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Adam Bell, Clim of the Clough, and William of Cloudesley


Abbreviations: A = John Byddell (c. 1536); B = Wynkyn de Worde (c. 1510); C = Copeland (c. 1550).

7 the. Child emends to thre as the outlaws are consistently mentioned as a threesome, but while this makes sense it does not seem necessary.

16 Englysshe wood. Child prints the name without a gap, presumably on the model of Inglewood, the usual name for this forest. It is mentioned in the first quasi-historical reference to Robin Hood and Little John, that is, in the chronicle by Andrew of Wyntoun written in the 1420s; it is also a forest of adventure in The Awntyrs of Arthur, a fifteenth-century alliterative poem. However, little is made of the forest as a location in this ballad.

50 The source reads "In woulde," and while a construction could begin this way, it is more likely that "In" is an error for "I," as Child emends.

74 saye. Child emends to sayne for the sake of the rhyme, which seems unnecessary.

80 Child inserts as (not in any of the sources) after fast, but this is an acceptable Middle English condensed idiom and the emendation is not necessary.

84 Child inserts they (not in any of the sources) before hyed, presumably on metrical grounds, but this is not necessary.

95 hys. A: hy.

99 commeth. Not cometh, as Child has it.

132 bow. A: bo.

133 spercles is an unusual version of "sparks," here apparently meaning "embers."

174 there. Child emends to fayre and Dobson and Taylor (1976, p. 264) add fayre to there. There seems no ground for either of these versions.

191 reste. A: reate. Child spells it as reaste as if the s has dropped out, rather than being misread by A, which is more likely.

204 Child leaves a gap here, but does not insert a fitt marker. He does the same at each later fitt break.

211 At this point Child begins to use the source he calls B, a fragmentary print which does appear to have some good readings, but is not here always accepted, as C seems in several instances better.

227 Child's source B provides two before messengers, but C seems to have the sharper line and is accepted here.

228 come ryght. This is the C reading, where the B fragment has comen streyght which, like two in the previous line, seems the sort of expansion and banalization that comes with a later text.

241 Child prints got from B after have; this (as in line 228) seems a weaker reading and is here not accepted.

249 Child follows B in reading Now we are in (though Now is from C, as B here is cropped). However, the C reading Now are we in is better Middle English, inverting subject and verb after an initial conjunction or adverbial. Therefore C is accepted.

250 Child prints Therof, but in fact C, from which he draws the initial letter (B is still cropped), has Wherof.

268 lyeth is Child's reading, which is accepted; it is presumably an emendation of C which reads lyveth (B lacks lines 268-70), an inappropriate term for being in captivity compared with the familiar collocation with lie: see line 277, where William lay in a cart.

270 This action is a preparation for shooting seriously; if the bow strings are twisted, not running straight between the two ends of the bow, the arrow may veer off course.

275 swerers. B's reading is clearly much better than C and the rest with the meaningless squyeres: the swerers, or jurors, formed the jury.

285 Clowdyslé, not as Child has it Clowdeslye.

293 This is a five-line stanza, presumably because the author added a rhyming line, thinking market place ended the second, not third line. This casts some light on the irregularities found elsewhere, when it does not always seem that a line is missing when a stanza is deficient.

301-30 Child is again using B and providing the opening words from C as the B leaf is cropped in these lines.

346 an oute-horne. Skeat suggested this should be emended to a noute-horne, that is, a horn which was sounded at need (noute). Child accepted this, but it is clear (as Dobson and Taylor note, 1976, p. 267) that an "out horn" was sounded to bring every body out in the streets, and the text can stand.

347 A peal of bells is rung "backward," that is, out of their usual order, for an alarm.

353 For theyr lyves stode in doubt. The more elaborate C version For of theyr lyves they stode in great doubt appears derived from B, and the C editor or compositor has personalized the idiom "to stand in doubt." Therefore, Child's B reading is accepted here.

360 yll, from B, seems a better reading than C's evyll: yll implies an injury, but evyll is less well focussed.

394 The B fragment here lacks the word wepe at the end of the line, but although this is an elaboration, the line seems so much weaker without it, that it is accepted.

