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Robin Hood's Fishing


1 The opening lines show familiarity with the "green wood" beginning common to a number of the outlaw ballads.

5 This unsurprising line replaces the highly unusual "lily leaf and elephant" in the Wood version ("lily-leaf and cowslip sweet" in the version printed by Dobson and Taylor [1976, p. 80]): although Forresters provides a structurally superior ballad, Wood's text may well have access to a different earlier tradition: its reading here seems unlikely to have been constructed by editorial processes. Forresters reading "nightengaal" seems unlikely to be a scribal error and may indicate that the source used here followed at least at times the practice of doubling vowels to indicate length.

7 In a number of ballads Robin separates from the outlaw band, but this is because of his sometimes rash adventurousness; the financial planning with which this ballad opens marks a major and mercantile-minded variation from the tone of earlier openings.

8 The manuscript reads follow.

17 The earliest Wood texts have with Robin; with is obviously a compositor's error for an abbreviated quoth (a sign of manuscript origin), and Child emends accordingly. Forresters here shows the quality of its detailed readings as well as its overall value.

19 The rapid leap from forest to Scarborough is in all the versions, and is not unlike the rapid transitions in some other ballads, which have at times led editors to think material is missing (e.g., see Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne, lines 6-7).

24 The first letter of gray is not well written and appears to be corrected from, perhaps, the letter b, again indicating the possibility of a source in late gothic handwriting. It does not appear to be any other letter, certainly not sp from a notional "spray."

25 The a of came is overwritten, a sign of careful correction. The scribe first wrote the more familiar From whence come thou.

28 The locational surname "of the Lee" is very common, but it is used of the knight in the Gest, and recurs in Robin Hood and Queen Catherin, so it seems to be close to the outlaw in several ways. A "lee" was an open moor or untilled land, so just the place where an outlaw might be looking for game, animal or human; it is also, of course, a nautical term.

30 Presumably the widow is referring to the fisherman Simon in the New Testament, later known as Peter, as a model for Robin's behavior.

33 The widow has apparently inherited a fishing business from her husband; this was a common occurrence, and the techniques of business find their way into the outlaw myth here as they do in Robin Hood and the Potter.

36 Presumably yea is a variant spelling of "ye," not the idiom "yea well," meaning "very well," still heard in the USA.

44 wrang: the manuscript has a half-rhyme here; perhaps the source read lang (a northern form) in line 42. So too in lines 114 and 126.

49 The Wood versions, like Forresters, have bare lines, but Dobson and Taylor printed, from a garland of c. 1750, bate lines (1976, p. 181), though they state in a note it is a mistake in that garland. They feel that Robin throws in unbaited hooks in ignorance. Child proposes it was "wantonness" (1965, III, 211), suggesting a kind of tricksterish folly not unlike Robin's pricing policy in Robin Hood and the Potter.

57 The word in Forresters is clearly luske: "lubber" is what might be expected and appears in the Wood versions in about this position, though the narrative is a little different hereabouts.

60 The manuscript I weat for makes sense and is more metrical than the more grammatical I weat; it sounds like scribal padding, but should not be emended on that ground. The Wood versions have no parallel to this line.

64 suned is clearly the word in Forresters.

65 For Plumpton Park as a Robin Hood location, see the Gest, line 1426.

85 The manuscript has no noun after the in this line; it would seem that only "prize" or "gold" make sense, and the later is preferred because more familiar and so more easily dropped.

87 The phrase "go as" is understood after shall.

89 Wood's earliest text reads ship-hatch, which Child printed, but the plural as found in Forresters is more probable, even for a fairly small fishing boat.

126 The source's And might be thought an error for "an," which might fit better, but And makes sense and is retained.

128 The swallow tayle is an image of an arrow, with its feather flights having a shape at the rear not unlike a swallow's double-pointed tail.

