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Robin Hood's Birth, Breeding, Valour, and Marriage


1 cold pear pies / With clotted cream and honey


5 Locksly is here located in Nottinghamshire, which does not seem historically to be an option. Near Sheffield in Yorkshire is the usual location for this place which the Sloane Life, c. 1600, is the first to link to the hero, but it does also mention other possible origins for the hero in Nottinghamshire which may have led to the error here.

11 Two miles and an inch is, according to Child, the longest of the feats of archery in the Robin Hood tradition: he comments on this in his "Index of Matters and Literature" (1965, V, 471), under the rubric "not to be taken seriously."

12 The Pinder did not in fact meet Robin's father in the ballad bearing his name. It is not clear if "he" in the next line refers to the Pinder or to Robin's father; it hardly seems important in this fast moving piece of name-juggling.

18 Sir Guy of Warwick is the hero of a major medieval romance, but he also became well-known in less elevated forms and continued to appear in chap-book stories into the nineteenth century.

21 For Gamwell see the discussion of Robin Hood and Will Scarlet; this family name came, through the mediation of Peacock in Maid Marian, into the mainstream of the Victorian novel. It plays a major part in Pierce Egan's 1840 Robin Hood and Little John and also in Alexandre Dumas's Robin Hood, Prince des Voleurs of 1872.

32 The fact that it is Christmas Eve marks a strong departure from the normal Robin Hood tradition; this is a festal Christmas ballad, not an early summer adventure.

35 Unusual and quite pantomime-like in effect is the fact that Robin wears light blue and his mother Lincoln green. The elements of the outlaw ballads are no longer understood, but are being deployed for merely theatrical effect.

41 basket-hilt sword. A sword with an openwork metal protection for the hand around the hilt.

61 March beer. According to the OED, a strong beer brewed in March; it would be especially strong by Christmas, as here.

62 Child emends be sung to "he sing," but this is in none of the texts and seems unnecessary.

65 The Roxburghe text reads Mustards, braun, but Child accepts the Pepys texts which read "Mustard and braun." This seems a false simplification, however, because the mustard would have been served with both the brawn (pork roast) and the roast beef and so should not be linked to the brawn by "and."

78 Child follows the Pepys texts with "gentleman, yeoman" but Roxburghe's plural makes good sense, and there seems no reason to emend.

97 There is no explanation of why Robin might have all these yeomen in Sherwood forest, since he is a respectable member of local gentry society.

105 Clorinda, or Clarinda, becomes a favorite name for Robin's partner in the moderately gentrified ballad operas of the eighteenth century.

108 The buskin is the chopine or high-heeled knee boot which was associated with tragic plays; it is a mark of Clorinda's dignity.

118 Child prefers "O" from the Pepys texts, but there seems no reason to emend Roxburghe's Oh.

119-20 The fierce skill Clorinda displays here is not unlike the dedicated hunting of Maid Marian in Ben Jonson's The Sad Shepherd.

120 Titbury day. The annual celebration and fair day at Titbury.

125 we. The ballad apparently is being sung by a local bard in the company of the foresters (an Allin a Dale type?), who joins in the feast (line 135). Later, in line 175, he claims to be king of the fidlers, who saw it all. The first-person device such as this is unusual in the ballads. See note to line 175.

149 All the existing texts have "motion" which Child retains. However, this reading seems most improbable, and the obvious emendation is notion.

152 Roxburghe reads "be merry," but the Pepys texts' be married seems to make much more sense in the context of the priest in the previous line.

159 Child prefers to start the line with "Go" as in the Pepys texts, but this seems both unnecessary and, with go in the previous line, clumsy.

161 The implication might be that Staffordshire miles, like Irish miles, might be unusually long, though this is not recorded elsewhere; when "Staffordshire" is used as a colloquial epithet it usually refers to blows with a club, or staff, as in "Staffordshire Law," martial or directly violent law. It is conceivable that the phrase here suggests "very dangerous miles."

171 Child prints "good" from the Pepys texts after them, but it seems unnecessary for sense or meter and is, as in the Roxburghe text, omitted here.

175 It is unusual in ballads for the narrator to be so visible (see note to line 125), but this feature appears to fit the eclectic and somewhat art-oriented character of this particular version.

184 Arthur-a-Bradly. A popular song about a young hero; may be the same as "Arthur a Bland," the tune of which is thought to have been used for several Robin Hood ballads. See Dobson and Taylor, 1976, p. 166.

194 Dubbridge is not a recorded place in Britain; the closest might seem to be Dudbridge in Gloucestershire, but the West Midlands have no real connection with the later Robin Hood tradition. North Yorkshire, on the other hand, is often represented in the myth, and the source here could be a number of Dub- place names in that area such as Dub Cote and Dub Garth. Apart from their credible location, these have the same unusual structure as Dubbridge: dubh is Gaelic for "black" or "dark" and these two names, like Dubbridge, combine the Celtic epithet with a non-Celtic location.

