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The King and the Hermit


1 Lines 251–52: That is, “Do you have any other reason for coming here besides talking me into violating Forest Law so that I can be fined by the king?”


ABBREVIATIONS: MED: Middle English Dictionary; OED: Oxford English Dictionary.

1 Jhesu that is hevyn kyng. This text often has genitives with no inflectional ending.

13 Unlike John the Reeve, The King and the Hermit does not name which Edward is being spoken of; and unlike King Edward and the Shepherd, The King and the Hermit is not at all specific about contemporary people or events. The only identifier we have for which Edward is meant is the phrase in line 13: “be god Edwerd deys.” The phrase implies that the poem is set in the past, so not in the time of a contemporary king Edward. The adjective god more or less eliminates the deposed Edward II, in comparison to his much more successful father or son. If the poem is late enough, the Yorkist king Edward IV is a possible target for the allusion (reigned 1461–70 and again 1471–83), and the northern origins of the poem are compatible with widespread support of the Yorkists in the North. And Edward IV did enjoy hunting in his royal forests and had new apartments in Nottingham Castle that would have made a stay there while hunting in Sherwood Forest an attractive proposition (see Ross, Edward IV, pp. 9, 55, 148, 261, 271, 354 for the hunting, p. 272 for the apartments). But Edward I was a hunter too (Prestwich, Edward I, pp. 115–17), as was Edward III. Froissart reports that during his 1359 expedition in France, the king had for his personal use thirty mounted falconers and their loads of birds and sixty couples of big hounds and as many coursing dogs, with which he went either hunting or wild-fowling every day (Froissart, Chronicles, ed. Brereton, p. 165).
Of the various Edwards, Edward III is the one most likely to have been looked back upon by everyone, of whatever faction, as “god Edwerd.” But what king is understood to be referred to here is very much dependent on the time and politics of the reader. A sixteenth-century somewhat analogous chapbook poem, King Edward IV and the Tanner of Tamworth, is explicit in its title (which may however be editorial) about which King Edward it is who goes out hunting and meets a suspicious and surly tanner, trades horses with him, and eventually rewards him with lands, but the poem itself never specifies its protagonist beyond “King Edward.” That poem is closely analogous to a fifteenth-century poem, The King and the Barker, from Cambridge University Library MS Ee.4.35, in which the king is never named. Similarly a seventeenth-century poem, The Pleasant Ballad of King Henry II and the Miller of Mansfield, specifies only in its (editorial?) title which King Henry goes hunting in Sherwood Forest, is lost, and takes lodging with a suspicious and surly miller who eventually warms up to him and feeds him venison. For the poets in question, the main value in choosing an Edward or a Henry as protagonist may be that there are several of them, safely in the past, and there is therefore no need for historical detail beyond the contrast between the richly dressed king and the commoner he meets and, in most cases, the general knowledge of poaching practices and regulations.

16 The kyng to Scherwod gan wend. Gan is a past tense marker in this poem; gan wend means “went.” Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire once covered a much larger area than it does now. The area was a royal forest, and like other royal forests, protected from hunting except by the king and those he explicitly authorized. The territory of a royal “forest” included not just woodland but also open land and wetland, a variety of habitats. A bureaucracy of foresters existed to patrol and protect the forest and the wildlife. Modern tradition remembers Robin Hood as one inhabitant of and poacher in Sherwood Forest, this poem tells of another, but there were poachers in all the royal forests of England.

63 The manuscript reads: “A ro chasyd hym ry3t fast.” This makes no sense: a deer would not be chasing the king. But neither would the king be chasing a roe, the smallest of the three species of deer in England at the time (red, fallow, and roe). It would be a red deer (a hart) that would be impressively large and carry a large set of antlers. “A” must signify “he” (not usual in this scribe’s writing, but all the more likely then that it would confuse him in a source text), and “ro chasyd” should be read as “rechasyd” (as it is by Albert Kurz in his edition).

69 Hys hert away was past. Probably “the horse’s spirit was broken” but could be “the hart had escaped.”

85–87 I have herd pore men call at morow / Seynt Julyan send them god harborow / When that they had nede. St. Julian the Hospitaller was the legendary patron saint of hospitality. Edward tells us that he has heard poor men calling on Julian in the morning (presumably before setting off on a journey, or perhaps these are homeless men) to send them a good lodging when they need one. Middle English literature has other instances of travelers calling on St. Julian for lodging when they are, like Edward here, stranded and in need of shelter. Sir Gawain thanks “Jesus and sayn Gilyan” on his first glimpse of Hautdesert, and goes on to petition them, “Now bone hostel. . . I beseche yow yette” (line 776) in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. For further information, consult the introduction to The Life of St. Julian the Hospitaller in the "Scottish Legendary" (c. 1400), edited by E. Gordon Whatley, with Anne B. Thompson and Robert K. Upchurch, in Saints' Lives in Middle English Collections (Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, 2004), pp. 307–15.