136 MS: now. This does not make sense and might be an error for not.

148 MS: Tho. This needs emending to Thou.

155 In Wood Simon asks to be released and to have his "bent bow" in his hand. This is obviously a repetition from line 103, and makes no sense. The Wood version is heavily cut hereabouts, and the action quite lacks the lucid flow found in Forresters.

164 In Wood's version Robin finds twelve thousand pounds in gold, an improbably large sum.

173 Robin shares the spoils in the person of an outlaw leader. The Wood version shows him making this statement, but then has the ship's "master" say this "shall not be," but he must own it all himself. Robin seems to agree and merely says he will build "for the opprest . . . An habitation" -- presumably an alms-house.
But whereas Forresters allows Robin Hood and Queen Catherin to end in a somewhat argumentative mode, as Little John disagrees with the king and, it seems, Robin, the context here is much less strained than the Wood text.

184 The manuscript reads not with a correcting point under the t.






































In sumer time when leaves grow green,
When they do grow both green and long,
Robin Hood that bold outlaw
It is of him I sing my song.

"The thrassle cock and nightengaal
Do chaunt and sing with merry good cheer;
I am weary of the woods," said hee,
"And chasing of the fallow deer.

"The fisher-man more mony hath
Then any marchant two or three;
Therefore I will to Scarburough go
And there a fisher-man will bee."

Hee cald togeather his weight men all,
To whom he gave or meat or fee,
Paid them their wage for halfe a year,
Well told in gold and good monie.

"If any of you lack mony to spend
If your occasions lie to speake with mee,
If ever you chance to Scarburrough com,
Aske for Symon of the Lee."

Hee tooke his leave there of them all,
It was upon a holy day;
Hee took up his inn at a widdows house,
Which stood nigh to the waters gray.

"From whence came thou, thou fine fellow,
A gentleman thou seemist to bee."
"I'th contrey, dame, where I came from
They call me Symon of the Lee."

"Gen they call the Symon of the Lee,
I wish well may thou brook thy name."
The outlaw knew his courtisie,
And so replyed "Gramercy, dame."

"Symon," quoth shee, "wilt bee my man,
I'le give to thee both meat and fee."
"By th'Masse, dame," bold Robin said,
"I'le sarve yea well for years three."

"I have a good shipp," then she said,
"As any goes upon the sea.
Ancors and plancks thou shalt want none
Nor masts nor ropes to furnish thee.

"Oars nor sayle thou shalt not want,
Nor hooks faile to thy lines so long."
"By my truth, dame," quoth Symon then,
"I weat ther's nothing shall go wrang."

They hoyst up sayle and forth did hale
Merrylie they went to sea
Till they came to th'appoynted place
Where all the fish taken should bee.

Every man bayted his line
And in the sea they did him throw;
Symon lobb'd in his lines twaine
But neither gott great nor smaw.

Then bespake the companie,
"Symon's part will bee but small."
"By my troth," quoth the master man,
"I thinke he will gett none at all.

"What dost thou heer thou long luske,
What the fiend dost thou upon the sea.
Thou hast begger'd the widdow of Scarburrough,
I weat for her and her children three.

Still every day they bayted their lines
And in the sea they did then lay,
But Symon he scrap'd his broad arrows,
I weat he suned them every day.

"Were I under Plumpton Parke," said hee,
"There among my fellows all,
Look so little you sett by mee,
I'd sett by yee twiyce as small.

"Heigh ho," quoth Symon then,
"Farwell to the green leaves on the tree,
Were I in Plumpton Parke againe,
A fisher-man I nare would bee."

Every man had fish enough,
The shipp was laden to passe home.
"Fish as you will," quoth good Symon,
"I weat for fishes I have none."

They weyd up ankere, away did sayle,
More of one day then two or three,
But they were awar of a French robber
Coming toward them most desperatly.

"Wo is me," said the master man,
"Alas, that ever I was borne,
For all the fish that wee have tane,
Alas the day, 'tis all forlorne.

"For all the gold that I have tane
For the losse of my fish I do not care,
For wee shall prisoners into France,
Not a man of us that they will spare."