402 Child feels there is a line missing, and employs one found in a later print. This is accepted here, though it is curious that, as in a number of other cases where the regular four-line-stanza pattern seems disrupted, the rhyme scheme is related to a line in the previous stanza. Could this in fact be an irregular seven-line stanza? While this is conceivable, it seems simpler to print, following Child, the extra line.

406 The B fragment only has chyldre but although this, a version of childer, is an acceptable plural for child, the text is cropped hereabouts: the final n, found in C, has probably been lost, and is printed here. However, B is unlikely to have had room for thre before clipping, and this is omitted as a C filler.

452 At this point Child adopts the A fragment as a basis of his text, and this is followed here; it is distinctly earlier than Copland's C text and has some good readings.

455 Child finds chyde invisible and adds it from a later text, but it is in fact just readable.

480 deed. Child emends the spelling to dead, but deed is perfectly acceptable as a spelling.

512 A reads toures and towne and while this might seem a sensible reading, the king does shortly refer to townes being on offer (line 519), so Child's plural emendation seems sensible.

525 C reads they comfort not comfort they as Child has it.

527 For the cultural significance of hand washing before a meal, see the note to line 164 of Robin Hood and the Potter. See also lines 125 and 921 in the Gest.

536 fare. Child emends to fareth, but in fact the subject is plural, being both justice and, in the next line, sherife.

546 than. MS: an. Emended by Child to than, as is found in later texts and seems essential.

576 With the C text Child reads buske but this would make a very dramatic historic present, not supported by anything else in context, and it seems the later texts are right to use a past tense busked.

594 This describes the hardest test of shooting; elsewhere (see Gest, lines 1165-66, 1600-01) archers aimed simply at peeled wands set in the ground. Sometimes the wands carried circular targets, like wreaths, but even then to split the wands was the greatest skill.

602 a bearyng arow, as Dobson and Taylor note (1976, p. 271), is the opposite of a "broad arrow," and is designed for distance rather than causing damage; it is also called a "flight arrow." When William uses a "broad" or heavy arrow to split the apple (line 614) the range of 120 paces makes the feat all the more remarkable.

637 lange. Child emends to longe for rhyme, but this is unnecessary in the context of the relaxed practices of ballad rhyming.

642 The A fragment is used by Child as the basis of his text until the end of the text, see note to line 452.

673 The A text alone says To Rome streyght wyll we wende, and Dobson and Taylor suggest that the fact that it is torn after this point is a result of this Catholic statement (1976, p. 273). However, if sectarian feeling had interfered with the text, it would be probable that the Catholic statement would be destroyed, and casual damage is a more likely reason for the missing lines. Sectarianism is, however, evident in the fact that all the post-reformation texts read To some bishop we will wende.










































































































































Fitt 1

Mery it was in grene forest,
Amonge the leves grene,
Where that men walke both east and west,
Wyth bowes and arrowes kene,

To ryse the dere out of theyr denne;
Suche sightes as hath ofte bene sene,
As by the yemen of the north countrey,
By them it is as I meane.

The one of them hight Adam Bel,
The other Clym of the Clough,
The thyrd was William of Cloudesly,
An archer good ynough.

They were outlawed for venyson,
These thre yemen everechone;
They swore them brethen upon a day,
To Englysshe wood for to gone.

Now lith and lysten, gentylmen,
And that of myrthes loveth to here:
Two of them were single men,
The third had a wedded fere.

Wyllyam was the wedded man,
Muche more then was hys care:
He sayde to hys brethen upon a day,
To Carelel he would fare,

For to speke with fayre Alse hys wife,
And with hys chyldren thre:
"By my trouth," sayde Adam Bel,
"Not by the counsell of me."

"For if ye go to Caerlel, brother,
And from thys wylde wode wende,
If the justice mai you take,
Your lyfe were at an ende."

"If that I come not to morowe, brother,
By pryme to you agayne,
Truste not els but that I am take,
Or else that I am slayne."

He toke hys leave of hys brethen two,
And to Carlel he is gone;
There he knocked at hys owne wyndowe,
Shortlye and anone.