106 The manuscript reads: “Now seynt Julyan a bonne vntyll,” here emended for sense and rhyme. The conventional plea to St. Julian was for “bon hostel,” “good lodging.” Compare Chaucer’s House of Fame, line 1022 (“Seynt Julyan, loo, bon hostel”), and line 776 of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

107 As pylgrymes trow full wele. That is, pilgrims believe that Julian provides “a bonne hostel.”

117 Wele worth thee, Sir Frere. The hermit is apparently a friar of either the Carmelite or Augustinian order. Both orders had their origin in eremiticism, but both, soon after their arrival in England, moved towards communal life in larger towns. Nevertheless, the early foundations were in isolated areas, the hermit’s life was the ideal underlying both orders, and it was possible to have a small priory in an outlying area with only a single friar. For information on both orders, see Knowles, Religious Orders in England, 1:194–204, 2:144–51.

122–23 For sych a lord as ye be, / Y have non herbour tyll. For is a conjunction here, and tyll a preposition. The two lines together mean “For I have no shelter appropriate for such a lord as you are.”

139 Mary, the Virgin Mother of Jesus, was the most familiar and the most frequently invoked of all the saints. If there is a particular aptness to her invocation here and at line 173 below, it is that she too was rather famously treated with minimal hospitality in her hour of need, when she was turned away from the inn in Bethlehem.

140 Schorte sirvys getys thou here. That is, no service at all. This is probably a reference to the customary service owed by a tenant to a lord. Here and below at lines 154–56 the hermit is emphasizing (ironically, as his guest is after all the king) that he doesn’t have any duty to his pushy and unwanted guest.

155–56 The hermit’s irony is scathing in the face of the stranger’s declaration that he intends to stay overnight.

178–79 George Shuffelton aptly remarks, “The king . . . performs his chores before dinner with the enthusiasm of a visitor to a dude ranch” (Codex Ashmole 61, p. 592).

193–94 Probably the rhyme is on the forms slape and cape.

213 scape. This is an unusual form of the past tense, which should be scaped, or if the strong verb form, scope.

224 Thou boughtes never so god sirvese. That is, “you have never gained such good compensation as you will by helping me.” The form of the verb “boughtes” is an impossible one: it was incorrect in every dialect area of England to have an –es ending on a past tense strong verb such as buy. But could this be some form of hypercorrection, with a southern scribe trying to reproduce what he imagines to be a northern dialect form, since –es is a normal ending in the present tense for the second person singular in the North?

232 Sethen thyn drynke he dreughe. “Then he [probably the hermit] drew [from a cask] thin drink.” The thin drink is probably weak beer.

286 The hermit has a change of heart between the stanzas.

292–95 The richness of this food and its presentation are in striking contrast to the hermit’s professed poverty. Candles, a tablecloth, and fine white bread for trenchers were all extravagances for rich men’s tables. Baked venison implies both that the hermit has been poaching deer in the royal forest and that he has access to the services of someone with an oven and fuel (probably also illegally gathered from the royal forest) to stoke it. See lines 421–25 for an explanation for the hermit’s wealth.

320 To feche the hors corne and bred. Bread made of beans or pease, sometimes bran and chaff, was baked specifically for horse fodder.

328 A howvyd pote, that stondes ther. The word howved is unattested in OED or MED; Hazlitt reads hownyd, a form for honeyed. I take howuyd as meaning “lidded,” related to houve, a substantive meaning “cap” or “head covering.”

329–30 And Godes forbot that we it spare / To drynke to it be dey. That is more literally, “And [it is] God’s prohibition that we refrain from [emptying] it, to drink until it is day.”

341–45 Fusty bandyas and stryke pantner or pantnever appear to be nonsense syllables, but they can be resolved into the following components:
fusty: smelling of the cask
ban: bon, or good
dias, dyas: medicines
stryke: drink up
pant: gasp
ner: never
“This is a good fusty medicine.” “Drink it up at one gulp.”
The principal oddity is the component strike. It is nowhere beyond this poem attested as a verb meaning “drink up,” although it seems to mean exactly that in line 376 (which MED cites in def. 10b).
The game seems to be slightly more demanding than the drinking game in King Edward and the Shepherd. Whenever the servant fills the cup and puts it in the designated place, the first to call “Fusty bandias” gets to drink, and can continue till the other calls out “Strike pantner,” when he in turn gets the cup and finishes the drink in it.

369 The hermit tends to use heavy irony. The consumption of excessive amounts of meat and liquor would not constitute “holy life,” but the diet of roots and bark he claims to follow at line 128 would certainly be ascetic deprivation enough to be holy.

