Internet Shakespeare Editions

Author: Anonymous
Editor: David Bevington
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Robin Hood and the Beggar


Robin Hood and the Beggar, I

0.1

From The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, ed. Francis James Child, 5 vols. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1889), Vol. 3, number 133. Edited with notes and modernized punctuation and spelling by David Bevington. See Child's Ballads Vol. 3 numbers 115-54 for other ballad accounts of Robin Hood.

[As Robin Hood is riding toward Nottingham, he chances upon a beggar begging for alms. Claiming that he has no money, Robin Hood offers instead to fight a bout with the beggar. He cries truce when the beggar gives him three blows for every one of Robin's sword strokes. Robin thereupon exchanges his horse and finery for the beggar's rags and bags and proceeds on thus accoutered to Nottingham, where, with the assistance of 100 archers whom he summons by a blast on his horn, Robin rescues three yeomen from the Sheriff of Nottingham and defeats that hated official in battle. The story bears some resemblance to Shakespeare's source narratives for As You Like It. See the reference to "old Robin Hood of England" and his "many merry men" at AYL, 1.2.111-14.]

1Come light and listen, you gentlemen all,
Hey down, down, and a-down,
That mirth do love for to hear,
And a story true I'll tell unto you,
5If that you will but draw near.
In elder times, when merriment was,
And archery was holden good,
There was an outlaw, as many did know,
Which men called Robin Hood.
10Upon a time it chancèd so
Bold Robin was merry disposed;
His time to spend he did intend
Either with friends or foes.
Then he got up on a gallant brave steed,
15The which was worth angels ten.
With a mantle of green, most brave to be seen,
He left all his merry men.
And riding towards fair Nottingham,
Some pastime for to spy,
20There was he aware of a jolly beggar
As e'er he beheld with his eyes.
An old patched coat the beggar had on,
Which he daily did use for to wear,
And many a bag about him did wag,
25Which made Robin Hood to him repair.
"God speed, God speed," said Robin Hood,
"What countryman? Tell to me:"
I am Yorkshire, sir; but, ere you go far,
Some charity give unto me."
30"Why, what wouldst thou have?" said Robin Hood,
"I pray thee tell unto me."
"No lands nor livings," the beggar he said,
"But a penny for charity."
"I have no money," said Robin Hood then,
35"But, a ranger within the wood,
I am an outlaw, as many do know.
My name it is Robin Hood.
"But yet I must tell thee, bonny beggar,
That a bout with [thee] I must try.
40Thy coat of gray lay down, I say,
And my mantle of green shall lie by."
"Content, content," the beggar he cried.
"Thy part it will be the worse;
For I hope this bout to give thee the rout,
45And then have at thy purse."
The beggar he had a mickle long staff,
And Robin had a nut-brown sword;
So the beggar drew nigh, and at Robin let fly,
But gave him never a word.
50"Fight on, fight on," said Robin Hood then,
"This game well pleaseth me."
For every blow that Robin did give
The beggar gave buffets three.
And fighting there full hard and sore,
55Not far from Nottingham town,
They never fled, till from Robin['s] head
The blood came trickling down.
"Oh, hold thy hand," said Robin Hood then,
"And thou and I will agree."
60"If that be true," the beggar he said,
"Thy mantle come give unto me."
"Nay, a change, a change," cried Robin Hood.
"Thy bags and coat give me,
And this mantle of mine I'll to thee resign,
65My horse and my bravery."
When Robin Hood had got the beggar's clothes,
He lookèd round about.
"Methinks," said he, "I seem to be
A beggar brave and stout.
70"For now I have a bag for my bread,
So have I another for corn;
I have one for salt, and another for malt,
And one for my little horn.
"And now I will a-begging go,
75Some charity for to find:"
And if any more of Robin you'll know,
In this second part it's behind.
Now Robin he is to Nottingham bound,
With his bags hanging down to his knee;
80His staff and his coat scarce worth a groat,
Yet merrily passèd he.
As Robin he passed the streets along,
He heard a pitiful cry.
Three brethren dear, as he did hear,
85Condemnèd were to die.
Then Robin he hied to the Sheriff's [house],
Some relief for to seek.
He skipped and leaped and capered full high
As he went along the street.
90But when to the Sheriff's door he came,
There a gentleman fine and brave,
"Thou beggar," said he, "come tell unto me
What is it that thou wouldest have?"
"No meat nor drink," said Robin Hood then,
95"That I come here to crave,
But to beg the lives of yeomen three,
And that I fain would have."
"That cannot be, thou bold beggar,
Their fact it is so clear.
100I tell to thee, hanged they must be,
For stealing of our King's deer."
But when to the gallows they did come,
There was many a weeping eye.
"Oh, hold your peace," said Robin then,
105"For certainly they shall not die."
Then Robin Hood he set his horn to his mouth,
And he blew but blastes three,
Till a hundred bold archers brave
Came kneeling down to his knee.
110"What is your will, master?" they said,
"We are here at your command."
"Shoot east, shoot west," said Robin Hood then,
"And look that you spare no man."
Then they shot east, and they shot west.
115Their arrows were so keen
The Sheriff, he and his company,
No longer must be seen.
Then he stepped to these brethren three,
And away he had them ta'en;
120And the Sheriff was crossed, and many a man lost,
That dead lay on the plain.
And away they went into the merry green wood,
And sung with a merry glee,
And Robin took these brethren good
125To be of his yeomandry.