"Wher be you, fayre Alyce my wyfe,
And my chyldren three?
Lyghtly let in thyne husbande,
Wyllyam of Cloudeslé."

"Alas!" then sayde fayre Alyce,
And syghed wonderous sore,
"Thys place hath ben besette for you
Thys halfe yere and more."

"Now am I here," sayde Cloudeslé,
"I woulde that I in were;
Now feche us meate and drynke ynoughe,
And let us make good chere."

She feched him meat and drynke plenty,
Lyke a true wedded wyfe,
And pleased hym with that she had,
Whome she loved as her lyfe.

There lay an old wyfe in that place,
A lytle besyde the fyre,
Whych Wyllyam had found, of cherytye,
More then seven yere.

Up she rose, and walked full styll,
Evel mote she spede therefoore!
For she had not set no fote on ground
In seven yere before.

She went unto the justice hall,
As fast as she could hye:
"Thys nyght is come unto thys town
Wyllyam of Cloudeslé."

Thereof the justice was full fayne,
And so was the shirife also:
"Thou shalt not travaile hether, dame, for nought;
Thy meed thou shalt have or thou go."

They gave to her a ryght good goune,
Of scarlat it was, as I heard saye;
She toke the gyft, and home she wente,
And couched her doune agayne.

They rysed the towne of mery Carlel,
In all the hast that they can,
And came thronging to Wyllyames house,
As fast they might gone.

Theyr they besette that good yeman,
Round about on every syde;
Wyllyam hearde great noyse of folkes,
That heytherward hyed.

Alyce opened a shot wyndow,
And loked all about;
She was ware of the justice and the shrife bothe,
Wyth a full great route.

"Alas! treason," cryed Alyce,
"Ever wo may thou be!
Go into my chambre, my husband," she sayd,
"Swete Wyllyam of Cloudeslé."

He toke hys sweard and hys bucler,
Hys bow and hys chyldren thre,
And wente into hys strongest chamber,
Where he thought surest to be.

Fayre Alice folowed him as a lover true,
With a pollaxe in her hande:
"He shalbe deade that here commeth in
Thys dore, whyle I may stand."

Cloudeslé bent a wel good bowe,
That was of trusty tre,
He smot the justice on the brest,
That hys arrowe brest in thre.

"God's curse on his hartt," saide William,
"Thys day thy cote dyd on;
If it had ben no better than myne,
It had gone nere thy bone."

"Yelde the, Cloudeslé," sayd the justise,
"And thy bowe and thy arrowes the fro."
"Gods curse on hys hart," sayde fair Alice,
"That my husband councelleth so."

"Set fyre on the house," saide the sherife,
"Syth it wyll no better be,
And brenne we therin William," he saide,
"Hys wyfe and chyldren thre."

They fyred the house in many a place,
The fyre flew upon hye;
"Alas!" than cryed fayr Alice,
"I se we shall here dy."

William openyd hys backe wyndow,
That was in hys chambre on hye,
And wyth shetes let hys wyfe downe,
And hys chyldren thre.

"Have here my treasure," sayde William,
"My wyfe and my chyldren thre;
For Christes love do them no harme,
But wreke you all on me."

Wyllyam shot so wonderous well,
Tyll hys arrowes were all go,
And the fyre so fast upon hym fell,
That hys bow stryng brent in two.

The spercles brent and fell hym on,
Good Wyllyam of Cloudeslé;
But than was he a wofull man and sayde,
"Thys is a cowardes death to me.

"Lever I had," sayde Wyllyam,
"With my sworde in the route to renne,
Then here among myne ennemyes wode
Thus cruelly to bren."

He toke hys sweard and hys buckler,
And among them all he ran;
Where the people were most in prece,
He smot downe many a man.

There myght no man stand hys stroke,
So fersly on them he ran;
Then they threw wyndowes and dores on him,
And so toke that good yeman.

There they hym bounde both hand and fote,
And in depe dongeon hym cast;
"Now, Cloudeslé," sayde the hye justice,
"Thou shalt be hanged in hast."

"One vow shal I make," sayde the sherife,
"A payre of new galowes shall I for the make,
And al the gates of Caerlel shalbe shutte,
There shall no man come in therat.

