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King Edward and the Shepherd


1 He [the porter] was warned what he [Adam] would say





Abbreviations: MED: Middle English Dictionary; ODNB: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; OED: Oxford English Dictionary; NCE: The New Catholic Encyclopedia; Whiting: Whiting, Proverbs, Sentences, and Pro­verbial Phrases.

4 lovys of melody. This is an unusual use of the preposition of with an intransitive sense of love.

4–9 The syntax is very loose but can be understood this way: “May God grant a share of heaven’s bliss (and shield their souls from peril) to all who love a song, who are worth telling tales of kings that are not vile at feasts and banquet.”

19 Con (occasionally can) is sometimes used as a past tense marker in this poem: con he mete means “he met.” But very often too the poet uses the word con meaning “know” or “learn.”

35–36 Thay take my bestis and don thaim slone, / And payen but a stik of tre. “Thay,” the king’s servants, seize the shepherd’s animals and have them butchered, giving in exchange a tally-stick that the shepherd should theoretically be able to redeem for payment. The tally-stick system was to record the amount of debt: a stick would be scored with notches for each unit of debt, and then the stick split in half lengthwise. One half would be kept by the person selling goods, and the other half should have been given to the king’s steward or other financial officer. The person owed money should have been able to turn up at court with his half of the stick, and when its notches matched or tallied with the notches on the half held by the steward, the steward should have paid the money owed. But the shepherd has apparently not been able to convert the tally-stick into the money he is owed.

67 Owe he. “In the Northern dialect, in the present indicative (except for the second singular), the verb had no ending when it was immediately preceded or followed by a personal pronoun” (Mossé, Handbook of Middle English, §93 II).

73 Seynt Edmonde. St. Edmund was a king of East Anglia; he died in 870, martyred by invading Danes. His remains were eventually placed in the custody of monks in a location that is now known as Bury St. Edmunds. See “Edmund the Martyr, St.,” NCE. Adam is swearing by a widely revered English king who died fighting against invaders of his kingdom. Ironically, as history turns out, the historical Edward III was just about to contribute to the de facto demotion of St. Edmund from national saint, when he chose St. George as patron saint of the Order of the Garter. But the cult of St. Edmund continued to flourish: he was, with John the Baptist and Edward the Confessor, one of the patron saints of Richard II, as can be seen in the Wilton Diptych (though the angels carry a banner of St. George).

77 Of hasill I mene that hit is. Why does the shepherd complain that the stick is made of hazel? Perhaps because hazel sticks were rods of choice for beating people, and the shepherd feels that he is being abused; or perhaps because the hazel’s flexibility makes it a comparatively flimsy and impermanent record-keeping device, an excuse of at least metaphorical force for the king’s officers who fail to find confirmation of the king’s debt to the shepherd.

85–87 The king asks the shepherd his name and where he lives so that he can follow through on his promise and therefore not be blameworthy.

102 Whene she thar shuld be is ambiguous: “when she was to be there,” or “she was to be queen there.” The whole passage is a series of cues that the speaker is Edward III: his father was Welsh (i.e., Edward II, the first English Prince of Wales); his mother is Isabel, who lived in the castle; as he told us before, he was born in Windsor; he was loved by Edward II; he travels overseas a good deal; and he has a son who is with the queen.

118 undur. Undern is one of the hours of the solar day, and therefore its clock time varies according to the time of year. More confusingly still, the term undern was applied in the middle ages to the third canonical hour (roughly, nine in the morning), the sixth canonical hour (noon), and even later. Here it must mean roughly nine in the morning.

121 Seynt Thomas of Ynde. The apostle Thomas was said to have traveled to India and proselytized there, where he was eventually martyred.

124 Why the name “Joly Robyn”? We do not have Robin Hood poems that survive from this early, but the epithet Jolly is used with Robin in later Robin Hood poems that we do have (Robin Hood and the Tanner, The Jolly Pinder of Wakefield, Robin Hood and the Shepherd, and Robin Hood’s Chase), and it is possible that this is an early (and heavily ironic) adoption of the outlaw’s name by a king who had a great deal of trouble with outlaws. The phrase Joly Robyn is used late in the fourteenth century by Pandarus in an expression of skepticism in Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde, 5.1174–75:




From haselwode, there joly Robyn pleyde,
Shal come al that thow abidest here.

But both Chaucer and the King Edward and the Shepherd poet could be merely using the name Robin as one sometimes used in poetry for a peasant.

129 Soo faire hym mot befalle. Like the phrase so mot he the, a type more frequent in this poem, this simply strengthens the wish: “as he hopes for good things to happen to him.”

141 be Seynt Jame. The more usual St. James to swear by is the apostle James, son of Zebedee. In the Middle Ages, Santiago de Compostela in Spain was a major pilgrimage site (as it still is, to a lesser degree); the remains of St. James were said to have been returned there, to the scene of his proselytizing, after his martyrdom in Judea (see “James [Son of Zebedee], St.,” NCE). The form “Jame” as opposed to “James” is common in medieval English, not a simple concession to rhyme: note line 146.

157–60 These lines are an allusion to the earlier wave of outlawry in the 1320s and 1330s (led by the Folville and Coterel gangs; see the introduction to King Edward and the Shepherd) and an acknowledgment of renewed activity. Edward's absence at Calais sparked a major rise in bandit activity in 1346 (Stones, “Folvilles of Ashby-Folville,” p. 130), not long before a possible composition and perform­ance date for the poem. At that time the only remaining Folville brother was Eustace (who, like the bandits in the poem, was a known robber and rapist), the others having died, for the most part, unapprehended despite the poem’s allusion to previous capture and hanging at lines 157–58, and the historical attempt to pursue and prosecute the outlaws in 1332. It is notable that not only did Edward’s absence enable Eustace but that Eustace had actually received a pardon in 1333 for service in Edward’s Scottish campaign. In fact, the king pardoned Folvilles in 1327, 1329, and 1333, even though each pardon was preceded and followed by violent criminal behavior.

166 The plural “thei” and the violent home invasion of the context strongly suggest that this is a gang rape. Yet at line 597 the narrator mentions the daughter’s “lemman,” as if she merely had a lover among the robbers, and at 830 Adam speaks of “He that be my doghtur lay” as if, whether by rape or consent, only one man was involved. These three different possible scenarios trigger an extremely wide range of reactions among modern readers, from an appalled sympathy for the daughter to some resentment at her for enjoying herself with her lover while her parents are abused and humiliated. For us it is impossible to reconcile the passages or overlook their discrepancy from one another. But it is quite possible that these scenarios did not seem so grotesquely irreconcilable to the poet and his original audience, for whom the emotional point may have been sympathy with Adam, the man whose honor has been grossly violated by his daughter’s involvement in illicit sexual acts, whether voluntary on her part or not.

193–204 This stanza is garbled and hard to reconstruct. French and Hale’s footnote proposes an original rhyme on benke/shenke at lines 196–97: “An archery bank was a butt, a pyramidal mound of earth on which a paper bull’s-eye was fixed; and shots which hit the mound and missed the bull’s-eye counted as misses. The general sense may have been, ‘I propose as terms that whoever first hits the bank (misses) is to order poured out for the other whatever he will drink’” (Middle English Metrical Romances, 2:957n196). This is a desperate reconstruction of a desperate passage. All that seems clear is that Adam is prepared to bet, both ale and his head (and maybe also a hawk, if the word haut is emended for rhyme; though why would a lowly peasant have a hawk?), on his winning a contest between any archer in the land and himself with his sling, with the object of the contest being to hit a target soonest; and he swears by his own death that he will take on the bet right away even in the shade.

225 Seynt Gyle provides a useful rhyme, but also has an interestingly apposite legend: his constant companion was a deer, which was then attacked by the king’s hunters; one of their arrows missed the deer and wounded St. Giles, but he was ultimately befriended by the king himself.

263 come to ryng. Literally, “join the dance”; figuratively, be hunted by Edward.

264 Therwith to make me a frende. That is, to have meat to give away to gain others’ favors in return.

268 Wode has erys, fylde has sight. This is a proverb cited by Whiting, F127: “Field has eyes and wood ears.”

269 forster. The forester’s job is to enforce forest law and to make sure that the game is protected from being taken by anyone but the king or his agents.

275–76 A loge is dight / Full hye upon an hill which serves presumably as a lookout from which the forester and his assistants can watch for poachers.

304–07 All these birds are waders (heron, spoonbill, curlew, bittern) or waterfowl (mallard, swan). They, and the crane of line 295, are precisely the sorts of bird that nobles would hunt with falcons or hawks when they went rivering, hunting along the banks of a river. That is what Edward is understood to be doing at the beginning of this poem:

Oure kyng went hym in a tyde
To pley hym be a ryver side
In a mornyng of May.