409–11 Y have be ther and takyn dole, / And have hade many merry mele, / Y dare full savely sey. After the mocking echo of the last lines, the hermit is now exercising a heavy irony. As becomes clear in the next lines, very little food is distributed to the poor at the king’s court, and he is unwilling to hang around half a day waiting for it when he has a sweet system of exchange with his neighbors worked out at home.

422 presente. The rhyme on nygh-hand depends on the northern form presand.

423 Sydes of the wyld dere. A side of deer is half the animal split the length of the backbone, a more manageable size for a household to deal with at a single time than the whole carcass.

434 Or that thou gon awey. Gon is an impossible form of the verb go in the second person singular subjunctive. My guess is that the poet originally used the verb gang(en) or gong(en) in the phrase “or that thou gong awey,” and that a sub­sequent scribe tried to make sense of an unfamiliar verb by converting it partway to a more southern form, choosing the synonymous similar verb go(n) but not adjusting the ending appropriately.

436 Thoff I be here in pore clothing. Unlike the king in John the Reeve, this king is apparently dressed in shabby clothes. But they must be only relatively shabby (hunting clothes fit for a king), because the hermit recognizes him immediately as a great lord (see line 122). Of course the excellent horse and trappings would be an additional clue.

448 Jhake Flecher. “Jake the Arrow-maker.” As Shuffelton points out, “The lengthy description of the hunt at the outset of the tale and King Edward’s choice of pseudonyms . . . only emphasize the common bonds between the poacher/ host and his royal guest. Hermits, unlike peasants, were essentially outside the bounds of class” (Codex Ashmole 61, pp. 591–92). That makes The King and the Hermit different from the other king and commoner poems, in that the hermit is not a peasant.

471 Bot it schuld spyll his stale. A deer will often empty its bladder when frightened or wounded.

525 The manuscript breaks off here, but from the other king and commoner stories certain aspects of the ending are predictable. As in Rauf Coil3ear (RC), the king finds his way back to court on his own. The next day the hermit decides to follow his guest to court and take him up on his offer of hospitality there, despite his misgivings, as in King Edward and the Shepherd (KS), John the Reeve (JR), and RC. Once there, he runs into conflict with the porter (as in JR) but on the king’s instructions, does get into the hall, where he is uneasy at feeling himself very out of place and where courtiers laugh at him. Eventually he spots his guest, is made to feel terrified of reprisals for his poaching when the man proposes to play the drinking game in front of the king’s courtiers, reproaches him, and only then discovers that his guest has been the king (roughly as in KS). Because in this story the antagonist is a hermit friar, it is unlikely that the ending can involve the king’s knighting the (often) reluctant man and giving him lands and riches (as in JR and RC, and roughly as in the later King Edward IV and a Tanner of Tamworth and the much later Pleasant Ballad of King Henry II and the Miller of Mansfield). But there is undoubtedly some comparably rich reward for his hospitality, perhaps advancement in the Church.


COPY-TEXT: Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Ashmole 61 (Bodley 6922), fols. 157r–161v.
ABBREVIATIONS: MS: manuscript, here referring to copy-text.

title No title appears in the MS. Instead the words “Amen quod Rate” appear above the poem, running from within the left margin.

14–15 In the right margin of the MS, canceled, appear these words: ffor soth as the / romans seys.

18 This line is missing in the MS; no gap.

32 MS: Ouer all lord is gret plete. Emendation for sense.

50 MS: With hundes and with honnes blast. Emendation for sense.

59 MS: They ronne the dere as thei wer wode. The line as it stands in the MS partly repeats line 58. Conjectural emendation.

69 MS: Hys hert away was s past.

88 MS: And yit whe that thei wer trauyst. Emendations for sense (when, trayst) and rhyme (trayst).

99 MS: Off an hermyte <...> hym besyde. But the hermit is inside his hermitage, as we learn below (line 112); it must be the building in a clearing that the king spots. Emendation for sense.

103 MS: An hermytage he fond ther. Emended for sense (since after the emendation to line 99, this is the second mention of the hermitage).

109 MS: A lytell 3ate he fond ner. Emendation for rhyme.

116 MS: He seyd sir gode euyn. Emendation for rhyme.

124 MS: Bot if it <illegible...> pore a wy3ht.

129 ff. The stanza form calls for three more lines.

135 MS: Or passy3h this fortny3t. Emendation for sense.

152 MS: Ermyte I schall herabour with the this ny3ht. Emendation for sense.

170 MS: Two thake bendes full without no. Emendation for better sense.

173 The saint’s name is blurred: What I read as “mayre” is read “mayry” by Kurz and Shuffelton, and “Mary” by Hazlitt. At line 139 of the poem, the name is spelled Mary.

