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Robin Hood and Will Scarlet


9 This seems like a simple version of Robin's unwillingness, like that of King Arthur, to dine before an adventure is enjoyed; see the Gest, lines 21-24.

10 A characteristic "Robin Hood meets his match" beginning, with language not unlike the first meeting with Allin a Dale.

25 Forty yards, while perhaps realistic as a good hunting shot, is far shorter than the distances alleged to have been mastered by archers in the earlier texts: four hundred yards would be a commoner claim. It is conceivable that the Roman numerals for 400 yards have been misread as "iiiiti," a version of "forty."

30 Gamwell is not only brusque to Robin, but offers him a distinctly ungentlemanly form of violence with his fists -- both are characteristics of Gamelyn.

chiven. "A very shy fish that hides in holes" (OED). To "play the chiven" is to run away precipitately.

43 The text reads To that shoot and he wold fain. Child emends to To shoot and that he wold fain, which makes good sense and is a little smoother, but the existing reading is unlikely to have been a compositor's error and does make sense; so it is retained.

49 Robin refers to what is the actual outcome in this situation in Robyn and Gandelyn. Perhaps this is a euphemized version of that ballad.

52 The two earlier sources lack he, but both meter and the parallels with line 55 indicate it is necessary.

68 Maxfield. This place name recurs in Robin Hood and the Prince of Aragon when Will Scadlock's father is described as "Of Maxfield earl." There is a Maxfield in East Sussex, but this is a long way away from the ballad areas, though curiously a Gilbert Robynhood was recorded from this area in 1291 (Dobson and Taylor, 1976, p. 12). It may be that here, as in other obscure place names, North Yorkshire is the best location, with Maxfield Plain. While it may seem tempting to link these references to Macclesfield in Derbyshire, which still has an Earl, that title was not established until 1721, well after both ballads were in printed form.

70 In the Gest the knight's son had killed a knight of Lancaster and a squire (lines 209-10), but it was not clear what happened to him afterwards; Gamelyn is forced to flee to the woods after he has, among other crimes, killed his brother's (and before that his father's) porter.

83 Child reads there unto him, but the text reads only thereunto: the stress falls on the initial He, and there is no need to insert him for meter.

88 In a "Robin Hood meets his match" ballad it is usual for the other outlaws to want to revenge Robin, or for Robin to intervene, as here.

90 The text reads Oh, oh, no. Child inserts another no, presumably for meter, but it is not needed.

91 The text lacks not in this line, which Child inserts, though there is no room for it in the meter. If Robin's words are taken to mean "It must be so," then the line makes sense in the original, which is retained.

97 The name Scarlet is introduced with very little fuss, and the next line seems to refer to the well-known opening of ballads which named the three outlaws Robin, John, and Will. This is the line which Child thought was taken from The Jolly Pinder of Wakefield to appear in Shakespeare's Merry Wives of Windsor and Henry IV Part 2 and Beaumont and Fletcher's Philaster (III, 129).

99 The North Country is again the expected domain of the outlaw's activities; this ballad almost certainly post-dates Parker's A True Tale, which specified that as Robin Hood's area, and the idea is probably from there, not from the northern activities in the Gest or Andrew of Wyntoun's chronicle.

101 The second part is discussed in the Introduction to this ballad, above.





















Come listen a while, you gentlemen all,
With a hey down, down, a down down,
That are in this bower within,
For a story of gallant bold Robin Hood
I purpose now to begin.

"What time of the day?" quoth Robin Hood then;
Quoth Little John, " 'Tis in the prime."
"Why then we will to the green wood gang,
For we have no vittles to dine."

As Robin Hood walkt the forrest along --
It was in the mid of the day --
There was he met of a deft young man
As ever walkt on the way.

His doublet it was of silk, he said,
His stockings like scarlet shone,
And he walkt on along the way,
To Robin Hood then unknown.

A herd of deer was in the bend,
All feeding before his face:
"Now the best of ye I'le have to my dinner,
And that in a little space."

Now the stranger he made no mickle adoe,
But he bends and a right good bow,
And the best buck in the herd he slew,
Forty good yards him full froe.

"Well shot, well shot," quoth Robin Hood then,
"That shot it was shot in time,
And if thou wilt accept of the place
Thou shalt be a bold yeoman of mine."

"Go play the chiven," the stranger said,
"Make haste and quickly go,
Or with my fist, be sure of this,
I'le give thee buffets store."

"Thou hadst not best buffet me," quoth Robin Hood,
"For though I seem forlorn,
Yet I can have those that will take my part,
If I but blow my horn."

"Thou wast not best wind thy horn," the stranger said,
"Beest thou never so much in hast,
For I can draw out a good broad sword,
And quickly cut the blast."

Then Robin Hood bent a very good bow,
To that shoot, and he wold fain;
The stranger he bent a very good bow,
To shoot at bold Robin again.

"O hold thy hand, hold thy hand," qoth Robin Hood,
"To shoot it would be in vain;
For if we should shoot the one at the other,
The one of us may be slain.

"But let's take our swords and our broad bucklers,
And gang under yonder tree."
"As I hope to be savd," the stranger he said,
"One foot I will not flee."

Then Robin Hood lent the stranger a blow,
Most scar'd him out of his wit;
"Thou never felt blow," the stranger he said,
"That shalt be better quit."

The stranger he drew out a good broad sword,
And hit Robin on the crown,
That from every haire of bold Robins head
The blood ran trickling down.

"God a mercy, good fellow!" quoth Robin Hood then,
"And for this that thou hast done,
Tell me, good fellow, what thou art,
Tell me where thou doest woon."

The stranger then answered bold Robin Hood,
"I'le tell thee where I did dwell;
In Maxfield was I bred and born,
My name is Young Gamwell.

"For killing of my own fathers steward,
I am forc'd to this English wood,
And for to seek an uncle of mine;
Some call him Robin Hood."

"But thou art a cousin of Robin Hoods then?
The sooner we should have done."
"As I hope to be sav'd," the stranger then said,
"I am his own sisters son."

But Lord! what kissing and courting was there,
When these two cousins did greet!
And they went all that summers day,
And Little John did meet.

But when they met with Little John,
He thereunto did say,
"O master, where have you been,
You have tarried so long away?"

"I met with a stranger," quoth Robin Hood then,
"Full sore he hath beaten me."
"Then I'le have a bout with him," quoth Little John,
"And try if he can beat me."

"Oh, oh, no," quoth Robin Hood then,
"Little John, it may be so;
For he's my own dear sisters son,
And cousins I have no mo.

"But he shal be a bold yeoman of mine,
My chief man next to thee,
And I Robin Hood and thou Little John,
And Scarlet he shall be,

"And wee'l be three of the bravest outlaws
That is in the North Country."
If you will have any more of bold Robin Hood,
In his second part it will be.


early morning
victuals (food); (see note)

(see note)

by a skilfull

bent (grassy field)


great fuss

from him; (see note)

with good timing

Run away; (see note)


lost (alone)

If you be

stop the sound

eagerly; (see note)

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cousins or male relatives

(see note)

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Go to Robin Hood’s Progress to Nottingham: Introduction