"Then shall not helpe Clim of the Cloughe,
Nor yet Adam Bell,
Though they came with a thousand mo,
Nor all the devils in hell."

Early in the mornyng the justice uprose,
To the gates fast gan he gon,
And commaunded to be shut full cloce
Lightlie everychone.

Then went he to the market-place,
As fast as he coulde hye;
A payre of new gallous there dyd he up set,
Besyde the pyllory.

A lytle boy stod them amonge,
And asked what meaned that gallow-tre;
They sayde, "To hange a good yeaman,
Called Wyllyam of Cloudeslé."

That lytle boye was the towne swyne-heard,
And kept there Alyce swyne;
Full oft he had sene Cloudeslé in the wodde,
And geven hym there to dyne.

He went out of a creves in the wall,
And lightly to the woode dyd gone;
There met he with these wyght yonge men,
Shortly and anone.

"Alas!" then sayde that lytle boye,
"Ye tary here all to longe;
Cloudeslé is taken and dampned to death,
All readye for to honge."

"Alas!" then sayde good Adam Bell,
"That ever we see thys daye!
He myght her with us have dwelled,
So ofte as we dyd him praye.

"He myght have taryed in grene foreste,
Under the shadowes sheene,
And have kepte both hym and us in reste,
Out of trouble and teene."

Adam bent a ryght good bow,
A great hart sone had he slayne;
"Take that, chylde," he sayde, "to thy dynner,
And bryng me myne arrowe agayne."

"Now go we hence," sayed these wight yong men,
"Tary we no lenger here;
We shall hym borowe, by Gods grace,
Though we bye it full dere."

To Caerlel went these good yemen,
In a mery mornyng of Maye:
Her is a fyt of Cloudesli,
And another is for to saye.

Fitt 2

And when they came to mery Caerlell,
In a fayre mornyng tyde,
They founde the gates shut them untyll,
Round about on every syde.

"Alas!" than sayd good Adam Bell,
"That ever we were made men!
These gates be shyt so wonderly well,
That we may not come herein."

Than spake Clymme of the Cloughe:
"With a wyle we wyll us in brynge;
Let us say we be messengers,
Streyght comen from oure kynge."

Adam sayd, "I have a lettre wryten wele,
Now let us wysely werke;
We wyll say we have the kynges seale,
I holde the porter no clerke."

Than Adam Bell bete on the gate,
With strokes greate and stronge;
The porter herde such a noyse therate,
And to the gate he thronge.

"Who is there nowe," sayde the porter,
"That maketh all this knockynge?"
"We be messengers," sayd Clymme of the Clough,
"Be come ryght frome our kynge."

"We have a letter," sayd Adam Bell,
"To the justyce we must it brynge
Let us in oure message to do,
That we were agayne to our kyng."

"Here cometh none in," sayd the porter,
"By Hym that dyed on a tre,
Tyll a false thefe be hanged,
Called Wyllyam of Cloudeslé."

Than spake that good yeman, Clym of the Cloughe,
And swore by Mary fre,
If that we stande long wythout,
Lyke a thefe hanged shalt thou be.

Lo! here we have the kynges seale;
What, lordane, arte thou wode?
The porter had wende it had been so,
And lyghtly dyd of hys hode.

"Welcome be my lordes seale," sayd he,
"For that shall ye come in."
He opened the gate ryght shortly,
An evyl openynge for hym!

"Now are we in," sayde Adam Bell,
"Wherof we are full fayne;
But Cryst knoweth that herowed hell,
How we shall come oute agayne."

"Had we the keys," sayd Clym of the Clowgh,
"Ryght well than sholde we spede;
Than myght we come out well ynough,
Whan we se tyme and nede."

They called the porter to a councell,
And wronge hys necke in two,
And kest hym in a depe dongeon,
And toke the keys hym fro.

"Now am I porter," sayd Adam Bell;
"Se, broder, the keys have we here;
The worste porter to mery Carlell,
That ye had this hondreth yere.

"Now wyll we oure bowes bende,
Into the towne wyll we go,
For to delyver our dere broder,
Where he lyeth in care and wo."