The birds (especially swan) featured as showy prize dishes at medieval nobles’ meals. Edward was particularly fond of rivering; he is represented in Wynnere and Wastoure as wearing a belt embroidered appropriately:

Full gayly was that grete lorde girde in the myddis:
A brighte belte of ble broudirde with fewles,
With drakes and with dukkes - daderande tham semede
For ferdnes of fawkons fete, lesse fawked thay were.
And ever I sayd to myselfe, "Full selly me thynke
Bot if this renke to the revere ryde umbestonde."
(lines 95–100)

In a note to line 100, editor Warren Ginsberg remarks, “Edward was known for his love of hawking.” Wild swans, one of which Adam has had baked in line 307, belonged to the king. Later in Edward’s rule (20 June 1356) he granted under his privy seal to his newly founded collegiate church at Windsor seven years’ control over wild swans on the Thames: “to the warden and college of the king’s free chapel of Wyndesore of all swans flying not marked within the water of Thames between Oxford and London Bridge, as fully as these should pertain to the king by reason of his right and prerogative” (Calendar of the Patent Rolls, 30 Ed.III., pt. 2, m. 20 [vol. 10, p. 406]). Adam has obviously been violating Edward’s “right and prerogative.”

306 The maudlart and hur mech. The term mallard, if it distinguishes the sex of the duck concerned, usually signals a male. But here the mallard is the female.

317 passilodion: This is a nonce word, attested only in this poem. MED gives it a derivation from Medieval Latin: “ML passiludium, from passum ‘raisin wine’ & ludium ‘game, contest’; prob. a jocular coinage modeled on hastiludium.”

320 berafrynde. MED gives the sense “Bottom’s up!” but with the qualifier “?Nonsense word.” It’s possible that we should understand the word as “barley-friend.” Bere was the Middle English term for barley, a component of beer and malt liquors of various kinds. Both times the word occurs in rhyming position with an –ende.

321 Leve upon my ley. Literally, “Believe in my religious law.”

325–36 The game is a simple one: the first player says “passilodion,” drinks, and then refills the cup. The second replies with “berafrynde,” empties the cup, and fills it again before returning it to the first person.

333 Seynt Mighell. The archangel Michael.

365–67 The implication of these lines stressing Adam’s white skin, good origins, and holy descent may be (somewhat snidely) that he is the son of a priest (who has comparatively high social status, but who should be celibate and may not marry) rather than of a peasant.

370 Nether fer ne hende. Literally, “Neither far nor close.”

404 come be mone-light. The implication is that the illicit venison was brought secretly to Adam at night.

446 Lanycoll. Adam’s name for his drinking cup, a huge one made out of maple. Spelled Lonycoll at line 470, the word is an invented one. Possibly it is to be understood as a compound of loan ( from Old Norse lan) and accoll meaning “embrace”: because the cup is meant to be passed back and forth among drinkers, it is on loan and has to be returned, and because it is well loved for what it holds (Adam expresses his own love for the cup at lines 471–72), it is warmly embraced rather than just held.

457 The godeman, sir, or ye? This is odd, because Adam is most easily thought of as the goodman in this context, in the senses of the householder, the host. But the goodwife is unlikely to be asking the visitor who should get the cup first, and indeed Adam answers. So perhaps we are to understand that goodman applies to the merchant and is taken here in the sense of citizen of a town, a burgess.

468 wordis kene. But there is not really anything sharp about his words; the rhyme is more influential here than the meaning.

490 wyne so claré. Clary was a sweet mixture of wine, honey, and spices.

509 Hakderne is another of Adam’s playful coinages. Derne means “secret”; hak may be a variant form of hatch (from Old English hæc), meaning “a small door.” Adam’s underground storage room is well hidden.

545 What fowle that sittis or flye. Note that the verb forms do not match. The form flye must be subjunctive (whatever bird that might fly), but the verb sittis is indicative (whatever bird that sits).

550 For alle the fedurt schafte. Bows and arrows are much more advanced technology than slings and stones: the arrowhead cuts, the feathered shaft stabilizes flight, and the bow is easier to aim. The historical Edward encouraged the use of the bow and arrow. In 1363 he was to make archery practice compulsory for all able-bodied men between sixteen and sixty years of age. English archers were critical to his victories on the Continent. In this poem he already champions the virtues of the bow, urging Adam to take up archery so that he can poach deer (lines 413-19), but Adam tells him he can kill deer by using the larger of his two slings (420-30). Here Adam closes the discussion by disparaging what he must see as unnecessary technology, the feathered shaft that stabilizes the flight of the arrow. If a man is as good with a sling as Adam has just demonstrated himself to be, why would he bother to change to a bow and arrows?

565 His dogge lay ther full stille. Adam’s sheepdog is well trained and has been keeping the sheep safely in one place all day while its master is off drinking and hunting with Joly Robyn.

576 Many man is his tresirere. That is, many people owe him money.

579–80 The tother Edwart, Edward II, was whole and sound until his capture, deposition, and murder in 1326–27.

581 The first of Edward III and Queen Philippa’s eight sons, Edward of Woodstock, now called the Black Prince, was born in 1330. He was the only one of the eight to have been created a prince, becoming Prince of Wales in 1343.

590 a blak furred hode. Frédérique Lachaud argues “that the idea of a strict hierarchical view of society expressed by the means of dress was a fourteenth-century phenomenon, which culminated in the sumptuary laws of the reign of Edward III” (“Dress and Social Status in England,” p. 119). Here Adam's fur hood challenges the king's authority by violating a sumptuary ordinance set out by Edward III in 1337, which forbids any subject with less than £100 in earnings per year to “wear any fur. . . in or on any of his clothes, under pain of incurring the above-mentioned penalty [being punished at the ‘king’s will’].” See F. E. Baldwin, Sumptuary Legislation and Personal Regulation, p. 31, quoting Statutes of the Realm, 11 Edward III c. 2, vol. I, pp. 280–81. But his russet clothing men­tioned at line 588 is quite appropriate to his peasant status. Russet is homespun.

593 mytans clutt. “Mytans” is “mittens” or “mittens’,” “clutt” is “clout” or “rag,” but the word order is problematic and the sense is uncertain.

644 Then onswerid that erle balde. At the time that the story seems to be set, Sir Ralph Stafford was not yet an earl (see the introduction to the poem). At line 611 above, the king addresses two earls, and later we hear of those two as the earl of Lancaster and the earl of Warren; Stafford is addressed as “Sir Ralph of Stafford” and never referred to in the poem as earl of Stafford. The term earl is used anach­ron­istically, perhaps introduced later than the time of the poem’s composition.

647 felow. As a term of address, fellow would be used by people of high rank to people of low rank. Adam the Shepherd is oblivious to the social gaffe he is committing in calling Sir Ralph of Stafford, steward of the Royal Household (1327), seneschal of Aquitaine (1345), eventually a founding knight of the Garter (1348) and the first earl of Stafford (1350), “felow.” See Carole Rawcliffe, “Stafford, Ralph” (ODNB). Adam is similarly oblivious to the social rules that require him to doff his hood or hat in the presence of a superior and those that require him to give up his weapons before entering the court.

662 “wel mot thou be!” A warm greeting, literally “May you be well.”

677–78 The earl of Lancaster is Henry of Grosmont, second cousin to the king. Heir to a very powerful earldom, he gained even more power, land, and wealth by his services in war and diplomacy to Edward III. His father Henry became blind, so the younger Henry took over many of his political obligations from about 1330, when as a young man of roughly twenty he was knighted and took his father’s place in parliament. Edward raised him to the status of earl in 1337, when he received one of his father’s titles, earl of Derby. Then in 1345, he succeeded his father as earl of Lancaster. In the years leading up to the composition of the poem his great victories were in the south of France, at Auberoche (1345) and at Poitiers (1346), and his service to Edward at the successful end of the siege of Calais (1347). Around 1347–48, the time during which the poem was written, he had probably begun construction of the magnificent Savoy Palace in London, using his profits from his campaigns. Edward made him a founding member of the Order of the Garter in 1349, and in 1351 raised his title to duke of Lancaster. One of his many services to the king was to stand hostage for Edward’s debts in the Low Countries in 1340–41; it is because of his commitment of his own resources to Edward as security for a loan that we know about his gold statue of Tristram and Isolde (see Vale, Edward III, appendix 11), a possession that suggests not only his immense wealth but also his interest in literature. Later in life he was to compose the Anglo-Norman spiritual treatise called Le Livre des seintz medicines. See W. M. Ormrod, “Henry of Lancaster, first duke of Lancaster (c.1310–1361),” ODNB.
Edward’s relations with John de Warenne, earl of Surrey, were rather different. Whereas Edward and Henry were about the same age, and both eager to establish their chivalric prowess on the battlefield and in tournament, John de Warenne was an older man. Born in 1286, he died in 1347, probably then just before the poem was written. At the time of the deposition of Edward II, John had urged the former king to abdicate but could not persuade him. John’s service to Edward II led him into conflict with Thomas, then earl of Lancaster, Henry of Grosmont’s uncle; John was even on the panel of judges appointed by Edward II to put Thomas to death. That John de Warenne and Henry of Grosmont feature together in this poem is a tribute to the harmony at the court of Edward III. John attended the coronation of the younger Edward, and served on his regency council. In subsequent years he served Edward III in a number of administrative roles and some military ones. Though he was never as prominent as Henry of Grosmont, his service was in different forums: the Scottish wars rather than the French ones, administration in England rather than on the Continent. For example, “In 1345 Warenne was one of the councillors appointed to advise the regent, Edward's second son, Lionel” (Scott L. Waugh, “Warenne, John de, seventh earl of Surrey (1286–1347),” ODNB, for the quotation and other information on John de Warenne). In the financial crisis of 1340, John stood up to the enraged king in Parliament about who should be present to advise him, but he was not usually confrontational. Edward rewarded him well and clearly considered him a valuable advisor. He died in late June of 1347. Perhaps it was the recentness of his death that prompted his inclusion as one of the figures of the poem.

