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Robin Hood's Golden Prize


5 This is a unique reference to Loxley as a character who is apparently not Robin; the place (near Sheffield) is mentioned in the Sloane Life, which is presumably the source here, as the birthplace of the hero. Scott used the name in Ivanhoe as part of his downgrading of the hero's status.

13 The earliest text, unrecorded by Child, has a compositor's error in kood.

13-14 This very Catholic image would normally in this period be the basis for a character's humiliation like that of Archimago in Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene. In fact, in this guise Robin triumphs over the priests and finally insists on his status as a friar. This carries tricksterism to the point of pro-Catholicism, and is somewhat surprising if, as seems likely, the ballad was entered during the Commonwealth. The religious detail is so clear that there may be an earlier pro-friar song or ballad at the root of this one, but it would still be surprising that the detail is retained.

15 Child inserts past before miles, as in later texts, but this seems unnecessary.

27 holydame. Although the term halidom, a thing which one might swear by, refers to one's sanctity or holiness, the substitution of dame in this suffix was apparently due to popular etymology taking the word to mean "Our Lady." See OED for halidom. The sense of "holy relic" or "holy thing" was common in oaths and adjurations into the sixteenth century.

36 All the earlier texts lack Then at the start of the line; not needed for meter, it is not clear why Child inserts it.

84 The idea that the grass is holy is presumably part of the burlesque tone here.

89 The oath Robin makes the priests swear is one that, in late medieval tradition, is more appropriate to friars (see the remarks of the Wife of Bath on this topic at the beginning of her tale), which both suggests the anachronism of the ballad and also makes more curious the purity of the friar's position in it. Perhaps that incongruity is part of Robin's jest.





















I have heard talk of bold Robin Hood,
Derry derry down
And of brave Little John,
Of Fryer Tuck, and Will Scarlet,
Loxley, and Maid Marion.
Hey down derry derry down

But such a tale as this before
I think there was never none,
For Robin Hood disguised himself,
And to the wood is gone.

Like to a fryer, bold Robin Hood
Was accoutered in his array;
With hood, gown, beads and crucifix,
He past upon the way.

He had not gone miles two or three,
But it was his chance to spy
Two lusty priests, clad all in black,
Come riding gallantly.

"Benediceté," then said Robin Hood,
"Some pitty on me take;
Cross you my hand with a silver groat,
For Our dear Ladies sake.

"For I have been wandring all this day,
And nothing could I get;
Not so much as one poor cup of drink,
Nor bit of bread to eat."

"Now, by my holydame," the priests repli'd,
"We never a peny have;
For we this morning have been robd,
And could no mony save."

"I am much afraid," said bold Robin Hood,
"That you both do tell a lye,
And now before that you go hence,
I am resolvd to try."

When as the priests heard him say so,
They rode away amain;
But Robin Hood betook him to his heels,
And soon overtook them again.

Then Robin Hood laid hold of them both,
And pulld them down from their horse:
"O spare us, fryer!" the priests cry'd out,
"On us have some remorse!"

"You said you had no mony," quoth he,
"Wherefore, without delay,
We three will fall down on our knees,
And for mony we will pray."

The priests they could not him gainsay,
But down they kneeled with speed.
"Send us, O send us," then quoth they,
"Some mony to serve our need."

The priests did pray with mournful chear,
Sometimes their hands did wring,
Sometimes they wept and cried aloud,
Whilst Robin did merrily sing.

When they had been praying an hours space,
The priests did still lament;
Then quoth bold Robin, "Now let's see
What mony heaven hath us sent.

"We will be sharers now all alike
Of the mony that we have,
And there is never a one of us
That his fellows shall deceive."

The priests their hands in their pockets put,
But mony would find none.
"We'l search our selves," said Robin Hood,
"Each other, one by one."

Then Robin Hood took pains to search them both,
And he found good store of gold;
Five hundred peeces presently
Upon the grass was told.

"Here is a brave show," said Robin Hood,
"Such store of gold to see,
And you shall each one have a part,
Cause you prayed so heartily."

He gave them fifty pound a-peece,
And the rest for himself did keep;
The priests durst not speak one word,
But they sighed wondrous deep.

With that the priests rose up from their knees,
Thinking to have parted so;
"Nay, stay," said Robin Hood, "one thing more
I have to say ere you go.

"You shall be sworn," said bold Robin Hood,
"Upon this holy grass,
That you will never tell lies again,
Which way soever you pass.

"The second oath that you here must take,
All the days of your lives
You never shall tempt maids to sin,
Nor lye with other mens wives.

"The last oath you shall take, it is this,
Be charitable to the poor;
Say you have met with a holy fryer,
And I desire no more."

He set them upon their horses again,
And away then they did ride;
And hee returnd to the merry green-wood,
With great joy, mirth, and pride.

(see note)

(see note)

(see note)

Bless you

holy relic (sanctity); (see note)

test (you)

quickly; (see note)


ever (perpetually)

refused to find

(see note)

(see note)


Go to Robin Hood and Queen Catherin: Introduction