193 MS: When fosters wer gon to slep<.>. The last letter is blurred.

195 MS: And wake beth est and weste.

215 MS: The kyng rode on hutyng.

220 MS: Y haue <..>lowyd hym all this dey. There is a blot before “lowyd.”

224 MS: Thou boughtes never so god siruege. Emendation for rhyme.

228 MS: We schall we not hyll with the. Emendation for sense.

275 This line is followed by the following canceled line: And on to prison bryng.

277 MS: Bo be in prayer and in penans. Emendation for sense.

318 MS: And bad hym be lyue and go. Emendation for sense.

334 MS: The hermyte seyd now scha<.> i se. The last letter of shal is blurred.

360 MS: That well ny3 of iyede. Emended for sense.

361 MS: The knaue fyllyd and vp it õede in plas.

367 MS: ffyll this eft and late vs lyke. Emendation for sense.

374 MS: The kyng seyd stryke pantneuer. Emendation for rhyme.

423 MS: Be sydes of the wyld dere. Emendation for sense.

438 MS: Yiftys two our thre. Emendation for sense.

466 MS: An arow off an elle lond. Emendation for sense.

467 MS: In hys low he it throng. Emendation for sense.

474 ff. After line 474, three lines are missing from the stanza. No gap in MS.

490 MS: Jake and thou wyll ha of myn arowys haue.

507 MS: When tyme thou se thou myght. Emendation for sense.

516 MS: With sygheng and sorrowyg sore.

525 The poem breaks off here, at the end of a leaf. There is one more leaf in the MS, but it is blank.










































































































Jhesu that is hevyn kyng,
Yiff them all god endyng
   (Yf it be thi wyll)
And yif them parte of hevyn gam
That well can calle gestes same
   With mete and drinke to fylle.
When that men be glad and blyth,
Than wer solas god to lyth,
   He that wold be stylle.
Of a kyng I wyll you telle,
What aventour hym befelle,
   He that wyll herke thertylle.

Yt befelle be god Edwerd deys —
Forsoth, so this romans seys:
   Herkyns, I wyll you telle.
The kyng to Scherwod gan wend
On hys pleyng for to lend
For to solas hym that stond,
The grete hertes for to hunte
   Yn frythys and in felle,
With ryall festes and feyr ensemble,
With all the lordes of that contré;
   With hym ther gan thei duell.

Tyll it befell upon a dey
To hys fosterse he gan sey,
   “Felous, wher is the best?
In your playng wher ye have bene,
Wer have ye most gam sene
   Of dere in this forest?”
They ansuerd and fell on kne,
“Overall, lord, is gret plenté
   Both est and west
We may schew you at a syght
Two thousand dere this same nyght
   Or the son go to reste.”

An old foster drew hym nere.
“Lystins, lord, I saw a dere
   Under a tre.
So gret a hed as he bare,
Sych one saw I never are:
   No feyrer myht be.
He is mour than other two
That ever I saw on erth go.”
   Than seyd the kyng so fre,
“Thy waryson I wyll thee yeve
Evermour whyll thou doyst lyve,
   That dere thou late me se.”

Upon the morne thei ryden fast
With hundes and with hornes blast:
   To wodde than are thei wente.
Nettes and gynnes than leyd he.
Every archer to hys tre,
   With bowys redy bent.
The blew thrys, uncoupuld hundes;
They reysed the dere up that stondes,
   So nere thei span and sprent.
The hundes all, as thei wer wode,
They ronne the dere into the wode.
   The kyng hys hors he hent.

The kyng sate onne a god courser.
Fast he rode after the dere:
   A rechasyd hym ryght fast.
Both thorow thyke and thine
Thorow the forest he gan wyn
   With hundes and hornes blast.
The kyng had folowyd hym so long
Hys god sted was ne sprong:
   Hys hert away was past.
Horn ne hunter myght he non here.
So ranne the hundes at the dere
   Awey was at the last.

The kyng had folowyd hym so long,
Fro mydey to the evynsong,
   That lykyd hym full ille.
He ne wyst wer that he was,
Ne out of the forest for to passe,
   And ther he rode all wylle.
“Whyle I may the deylyght se
Better is to loge under a tre,”
   He seyd hymselve untylle.
The kyng cast in hys wytte,
“Yyff I stryke into a pytte,
   Hors and man myght spylle.

“I have herd pore men call at morow
Seynt Julyan send them god harborow
   When that they had nede,
And yit when that thei wer trayst
And of herborow wer abayst,
   He wold them wysse and rede.
Seynt Julyan, as I ame trew knyght,
Send me grace this iche nyght
   Of god harbour to sped.
A yift I schall thee gyve:
Every yere whyll that I lyve,
   Folke for thi sake to fede.”

As he rode, whyll he had lyght.
And at the last he hade syght
   Of an hermytage hym besyde.
Of that syght he was full feyn,
For he wold gladly be in the pleyn,
    And theder he gan to ryde.
The hermytage he fond ther;
He trowyd a chapell that it wer.
   Than seyd the kyng that tyde,
“Now, Seynt Julyan, a bonne hostel,
As pylgrymes trow full wele.
   Yonder I wyll abyde.”

