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Robin Hood Rescues Three Young Men


1-4 This is very close to the stanza found at the beginning of The Jolly Pinder of Wakefield. It may have been a chorus in sung versions, referring to the late Maytime connections of Robin Hood activities.

7 The word silly here has resonances of its meaning as OE saelig, simple, blessed: modern British English "poor old" transmits the sense fairly accurately. See Robin Hood and the Bishop for another instance of Robin's alliance with an old widow.

24 In this version, as in a number of others, the young men, though called squires (line 35), are associates of Robin and his band.

31 A palmer is technically a pilgrim who has been to Jerusalem and so wears either a palm leaf or a badge representing a palm.

39 Forty shillings is a very substantial sum equivalent to many weeks' work; elsewhere Robin offers a noble (six shillings and eightpence) as a fee for joining his band.

56 The text reads To wear the bags of bread. One later text emphasizes the shame by adding the adjective poor before bags, and Child accepts poor: this seems unnecessary, partly because it is obviously an addition and also because it disrupts the meter. Child retains wear, but it seems hard to grasp how Robin, or the beggar, would actually "wear" the bags of bread, even if they are secreted in his old cloak. Later on it seems as if they are evident, lines 89-92. Emendation to bear seems sensible, better than imagining that wear means "carry."

68 This is similar to the remark made by Robin, equally ironically, when John plays the bishop in Robin Hood and Allin a Dale. Ideas about authenticity and pretence recur in the tradition and can be taken as the thematic version of disguise as a plot-motif.

76 This is the disguise motif, but here Robin is not just a harper or a potter 3/4 he is actually accepted as an agent of town authority, so the motif strengthens into one of infiltration.

77 It was traditional for the executioner to receive the clothes of the condemned person.

89-92 This stanza is very similar to stanza 18 of Robin Hood and the Beggar I (Child no. 133); Child thought that what he called Robin Hood Rescuing Three Squires was the source of the influence, which extends to plot in the later part of Robin Hood and the Beggar I, III, 156.

93-94 The statement is parallel to the claim of the pseudo-potter in Robin Hood and the Potter that he received his bow from Robin Hood. It seems that there is a kind of mythic presence of the outlaw before his real presence is revealed; this meshes with the common proverbial utterances about him, his mysterious strength and ubiquity.

96 The text reads For me which seems hard to understand; Child emends to thee and this is accepted.

100 Child emends fly to "fall," which seems unnecessary.

109 The text reads O who are you? Child emends to who are yon, feeling that Robin cannot really be part of the new arrivals. It is true that yon is the reading of the later texts and the two letters are often confused. Yet who are yon is a strange remark, and it is quite possible to make sense of the original reading, in that the sheriff suddenly realizes the supposed hangman has allies. The text is not emended here.

111 Child prints The're my attendants as in the source, but the substitution of the for they must at this late date be an error rather than a dialect variant; the text needs to be emended to They're.

113 This curious detail seems to relate to the common idea that criminals should be hanged at the site of their crimes, and so the sheriff is hanged on the outlaw's territory. More generally, taking away the gallows, like providing the hangman, is a blow at the whole system of oppressive law, expressing the elusive capacity of the outlaws, and their own form of justice.
























There are twelve months in all the year,
As I hear many men say,
But the merriest month in all the year
Is the merry month of May.

Now Robin Hood is to Nottingham gone,
With a link a down and a day,
And there he met a silly old woman,
Was weeping on the way.

"What news? what news, thou silly old woman?
What news hast thou for me?"
Said she, "There's three squires in Nottingham town
To-day is condemned to die."

"O have they parishes burnt?" he said,
"Or have they ministers slain?
Or have they robbed any virgin,
Or with other men's wives have lain?"

"They have no parishes burnt, good sir,
Nor yet have ministers slain,
Nor have they robbed any virgin,
Nor with other men's wives have lain."

"O what have they done?" said bold Robin Hood
"I pray thee tell to me."
"It's for slaying of the king's fallow deer,
Bearing their long bows with thee."

"Dost thou not mind, old woman," he said,
"Since thou made me sup and dine?
By the truth of my body," quoth bold Robin Hood,
"You could not tell it in better time."

Now Robin Hood is to Nottingham gone,
With a link a down and a day,
And there he met with a silly old palmer,
Was walking along the highway.

"What news? what news, thou silly old man?
What news, I do thee pray?"
Said he, "Three squires in Nottingham town
Are condemnd to die this day."

"Come change thy apparel with me, old man,
Come change thy apparel for mine;
Here is forty shillings in good silver,
Go drink it in beer or wine."

"O thine apparel is good," he said,
"And mine is ragged and torn;
Wherever you go, wherever you ride,
Laugh neer an old man to scorn."

"Come change thy apparel with me, old churl,
Come change thy apparel with mine;
Here are twenty pieces of good broad gold,
Go feast thy brethren with wine."

Then he put on the old man's hat,
It stood full high on the crown:
"The first bold bargain that I come at,
It shall make thee come down."

Then he put on the old man's cloak,
Was patchd black, blew, and red;
He thought no shame all the day long
To bear the bags of bread.

Then he put on the old man's breeks,
Was patchd from ballup to side:
"By the truth of my body," bold Robin can say,
"This man lovd little pride."

Then he put on the old man's hose,
Were patchd from knee to waist:
"By the truth of my body," said bold Robin Hood,
"I'd laugh if I had any list."

Then he put on the old man's shoes,
Were patchd both beneath and aboon,
Then Robin Hood swore a solemn oath,
"It's good habit that makes a man."

Now Robin Hood is to Nottingham gone,
With a link a down and a down,
And there he met with the proud sheriff,
Was walking along the town.

"O save, O save, O sherrif," he said,
"O save, and you may see!
And what will you give to a silly old man
To-day will your hangman be?"

"Some suits, some suits," the sheriff he said,
"Some suits I'll give to thee;
Some suits, some suits, and pence thirteen
To-day's a hangman's fee."

Then Robin he turns him round about,
And jumps from stock to stone.
"By the truth of my body," the sheriff he said,
"That's well jumpt, thou nimble old man."

"I was neer a hangman in all my life,
Nor yet intends to trade,
But curst be he," said bold Robin,
"That first a hangman was made.

"I've a bag for meal, and a bag for malt,
And a bag for barley and corn,
A bag for bread, and a bag for beef,
And a bag for my little small horn.

"I have a horn in my pocket,
I got it from Robin Hood,
And still when I set it to my mouth,
For thee it blows little good."

"O wind thy horn, thou proud fellow,
Of thee I have no doubt;
I wish that thou give such a blast,
Till both thy eyes fly out."

The first loud blast that he did blow,
He blew both loud and shrill;
A hundred and fifty of Robin Hood's men
Came riding over the hill.

The next loud blast that he did give,
He blew both loud and amain,
And quickly sixty of Robin Hood's men
Came shining over the plain.

"O who are you," the sheriff he said,
"Come tripping over the lee?"
"They're my attendants," brave Robin did say,
"They'll pay a visit to thee."

They took the gallows from the slack,
They set it in the glen,
They hangd the proud sheriff on that,
Releasd their own three men.
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remind me of it

pilgrim; (see note)

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Never laugh

dispute (fight)

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wish [to do so]

on top

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God save [you]

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shinning (hurrying)

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town common; (see note)


Go to Little John a Begging: Introduction