736 Also mot thou thynne. That is, “also mot thou theen,” “as you hope to prosper.”

755 The marshal (who seems to be a domestic officer in charge of the arrangements for the feast rather than the officer of state, the marshall of England), has been given instructions to pass along to the steward (again, the steward seems to be a domestic officer rather than a high officer of state). At 756 the steward comes back to the king with him, lowers his hood respectfully in the king’s presence at 757 (in contrast to Adam), and at 761 tells the king that the money is ready.

762 I know hym not. That is, “I can’t tell who he is because I don’t know him.”

be Oure Lady. “Our Lady” is the Virgin Mary.

775 So fayre mot me befalle. Another phrase underlining sincerity, literally “As I hope good things will happen to me.”

782–83 Here is the flaw of the tally-stick system: if the steward does not want to pay the debt the king’s household has incurred, it is easy enough to deny having a match to Adam’s stick.

791–802 The notion of a shepherd tipping the king and advising him to put some money into new clothing would have been an amusing one. Edward paid careful attention to courtly display, for example, taking care that his lavish behavior on the Continent helped to bolster his grand claims to the throne of France.

805 I swere be Seynt Martyne. St. Martin of Tours was a fourth-century Roman soldier (see "Martin of Tours, St.," NCE). He is famous for cutting his cloak in half to share it with a naked beggar, an event that was followed by a vision of Christ and a dedication of the rest of his life to Christianity. The king would doubtless prefer to see himself as a benefactor, like St. Martin, rather than as someone who, according to modern conceptions, is taking a kickback. At any rate he would not care to see himself as someone whose cloak was the gift of a poorly dressed churl, a St. Martin in reverse.

806 “Be God,” seid the scheperde, “yys!” The word yes here implies “to the contrary” like French si; simple agreement was signaled by ay or yea, as below (line 821), ya.

865 As thei wolde be his frynde. That is, friendship with the king is dependent on being polite to Adam the Shepherd.

869 His mytans hang be his spayre. His mittens hung beside his ?: The “spayre” (MED speier(e, OED † spare, n.2) is evidently an opening in the clothing, in this case predictably enough present that it can be identified as “his spayre” rather than “a spayre.” I am tempted to think it might be the equivalent of a modern-day fly.

872 And when the waytis blew lowde hym be. The waits are wind musicians who are signaling mealtime. They are not necessarily trumpeters, and indeed since Adam thinks he has heard a fiend, perhaps they are playing bagpipes.

885 Thou shalt sitte here above. “Here above” would be at the high table, on the dais. Joly Robin is to occupy the seat of honor.

896 A tabul dormant that he begynne. Adam is being honored by being asked to take the head of a table dormant, a table that is a fixed piece of furniture rather than one of the trestle tables that would be set up for the less-important diners.

905–10 Adam is impressed with the reception Joly Robin has arranged for him and resolves both to keep the terms of their relationship secret and to pay Joly Robin back (or else, let Adam be hanged).

914 Surketis overal he con holde. The surcoats would display the heraldic arms of their wearers and so would make a colorful and impressive display. This also underscores the nobility of Adam’s company.

934 Unto his scole a stage. The king proposes to have the prince taken to Adam for instruction.

970 As have I rest and roo. A phrase underlining sincerity, literally “As I hope to have rest and peace.”

1000 When any cuppe yede amys. Everyone laughed at Adam when any cup, presumably that he was drinking from, went amiss.

1013 French lingered as the language of high culture at the court, and thus the language of much literature, such as Henry of Grosmont’s Livre des seintz medicines. The role of Anglo-Norman heritage was reinforced at court by repeated royal marriages to French-speaking noblewomen, such as Edward II’s to Isabella of France and Edward III’s to Philippa of Hainault. And Latin continued to be an important third language, among clerics particularly. But English was widely used at court too. Edward may have adopted a French motto for his Order of the Garter (“Honi soit qui mal y pense,” “Shame on him who thinks evil of it”), but he had several other mottoes in use for ceremonial occasions, and they were English ones: “It is as it is,” “Syker as the wodebynd” (Vale, Edward III, p. 65), “Hay hay the wythe swan by goddes soule I am thy man” (Vale, Edward III, p. 175). Adam is disturbed, though, by hearing the other two languages used.

1018 The lady is, of course, the Blessed Virgin Mary, whom late medieval Christians reverenced as a kind intercessor who would intervene on their behalf.

1040–41 He toke the wyne and laft the spice; / Then wist thei wel that he was nyce. Adam has his own drinking customs, but he is not used to the court custom of drinking wine and eating spices after a meal. He drinks the wine but leaves the spices, betraying his lack of courtly polish.

1046–48 “Joly Robyn,” he thoght, “wo thou be / That tyme that I ever met with thee, / Er ever that I thee seye. The lines are somewhat garbled grammatically, but the general sense that Adam regrets meeting Joly Robin is clear. “Wo is me” would be more idiomatic than, make more sense than, and work as well with the rhyme scheme as, “wo thou be.”

colophon Non finis sed punctus. “Not complete, but at an end.” There is plenty of room for more text left on the page in the sole manuscript, but the exemplar from which the scribe was copying must have been lacking the last folio, probably no more than one since the plot is nearing its probable end.



Copy-Text: Cambridge University Library MS Ff.5.48, fols. 48v–56v.
Abbreviations: MS: manuscript, here referring to the copy-text.

title There is no title in the MS.

1 MS reads: God that sittis in Trinite, in very large letters and underlined in red, like lines 226 and 377.

32 MS reads: that I most fle fro my wony< >g. Gap in MS.

66 MS reads: A M £ pounde and mare. £ is above the M.

74 MS reads: Me is owand iiij li pounde.

151 MS reads: thei goo aboute be viij or nyn<.>e.

178 MS reads: had I helpe of sum lordyngis. Emendation for rhyme.

181 MS reads: ffor other iii felowes and I.

226 MS reads: Do way quod Adam let be that, in very large letters and under­lined in red, like lines 1 and 377.

278 MS reads: But ride now forth in my blessyn. The last letter is cut off.

293 MS reads:ii peny ale he brouõt with all.

340–41 The stanza is defective and may have been so in the scribe’s exemplar. Here the scribe has two lines that are perhaps borrowed from the next stanza, lines 350–51.

342 Two lines required by the stanza form are missing after line 342. No gap in MS.

375 MS reads: With alkyn denteyth welbested. Emendation for sense.

377 MS reads: I shalle the whyte be hode myne; in very large letters and under­lined in red, like lines 1 and 226.

421 MS reads: To wynne me a bridde. Emendation for rhyme and sense.

436 MS reads: And fy fryndes make I me.

487 MS reads: Moo bourdis wold he here se.

512 MS reads: This is no man this place con wrye. Emendation for sense.

553 MS reads: I vouchesafe wels more. Emendation for sense, but the reading is uncertain.

589 MS reads: In kyrtil and in surstbye. Emendation for sense.

609 MS reads: And than be thaire gammen iwis. Emended for sense.

631–33 appear in the wrong order in the MS, thus:

Whilke bourdis I wolde ful fayn se
And telle me how hit is
Gladly lord so mot I the

Emended for sense and stanza form.

683 MS reads: the scheperde seid sir god blesse yew. Emendation for sense.

740 MS reads: He is cum to aske iiij pounde.

789 The last two letters are cut off.

810 MS reads: Then speke a worde or ii the fore.

841 MS reads: That stode lang ore be my me.

911 MS reads: And when the hall was rayed oght. Emendation for rhyme and sense.

1015 MS reads: And drow hym ever alove. Emendation for sense and rhme.

1043 MS reads: He ete the spyce, the wyne he dran. End of the line cut off.

1060 MS reads: When heris of that tythyng. Emendation for sense.

1064 Hit shalle hym meve al to gode: French and Hale read: Hit shalle hym mene al to gode. The letters u and n are indistinguishable.

