Robin Hood and Little John
No: 125; variant: 125A
- WHEN Robin Hood was about twenty years old,
With a hey down down and a down
He happend to meet Little John,
A jolly brisk blade, right fit for the trade,
For he was a lusty young man.
- Tho he was calld Little, his limbs they were large,
And his stature was seven foot high;
Where-ever he came, they quak’d at his name,
For soon he would make them to fly.
- How they came acquainted, I’ll tell you in brief,
If you will but listen a while;
For this very jest, amongst all the rest,
I think it may cause you to smile.
- Bold Robin Hood said to his jolly bowmen,
Pray tarry you here in this grove;
And see that you all observe well my call,
While thorough the forest I rove.
- We have had no sport for these fourteen long days,
Therefore now abroad will I go;
Now should I be beat, and cannot retreat,
My horn I will presently blow.
- Then did he shake hands with his merry men all,
And bid them at present good b’w’ye;
Then, as near a brook his journey he took,
A stranger he chancd to espy.
- They happend to meet on a long narrow bridge,
And neither of them would give way;
Quoth bold Robin Hood, and sturdily stood,
I’ll show you right Nottingham play.
- With that from his quiver an arrow he drew,
A broad arrow with a goose-wing:
The stranger reply’d, I’ll liquor thy hide,
If thou offerst to touch the string.
- Quoth bold Robin Hood, Thou dost prate like an ass,
For were I to bend but my bow,
I could send a dart quite thro thy proud heart,
Before thou couldst strike me one blow.
- ‘Thou talkst like a coward,’ the stranger reply’d;
‘Well armed with a long bow you stand,
To shoot at my breast, while I, I protest,
Have nought but a staff in my hand.’
- ‘The name of a coward,’ quoth Robin, ‘I scorn,
Wherefore my long bow I’ll lay by;
And now, for thy sake, a staff will I take,
The truth of thy manhood to try.’
- Then Robin Hood stept to a thicket of trees,
And chose him a staff of ground-oak;
Now this being done, away he did run
To the stranger, and merrily spoke:
- Lo! see my staff, it is lusty and tough,
Now here on the bridge we will play;
Whoever falls in, the other shall win
The battel, and so we’ll away.
- ‘With all my whole heart,’ the stranger reply’d;
‘I scorn in the least to give out;’
This said, they fell to’t without more dispute,
And their staffs they did flourish about.
- And first Robin he gave the stranger a bang,
So hard that it made his bones ring:
The stranger he said, This must be repaid,
I’ll give you as good as you bring.
- So long as I’m able to handle my staff,
To die in your debt, friend, I scorn:
Then to it each goes, and followd their blows,
As if they had been threshing of corn.
- The stranger gave Robin a crack on the crown,
Which caused the blood to appear;
Then Robin, enrag’d, more fiercely engag’d,
And followd his blows more severe.
- So thick and so fast dic he lay it on him,
With a passionate fury and ire,
At every stroke, he made him to smoke,
As if he had been all on fire.
- O then into fury the stranger he grew,
And gave him a damnable look,
And with it a blow that laid him full low,
And tumbld him into the brook.
- ‘I prithee, good fellow, O where art thou now?’
The stranger, in laughter, he cry’d;
Quoth bold Robin Hood, Good faith, in the flood,
And floating along with the tide.
- I needs must acknowledge thou art a brave soul;
With thee I’ll no longer contend;
For needs must I say, thou hast got the day,
Our battel shall be at an end.
- Then unto the bank he did presently wade,
And pulld himself out by a thorn;
Which done, at the last, he blowd a loud blast
Straitway on his fine bugle-horn.
- The eccho of which through the vallies did fly,
At which his stout bowmen appeard,
All cloathed in green, most gay to be seen;
So up to their master they steerd.
- ‘O what’s the matter?’ quoth William Stutely;
‘Good master, you are wet to the skin:’
‘No matter,’ quoth he; ‘The lad which you see,
In fighting, hath tumbld me in.’
- ‘He shall not go scot-free,’ the others reply’d;
So strait they were seizing him there,
To duck him likewise; but Robin Hood cries,
He is a stout fellow, forbear.
- There’s no one shall wrong thee, friend, be not afraid;
These bowmen upon me do wait;
There’s threescore and nine; if thou wilt be mine,
Thou shalt have my livery strait.
- And other accoutrements fit for a man;
Speak up, jolly blade, never fear;
I’ll teach you also the use of the bow,
To shoot at the fat fallow-deer.
- ‘O here is my hand,’ the stranger reply’d,
‘I’ll serve you with all my whole heart;
My name is John Little, a man of good mettle;
Nere doubt me, for I’ll play my part.’
- His name shall be alterd,’ quoth William Stutely,
‘And I will his godfather be;
Prepare then a feast, and none of the least,
For we will be merry,’ quoth he.
- They presently fetchd in a brace of fat does,
With humming strong liquor likewise;
They lovd what was good; so, in the greenwood,
This pretty sweet babe they baptize.
- He was, I must tell you, but seven foot high,
And, may be, an ell in the waste;
A pretty sweet lad; much feasting they had;
Bold Robin the christning grac’d.
- With all his bowmen, which stood in a ring,
And were of the Notti[n]gham breed;
Brave Stutely comes then, with seven yeomen,
And did in this manner proceed.
- ‘This infant was called John Little,’ quoth he,
‘Which name shall be changed anon;
The words we’ll transpose, so where-ever he goes,
His name shall be calld Little John.’
- They all with a shout made the elements ring,
So soon as the office was ore;
To feasting they went, with true merriment,
And tippld strong liquor gillore.
- Then Robin he took the pretty sweet babe,
And cloathd him from top to the toe
In garments of green, most gay to be seen,
And gave him a curious long bow.
- ‘Thou shalt be an archer as well as the best,
And range in the greenwood with us;
Where we’ll not want gold nor silver, behold,
While bishops have ought in their purse.
- ‘We live here like squires, or lords of renown,
Without ere a foot of free land;
We feast on good cheer, with wine, ale and beer,
And evry thing at our command.’
- Then musick and dancing did finish the day;
At length, when the sun waxed low,
Then all the whole train the grove did refrain,
And unto their caves they did go.
- And so ever after, as long as he livd,
Altho he was proper and tall,
Yet nevertheless, the truth to express,
Still Little John they did him call.