A lytell yate he fond ney:
Theron he gan to call and cry
   That within myght here.
That herd an hermyte ther within.
Unto the yate he gan to wyn,
   Bedyng his prayer.
And when the hermyt saw the kyng,
He seyd, “Sir, gode evynyng.”
   “Wele worth thee, Sir Frere.
I pray thee I myght be thi gest,
For I have ryden wyll in this forest,
   And nyght neyghes me nere.”

The hermyte seyd, “So mote I the,
For sych a lord as ye be,
   Y have non herbour tyll.
Bot if it wer never so pore a wyght
Y ne der not herbour hym a nyght
   Bot he for faute schuld spyll.
Y won here in wyldernes
With rotys and ryndes among wyld bestes
   As it is my Lordes wylle.”

The kyng seyd, “I thee beseche
The wey to the tounne thou wold me teche.
   And I schall thee behyght
That I schall thi travell quyte
That thou schall me not wyte
   Or passyth this fortnyght.
And if thou wyll not, late thi knave go
To teche me a myle or two
   The whylys I have deylyght.”
“By Seynt Mary,” seyd the frere,
Schorte sirvys getys thou here,
   And I can rede aryght.”

Than seyd the kyng, “My dere frend,
The wey to the towne if I schuld wynd,
   How fer may it be?”
“Syr,” he sayd, “so mote I thryve,
To the towne is myles fyve
   From this long tre.
A wyld wey I hold it wer,
The wey to wend (I you suere),
   Bot ye the dey may se.”
Than seyd the kyng, “Be Godes myght,
Ermyte, I schall harbour with thee this nyght,
   And els I wer we.”

“Methinke,” seyd the hermyte, “Thou arte a stout syre.
I have ete up all the hyre
   That ever thou gafe me.
Were I oute of my hermyte wede
Of thi favyll I wold not dred
   Thoff ther wer sych thre.
Loth I wer with thee to fyght:
Y wyll herbour thee all nyght
   And it behovyth so be.
Sych gode as thou fyndes here, take,
And aske thyn in for Godes sake.”
   “Gladly, sir,” seyd he.

Hys stede into the hous he lede:
With lytter son he gan hym bed.
   Met ne was ther non:
The frere he had bot barly stro —
Two thake-bendesfull, without mo,
   Forsoth it was furth born.
Befor the hors the kyng it leyd.
“Be Seynt Mayre,” the hermyte seyd,
   “Other thing have we non.”
The kyng seyd, “Garamersy, frer.
Wele at es ame I now here.
   A nyght wyll son be gon.”

The kyng was never so servysable:
He hew the wode and keped the stable.
   God fare he gan hym dyght
And mad hym ryght well at es,
And ever the fyre befor hys nese
   Brynand feyr and bryght.
“Leve ermyte,” seyd the kyng,
“Mete, and thou have anything,
   To soper thou us dyght.
For sirteynly, as I thee sey,
I ne hade never so sory a dey
   That I ne had a mery nyght.”

The kyng seyd, “Be Godes are,
And I sych an hermyte were
   And wonyd in this forest,
When fosters wer gon to slepe,
Than I wold cast off my cope
   And wake both est and weste
Wyth a bow of hue full strong
And arowys knyte in a thong:
   That wold me lyke best.
The kyng of venyson hath non nede:
Yit myght me hape to have a brede
   To glad me and my gest.”

The hermyte seyd to the kyng,
“Leve sir, wer is thi duellyng?
   Y praye thou wolde me sey.”
“Sir,” he seyd, “so mote I the,
Yn the kynges courte I have be
   Duellyng many a dey,
And my lord rode on huntyng
As grete lordes doth many tyme
   That yiff them myche to pley.
And after a grete hert have we redyn
And mekyll travell we have byden
   And yit he scape awey.

“Todey erly in the morenyng
The kyng rode on huntyng,
   And all the courte beden.
A dere we reysed in that stondes
And ganne chase with our hundes:
   A feyrer had never man sene.
Y have folowyd hym all this dey
And ryden many a wylsom wey
   He dyd me trey and tene.
I pray you, helpe me I wer at es.
Thou boughtes never so god sirvese
   In sted ther thou hast bene.”

The ermyte seyd, “So God me save,
Thou take sych gode as we have:
   We schall not hyll it with thee.”
Bred and chese forth he brought.
The kyng ete whyles, hym thought;
   Non other mete saw he.
Sethen thyn drynke he dreughe.
Theron he had sone inoughe.
   Than seyd the kyng so fre,
“Hermyt, pute up this mete tyte.
And if I mey I schall thee quyte
   Or passyd be these monethys thre.”