1086 MS reads: I knaw the not be oure lady. Emendation for sense.


























































































































































































































God that sittis in Trinité
Gyffe thaym grace wel to the
     That listyns me a whyle.
Alle that lovys of melody
Of hevon blisse God graunte thaim party
     (Theyr soules shelde fro peryle)
At festis and at mangery,
To tell of kyngis that is worthy
     Talis that byn not vyle.
And ye wil listyn how hit ferd
Betwene Kyng Edward and a scheperd,
     Ye shalle lawgh of gyle.

Oure kyng went hym in a tyde
To pley hym be a ryver side
     In a mornyng of May.
Knyght ne squyer wold he non
But hymself and a grome,
     To wende on that jorney.
With a scheperde con he mete,
And gret hym with wordis swete,
     Without any delay.
The scheperde lovyd his hatte so well,
He did hit off never a dele,
     But seid, “Sir, gud-day.”

The kyng to the herde seid than,
“Of whens art thou, gode man,
     Also mot I the?”
“In Wynsaure was I borne.
Hit is a myle but here beforne;
     The town then maist thou see.
I am so pylled with the kyng
That I most fle fro my wonyng,
     And therfore woo is me.
I hade catell; now have I non;
Thay take my bestis and don thaim slone,
     And payen but a stik of tre.”

The kyng seid, “Hit is gret synne
That thei of sich werkis wil not blynne,
     And Edward wot hit noght.
But come tomorne when it is day
Thou shalbe sirvyd of thi pay.
     Therof have thou no thoght.
For in your towne born I was.
I have dwellid in diverse place
     Sithe I thens was broght.
In the courte I have sich a frende:
The treserer, or then I wende,
     For thi luffe shalle be soght.”

This gret lord the herd con frayne,
“What wil men of your kyng seyne?
     Wel litull gode, I trowe.”
The herd onsweryd hym right noght,
But on his schepe was all his thoght,
     And seid agayn, “Char, how!”
Then loogh oure kyng and smyled stille:
“Thou onsweris me not at my will;
     I wolde thai were on a lawe!
I aske thee tythyngis of oure kyng,
Of his men and his wyrkyng;
     For sum I have sorow.

“I am a marchant and ride aboute,
And fele sithis I am in dowte
     For myn owne ware.
I tell it thee in priveté,
The kyngis men oon to me
     A thousand pounde and mare.
Owe he ought mycull in this cuntré?
What silver shall he pay thee,
     For Goddis haly are?
Sith thou art neghtbur myne,
I wil my nedis do and thyne;
     Tharof have thou no care.”

“Sir,” he seid, “be Seynt Edmonde,
Me is owand four pounde
     And odde twa schillyng.
A stikke I have to my witness.
Of hasill I mene that hit is;
     I ne have no nother thyng.
And gif thou do as thou has me hote,
Then shall I gif thee a cote,
     Withowt any lesyng;
Sevon schelyng tomorne at day
Whan I am sirvyd of my pay.”
     “Graunte,” seid oure kyng.

“Tel me, sir, what is thi name,
That I for thee have no blame,
     And where thi wonnyng is.”
“Sir,” he seid, “as mot I the,
Adam the scheperde men callen me,
     For certan soth iwysse.”
The scheperde seid, “Whos son art thou of oure towne?
Hat not thi fadur Hochon,
     Also have thou blisse?”
“No, for God,” seid oure kyng,
“I wene thou knowist me nothyng;
     Thou redis alle amysse.

“My fadur was a Walsshe knyght;
Dame Isabell my modur hyght,
     Forsothe as I tell thee.
In the castell was hir dwellyng
Thorow commaundment of the kyng,
     Whene she thar shuld be.
Now wayte thou wher that I was borne.
The tother Edward here beforne,
     Full well he lovyd me,
Sertanly withowte lye.
Sum tyme I live be marchandye,
     And passe well ofte the see.

“I have a son is with the whene;
She lovys hym well, as I wene;
     That dar I savely say.
And he pray hir of a bone,
Yif that hit be for to done,
     She will not onys say nay;
And in the courte I have sich a frende,
I shalbe sirvyd or I wende,
     Withowt any delay.
Tomorne at undur speke with me;
Thou shalbe sirvyd of thi moné
     Er than hye mydday.”

“Sir, for Seynt Thomas of Ynde,
In what place shall I thee fynde,
     And what shalle I thee calle?”
“My name,” he seid, “is Joly Robyn;
Ilke man knowes hit well and fyne,
     Bothe in bowre and halle.
Pray the porter, as he is fre,
That he let thee speke with me,
     Soo faire hym mot befalle.
For fer owtward shall I not be;
Sumquer I trow thou shall me see,
     Within the castell wall.

“For thou and other that lene your thyng,
Wel ofte sithes ye banne the kyng,
     And ye ar not to blame;
Hit er other that do that dede;
Thei were worthy, so God me spede,
     Therfor to have gret shame.
And if I wist whilke thei were,
Hit shulde come the kyng to ere,
     Be God and be Seynt Jame.
Then durst I swere thei shuld abye
That dose oure kyng that vilanye,
     For he berys all the fame.”

The herd onswerd to the kyng,
“Sir, be Seynt Jame, of this tithyng
     Thou seist therof right well:
Thei do but gode, the kyngis men;
Thei ar worse then sich ten
     That bene with hym no dell.
Thei goo aboute be eight or nyne
And done the husbondis mycull pyne,
     That carfull is theire mele.
Thai take geese, capons, and henne,
And alle that ever thei may with renne,
     And reves us oure catell.

“Sum of theim was bonde sore,
And afturwarde hanget therfore,
     Forsoth, as I yow say.
Yet ar ther of theim nyne moo,
For at my hows thei were also
     Certis yisturday.
Thei toke my hennes and my geese
And my schepe with all the fleese,
     And ladde theim forth away.
Be my doghtur thei lay al nyght;
To come agayne thei have me hyght;
     Of helpe I wolde yow pray.

“With me thei lefte alle their thyng,
That I am sicur of theire comyng,
     And that me rewes soore.
I have fayre chamburs thre,
But non of theim may be with me
     While that thei be thore.
Into my carthaws thei me dryfe;
Out at the dur thei put my wyfe,
     For she is olde gray hore.
Had I helpe of sum lordyng,
I shulde make with thame recknyng;
     Thei shulde do so no more.

“For other thre felowes and I,
We durst wel take party
     These nyne for to mete.
I have slyngus smert and gode
To mete with theim yif thei were wode,
     And reve hem her lyves swete.
The best archer of ilkon,
I durst mete hym with a stone,
     And gif hym leve to schete.
Ther is no bow that shall laste
To draw to my slynges caste,
     Nought be feel fete.

“Ther is non archer in this lande,
And I have my slyng in hande.
     For I dar lay with hym ale
That whoso sonyst hittis a bauke
For to have the tother haut
     To what thyng he will hale —
That whoso furst smytis a thyng
Of his bow or my slyng
     Undurstande my tale —
Be the deth that I shall dye,
Therto my hed then dar I ley,
     Now sone in this swale.”

With talis he made the kyng to dwell,
With mony moo then I can tell,
     Till hit was halfe-gatis prime.
His hatte was bonde undur his chyn;
He did hit nothyng off to hym:
     He thoght hit was no tyme.
“Robyn,” he seid, “I pray thee
Hit is thi will: come hom with me,
     A morsell for to dyne.”
The kyng list of his bourdis lere;
“Gladly,” he seid, “My lefe fere,
     I wil be on of thyne.”

As thei hamward con gon,
The kyng saw conyngis mony on;
     Therat he can smyle.
“Adam,” he seid, “Take up a ston
And put hit in thi slyng anon;
     Abyde we here a while.
Gret bourde it wold be
Of theim to slee twoo or thre,
     I swere thee be Seynt Gyle.”
“Do way!” quod Adam, “Let be that!
Be God, I wolde not for my hat
     Be takyn with sich a gyle.

“Hit is alle the kynges waren;
Ther is nouther knyght ne sqwayne
     That dar do sich a dede,
Any conynges here to sla
And with the trespas awey to ga,
     But his sidis shulde blede.
The warner is hardy and fell;
Sirtanly, as I thee tell,
     He will take no mede.
Whoso dose here sich maistrye,
Be thou wel sicur he shall abye
     And unto prison lede.

“Ther is no wilde foule that will flyne
But I am sicur hym to hittyne;
     Sich mete I dar thee hote
Yif hit be so my slyng will last.
Yif I fayle of hym a caste,
     Brok than welle my cote.
When we come and sitten insame,
I shalle tech thee a gamme;
     I can hit wel be rote.
Then shal thou se my slyng slaght,
And of the best take us a draght,
     And drynk well right be note.”

The scheperde hows ful mery stode
Undur a forest fayre and gode,
     Of hert and hynde gret mynde.
The kyng seid, “Be God Almyght,
In thy hert thou may be light
     Hamward when thou shall wende;
I thee swere, be Goddis grace,
And I had here sich a place,
     I shulde have of that kynde;
Outher on even or on morneng,
Sum of theim shuld come to ryng,
     Therwith to make me a frende.”

