Robin Hood

Michael Drayton


THE MERRY pranks he played would ask an age to tell,

And the adventures strange that Robin Hood befell.

When Mansfield many a time for Robin hath been laid,

How he hath cousened them that him would have betrayed:

How often he hath come to Nottingham disguised,

And cunningly escaped, being set to be surprised.

In this our spacious isle I think there is not one

But he hath heard some talk of him and little John;

And to the end of time the tales shall ne’er be done,

Of Scarlock, George-a-Green, and Much the miller’s son,

Of Tuck the merry friar, which many a sermon made

In praise of Robin Hood, his outlaws and their trade.

An hundred valiant men had this brave Robin Hood,

Still ready at his call, that bow-men were right good,

All clad in Lincoln green, with caps of red and blue.

His fellow’s winded horn not one of them but knew,

When setting to their lips their little bugles shrill,

The warbling echoes waked from every dale and hill:

Their baldrics set with studs, athwart their shoulders cast,

To which under their arms their sheafs were buckled fast,   

A short sword at their belt, a buckler scarce a span,

Who struck below the knee, not counted then a man:

All made of Spanish yew, their bows were wondrous strong;

They not an arrow drew but was a cloth-yard long.

Of archery they had the very perfect craft,

With broad arrow, or but, or prick, or roving shaft,

At marks full forty score they used to prick and rove,

Yet higher than the breast for compass never strove;

Yet at the farthest mark a foot could hardly win:

At long-buts, short, and hoyles each one could cleave the pin:   

Their arrows finely paired, for timber, and for feather,

With birch and brazil pieced, to fly in any weather;

And shot they with the round, the square, or forked pile,

The loose gave such a twang as might be heard a mile.

And of these archers brave there was not any one

But he could kill a deer his swiftest speed upon,

Which they did boil and roast, in many a mighty wood,

Sharp hunger the fine sauce to their more kingly food.

Then taking them to rest, his merry men and he

Slept many a summer’s night under the greenwood tree.

From wealthy abbots’ chests, and churls’ abundant store,

What oftentimes he took, he shared amongst the poor:

No lordly Bishop came in lusty Robin’s way,

To him before he went, but for his pass must pay:

The widow in distress he graciously relieved,

And remedied the wrongs of many a virgin grieved:

He from the husband’s bed no married woman wan,

But to his mistress dear, his loved Marian,

Was ever constant known, which wheresoe’er she came,

Was sovereign of the woods, chief lady of the game:

Her clothes tucked to the knee, and dainty braided hair,

With bow and quiver armed, she wandered here and there

Amongst the forest wild; Diana never knew

Such pleasure, nor such harts as Mariana slew