Than seyd the kyng, “Be Godes grace,
Thou wonnys in a mery place!
   To schote thou schuldes lere.
When the fosters are go to reste
Somtyme thou myght have of the best,
   All of the wylld dere.
Y wold hold it for no skath
Thoff thou had bow and arowys bothe
   Allthoff thou be a frere.
Ther is no foster in all this fe
That wold sych herme to thee;
   Ther thou may leve here.”

The armyte seyd, “So mote thou go,
Hast thou any other herand than so
   Onto my lord the kynge?1
Y schall be trew to hym, I trow,
For to weyte my lordes prow
   For dred of sych a thing.
For iff I wer take with sych a dede,
To the courte thei wold me lede
   And to preson me bryng;
Bot if I myght my raunson gete,
Be bond in prison and sorow grete
   And in perell to hyng.”

Then seyd the kyng, “I wold not lete,
When thou arte in this forest sette,
   To stalke when men are at rest.
Now, as thou arte a trew man,
Iff thou ought of scheting can,
   Ne hyll it not with thi gest.
For, be Hym that dyghed on tre,
Ther schall no man wyte for me,
   Whyll my lyve wyll lest.
Now hermyte, for thi professyon,
Yiff thou have any venison,
   Thou yiff me of the best.”

The ermyte seyd, “Men of grete state,
Oure ordyr thei wold make full of bate
   Aboute schych mastery
Us bos be in prayer and in penans,
And arne therine by chans
   And not be archery.
Many dey I have her ben
And flesche mete I ete non
   Bot mylke of the ky.
Warme thee wele and go to slepe,
And I schall lape thee with my cope,
   Softly to lyghe.

“Thou semys a felow,” seyd the frere.
“Yt is long gon seth any was here
   Bot thou thyselve tonyght.”
Unto a cofyr he gan go
And toke forth candylles two,
   And sone thei wer ilyght.
A cloth he brought, and bred full whyte,
And venyson ibake tyte.
   Ayen he yede full ryght:
Venyson isalt and fressch he brought,
And bade hym chese wheroff hym thought
   Colopys for to dyght.

Well may ye wyte, inow thei had.
The kyng ete and made hym glad
   And grete laughtur he lowghe:
“Nere I had spoke of archery
I myght have ete my bred full dryghe.”
   The kyng made it full towghe.
“Now Crystes blyssing have sych a frere
That thus canne ordeyn our soper
   And stalke under the wode bowe.
The kyng hymselve, so mote I the,
Ys not better at es than we,
   And we have drinke inowghe.”

The hermyt seyd, “Be seynt Savyour,
Y have a pote of galons foure
   Standing in a wro.
Ther is bot thou and I and my knave:
Som solas schall we have
   Sethyn we are no mo.”
The hermyte callyd hys knave full ryght —
Wylkyn Alyn, forsoth, he hyght —
   And bad hym belyve go,
And taught hym prively to a sted
To feche the hors corne and bred,
   “And luke that thou do so.”

Unto the knave seyd the frere,
“Felow, go wyghtly here.
   Thou do as I thee sey.
Besyde my bed thou must goo
And take up a sloughte of strawe
   Als softly as thou may.
A howvyd pote, that stondes ther,
And Godes forbot that we it spare
   To drynke to it be dey.
And bryng me forth my schell,
And every man schall have hys dele,
   And I schall kenne us pley.”

The hermyte seyd, “Now schal I se
Yff thou any felow be
   Or of pley canst ought.”
The kyng seyd, “So mote I the,
Sey thou what thou wyll with me:
   Thy wyll it schall be wrought.”
“When the coppe commys into the plas
Canst thou sey ‘Fusty bandyas’
   And thinke it in thi thought?
And thou schall her a totted frere
Sey ‘Stryke pantner’
   And in the cope leve ryght nought.”

And when the coppe was forth brought,
Yt was oute of the kynges thought,
   That word that he schuld sey.
The frere seyd “Fusty bandyas.”
Than seyd the kyng, “Alas, alas.”
   Hys word it was awey.
“What! Arte thou mad?” seyd the frere,
“Canst thou not sey ‘Stryke pantener?’
   Wylt thou lerne all dey?
And if thou efte forgete it ons,
Thou getes no drinke in these wons
   Bot yiff thou thinke upon thi pley.”

“Fusty bandias,” the frere seyd,
And yafe the coppe sych a breyd
   That well nygh off it yede.
The knave fyllyd it up and yede in plas.
The kyng seyd “Fusty bandyas”:
   Therto hym stod gret nede.
“Fusty bandyas,” seyd the frere,
“How long hast thou stond here
   Or thou couth do thi dede?
Fyll this eft and late us leyke,
And betwen rost us a styke,
   Thus holy lyve to lede.”