The herd bade, “Let soch wordis be!
Sum man myght here thee;
     Thee were bettur be still.
Wode has erys, fylde has sight;
Were the forster here now right,
     Thy wordis shuld like thee ille.
He has with hym yong men thre;
Thei be archers of this contré,
     The kyng to sirve at wille,
To kepe the dere bothe day and nyght,
And for theire luf a loge is dight
     Full hye upon an hill.

“I wolde have here no standyng,
But ride now forth in my blessyng
     And make us wel at ese.
I am glad thou come with me;
Goo sit now wher thi willes be,
     Right at thine owne ese;
Though sumdel of my gode be lorne,
I shall have more; and God beforne,
     He may hit wel increse;
And I shall tech thee play —
When tyme comys, thou shalt asay
     Whilke play be not lese.”

A fayre cloth on the borde he leyd;
Into the boure he made a brayde,
     Gode mete for to fette.
Brede of whete bultid small,
Two peny ale he brought withall:
     Therof wolde he not lett;
A fesaunde brid and therwith a crane.
Other fowles were ther gode ane
     Before the kyng he sette.
“Adam,” quod the kyng, “blessed thou be:
Here is bettur then thou heghtist me,
     Today when that we mette.”

“Sir,” he seid, “do now gladly;
Yet have I mete that were worthy
     A gret lord for to fech.”
He broght a heron with a poplere,
Curlews, boturs, bothe in fere,
     The maudlart and hur mech,
And a wylde swan was bake.
“Sich fowle con my slyng take;
     Theroff am I no wrech;
I bade felawes to my dynere
And sithen thei wil not cum here,
     A devell have who that rech!

“Yif thou wilt ete, thou shall non wave;
But gif thou will any drynk have,
     Thou most con thy play;
When thou seest the cuppe anon,
But thou sei passilodion
     Thou drynkis not this day.
Sely Adam shall sitt thee hende
And onswere with berafrynde,
     Leve upon my ley.”
The kyng seid that he wold lere:
“Me think it bourde for to here:
     Teche me, I thee pray.”

Passilodyon, that is this:
Whoso drynkis furst, iwys,
     Wesseyle the mare dele!
Berafrynde also, I wene,
Hit is to make the cup clene,
     And fylle hit efte full wele.
Thus shal the game go aboute,
And whoso falys of this route,
     I swere be Seynt Mighell,
Get hym drynk wher he will,
He getis non here (this is my skill)
     Noght to another sele.”

The kyng seid, “Let se that drynke;
I shall say right that I thynke:
     Me thirstis swyth sore.”
The scheperde bade the cup fill;
The kyng to drynk hade gode will
     With passilodion more.
     “I con right wel my lore.”
“Berafrynde,” iseid Adam,
“Iwysse thou art a wytty man;
     Thou shalt wel drynk therfore.”

Thus thei sate withoute strife,
The kyng with Adam and his wyfe,
     And made hym mery and glad.
The scheperde bade “the cuppe fill”;
The kyng to drynke hade gode will;
     His wife did as he bade.
When the cuppe was come anon,
The kyng seid “passylodion”
     When he the cuppe hade.
Hit was a game of gret solas;
Hit comford all that ever ther was;
     Therof thai were noght sade.

The scheperde ete till that he swatte,
And than nou erst he drew his hatt
     Into the benke-ende.
And when he feld the drynk was gode,
He wynkid and strokyd up his hode,
     And seid, “Berafrynde.”
He was qwyte as any swan;
He was a wel begeten man,
     And comyn of holy kynde.
He wold not ete his cromys drye:
He lovyd nothyng but it were trie,
     Nether fer ne hende.

Then seid the kyng in his reson,
“Whoso were in a gode town,
     This wold ha costed dere,
In this maner to be fed
With alkyn dentey wel bested,
     As we have had now here.
I shalle thee whyte, be hode myne:
Now hade I lever a conyne
     Dight in my manere;
But yif hit were of buk or doo,
Ther is no mete i-lovyd soo,
     And I come ther hit were.”

The scheperde seid, “So mot thou the,
Con thou heyle a priveté?
     And thou shalt se gode game.”
“Ye!” seid the kyng, “Be my leuté,
And ellis have I mycul maugré
     Yif hit be for my frame.
What man that wrye a gode frende,
Though he were right sibbe of my kynde,
     He were worthy gret shame.”
Then seid Adam, “Thou seis soth;
Yet I have a morsel for thi toth,
     And ellis I were to blame.”

He went and fett conyngis thre,
Alle baken well in a pasty,
     With wel gode spicerye,
And other baken mete alsoo,
Bothe of hert and of roo;
     The venyson was full trye.
“Sir,” he seid, “asay of this:
Thei were yisturday qwyk, iwysse,
     Certan, withouten lye;
Hidur thei come be mone-light.
Eete therof well aplight,
     And schewe no curtasye.”

To the scheperd seid the kyng,
“The forsters luf this over al thyng.
     Thou art alle thaire felawe:
To thaire profett thou con foulis slyng,
And thei will venyson to thee bryng:
     Therof stande thei non awe.
Were thou as perfete in a bowe,
Thou shulde have moo dere, I trowe,
     Soth to say in sawe.
Yet I rede that thou fande
Than any forster in this land
     An arow for to drawe.”

Then seid the scheperde, “Nothing soo:
I con a game worth thei twoo
     To wynne me a brede:
Ther is no hert ne bucke so wode
That I ne get without blode,
     And I of hym have nede.
I have a slyng for the nones
That is made for gret stonys;
     Therwith I con me fede.
What dere I take undur the side,
Be thou siker he shall abide
     Til I hym home will lede.

“Conyngus with my nother slyng
I con slee and hame bryng,
     Sumtyme twoo or thre;
I ete thaim not myself alon:
I send presandes mony on,
     And fryndes make I me,
Til gentilmen and yemanry.
Thei have thaim all; thei ar worthy —
     Those that ar privee.
Whatso thai have, it may be myne,
Corne and brede, ale and wyne,
     And alle that may like me.

Do now gladly, Joly Robyne:
Yet shall thou drynk a draught fyne
     Of gode drynk, as I wene;
Of Lanycoll thou shall prove:
That is a cuppe to my behove;
     Of maser it is ful clene.
Hit holdis a gode thrydendele
Ful of wyne every mele;
     Before me it is sene.
Fil the cuppe,” he seid anon,
“And play we passilodion,
     Sith no moo that we bene.”

When the drynk was filled,
The wife askid, “Who shuld begynne,
     The godeman, sir, or ye?”
“Take my geyst,” seid Adam than,
“Sith he his gamme con;
     I wil that it so be.”
The kyng toke the cuppe anon
And seid, “Passilodion!”
     Hym thoght it was gode gle.
The sheperde seid “Certanly,
Berafrynd shalbe redy,
     Also mot I the.”

He drank and made the cuppe ful clene,
And sith he spake wordis kene,
     That gamme was to here:
“This cuppe hit hat Lonycoll;
I luf it wel, for it is holl;
     It is me lefe and dere;
Fil it efte to Joly Robyn;
Iwisse, he drank no bettur wyne
     Of alle this seven yere!
To alle that wil my gamme play,
Fill it be the ee, I thee pray,
     My bourdis that wil lere.”

Then dranke oure kyng and toke his leve;
The sheperd seid, “Sir, not thee greve,
     And it thi wille be:
I shalle the schew, Joly Robyn,
A litull chaumbur that is myne,
     That was made for me.”
The kyng therof was ful glad,
And did as the scheperde bad:
     Moo bourdis wold he se.
He lad hym into a privé place
Ther venyson plenté in was,
     And the wyne so claré.

Undur the erth it was dight,
Feire it was, and clene of syght,
     And clergially was hit wroght.
The kyng seid, “Here is feyre ese:
A man myght be here wel at ese,
     With gamme yif he were saught.”
The kyng seid, “Gramercy, and have goday!”
The scheperde onswerid and said, “Nay,
     Yet ne gose thou nought;
Thou shalle preve furst of a costrell tre
That gode frendis send to me,
     The best that myght be bought.

“Telle me now, whilke is the best wyne
Of Lonycoll, cuppe myne,
     Als thou art gode and hynde?
Play onys ‘passilodion,’
And I shall onswer sone anon,
     Certes, ‘Berafrynde.’
This chambur hat Hakderne, my page;
He kepis my thyng and takis no wage,
     In worde wher that I wende.
Ther is no man this place con wrye
But thiself, yif thou wilt sey,
     And than art thou unkynde.

“Ther is no man of this contré
So mycull knowes of my priveté
     As thou dose, Joly Robyn;
Whil that I liff, welcum to me;
Wyne and ale I dar hete thee,
     And gode flesshe for to dyne.”
The kyng his stede he can stride,
And toke his leve for to ride;
     Hym thoght it was hye tyme.
The scheperde seid, “I will with thee goo:
I dar thee hete a foule or twoo,
     Parauntur with a conyne.”

