters old,
And Robin Hood he was a proper young man,
Of courage stout and bold.
Hey down derry derry down.

Robin Hood he would and to fair Nottingham,
With the general for to dine;
There was he ware of fifteen forresters,
And a drinking bear, ale, and wine.

"What news? What news?" said bold Robin Hood;
"What news, fain wouldest thou know?
Our king hath provided a shooting-match,
And I'm ready with my bow."

"We ho'd it in scorn," then said the forresters,
"That ever a boy so young
Should bear a bow before our king,
That's not able to draw one string."

"I'le hold you twenty marks," said bold Robin Hood,
"By the leave of Our Lady,
That I'le hit a mark a hundred rod,
And I'le cause a hart to dye."

"We'l hold you twenty mark," then said the forresters,
"By the leave of Our Lady,
Thou hitst not the marke a hundred rod,
Nor causest a hart to dye."

Robin Hood he bent up a noble bow,
And a broad arrow he let flye,
He hit the mark a hundred rod,
And he caused a hart to dy.

Some said hee brake ribs one or two,
And some said hee brake three;
The arrow within the hart would not abide,
But it glanced in two or three.

The hart did skip, and the hart did leap,
And the hart lay on the ground.
"The wager is mine," said bold Robin Hood,
"If't were for a thousand pound."

"The wager's none of thine," then said the forresters,
"Although thou beest in haste;
Take up thy bow, and get thee hence,
Lest wee thy sides do baste."

Robin Hood hee took up his noble bow,
And his broad arrows all amain,
And Robin Hood he laught, and begun to smile,
As hee went over the plain.

Then Robin Hood hee bent his noble bow,
And his broad arrows he let flye,
Till fourteen of these fifteen forresters
Upon the ground did lye.

He that did this quarrel first begin,
Went tripping over the plain,
But Robin Hood he bent his noble bow,
And hee fetcht him back again.

"You said I was no archer," said Robin Hood,
"But say so now again."
With that he sent another arrow
That split his head in twain.

"You have found mee an archer," saith Robin Hood,
"Which will make your wives for to wring,
And wish that you had never spoke the word,
That I could not draw one string."

The people that lived in fair Nottingham
Came runing out amain,
Supposing to have taken bold Robin Hood,
With the forresters that were slain.

Some lost legs, and some lost arms,
And some did lose their blood,
But Robin Hood hee took up his noble bow,
And is gone to the merry green wood.

They carryed these forresters into fair Nottingham,
As many there did know;
They digd them graves in their church-yard,
And they buried them all a row.
fit (strong); (see note)

(see note)
To eat with the people


(see note)

hold; (see note)


(see note)

broad-headed; (see note)
550 yards

(see note)




(see note)

[their hands]


Because of


Go to Robin Hood Rescues Three Young Men: Introduction