The knave fyllyd the coppe full tyte
And brought it furth with grete delyte;
   Befor hym gan it stand.
“Fusty bandyas” seyd the frere;
The kyng seyd “Stryke pantener”
   And toke it in hys hand,
And stroke halve and more;
“Thys is the best pley, I suere,
   That ever I saw in lond.
Y hyght thee, hermyte, I schall thee yeve,
Y schall thee quyte, if that I lyve,
   The gode pley thou hast us fonnd.”

Than seyd the ermyte, “God quyte all,
Bot when thou commys to the lordes haule
   Thou wyll forgete the frere.
Bot wher thou commyst, nyght or dey,
Yit myght thou thinke upon the pley
   That thou hast sene here.
And thou com among jentyllmen
The wyll laugh and thou hem it ken,
   And make full mery chere
And iff thou comyst here for a nyght,
A colype I dere thee behyght,
   All of the wyld dere.”

The kyng seyd, “Be Hym that me bought,
Syre,” he seyd, “ne thinke it nought,
   That thou be thus forgete.
Tomorow sone when it is dey
I schall quyte, iff that I may,
   All that we have here ete.
And when we com to the kynges yate,
We schall not long stond therate:
   In we schall be lete.
And by my feyth, I schall not blyne
Tyll the best that is therine
   Betwenn us two be sete.”

Th’ermyte seyd, “Be Hym that me bought,
Syre,” he seyd, “ne thynke it nought.
   Y suere thee by my ley,
Y have be ther and takyn dole,
And have hade many merry mele,
   Y dare full savely sey.
Hopys thou I wold for a mase
Stond in the myre ther and dase
   Nehand halve a dey?
The charyté commys thorow sych menys hend,
He havys full lytell that stond at hend
   Or that he go awey.

“Hopys thou that I ame so preste
For to stond at the kyng yate and reste
   Ther pleys for to lere?
Y have neyghbors her nygh-hand:
I send them of my presente
   Sydes of the wyld dere
Of my presantes thei are feyn:
Bred and ale thei send me ageyn.
   Thusgates lyve I here.”
The kyng seyd, “So mote I the,
Hermyte, me pays wele with thee:
   Thou arte a horpyd frere.”

The kyng seyd, “Yit myght thou com sum dey
Unto the courte for to pley,
   Aventourys for to sene.
Thou wote not what thee betyde may
Or that thou gon awey:
   The better thou may bene.
Thoff I be here in pore clothing,
Y ame no bayschyd for to bryng
   Gestys two or thre.
Ther is no man in all those wonys
That schall myssey to thee onys,
   Bot as I sey, so schall it be.”

“Sertes,” seyd the hermyte than,
“Y hope thou be a trew man:
   I schall aventour the gate.
Bot tell me fyrst, leve syre,
After what man schall I spyre,
   Both erly and late?”
“Jhake Flecher, that is my name:
All men knowys me at home.
   I ame at yong man state.
And thoff I be here in pore wede
Yn sych a stede I can thee lede
   Ther we schall be made full hate.”

“Aryse up, Jake, and go with me,
And more off my privyté
   Thou schall se somthyng.”
Into a chambyr he hym lede:
The kyng saughe aboute the hermytes bed
   Brod arowys hynge.
The frere gaff hym a bow in hond.
“Jake,” he seyd, “draw up the bond.”
   He myght oneth styre the streng.
“Sir,” he seyd, “so have I blys,
Ther is non archer that may schet in this
   That is with my lord the kyng.”

An arow of an elle long,
In hys bow he it throng,
   And to the hede he gan it hale.
Ther is no dere in this foreste
And it wold onne hym feste
   Bot it schuld spyll his stale.
“Jake, seth thou can of flecher crafte,
Thou may me es with a schafte.”
   Than seyd Jake, “I schall.”

“Jake, and I wyst that thou wer trew,
Or and I thee better knew,
   Mour thou schuldes se.”
The kyng to hym grete othys swer:
“The covenand we made whyleare,
   I wyll that it hold be.”
Tyll two trowys he gan hym lede:
Of venyson ther was many a brede
   “Jake, how thinkes thee?
Whyle ther is dere in this forest,
Somtyme I may have of the best
   The kyng wytesave on me.

“Jake, and thou wyll of myn arowys have,
Take thee of them, and sum thou leve,
   And go we to our pley.”
And thus thei sate with “Fusty bandyas,”
And with “Stryke pantener” in that plas,
   Tyll it was nerehand dey
When tyme was com ther rest to take.
On morn thei rose when thei gan wake.
   The frere began to sey,
“Jake, I wyll with thee go
Yn thi felowschype a myle our two,
   Tyll thou have redy wey.”