205 The Roxburghe text reads "the" which must at this stage be a compositor's error, not a dialect form of they.

206 The texts differ in this line: Roxburghe has the garlands placed at the bride's bed, while Pepys has "on the bride's head." The choice is between the awkwardly repeated rhyme in Roxburghe and the rather bizarre idea of Clorinda wearing what seem to be thirty-four garlands on her head. Child prefers the latter, as in a number of other cases selecting Pepys for no good reason. It seems more likely that Pepys is edited for rhyme without remembering how many yeomen there are, rather than that Roxburghe is in error 3/4 its clumsiness does in fact make it the harder reading, and is retained here.

217 The reference to the king and his hope of heirs would seem to place this soon after the restoration in 1661 when a substantial number of Robin Hood texts of a non-radical character were produced; see the comments in the Introduction to Robin Hood and his Crew of Souldiers.













































Kind gentlemen, will you be patient awhile?
Ay, and then you shall hear anon
A very good ballad of bold Robin Hood,
And of his man, brave Little John.

In Locksly town, in Nottinghamshire,
In merry sweet Locksly town,
There bold Robin Hood he was born and was bred,
Bold Robin of famous renown.

The father of Robin a forrester was,
And he shot in a lusty long bow,
Two north country miles and an inch at a shot,
As the Pinder of Wakefield does know.

For he brought Adam Bell, and Clim of the Clugh,
And William a Clowdeslé
To shoot with our forrester for forty mark,
And the forrester beat them all three.

His mother was neece to the Coventry knight,
Which Warwickshire men call Sir Guy,
For he slew the blue bore that hangs up at the gate,
Or mine host of The Bull tells a lye.

Her brother was Gamwel, of Great Gamwel Hall,
And a noble house-keeper was he,
Ay, as ever broke bread in sweet Nottinghamshire,
And a squire of famous degree.

The mother of Robin said to her husband,
"My honey, my love, and my dear,
Let Robin and I ride this morning to Gamwel,
To taste of my brothers good cheer."

And he said, "I grant thee thy boon, gentle Joan,
Take one of my horses, I pray;
The sun is a rising, and therefore make haste,
For tomorrow is Christmas-day."

Then Robin Hoods fathers grey gelding was brought,
And sadled and bridled was he;
God wot, a blew bonnet, his new suit of cloaths,
And a cloak that did reach to his knee.

She got on her holiday kirtle and gown,
They were of a light Lincoln green.
The cloath was homespun, but for colour and make
It might a beseemed our queen.

And then Robin got on his basket-hilt sword,
And his dagger on his tother side,
And said, "My dear mother, let's haste to be gone,
We have forty long miles to ride."

When Robin had mounted his gelding so grey,
His father, without any trouble,
Set her up behind him, and bad her not fear,
For his gelding had oft carried double.

And when she was settled, they rode to their neighbours,
And drank and shook hands with them all,
And then Robin gallopt and never gave ore,
Til they lighted at Gamwell Hall.

And now you may think the right worshipful squire
Was joyful his sister to see,
For he kist her and kist her, and swore a great oath,
Thou art welcome, kind sister, to me.

To-morrow, when mass had been said in the chapel,
Six tables were coverd in the hall,
And in comes the squire and makes a short speech,
It was "Neighbours, you're welcome all.

"But not a man here shall taste my March beer,
Till a Christmas carrol be sung."
Then all clapt their hands, and they shouted and sung,
Till the hall and the parlour did ring.

Now mustards, braun, roast beef and plumb pies
Were set upon every table,
And noble George Gamwell said, "Eat and be merry,
And drink, too, as long as you're able."

When dinner was ended, his chaplain said grace,
And "Be merry, my friends," said the squire,
"It rains and it blows, but call for more ale,
And lay some more wood on the fire.

"And now call ye Little John hither to me,
For Little John is a fine lad
At gambols and juggling and twenty such tricks
As shall make you merry and glad."

When Little John came, to gambols they went,
Both gentlemen, yeomen and clown;
And what do you think? Why as true as I live
Bold Robin Hood put them all down.

And now you may think the right worshipful squire
Was joyful this sight for to see,
For he said, "Cousin Robin, thou'st go no more home,
But tarry and dwell here with me.

"Thou shalt have my land when I dye and till then
Thou shalt be the staff of my age."
"Then grant me my boon, dear uncle," said Robin,
"That Little John may be my page."

And he said, "Kind cousin, I grant thee thy boon,
With all my heart, so let it be."
"Then come hither, Little John," said Robin Hood
"Come hither, my page unto me.

"Go fetch me my bow, my longest long bow,
And broad arrows, one, two, or three,
For when it is fair weather we'll into Sherwood,
Some merry pastime to see."

When Robin Hood came into merry Sherwood
He winded his bugle so clear,
And twice five and twenty good yeomen and bold
Before Robin Hood did appear.

"Where are your companions all?" said Robin Hood,
"For still I want forty and three."
Then said a bold yeoman, "Lo, yonder they stand,
All under a green wood tree."