Symon staggerd to the hatches high,
Never a foot that he could stand.
"I would gladly give three hundred pounds
For one three hundred foot of land."

Quoth Symon, "Then do not them dread,
Neither master do you fear.
Give me my bent bow in my hand,
And not a Frenchman I will spare."

"Hold thy peace thou long lubber,
For thou canst nought but bragg and bost
If I should cast thee over boord,
There were nothing but a lubber lost."

Quoth Symon, "Ty me to the main mast
That at my marke I may stand fare,
Give me my bent bow in my hand
And not a Frenchman I will spare."

They bound him fast to the main mast tree,
They bound Symon hard and seare,
They gave him a bent bow into his hand,
And not a French man he would spare.

"Whom shall I shoot at, thou master man,
For God's love speake the man to mee."
"Shoot at the steersman of yon shippe,
Thou long luske now let me see."

Symon he took his noble bow,
An arrow that was both larg and long;
The neerest way to the steersmans heart,
The broad arrow it did gang.

He fell from the hatches high
From the hatches he fell downe below,
Another took him by the heels,
And into the sea he did him throw.

Then quickly took the helme in hand,
And steerd the shipp most gallantly,
"By my truth," quod good Symon then,
"The same fate shall follow thee."

Symon he took his noble bow
And arrow which was both streight and long,
The neerest way to the Frenchman's heart
The swallow tayle he gard gang.

He fell from the hatches high
From the hatches he fell downe below,
Another took him by the heele
And into the sea did him throw.

The shipp was tossed up and downe
Not one durst venture her to steer,
The Scarburough men were very faine
When they saw that robber durst not com near.

"Com up master," Symon said,
"Two shoots have I shott for thee.
All the rest are for myselfe,
This day for Gods love merry be."

"Gods blessing on thy fingers, Symon," he said
"For weel I see thou hast good skill;
Gods blessing on thy noble heart,
Who hast employed thy bow so weele.

"I vow for fish thou shalt want none,
The best share, Symon, Ile give thee,
And I shall pray thee, good Symon,
Thou do not take thy marke by mee."

"I had thirty arrows by my side,
I thinke I had thirty and three,
Thers not an arrow shall go waste,
But through a French heart it shall flee.

"Lose me from the mast," he said,
"The pitch ropes they do pinch me sare,
Give me a good sword in my hand,
Feind a French man I will spare."

Together have the two shipps run
The fisher and the waryer free.
Symon borded the noble shipp
Found never a man alive but three.

He took a lampe unto his hand
The ship he searched by the light,
He found within that shipp of warr
Twelve hundred pounds in gold so bright.

"Com up, master," Symon said
"This day for God's love merry bee,
How shall we share this noble shipp,
I pray thee master, tell to me."

"By my troth," quoth the masterman,
"Symon, good councell Ile give thee:
Thou won'st the shipp with thine owne hands,
And master of it thou shalt bee."

"One half," quoth Symon, "of this shipp,
Ile deale among my fellows all;
The other halfe I freely give
Unto my dame and her children small.

"And if it chance to bee my lott,
That I shall gett but well to land,
Ile therefore build a chappell good,
And it shall stand on Whitby strand.

"And there Ile keep a preist to sing
The masse untill the day I dye.
If Robin Hood com once on shore,
Hee com no more upon the see."
(see note)

thrush; (see note)

(see note)
(see note)

food or money

(see note)
If you need
(see note)

(see note)

(see note)

(see note)

If; you
enjoy; (see note)

if you will be; (see note)

serve; (see note)

be lacking

know; (see note)

set out

(see note)



lazy fellow, (see note)

think; (see note)

(see note)

(see note)




weighed (lifted)


(see note)

shall go as; (see note)

(see note)

clumsy landsman

fairly, properly

sorely (tightly)



(see note)
caused to go; (see note)

(see note)

aim at me; (see note)

tarred ropes
(see note)
Never a

man of war (bold warrior)

(see note)

(see note)
share out

(see note)

Go to The Death of Robin Hood: Introduction