Then they bent theyr good yew bowes,
And loked theyr stringes were round;
The market-place of mery Carlyll,
They beset in that stounde.

And as they loked them besyde,
A payre of newe galowes there they se,
And the justyce, with a quest of swerers,
That had juged Clowdyslé there hanged to be.

And Clowdyslé hymselfe lay redy in a carte,
Fast bounde bothe fote and hande,
And a strong rope aboute his necke,
All redy for to be hangde.

The justyce called to hym a ladde;
Clowdysles clothes sholde he have,
To take the mesure of that good yoman,
And therafter to make his grave.

"I have sene as greate a merveyll," sayd Clowdyslé,
"As bytwene this and pryme,
He that maketh thys grave for me,
Hymselfe may lye therin."

"Thou spekest proudely," sayd the justyce,
"I shall hange the with my hande."
Full well that herde his bretheren two,
There styll as they dyd stande.

Than Clowdyslé cast hys eyen asyde,
And sawe hys bretheren stande,
At a corner of the market place,
With theyr good bowes bent in theyr hand,
Redy the justyce for to chase.

"I se good comforte," sayd Clowdyslé,
"Yet hope I well to fare;
If I myght have my handes at wyll,
Ryght lytell wolde I care."

Than bespake good Adam Bell,
To Clymme of the Clowgh so fre;
"Broder, see ye marke the justyce well;
Lo yonder ye may him se.

And at the sheryf shote I wyll,
Strongly with an arowe kene."
A better shotte in mery Carlyll,
Thys seven yere was not sene.

They loused theyr arowes bothe at ones,
Of no man had they drede;
The one hyt the justyce, the other the sheryf,
That bothe theyr sydes gan blede.

All men voyded that them stode nye,
Whan the justyce fell to the grounde,
And the sheryf fell nyghe hym by;
Eyther had his dethes wounde.

All the citezens fast gan fle,
They durste no lenger abyde;
There lyghtly they loused Clowdyslé,
Where he with ropes lay tyde.

Wyllyam sterte to an offycer of the towne,
Hys axe out his hande he wronge;
On eche syde he smote them downe,
Hym thought he had taryed to longe.

Wyllyam sayd to his bretheren two,
Thys daye let us togyder lyve and deye;
If ever you have nede as I have nowe,
The same shall ye fynde by me.

They shyt so well in that tyde,
For theyr strynges were of sylke full sure,
That they kepte the stretes on every syde;
That batayll dyd longe endure.

They fought togyder as bretheren true,
Lyke hardy men and bolde;
Many a man to the grounde they threwe,
And made many an herte colde.

But whan theyr arowes were all gone,
Men presyd on them full fast;
They drewe theyr swerdes than anone,
And theyr bowes from them caste.

They wente lyghtly on theyr waye,
With swerdes and buckelers rounde,
By that it was the myddes of the daye,
They had made many a wounde.

There was many an oute-horne in Carlyll blowen,
And the belles backwarde dyd they rynge;
Many a woman sayd "Alas,"
And many theyr handes dyd wrynge.

The mayre of Carlyll forth come was,
And with hym a full grete route;
These thre yomen dredde hym full sore,
For theyr lyves stode in doubt.

The mayre came armed a full greate pace,
With a pollaxe in hys hande;
Many a stronge man with hym was,
There in that stoure to stande.

The mayre smote at Clowdyslé with his byll,
His buckeler he brast in two;
Full many a yoman with grete yll,
"Alas, treason!" they cryed for wo.
"Kepe we the gates fast," they bad,
"That these traytours theroute not go."

But all for nought was that they wrought,
For so fast they downe were layde
Tyll they all thre, that so manfully fought,
Were goten without at a brayde.

"Have here your keys," sayd Adam Bell,
"Myne offyce I here forsake;
Yf ye do by my councell,
A newe porter ye make."

He threwe the keys there at theyr hedes,
And bad them evyll to thryve,
And all that letteth ony good yoman
To come and comforte his wyve.

Thus be these good yomen gone to the wode,
As lyght as lefe on lynde;
They laughe and be mery in theyr mode,
Theyr enemyes were farre behynde.