As that word was spoke, Clorinda came by,
The queen of the shepherds was she,
And her gown was of velvet as green as the grass,
And her buskin did reach to her knee.

Her gait it was graceful, her body was straight,
And her countenance free from pride;
A bow in her hand, and quiver and arrows
Hung dangling by her sweet side.

Her eye-brows were black, ay and so was her hair,
And her skin was as smooth as glass;
Her visage spoke wisdom, and modesty too:
Sets with Robin Hood such a lass.

Said Robin Hood, "Lady fair, whither away?
Oh whither, fair lady, away?"
And she made him answer, "To kill a fat buck,
For tomorrow is Titbury day."

Said Robin Hood "Lady fair, wander with me
A little to yonder green bower;
There sit down to rest you, and you shall be sure
Of a brace or a lease in an hour."

And as we were going towards the green bower
Two hundred good bucks we espy'd;
She chose out the fattest that was in the herd
And she shot him through side and side.

"By the faith of my body," said bold Robin Hood,
"I never saw woman like thee;
And comst thou from east, ay, or comst thou from west,
Thou needst not beg venison of me.

"However, along to my bower you shall go,
And taste of a forresters meat."
And when we come thither, we found as good cheer
As any man needs for to eat.

For there was hot venison and warden pies cold,
Cream-clouted with honey-combs plenty,1
And the sarvitors they were, beside Little John,
Good yeomen at least four and twenty.

Clorinda said, "Tell me your name, gentle sir."
And he said, "'Tis bold Robin Hood;
Squire Gamwel's my uncle, but all my delight
Is to dwell in the merry Sherwood.

"For 'tis a fine life, and 'tis void of all strife."
"So 'tis sir," Clorinda reply'd.
"But oh," said bold Robin, "how sweet would it be,
If Clorinda would be my bride!"

She blusht at the notion, yet after a pause
Said, "Yes, sir, and with all my heart."
"Then let's send for a priest," said Robin Hood
"And be married before we do part."

But she said, "It may not be so, gentle sir,
For I must be at Titbury feast;
And if Robin Hood will go thither with me,
I'll make him the most welcome guest."

Said Robin Hood, "Reach me that buck, Little John,
For I'll go along with my dear;
Bid my yeomen kill six brace of bucks,
And meet me tomorrow just here."

Before we had ridden five Staffordshire miles
Eight yeomen, that were too bold,
Bid Robin Hood stand and deliver his buck:
A truer tale never was told.

"I will not, faith," said bold Robin. "Come, John,
Stand to me and we'll beat 'em all."
Then both drew their swords, and so cut em and slasht em,
That five of them did fall.

The three that remaind calld to Robin for quarter,
And pitiful John beggd their lives;
When John's boon was granted, he gave them counsel,
And so sent them home to their wives.

This battle was fought near to Titbury town,
When the bagpipes bated the bull;
I am king of the fidlers and sware't is a truth,
And I call him that doubts it a gull.

For I saw them fighting, and fidld the while,
And Clorinda sung, "Hey derry down!
The bumpkins are beaten, put up thy sword, Bob,
And now let's dance into the town."

Before we came to it we heard a strange shouting,
And all that were in it lookd madly,
For some were a bull-back, some dancing a morris,
And some singing Arthur-a-Bradly.

And there we see Thomas, our justices clerk,
And Mary, to whom he was kind;
For Tom rode before her and calld Mary "Madam"
And kist her full sweetly behind.

And so may your worships. But we went to dinner,
With Thomas and Mary and Nan;
They all drank a health to Clorinda and told her
Bold Robin Hood was a fine man.

When dinner was ended, Sir Roger, the parson
Of Dubbridge, was sent for in haste;
He brought his mass-book and he bade them take hands,
And he joynd them in marriage full fast.

And then, as bold Robin Hood and his sweet bride
Went hand in hand to the green bower,
The birds sung with pleasure in merry Sherwood,
And 'twas a most joyful hour.

And when Robin came in the sight of the bower,
"Where are my yeoman?" said he.
And Little John answered "Lo, yonder they stand,
All under the green wood tree."

Then a garland they brought her, by two and by two,
And plac'd them at the bride's bed;
The music struck up, and we all fell to dance,
Til the bride and the groom were a-bed.

And what they did there must be counsel to me,
Because they lay long the next day,
And I had haste home, but I got a good piece
Of the bride-cake, and so came away.

Now out, alas! I had forgotten to tell ye
That marryd they were with a ring;
And so will Nan Knight, or be buried a maiden,
And now let us pray for the king:

That he may get children, and they may get more,
To govern and do us some good;
And then I'll make ballads in Robin Hood's bower
And sing 'em in merry Sherwood.

at once

(see note)

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social status

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have suited

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boar flesh; (see note)

yokel; (see note)


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high boot; (see note)


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two or three

(see note)

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pairs; (see note)

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kept secret by me

(see note)


Go to Robin Hood and the Golden Arrow: Introduction