The kyng rode softely on his way.
Adam folowyd, and wayted his pray:
     Conyngus saw he thre.
“Joly Robyn, chese thou which thou wylt;
Hym that rennys er hym that sitt,
     And I shall gif hym thee.”
“He that sittis and wil not lepe:
Hit is the best of alle the hepe,
     Forsoth so thynkith me.”
The scheperde hit hym with a stone
And breke in two his brest-bon;
     Thus sone ded was he.

The kyng seid, “Thou art to alow:
Take hym als that rennyth now,
     And than con thou thy crafte.”
“Be God,” quod Adam, “here is a ston
That shalle be his bane anon.”
     Thus sone his life was rafte.
What fowle that sittis or flye,
Whether it were ferre or nye,
     Sone with hym it lafte.
“Sir,” he seid, “forsoth I trowe
This is bettur then any bowe,
     For alle the fedurt schafte.”

“Joly Robyn, brok wel my pray
That I have wone here to day.
     I vouchesafe wele more.
I pray thee telle it to no man
In what maner that I hit wan;
     I myght have blame therfore.
And gif thou do my errand of right,
Thou shalle have that I thee hyght,
     I swere be Goddis ore.”
The kyng seid, “Take me thy tayle,
For my hors, I wolde not thee fayle,
     A peny that thou lore.”

The kyng to court went anon,
And Adam to his schepe con gon;
     His dogge lay ther full stille.
Home er nyght come he noght;
New mete with hym he broght:
     For defaute wolde he not spill.
“Wife,” he seid, “be not sory:
I wil to courte certanly;
     I shalle have alle my will.
Joly Robyn, that dynet with me,
Hase behette me my moné,
     As he can lawe and skill.

“He is a marchande of gret powere:
Many man is his tresirere;
     Men awe hym mony a pounde.
The best frend he had sith he was borne
Was the tother Edwart here beforne,
     Whil he was holl and sounde.
He hase a son is with the qwene;
He may do more then other fyftene,
     He swerys be Seynt Edmonde.
Though he shuld gif of his catell,
I shalle have myne, everydell,
     Of penys holl and rownde.”

On morow when he shuld to court goo,
In russet clothyng he tyret hym tho,
     In kyrtil and in curtebye,
And a blak furred hode
That wel fast to his cheke stode,
     The typet myght not wrye.
The mytans clutt forgate he noght;
The slyng cumys not out of his thoght,
     Wherwith he wrought maystrie.
Toward the court he can goo;
His doghtur lemman met he thoo,
     And alle his cumpanye.

He thoght more then he seyde.
Towarde the court he gaf a brayde,
     And yede a well gode pas.
And when he to the yatis come,
He askid the porter and his man
     Wher Joly Robyn was.
He was warned what he shuld seyn.1
Of his comyng he was fayne,
     I swere be Goddis grace.
“Sir, I shall tel thee wher he is.”
And than began thaire gammen, iwis,
     When he come forth in place.

The kyng seid to erles tweyne,
“Ye shall have gode bourd, in certayne,
     Yif that ye will be stille,
Of a scheperde that I see
That is hidur come to me
     For to speke his wille.
I pray yow alle, and warne betyme,
That ye me calle Joly Robyne,
     And ye shalle lawgh your fille.
He wenys a marchand that I be.
Men owe hym silver her for fe;
     I shalle hym helpe thertille.

“But a wager I dar lay
(And ye will as I yow say),
     A tune of wyne, iwysse:
Ther is no lorde that is so gode,
Though he avayle to hym his hode,
     That he wil do off his.
Sir Raufe of Stafford, I pray thee,
Goo wete what his will be,
     And telle me how hit is.”
“Gladly, lord, so mot I the.
Whilke bourdis I wolde ful fayn se,
     Of thyngus that fallis amysse.”

And whan he to the herde came,
He seid, “Al hayle, godeman.
     Whidur wiltow goo?”
He onsweryd as he thought gode
(But he did not off his hode
     To hym never the moo),
“Joly Robyn, that I yondur see,
Bid hym speke a worde with me,
     For he is not my foo.”
Then onswerid that erle balde,
“Take the porter thi staffe to halde,
     And thi mytens also.”

“Nay, felow,” he seid, “so mot I the,
My staffe ne shal not goo fro me.
     I will hit kepe in my hande.
Ne my mytans getis no man
Whil that I thaim kepe can,
     Be Goddis Sone Alweldande.
Joly Robyn, that I yondur see,
Goo bidde hym speke a worde with me,
     I pray thee, for Goddis sande.
I wolde wete how hit is:
I am aferd my schepe go mysse
     On other mennys lande.”

And when he to the kyng came,
Then seid the kyng, “Welcum, Adam,
     As to my powere!”
“Joly Robyn,” he seid, “wel mot thou be!
Be God, so shuld thou to me
     On other stede than here.
I am commyn, thou wat wherfore;
Thi travayle shal not be forlore:
     Thou knowis wel my manere.”
“For God,” seid the kyng tho,
“Thou shalbe sirvyd er thou goo;
     Forthy make glad chere.”

“Joly Robyn,” he seid, “I pray thee
Speke with me a worde in priveté.”
     “For God,” quod the kyng, “gladly!”
He freyned the kyng in his ere
“What lordis that thei were
     That stondis here thee bye?”
“The erle of Lancastur is the ton,
And the erle of Waryn, Sir John,
     Bolde and as hardy;
Thei mow do mycull with the kyng:
I have tolde hem of thi thyng.”
     Then seid he, “Gremercy!”

The scheperde seid, “Sirs, God blesse yew!
I know yow not, be swete Jhesu!”
     And swere a wel gret oth.
“Felaw,” they seid, “I leve thee well:
Thou hase sene Robyn or this sell;
     Ye ne ar nothyng wrothe.”
“No, siris,” he seid, “so mot I the,
We ar neghtburs, I and he;
     We were never loth.”
As gret lordis as thei ware,
He toke off his hode never the mare,
     But seid, “God save yow both.”

The lordis seid to hym anon,
“Joly Robyn, let hym noght gon
     Till that he have etyn.
Hym semys a felow for to be.
Moo bourdis yet mow we se
     Er his errand be gettyn.”
The kyng to the scheperde con say,
“Fro me ne gost thou not away
     Tille we togedur have spokyn.
An errande I hyght thee for to done.
I wolde that thou were sirvyd sone,
     That hit be not forgetyn.

“Goo we togedur to the marshall,
And I myself shall tel the tale,
     The bett may thou spede.”
“Robyn,” he seid, “thou art trwe;
Iwis, it shalle thee never rew:
     Thou shalt have thy mede.”
To the hall he went, a ful gode pase,
To seke wher the stuarde was;
     The scheperde with hym yede.
Long hym thought til mydday
That he ne were sirvyd of his pay;
     He wolde have done his dede.

When he into the hall came,
Ther fande he no maner of man;
     The kyng hym bade, “Abyde.
I wil go aboute thi nede,
For to loke gif I may spede,
     For thing that may betide.”
“Robyn, dwel not long fro me.
I know no man here but thee;
     This court is noght but pride,
I ne can of no sich fare:
These hye halles, thei ar so bare!
     Why ar thei made so wyde?”

Then lowgh the kyng, and began to go,
And with his marsshale met he tho.
     He commaundit hym ayeyne.
“Felaw,” he seid, “herkyn a light,
And on myne errand go thou tyte,
     Also mot thou thynne:
A scheperde abides me in hall:
Of hym shall we lagh alle,
     At the meyte when that we bene.
He is cum to aske four pounde;
Goo and fech it in a stounde,
     The sothe that I may sene.

“Twey schelyng ther is more:
Forgete hem not, be Goddis ore,
     That he ne have alle his pay.
I wolde not for my best stede
But he were sirvyd er he yede,
     Er then hye mydday.
He wenys a marchande that I be;
Joly Robyn he callis me,
     For sirtan sothe to say.
Now sone to mete when I shall goo,
Loke he be noght fer me fro.”
     “Lorde,” he seid then, “nay.”

Forthe the marshale can gon,
And brought the stuard sone anon,
     And did adowne his hode.
“Herstow, felow, hast thou do
The thyng that I seid thee to,
     For the gode rode?”
“Sir,” he seid, “it is redy;
I know hym not, be Oure Lady,
     Before me thogh he stode.”
“Goo, take yond man and pay betyme,
And bidde hym thonke Joly Robyn;
     We shall sone have gamme gode.”

Forthe thei went all thre,
To pay the scheperde his moné
     Ther he stode in the halle.
The stiward at hym frayned tho,
“What askis thou, felow, er thou goo?
     Telle me, among us alle.”
“Sir,” he seid, “so mot I the,
Foure pounde ye owe to me,
     So fayre mot me befalle!
Twey schillyngis is ther odde:
I have wytnesse therof, be God,
     Within this castell wall.