“Ye,” seyd the kyng, “mekyll thanke,
Bot when we last nyght togeder dranke,
   Thinke what thou me behyght:
That thou schuld com som dey
Unto the courte for to pley
   What tyme thou se thou myght.”
“Sertes,” seyd the hermyte than,
“Y schall com, as I ame trew man,
   Or tomorow at nyght.”
Ather betaught other gode dey.
The kyng toke the redy wey:
   Home he rode full ryght.

Knyghtes and squyres many mo,
All that nyght thei rode and go,
   With sygheng and sorrowyng sore.
They cryghed and blew with hydoys bere,
Yiff thei myght of ther lord here,
   Wher that ever he were.
When the kyng his bugyl blew,
Knyghtes and fosters wele it knew,
   And lystind to hym ther.
Many men that wer masyd and made,
The blast of that horn made them glad:
   To the town than gan thei fare.
heaven’s; (see note); (t-note)
Give; a good end

a share in the delight of heaven
summon guests together
entertainment; listen to
If everyone would be quiet

If people will listen to it

in good Edward’s days; (see note)
Truly; (t-note)
went to Sherwood; (see note)
recreation; stay a while
entertain himself; time
woods; high moorland

they dwelt


plenty; (t-note)




head [of antlers]; carried
Such a one; before

bigger than any two others

reward; give

[If]; let

[went] to; tree

They; released
at that moment
raced and sprang

He chased him back to the woods; (see note)

made his way

nearly foundered
(see note); (t-note)
nor; none hear
[Got] away

midday; evensong
pleased him not at all
did not know where
Nor [how] to get out of the forest

to himself
go; hole in the ground
be destroyed

in the morning; (see note)

when they were still trustful; (t-note)
perplexed for
guide; advise

succeed in getting

for a time

a good lodging; (see note)
believe; (see note)

gate; nearby; (t-note)

That [anyone] within

make his way

Happiness befall you; (see note)


As I hope to prosper
such; (see note)
suitable to
creature; (t-note)

For inevitably he would die for want of food
roots; bark

labor recompense
Before; two weeks; (t-note)
let; servant
(see note)
Scant; (see note)
If; tell correctly


as I hope to thrive

consider it to be
Hermit; (t-note)
Or else I would be miserable

Seems to me; arrogant lord
wages; (see note)

hermit’s habit
Though; three such [as you]

ask for; lodging

only barley straw
bundles; more; (t-note)
Truly; forth

By; Mary; (t-note)

Thank you

ready to serve; (see note)

He made comfortable conditions for himself
Food, if


(see note); (t-note)
friar’s cape
work all night; (t-note)
bundled; strip of leather
please me

happen that I would; roast


commit themselves much
much labor; undergone
escaped; (see note)

as a group
at that moment

trouble; hardship
[so that] I
gained; (see note); (t-note)
any place where

hide; from; (t-note)

for a [long] time, it seemed to him
Then weak; drew; (see note)

shoot; learn
some of the best

Who wishes you the harm that you imagine
In that case; feed yourself

errand than that

look out for; profit

caught in

Unless; get my ransom

danger of hanging

[If I were you] I would not refrain

know anything about shooting
hide; from
died; (i.e., the cross)
know because of
by your vows

strife; (t-note)
such feats
It behooves us; penance; (t-note)
we are in it [the forest] by chance
because of

I ate no flesh
Except; cows

a regular guy; (see note)
ago since anyone


(see note)
baked quickly
Back again; went directly
choose whatever he liked
To make fried slices from

know, enough

If it were not that
gave him a hard time about it



the holy Savior



was called
quickly; (t-note)
showed him secretly to a place
grain and bread; (see note)
see that



lidded; (see note)
God forbid; (see note)
until it is day


know anything about play

cup comes; place
(see note)


again; once
this dwelling
Unless you pay attention

nearly; went; (t-note)
went to [his] place

To do it he had great need

knew how
again; play; (t-note)
in the interval; steak
(see note)



And drank up half and more

[That] I; pay back


They; if; teach

slice of fried meat I dare; promise

By Him who redeemed me

at it


handouts; (see note)
Do you think that; delusion
mud; act stunned
charity [that] comes; hands
[of it] who stands nearby


behavior; learn
as my gift; (see note)
(see note); (t-note)
in return
In this way

you please me well


Before; (see note)
You may be better off
(see note)
not abashed
Guests; (t-note)
the whole dwelling
say nasty things; once

risk the trip


(see note)

My status is a young man’s

private business


hardly stir
as I hope for the happiness of heaven
shoot this

A forty-five-inch-long arrow; (t-note)
thrust; (t-note)

urine; (see note)
since; know

Or if

a while before
To; trees

[That] the king would confer

if; (t-note)
[some] of

close to

an easily followed path

Yes; many thanks


When you saw you could; (t-note)

Each one bid the other

sighing; (t-note)
cried; hideous clamor
[To see] if they might
Wherever he might be

dazed; crazed

they went; (see note); (t-note)


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