Whan they came to Inglyswode,
Under theyr trysty-tre,
There they founde bowes full gode,
And arowes greate plenté.

"So helpe me God," sayd Adam Bell,
And Clymme of the Clowgh so fre,
"I wolde we were nowe in mery Carlell,
Before that fayre meyné."

They set them downe and made good chere,
And eate and dranke full well:
Here is a fytte of these wyght yongemen,
And another I shall you tell.

Fitt 3

As they sat in Inglyswode,
Under theyr trysty-tre,
Them thought they herde a woman wepe,
But her they myght not se.

Sore syghed there fayre Alyce, and sayd,
"Alas that ever I se this daye!
For now is my dere husbonde slayne,
Alas and welawaye!

"Myght I have spoken wyth hys dere bretheren,
With eyther of them twayne,
To shew to them what him befell
My herte were out of payne."

Clowdyslé walked a lytell besyde,
And loked under the grene wodde lynde;
He was ware of his wyfe and his chyldren,
Full wo in herte and mynde.

"Welcome, wyfe," than sayd Wyllyam,
"Unto this trysty-tre;
I had wende yesterdaye, by swete Saint John,
Thou sholde me never have se."

"Now wele is me," she sayd, "that ye be here,
My herte is out of wo."
"Dame," he sayd, "be mery and glad,
And thanke my bretheren two."

"Here of to speke," sayd Adam Bell,
"I wys it is no bote;
The meat that we must supp withall,
It runneth yet fast on fote."

Then went they down into a launde,
These noble archares all thre,
Eche of them slewe a harte of grece,
The best they coude there se.

"Have here the best, Alyce my wyfe,"
Sayde Wyllyam of Clowdyslé,
"By cause ye so boldely stode me by,
Whan I was slayne full nye."

Than they wente to theyr souper,
Wyth suche mete as they had,
And thanked God of theyr fortune;
They were bothe mery and glad.

And whan they had souped well,
Certayne withouten leace,
Clowdyslé sayde, "We wyll to oure kynge,
To get us a chartre of peace."

"Alyce shal be at sojournynge,
In a nunry here besyde;
My tow sonnes shall with her go,
And ther they shall abyde.

"Myne eldest sone shall go with me,
For hym have I no care,
And he shall breng you worde agayne
How that we do fare."

Thus be these wight men to London gone,
As fast as they maye hye,
Tyll they came to the kynges palays,
There they woulde nedes be.

And whan they came to the kynges courte,
Unto the pallace gate,
Of no man wold they aske leve,
But boldly went in therat.

They preced prestly into the hall,
Of no man had they dreade;
The porter came after and dyd them call,
And with them began to chyde.

The ussher sayd, "Yemen, what wolde ye have?
I praye you tell me;
Ye myght thus make offycers shent:
Good syrs, of whens be ye?"

"Syr, we be outlawes of the forest,
Certayne withouten leace,
And hyther we be come to our kynge,
To get us a charter of peace."

And whan they came before our kynge,
As it was the lawe of the lande,
They kneled downe without lettynge,
And eche helde up his hande.

They sayd, "Lorde, we beseche you here,
That ye wyll graunte us grace,
For we have slayne your fatte falowe dere,
In many a sondry place."

"What is your names?" than sayd our kynge,
"Anone that you tell me."
They sayd, "Adam Bell, Clym of the Clough,
And Wylliam of Clowdeslé."

"Be ye those theves," than sayd our kynge,
"That men have tolde of to me?
Here to God I make a vowe,
Ye shall be hanged all thre.

"Ye shall be deed without mercy,
As I am kynge of this lande."
He commanded his officers everichone
Fast on them to lay hand.

There they toke these good yemen,
And arested them all thre:
"So may I thryve," sayd Adam Bell,
"Thys game lyketh not me.

"But, good lord, we beseche you nowe,
That ye wyll graunte us grace,
In so moche as we be to you commen;
Or elles that we may fro you passe,

"With suche weapons as we have here,
Tyll we be out of your place;
And yf we lyve this hondred yere,
We wyll aske you no grace."

"Ye speke proudly," sayd the kynge,
"Ye shall be hanged all thre."
"That were great pity," sayd the quene,
"If any grace myght be.