“Hit is skorid here on a tayle;
Have; brok hit wel withowt fayle:
     I have kepte hit lang enogh!”
The stiwarde: “Therof I ne rech:
Iwisse, I have therto no mech!”
     At hym ful fast thei loogh;
“Ne were Joly Robyn, that I here se,
To-day ye gate no moné of me,
     Made thou it never so towgh;
But for his luf, go tel it here.”
Then made the scheperde right glad chere,
     When he the silver drowgh.

He did it up, the sothe to say,
But sum therof he toke away
     In his hand ful rathe.
“Joly Robyn,” he seid, “herkyn to me
A worde or tweyn in priveté
     Togedur betwene us bath.
I hight the yisturday seven shyllyng.
Have: brok it wel to thi clothyng.
     Hit wil do thee no skathe.
And for thou hast holpyn me now,
Evermore felowes I and thow,
     And mycull thanke, sir, now have ye.”

“Graunt mercy, sir,” seid than he,
“But silver shalt thou non gif me,
     I swere be Seynt Martyne!”
“Be God,” seid the scheperde, “yys!”
“Nay,” seid oure kyng, “iwys,
     Noght for a tune of wyne.
For thi luf I wolde do more
Then speke a worde or twa the fore
     Thou may preve sumtyme.
Yif thou be fastyng, cum with me
And take a morsell in priveté;
     Togedur then shalle we dyne.”

“Nay, sir,” he seid, “so God me spede!
To the kyngis meyte have I no nede.
     I wil therof no dele.
Ther is non of his proud meny
That hase alway so gode plenté
     I have every sele.”
The kyng bare wittnesse, and seid, “Ya!
But thou myght onys, er thou ga,
     Etyn with me a mele.
The grettist lordis of this lande
Have bidde thee tary, I undurstonde,
     And therfore bere thee well.”

“For thi luff, Robyn, I wil gladly.
Today then mett I myne enmye,
     Forsothe as I thee tell:
He that be my doghtur lay.
I tolde thee of hym yisturday.
     I wolde he were in hell.
At my howse is alle the rowte.
They wil do harme whil I am owte.
     Full yvel then dar I dwell.
Wold thou speke for me to the kyng,
He wolde avow me my slyngyng;
     Thaire pride then shulde I fell.”

Kyng Edwart onswerid agayne,
“I wil go to these erles twane
     That stode lang ore be me.
Thai ar aperte of my knowyng.
Thei shall speke for thee to the kyng,
     That wrokyn shal thou be.
In this courte thai ar twenty
At my biddyng to bidde redy
     To do a gode jornay;
When thou comys home, make no bost:
Thei shalbe takyn er thou it wost,
     Though thai were sech thre.”

Thus the kyng held hym with tale,
That alle that ever was in the sale
     Of hym hade gret ferly.
Togedur thei yede up and down
As men that seid thare orison,
     But no man wist why.
The scheperde keppid his staf ful warme,
And happid it ever undur his harme
     As he romyd hym by.
He wold no man toke it hym fro
Til that he shulde to meyte goo,
     Sich was his curtasy.

The kyng commaundit al his
That no man speke to hym amysse,
     As thei wolde be his frynde.
When tablys were layd and clothis sprad,
The scheperde into the hall was lad
     To begynne a bordis ende.
His mytans hang be his spayre,
And alway hodit like a frere
     To meyte when he shulde wende.
And when the waytis blew lowde hym be,
The scheperde thoght, “What may this be?”
     He wende he hade herd a fende.

And alle that hym aboute stode
Wende that man hade bene wode,
     And lowgh hym to hethyng
For he so nycely yede in halle,
And bare a staffe among thaim alle,
     And wolde take it nothyng.
The stwarde seid to Joly Robyn,
“Goo wesshe, sir, for it is tyme,
     At the furst begynyng;
And for that odur Edwart love,
Thou shalt sitte here above,
     Instidde alle of the kyng.”

When he had wasshen and fayre isett,
The qwene anon to hym was fett,
     For sche was best worthy.
At every ende of the deyse
Sate an erle, withowt lese,
     And a fayre lady.
The kyng commandit the stuard tho
To the scheperde for to goo
     And pray hym specially
A tabul dormant that he begynne;
“Then shal we lawgh, that be herein,
     Of his rybaudy.”

“Adam,” he seid, “sit here down,
For Joly Robyn of this towne,
     He gifis thee gode worde.
And for thou art of his knoyng,
We vouchsafe, olde and yong,
     That thou begynne the borde.”
“Perdy,” seid the scheperde, “nowe
Hit shal be thought, if that I mow,
     Hit is wel kept in horde.
But if I do Robyn a gode journé,
Ellis mot I hangyt be
     With a hempyn corde.”

And when the hall was rayed out,
The scheperde lokid al aboute,
     How that hit myght bene.
Surketis overal he con holde;
Of knyghtis and of persons bolde,
     Sich hade he non sene.
The prince was feched to the borde
To speke with the kyng a worde,
     And also with the qwene.
Then he frayned hym in his ere
If he wolde “passilodion” lere,
     And “berafrende” bedene.

“Lorde,” he seid, “what may that be?
I know it not, be Goddis tre.
     It is a new language.”
“I leve thee well,” seid the kyng,
“Thou may not know al thyng:
     Thou therto ne has non age.
Ther is a mon in this town
That will it preve gode reson
     To kyng, squyer, and page.
And gif thou wille gif any mede,
I shal do thee to hym lede,
     Unto his scole a stage.

“Hit is a scheperde that I of mene;
At his howse then have I bene
     Within this seven-nyght.
A dosan knyghtis, and thai had cum with me,
Thei shulde have had mete plenté
     Of that I fonde redy dyght.”
Then he tolde hym alle the case,
Of passilodion, what it was,
     And berafrynde, I plight.
“He sittis yonde, in a furred hode;
Goo, bere hym here a golde ryng gode,
     And that anon right,

“And thank hym mycul for Joly Robyn.
He wenys that it be name myne,
     Forsoth as I thee say.
He wot I have a son here,
That is the quene lefe and dere:
     I tolde hym so yisturday.
As ofte as thou wilt to hym gan,
Name passilodian,
     And wete what he will say.”
“Lorde,” he said, “I wil gladly:
I can hit wel and perfitely;
     Now have I lornyd a play.”

When he to the scheperde came,
He seid, “Do gladly, gode Adam,
     And mycull gode hit thee doo.
Micul thanke for Joly Robyn,
That thou did my lorde to dyne;
     And other ther is also:
Whi playes thou not passilodion
As thou did yisturday at home?
     I wil onswer therto.
I know thi gamme to the ende,
For to say ‘berafrynde,’
     As have I rest and roo.”

Then loogh the herd, and liked ille,
And seid, “Lefe childe, be stille,
     For Goddis swete tre!
Go sei thi fadur he is to blame
That he for gode dose me schame.
     Why has he wryed me?
Have I maugré for my god dede,
Shall I never more marchand fede,
     Ne telle my pryveté.”
He stroked up his hud for tene,
And toke a cuppe and mad it clene.
     A gret draught then drank he.

The prynce seid, “That was wel done.
Hit shalbe filled ayeyn ful sone,
     Alle of the best wyne.
Play passilodion, and ha no drede,
And have a gold ryng to thi mede,
     And were it for luf myne.”
“I wil it not, forsothe to sey:
Hit shulde not laste me halfe a day,
     Be Goddis swete pyne.
When it were brokyn, fare well he!
An hatte were bettur then sech thre
     For reyne and sonneschyne.”

When the prince hade hym beholde,
He yede and sate hym where he wolde,
     As skille and reson is.
And alle the lordyngis in the halle
On the herd thei lowgen alle
     When any cuppe yede amys.
When thei hade etyne and clothis draw,
And wasshen, as hit is landis lawe,
     Certan sothe iwysse,
Than dranke thai aftur sone anon,
And played passilodion
     Tille ilke man hade his.

The lordis anon to chawmbur went.
The kyng aftur the scheperd sent;
     He was broght forth full sone.
He clawed his hed, his hare he rent,
He wende wel to have be schent:
     He ne wyst what was to done.
When he French and Latyn herde,
He hade mervell how it ferde,
     And drow hym ever alone.
“Jhesu,” he seid, “for thi gret grace,
Bryng me fayre out of this place.
     Lady, now here my bone.

“What eyled me? Why was I wode,
That I cowth so litell gode
     Myselven for to wrye?
A, Lord God, that I was unslye!
Alasse, that ever he come so nye,
     The sothe that I shulde seye!
Wolde God, for His modurs luf,
Bryng me onys at myn abofe
     I were out of theire eye,
Shuld I never, for no faire spech,
Marchande of my cowncell teche,
     Soo aferde I am to dye.”

