When Phoebus had melted the sickles of ice,
With a hey down, diddle down dee,
And likewise the mountains of snow,
Bold Robin Hood he would ramble to see,
To frolick abroad with his bow.
He left all his merry men waiting behind,
Whilst through the green vallies he passd;
There did he behold a forester bold,
Who cry'd out, "Friend, whither so fast?"
"I'm going," quoth Robin Hood, "to kill a fat buck,
For me and my merry men all;
Besides, eer I go, I'll have a fat doe,
Or else it shall cost me a fall."
"You'd best have a care," said the forester then,
"For these are his majesty's deer;
Before you shall shoot, the thing I'll dispute,
For I am head-forester here."
"These thirteen long summers," quoth Robin,
"I'm sure, My arrows I here have let fly,
Where freely I range; methinks it is strange,
You should have more power than I.
"This forest," quoth Robin, "I think is my own,
And so are the nimble deer too;
Therefore I declare, and solemnly swear,
I wont be affronted by you."
The forester he had a long quater-staff,
Likewise a broad sword by his side;
Without more ado, he presently drew,
Declaring the truth should be try'd .
Bold Robin Hood had a sword of the best,
Thus, eer he would take any wrong,
His courage was flush, he'd venture a brush,
And thus they fell to it ding dong.
The very first blow that the forester gave,
He made his broad weapon cry twang;
'Twas over the head, he fell down for dead,
O that was a damnable bang!
But Robin he soon did recover himself,
And bravely fell to it again;
The very next stroke their weapons were broke,
Yet never a man there was slain.
At quarter-staff then they resolved to play,
Because they would have t'other bout;
And brave Robin Hood right valiantly stood,
Unwilling he was to give out.
Bold Robin he gave him very hard blows,
The other returnd them as fast;
At every stroke their jackets did smoke,
Three hours the combat did last.
At length in a rage the bold forester grew,
And cudgeld bold Robin so sore
That he could not stand, so shaking his hand,
He said, "Let us freely give oer."
Thou art a brave fellow, I need must confess
I never knew any so good;
Thou 'rt fitting to be a yeomen for me,
And range in the merry green wood."
I'll give thee this ring as a token of love,
For bravely thou'st acted thy part;
That man that can fight, in him I delight,
And love him with all my whole heart.
Then Robin Hood setting his horn to his mouth,
A blast he merrily blows;
His yeomen did hear, and strait did appear,
A hundred, with trusty long bows.
Now Little John came at the head of them all,
Cloathd in a rich mantle of green;
And likewise the rest were gloriously drest,
A delicate sight to be seen."
Lo, these are my yeomen," said Robin Hood,
"And thou shalt be one of the train;
A mantle and bow, a quiver also,
I give them whom I entertain."
The forester willingly enterd the list,
They were such a beautiful sight;
Then with a long bow they shot a fat doe,
And made a rich supper that night.
What singing and dancing was in the green wood,
For joy of another new mate!
With mirth and delight they spent the long night,
And liv'd at a plentiful rate.
The forester neer was so merry before
As then he was with these brave souls,
Who never would fail, in wine, beer or ale,
To take off their cherishing bowls.
Then Robin Hood gave him a mantle of green,
Broad arrows, and a curious long bow;
This done, the next day, so gallant and gay,
He marched them all on a row.
Quoth he, "My brave yeomen, be true to your trust,
And then we may range the woods wide:
"They all did declare, and solemnly swear,
They'd conquer, or die by his side.
*** **** *** **** *** **** ***
Robin Hood is an perfect archetype for the God we celebrate at this time of year. Our modern understanding of Robin Hood, based on mideval ballads and honed by 19th and 20th century retellings of the story, show him to be a clever and cheerful fellow who works hard to protect those who need protecting and deflate those who need deflating. He is never afraid of a fight or a feast, and does not live in a palace filled with rich trappings but in a cave or a tent in the greenwood. He is a perfect symbol of All That is Manly and Good in the world.
It was actually hard for me to choose a poem to put in this post because there are so many. I was looking for one in which Robin does a noble deed and so thought about Robin Hood and the Three Squires. This is a classic story in which Robin trades clothes with a beggar (sometimes he fights the scurrilous beggar) in order to trick the dirty Sherrif of Nottingham into letting him play hangman to three innocent fellows. Of course Robin is able to blow his horn, summon the Merry Men and ends up hanging the Sherrif instead!. There are others that are hilarous and gentle and bawdy. Some just tickle me pink like Robin Hood and Maid Marian in which Marian dresses up like a page to go find her lost love, Robin and ends up dueling him in the woods before revealing herself and having a lovely feast in Sherwood Forest.
In the end I chose this particular ballad because I love the rhythm of the poem and the story itself is both a classic Robin tale and it makes me chuckle. I highly recommend spending some time checking out the University of Rochester Robin Hood Project for background and annotated text of many ballads. Howard Pyle's classic The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood is avaliable to view online in a number of places, as well as for sale through your favorite bookseller (mine is Powells City of Books). The top illustration here is from Pyle's version, the other two are by N.C. Wyeth.
What stories speak to you about All That is Manly and Good? What is your favorite version of the tale of the bold outlaw and his Merry Men? Do you find yourself humming Oodelallie Oodelallie Golly What a Day, or We're Men, We're Men in Tights (tight tights!) when you think about Robin Hood? What are you doing this summer to celebrate the Manliness in your life, whatever kind of body and gender you may have?