"My lorde, whan I came fyrst in to this lande,
To be your wedded wyfe,
The first bone that I wolde aske,
Ye wolde graunte me belyfe.

"And I asked you never none tyll nowe,
Therfore, good lorde, graunte it me."
"Nowe aske it, madame," sayd the kynge,
"And graunted shall it be."

"Than, good lorde, I you beseche,
The yemen graunte you me."
"Madame, ye myght have asked a bone
That sholde have ben worthe them thre.

"Ye myght have asked towres and townes,
Parkes and forestes plentie."
"None so pleasaunt to mi pay," she said,
"Nor none so lefe to me."

"Madame, sith it is your desyre,
Your askyng graunted shalbe;
But I had lever have geven you
Good market-townes thre."

The quene was a glad woman,
And sayd, "Lord, gramarcy;
I dare undertake for them
That true men shall they be.

"But, good lord, speke som mery word,
That they comfort may se:
"I graunt you grace," then said our king,
"Wasshe, felos, and to meate go ye."

They had not setten but a whyle,
Certayne without lesynge,
There came messengers out of the north,
With letters to our kyng.

And whan they came before the kynge,
The kneled downe upon theyr kne,
And sayd, "Lord, your offycers grete you wel,
Of Caerlel in the north cuntré."

"How fare my justice," sayd the kyng,
"And my sherife also?"
"Syr, they be slayne, without leasynge,
And many an officer mo."

"Who hath them slayne?" sayd the kyng,
"Anone thou tell me."
"Adam Bel, and Clime of the Clough,
And Wyllyam of Cloudeslé."

"Alas for rewth!" then sayd our kynge,
"My hart is wonderous sore;
I had lever than a thousand pounde
I had knowne of thys before."

"For I have y-graunted them grace,
And that forthynketh me;
But had I knowne all thys before,
They had ben hanged all thre."

The kyng opened the letter anone,
Hymselfe he red it tho,
And founde how these thre outlawes had slaine,
Thre hundred men and mo.

Fyrst the justice and the sheryfe,
And the mayre of Caerlel towne;
Of all the constables and catchipolles
Alyve were left not one.

The baylyes and the bedyls both,
And the sergeauntes of the law,
And forty fosters of the fe
These outlawes had y-slaw,

And broken his parks, and slaine his dere;
Over all they chose the best;
So perelous outlawes as they were
Walked not by easte nor west.

When the kynge this letter had red,
In hys harte he syghed sore;
"Take up the table," anone he bad,
"For I may eate no more."

The kyng called hys best archars,
To the buttes with hym to go;
"I wyll se these felowes shote," he sayd,
"That in the north have wrought this wo."

The kynges bowmen busked them blyve,
And the quenes archers also,
So dyd these thre wyght yemen,
Wyth them they thought to go.

There twyse or thryse they shote about,
For to assay theyr hande;
There was no shote these thre yemen shot
That any prycke might them stand.

Then spake Wyllyam of Cloudeslé:
"By God that for me dyed,
I hold hym never no good archar
That shuteth at buttes so wyde."

"Wher at?" then sayd our kyng,
"I pray thee tell me."
"At suche a but, syr," he sayd,
"As men use in my countree."

Wyllyam wente into a fyeld,
And his to brothren with him;
There they set up to hasell roddes,
Twenty score paces betwene.

"I hold him an archar," said Cloudeslé,
"That yonder wande cleveth in two."
"Here is none suche," sayd the kyng,
"Nor none that can do so."

"I shall assaye, syr," sayd Cloudeslé,
"Or that I farther go."
Cloudeslé, with a bearyng arow,
Clave the wand in to.

"Thou art the best archer," then said the king,
"Forsothe that ever I se."
"And yet for your love," sayd Wylliam,
"I wyll do more maystry."

"I have a sonne is seven yere olde,
He is to me full deare;
I wyll hym tye to a stake,
All shall se that be here,

"And lay an apple upon hys head,
And go syxe score paces hym fro,
And I my selfe, with a brode arow,
Shall cleve the apple in two."

"Now hast the," then sayd the kyng;
"By Him that dyed on a tre,
But yf thou do not as thou hest sayde,
Hanged shalt thou be.