The kyng saw he was sory;
He had thereof gret myrth forthi,
     And seid, “Come nere, Adam;
Take the spices and drynk the wyne
As homely as I did of thyne,
     So God thee gif thedame.”
Fulle carfully in he yede;
“Have I this for my gode dede?
     Me rewes that I here came.”
He toke the wyne and laft the spice;
Then wist thei wel that he was nyce.
     Wel carfull was that man.

He ete the spyce, the wyne he drank,
Oure kyng on the scheperde wanke
     Prively with his eye.
“Joly Robyn,” he thoght, “wo thou be
That tyme that I ever met with thee,
     Er ever that I thee seye.
Be God,” he thought, “had I thee nowe
Ther were yisturday I and thow,
     Paynes then shulde thou drye.
I shulde chastis thee so with my slyng,
Thou shulde no moo tythyngis bryng,
     On horse though thou were hye.”

The kyng commaundit a squyer tere,
“Goo telle the scheperde in his ere
     That I am the kyng,
And thou shall se sich cowntenence
That hym had lever be in Fraunce,
     When he heris of that tythyng.
He has me schewid his priveté:
He wil wene ded to be,
     And make therfore mournyng.
Hit shalle hym meve al to gode:
I wolde not ellis, be the rode,
     Nought for my best gold ryng.”

The squyer pryvely toke his leve
And plucked the scheperde be the sleve
     For to speke hym with.
“Man,” he said, “thou art wode!
Why dose thou not down thi hode?
     Thou art all out of kith.
Hit is the kyng that spekis to thee,
May do thee what his willis be,
     Berefe thee lym and lith;
And gif thou have do any trespas,
Fall on knees and aske grace,
     And he will gif thee grith.”

Then was that herd a carful man,
And never so sory as he was than,
     When he herd that sawe.
He wist not what hym was gode,
But then he putte doun his hode;
     On knees he fel down lawe.
“Lorde,” he seid, “I crye thee mercy!
I knew thee not, be Oure Lady,
     When I come into this sale.
For had I wist of this sorowe
When that we met yistur-morowe,
     I had not ben in this bale.”

Give; well to prosper

All who love melody; (see note)
Of heaven’s; part
shield from peril

Tales; are
If; went


one time

nor squire
go; day trip
he met; (see note)

took it off not a bit


As I hope to prosper
just in front of here
pillaged by
must; dwelling; (t-note)
animals; have them slain; (see note)
pay only a stick of wood

deeds; stop
supplied with; deserts
don’t worry

various places
Since; thence
a certain
treasurer, before I leave


Turn back, ho
laughed; quietly
as I would like
on fire
you information about

many times; fear
more; (t-note)
very much; (see note)
ought he to pay you
holy grace

by; (see note)
[To] me is owed; (t-note)
two odd shillings
hazel I complain; (see note)
I have no other
if; promised
give; coat
Seven shillings
provided with

(see note)



Isn’t your father called
As you hope to have

believe; not at all
guess all wrong

was called

(see note)
you know
The other

cross; sea

[who] is; queen
dare; safely
If; for a boon


nine; (see note)
provided with; money
Before high noon

India; (see note)

(see note)
Every; very well
private and public
Ask; noble

good things; (see note)
far away

lend; goods
times; curse

It is others
make me prosper

knew which
to the king’s ear
(see note)
dare; pay for it

speak of it

ten times worse
are; not at all
go around in a group of; (t-note)
farmers great suffering
[So] that anxious; their [every] meal

run with
rob from us; property

tightly tied up; (see note)
hanged for it


(see note)

[So] that I am sure
makes me very unhappy
can [stand to]
cart-house; drive
barnyard muck
lord; (t-note)

dare; part

slings stinging
even if; violent
take from them their
the lot (each)

give; leave to shoot

amount to; distance of shot
Not by many feet

i.e., who could compete; (see note)
soonest; target?
the other[’s] hawk?
draw back the arrow


early morning was half over

didn’t take it off

[That] it
To have a bite to eat
wanted to learn his funny customs
dear companion
I’m your man

many a rabbit

(see note)
Give up; Forget it; (t-note)


rabbit warren


man in charge; ruthless

such a feat
pay the penalty
[be] led

sure; hit
food; promise


know; by heart
game killed with my sling
by token

[With a] great amount of hart and hind

heart; happy

some of that species
Either; evening
join the dance; (see note)
(see note)

Don’t talk like that

better to be quiet
(see note)
(see note)
not please you at all

for their sake a lodge is built; (see note)

I don’t want us to stand here
with my; (t-note)
[let’s] make; ease
where you prefer

part; lost
by God

Which play is not a trick

back room; dash
food; fetch
sifted fine
also; (t-note)
young pheasant
in abundance
[that] he


now enjoy [yourself]
I still have
spoonbill; (see note)
bitterns; together
mallard; mate; (see note)
[that] was

whoever cares

want to; pass up none of it

learn; game

Unless; (see note)

Good old; handy to you
(see note)
Trust me; (see note)
wanted to learn

(see note)

Share out more liquor


fails in this custom
(see note)
[Let] him get
my view of what’s right
till; occasion

just what
I’m very thirsty


know; lesson

Certainly; clever

sat; disagreement


for the first time; pulled off
Onto; bench-end

white; (see note)
Of any kind; (see note)

If someone

every kind of delicacy; arranged; (t-note)

requite; hood; (t-note)
rather; rabbit
Unless it were of buck or doe
dish so well praised

As you hope to prosper
conceal a secret

Or else; blame
Even if; to my advantage [to reveal it]
informs on
closely related to me by birth

tidbit to your taste


roe deer
try some

don’t stand on ceremony


They aren’t at all afraid of doing so

Again; advise; attempt
Rather than

Not at all
twice as much
piece of roast meat; (t-note)




i.e., mine other

I make myself friends; (t-note)
With landowners great and small


please me

From; try; (see note)
that suits me
maple; pure
third of a gallon

Since there are no more of us

(see note)


then; sharp; (see note)

is called


whoever wants to learn

don’t be offended


like clary; (see note)

skillfully; made


You don’t go yet
taste; from a wooden keg

As; nice

(see note)

Wherever in the world
reveal; (t-note)

then you would be

much; private business




lay in wait for

[to] you



(see note)
far or near

feathered; (see note)


grant; (t-note)



Give; tally stick


(see note)

lack; die

will [go]

knows the law and what is right

treasurer; (see note)

other; (see note)
[who] is; (see note)

some of his goods
every part

dressed himself then
tunic; short coat; (t-note)
(see note)
[That] the scarf could not conceal
rag mittens; (see note)
performed great feats

daughter’s lover

made a sudden movement
went quickly


fun; (t-note)
right there



ahead of time

here; livestock
to [get] it

If you will do


find out


bold; (see note)
Give; hold

(see note)




To the best of my ability
(see note)
as you would [be welcome] to me
come; know why
effort; wasted
polite behavior

So cheer up


the first; (see note)

They have much influence
about your matter
Thank you


before; occasion
not at odds


quite a guy


better; succeed

you will never regret it
at a brisk pace


treated to his satisfaction
wanted to


see if I can succeed
No matter what may happen

know nothing of such carrying on


told him to go back
(see note)


Before high

(see note)

[the steward] put down
Do you hear


(see note)

choose that; promptly


(see note)
Two; in addition

tally stick

care; (see note)

If it were not for
would get
No matter how difficult you made it

packed it up; (see note)



make use of it for

Thank you

(see note)
(see note)

on your behalf; (t-note)

such a large amount
[As]; time




bring down

long before; (t-note)
known to be of my acquaintance


ready to command
day’s fight
before you know it
three times as many

kept him talking


tucked; arm

his [people]

friend; (see note)

Sit at the head of a table
(see note)
[he was] still hooded; friar

musicians; (see note)

laughed him to scorn

give it up not at all


(see note)

nicely sat down

high table

(see note)

uncouth behavior

speaks well of you

Gosh; (see note)
as far as I’m concerned
Unless; day’s work

arranged completely; (t-note)

Surcoats everywhere he beheld; (see note)

he [the king] asked

together with it

i.e., by the cross


You aren’t old enough


if; recompense

school; grade; (see note)




I assure you

right away


[to] the queen

find out


Enjoy your food
may it do

there’s another thing

peace; (see note)

was uncomfortable

in exchange for good does
If I have blame

pulled; hood; anger
cleaned it out


want; truly

may it fare well
A hat would be
rain; sunshine

right and reasonable

(see note)
cleared the tablecloths
the country’s custom

each; his [drink]

expected; ruined

(see note)
how it was going
kept to himself; (t-note)

prayer; (see note)

so little knew what was good for me

out on top
[So that]




I’m sorry
(see note)

i.e., the king; (t-note)

(see note)




he had rather


It will lead to nothing but good for him; (t-note)
I wouldn’t want it any other way

You don’t know how to behave

[Who] can
Deprive you of limb and limb






(see note)

Go To John the Reeve: Introduction