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Robin Hood and the Bishop


6 The text has her, corrected to his in later texts. Child emends, but the flavor of the broadsides is well communicated by this error.

16 The representation of the Bishop as a secular power capable of executing people is anachronistic, and no doubt part of post-reformation anti-Catholicism.

30 The earliest texts read doth, which is corrected to dost in all later texts, but like her in line 6, deserves to be left unemended as characteristic of the genre.

33 Child emends the text's on Saturday night to the more distant one Saturday night, but this reading does not appear until one of the later versions, and seems unnecessary: immediacy is often the essence of these stories.

39 The outlaw's disguise as a woman spinner is seen in Eustache le Moine; it also appears in Blind Hary's William Wallace.

47 The internal rhyme is awkward, requiring a caesura after I.

57 The horses come from a romance formula, sounding like suitable mounts for Sir Launfal and Dame Triamour.

62 The earliest text has chance. Although its peculiarities are accepted in lines 6 and 30, this would be a sudden change of tense as well as an erroneous form, and should be regarded as a compositor's error and emended, as Child has it.

71 Being unmarried, a Catholic bishop can hardly be a cuckold. The term seems generalized abuse, meaning something like "weakling" with, as the next line implies, a sense of sexual insult retained. Child records cuckoldy in the 1670 garland, but in fact it too has the full adverbial form cuckoldly.

72 Lift up my leg and see. The bawdy tone of this line is strongly reminiscent of the scene in Eustache le Moine in which the outlaw, disguised as a prostitute, mounts the sergeant's horse and offers to have sex with him.
81-84 Counting out the clerics' money seems a compulsive element in these stories, and the sums involved are usually enormous, as here.

83 The run-on line is rare, though the lack of internal rhyme suggests this line has not been rewritten by an editor. The final he which causes the run-on may well originally be a compositor's error, but remains in the later texts and should not be emended simply for being unusual.

87 The forced mass, mounting in reverse, and making the bishop pray for the outlaws are all elements of carnival which here seem to have burlesque rather than seriously radical force. On the practice of punishing venal ecclesiastics (especially summoners) by tying them backwards onto horses, then driving them from town, see Thomas Hahn and Richard W. Kaeuper, "Text and Context: Chaucer's Friar's Tale," Studies in the Age of Chaucer 5 (1983), 67-101. See also A True Tale of Robin Hood, lines 101-04.




















Come, gentlemen all, and listen a while,
Hey down down an a down
And a story I'le to you unfold:
I'le tell you how Robin Hood served the Bishop,
When he robbed him of his gold.

As it fell out on a sun-shining day,
When Phebus was in her prime,
Then Robin Hood, that archer good,
In mirth would spend some time.

And as he walkd the forrest along,
Some pastime for to spy,
There was he aware of a proud bishop,
And all his company.

"O what shall I do?" said Robin Hood then,
"If the Bishop he doth take me;
No mercy he'l show unto me, I know,
But hanged I shall be."

Then Robin was stout, and turnd him about,
And a little house there he did spy;
And to an old wife, for to save his life,
He loud began for to cry.

"Why, who art thou?" said the old woman,
"Come tel it to me for good."
"I am an out-law, as many do know,
My name it is Robin Hood.

"And yonder's the Bishop and all his men,
And if that I taken be,
Then day and night he'l work me spight,
And hanged I shall be."

"If thou be Robin Hood," said the old wife,
"As thou doth seem to be,
I'le for thee provide, and thee I will hide,
From the Bishop and his company.

"For I well remember, on Saturday night
Thou bought me both shoos and hose;
Therefore I'le provide thy person to hide,
And keep thee from thy foes."

"Then give me soon thy coat of gray,
And take thou my mantle of green;
Thy spindle and twine unto me resign,
And take thou my arrows so keen."

And when that Robin Hood was so araid,
He went straight to his company;
With his spindle and twine, he oft lookt behind
For the Bishop and his company.

"O who is yonder," quoth Little John,
"That now comes over the lee?
An arrow I will at her let flie,
So like an old witch looks she."

"O hold thy hand, hold thy hand," said Robin then,
"And shoot not thy arrows so keen;
I am Robin Hood, thy master good,
And quickly it shall be seen."

The Bishop he came to the old womans house,
And he called with furious mood,
"Come let me soon see, and bring unto me,
That traitor Robin Hood."

The old woman he set on a milk-white steed,
Himselfe on a dapple-gray,
And for joy he had got Robin Hood,
He went laughing all the way.

But as they were riding the forrest along,
The Bishop he chanc'd for to see
A hundred brave bow-men bold
Stand under the green-wood tree.

"O who is yonder," the Bishop then said,
"That's ranging within yonder wood?"
"Marry," says the old woman, "I think it to be
A man calld Robin Hood."

"Why, who art thou," the Bishop he said,
"Which I have here with me?"
"Why I am an old woman, thou cuckoldly bishop;
Lift up my leg and see."

"Then woe is me," the Bishop he said,
"That ever I saw this day!"
He turnd him about, but Robin so stout
Calld him and bid him stay.

Then Robin took hold of the Bishops horse,
And ty'd him fast to a tree;
Then Little John smil'd his master upon,
For joy of that company.

Robin Hood took his mantle from's back,
And spread it upon the ground,
And out of the Bishops portmantle he
Soon told five hundred pound.

"So now let him go," said Robin Hood;
Said Little John, "That may not be;
For I vow and protest he shall sing us a mass
Before that he goe from me."

Then Robin Hood took the Bishop by the hand,
And bound him fast to a tree,
And made him sing a mass, God wot,
To him and his yeomandree.

And then they brought him through the wood,
And set him on his dapple-gray,
And gave the tail within his hand,
And bade him for Robin Hood pray.

classical sun-god; (see note)

(see note)


do me harm

(see note)

(see note)

at once

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(see note)

(see note)

(see note)

(see note)
(see note)

from his; (see note)

travelling bag; (see note)
At once counted

(see note)

yeomanry (men)


Go to Robin Hood's Golden Prize: Introduction