"And thou touche his head or gowne,
In syght that men may se,
By all the sayntes that be in heaven,
I shall hange you all thre."

"That I have promised," said William,
"I wyl it never forsake."
And there even before the kynge,
In the earth he drove a stake,

And bound therto his eldest sonne,
And bad hym stande styll therat,
And turned the childes face fro him,
Because he shuld not sterte.

An apple upon his head he set,
And then his bowe he bent;
Syxe score paces they were outmet,
And thether Cloudeslé went.

There he drew out a fayr brode arrowe,
Hys bowe was great and lange;
He set that arrowe in his bowe,
That was both styffe and stronge.

He prayed the people that was there
That they would styll stande;
"For he that shooteth for such a wager,
Behoveth a stedfast hand."

Muche people prayed for Cloudeslé,
That hys lyfe saved myght be,
And whan he made hym redy to shote,
There was many a wepynge eye.

Thus Clowdeslé clefte the apple in two,
That many a man it se;
"Over Goddes forbode," sayd the kynge,
"That thou sholdest shote at me!"

"I gyve the eighteen pens a daye,
And my bowe shalte thou bere,
And over all the north countree
I make the chefe rydere."

"And I gyve the twelve pens a day," sayd the quene,
"By God and by my faye;
Come fetche thy payment whan thou wylt,
No man shall say the naye.

"Wyllyam, I make the gentylman
Of clothynge and of fee,
And thy two brethren yemen of my chambre,
For they are so semely to se.

"Your sone, for he is tendre of age,
Of my wyne seller shall he be,
And whan he commeth to mannes state,
Better avaunced shall he be."

"And, Wylliam, brynge me your wyfe," sayd the quene;
Me longeth sore here to se;
She shall be my chefe gentylwoman,
And governe my nursery."

The yemen thanked them full courteysly,
And sayd, "To Rome streyght wyll we wende,
Of all the synnes that we have done
To be assoyled of his hand.

So forthe be gone these good yemen,
As fast as they myght hye,
And after came and dwelled with the kynge,
And dyed good men all thre.

Thus endeth the lyves of these good yemen,
God sende them eternall blysse,
And all that with hande-bowe shoteth,
That of heven they may never mysse!

to rouse; deer; den

(see note)

was called

completely good

venison (i.e., poaching deer)
Inglewood Forest; (see note)

attend and listen
entertainments; hear




would be

first hour of the day (sunrise)

Quickly and at once


besieged because of

(see note)


provided for; charity

may she fare



come hither
reward; before

(see note)


(see note)

Who hurried there; (see note)

window with shutters


buckler (small shield)

(see note)

ax with long handle
(see note)


coat put on


set fire to



burned; (see note)

embers; (see note)

I'd rather

in a crowd


began he to go
closed tightly
Quickly everyone


Alice's pigs; (see note)

given him food



(see note)

at once


pay for it dearly

(see note)

morning time
against them

(see note)

deceitful stratagem


unable to read



(see note)
(see note)

So we can return

By Christ who was crucified

the gracious Virgin Mary

(see note)
fool; mad
quickly took off his hood

(see note)
glad; (see note)
who harrowed Hell


(see note)

properly aligned; (see note)


inquest of jurors; (see note)


(see note)

(see note)

(see note)


moved away

quickly; freed


shot; time


(see note)
(see note)


(see note)



ax or halberd

harm; (see note)


outside in a rush


linden, tree

meeting tree


(see note)

(see note)

children; (see note)


it is good for me

Truly it is no use


fat hart


letter of pardon

temporarily stay



rushed quickly; (see note)

(see note)


without falsehood


At once

(see note)


(see note)



thank you

(see note)

(see note)

without lying


(see note)


(see note)

grieves me


officers of the sheriff

bailiffs and beadles

foresters of the estate

epared themselves at once; (see note)


two hazel sticks; (see note)

flight arrow (see note)

show more skill


120 paces were measured out

(see note)

(see note)

May God forbid



In my wine cellar

(see note)

absolved; [the pope's]


Go to Robyn Hod and the Shryff of Notyngham: Introduction