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thinner, but still bred an infinite number of deer and stags with lofty antlers. When Robin Hood hunted here, there would be also the roe, the fox, the marten, the hare, the coney, as well as the partridge, the quail, the rail, the pheasant, the woodcock, the mallard, and the heron, to furnish sport or food. Even the wolf himself may have been occasionally found in Sherwood, down to the thirteenth century; in the manor of Mansfield Woodhouse a parcel of land called Wolfhuntland was held so late as Henry the Sixth's time by the service of winding a horn to frighten away the wolves in the forest of Sherwood. We must add to this imperfect sketch of the scene made memorable by Robin Hood's presence and achievements, that in another point it would seem to have been expressly marked out by nature for such romantic fame. Caverns are found in extraordinary numbers through the forest. Those near Nottingham are supposed to have given name both to the town and county; the Saxon word Snodengaham being interpreted to mean the Home of Caverns. There are similar excavations in the face of a cliff near the Lene, west of Nottingham Castle. Above all, there is a cave traditionally connected with the great archer himself. This is a curious hollow rock in the side of a hill near Newstead, known as Robin Hood's Stable, but more likely from its aspect to have been his chapel. It contains several passages and doorways cut in the Gothic style, out of the solid rock; and there are peculiar little hollows in the wall, which might have been intended for holy water. The life in the forest must indeed have been steeped in joyous excitement. No doubt it had its disadvantages. Winter flaws in such a scene would not be pleasant. Agues might be apt occasionally to make their appearance. One feels something of a shivering sensation as we wonder, —When they did hear
The rain and wind beat dark December, how
In that their pinching cave they could discourse
The freezing hours away.
Yet even the rigours of the season might give new zest to the general enjoyment of forest life; we may imagine one of the band singing in some such words as those of Amiens:
Under the greenwood tree
Who loves to lie with me,
And tune his merry note
Unto the sweet bird's throat,
Come hither, come hither, come hither:
And that very thought would ensure such enemies, when they did come, a genial and manly reception. But reverse the picture, and what a world of sunshine, and green leaves, and flickering lights and shadows breaks in upon us—excitement in the chace, whether they followed the deer, or were themselves followed by the sheriff, through bush and brake, over bog and quagmire—of enjoyment in their shooting and wrestling matches, in their sword-fights, and sword-dances, in their visits to all the rustic wakes and feasts of the neighbourhood, where they would be received as the most welcome of guests. The variety of the life in the forest must have been endless. Now the outlaws would be visited by the wandering minstrels, coming thither to amuse them with old ballads, and to gather a rich harvest of materials for new ones, that should be listened to with the deepest interest and delight all England through, not only while the authors recited them, but for centuries after the very names of such authors were forgotten. The legitimate poet
minstrel would be followed by the humbler gleeman, forming one of a band of re. vellers, in which would be comprised a taborer, a bagpiper, and dancers or tumblers, and who, tempted by the well-known liberality of the foresters, would penetrate the thick wood to find them. And great would be the applause at their humorous dances and accompanying songs, at their balancings and tumblings; wonderful, almost too wonderful to be produced without the aid of evil spirits, would seem their sleight-of-hand tricks. At another time there would be suddenly heard echoing through the forest glades the sounds of strange bugles from strange hunters. Their rich apparel shows them to be of no ordinary rank. How dare they then intrude upon the forest king 1 Nay, there is not any danger. Are there not lady hunters among the company So their husbands, brothers, sons, and fathers hunt freely through Sherwood in their company, safe from the sudden arrow, aye, though even the hated sheriff himself be among them. But there were occasions when the forest would present a much more extraordinary scene than any we have yet referred to. For scores of miles around, what preparations are there not made when the words “Robin Hood's Fair” spread from mouth to mouth, and the time and place of it being held become known Thither would resort all the yeomen aud yeomen's wives of the district, each one hoping to get a “Robin Hood's pennyworth,” as the well-understood phrase went, in some courtepy or hood, in handkerchiefs telling their goodness by their weight, in hats, boots or shoes, the spoil of some recent campaign, and bespeaking their general excellence from the known quality of their recent owners. Thither would resort the emissaries of more than one priory and respectable monastery, to look after some richly illuminated Missal or MS. that they had heard were among the good things of the fair, or to execute the High Cellarer's commission to purchase any rare spices that might be offered. Knightly messengers too would not be wanting, coming thither to look after choice weapons, or trinkets, or weighty chains of gold: perhaps even the very men who had been despoiled, and whose treasures had contributed so largely to the “fair,” would be sending to it, to purchase silently back some favourite token at a trifling price, hopeless of regaining it by any other mode. Of course the Jews would flock to Sherwood on such occasions from any and all distances. And as the fair proceeded, if any quarrels took place between the buyers and sellers, a Jew would be sure to be concerned. Even whilst he laughed in his heart at the absurd price he was to give for the rich satin vest, or the piece of cloth of gold of such rare beauty that the forester was measuring with his long bow, generally of his own height, for a yard, and even then skipping two or three inches between each admeasurement, the Jew would be sure to be haggling to lower the price or to be increasing the quantity; till reminded that he was not dealing with the most patient as well as with the most liberal of men, by a different application of the tough yew. Then the adventures of the forests—indigenous and luxuriant as its bilberries; how they give a seasoning, as it were, to the general conjunction of life in the forest, and prevented the possibility of its ever being felt as “weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable 1" Were recruits wanted —there was a pretty opening for adventure in seeking them. They must be men of mark or likelihood who can alone be enlisted into brave Robin's band, and severe accordingly were the tests applied. In order to prove their courage, for instance, it seems, from the later ballads, it was quite indispensable that they should have the best of it with some veteran forester, either in shooting with the bow, or playfully breaking a crown with the quarter-staff, or even by occasionally beating their antagonists when contending with inadequate weapons. Let us now look at two or three of the more interesting adventures which are recorded in the famous ballad of the “Lytell Geste" as having actually taken place
In one part of this poem we find a story of the most interesting character, and told with extraordinary spirit, discrimination of character, and dramatic effect. Whilst Little John, Scathelock (the Scarlet of a later time), and Much the Miller's son, were one day watching in the forest, they beheld a knight riding along :All dreari then was his semblannte, And lytell was his pride; Hys one fote in the sterope stode, The other waved besyde. Hys hode hangynge over hys eyen two, He rode in symple aray; A soryer man than he was one Rode never in somers day. The outlaws courteously accost and surprise him with the information that their master has been waiting for him, fasting, three hours; Robin Hood, it appears, having an objection to sit down to dinner till he can satisfy himself he has earned it, by finding strangers to sit down with him—and pay the bill. Having “washed,” they dine :— Brede and wyne they had ynough, And nombles [entrails] of the deer; Swannes and fesauntes they had full good, And foules of the revere: There fayled never so lytell a byrde That ever was bred on brere. After dinner the Knight thanks his host for his entertainment, but Robin hipts that thanks are not enough. The Knight replies that he has nothing in his coffers that he can for shame offer—that, in short, his whole stock consists of ten shillings. Upon this Robin bids Little John examine the coffers to see if the statement be true (a favourite mode with Robin of judging of the character of his visitors), and informs the Knight at the same time that if he really have no more, more he will lend him. “What tydynge, Johan *—sayd Robyn : “Syr, the Knyght is trewe enough." The great outlaw is now evidently interested; and, with mingled delicacy and frankness, inquiries as to the cause of the Knight's low estate, fearing that it implies some wrong doing on his part. It comes out at last that his son has killed a “Knyght of Lancastshyre” in the tournament, and that, to defend him “in his right,” he has sold all his own goods, and pledged his lands unto the Abbot of St. Mary's, York; the day is now nearly arrived, and he is not merely unable to redeem them before too late, but well nigh penniless into the bargain:— “What is the somme?" sayd Robyn; “Trouthe then tell thou me.” “Syr," he sayd, “foure hondred pounde, The Abbot tolde it to me.” “Now, and thou lese thy londe," sayd Robin, “What shall fall of the ** “Hastely Iwyll me buske," sayde the Knyght “Over the salt see; “And sewhere Cryst was quycke and deed On the mount of Calvarè. Farewell, frende, and have good day, It may noo better be o
Before many hours the knight was pursuing his way with a full pocket and a full heart to redeem his lands. We must follow him to York. The day of payment has arrived. The chief officers of the Abbey are in a state of high excitement, on account of the value of the estates that will be theirs at nightfall if the knight comes not with the redemption money. The Abbot cannot repress his anticipations:—
“But he come this ylke day,
The Prior endeavours to befriend the absent knight, but is answered impatiently—
“Thou arte euer in my berde,” sayde the Abbot,
And then bursts in a “fat-headed monk,” the High Cellarer, with the exulting
To make all sure, the Abbot has managed to have the assistance of the High
The knight tries to move his pity, but in vain; and after some further passages between him and the Abbot, conceived and expressed in the finest dramatic spirit. the truth comes out in answer to a proposition from the Justice that the Abbot
shall give two hundred pounds more to keep the land in peace; the knight then suddenly astounds the whole party by producing the four hundred pounds.
A twelvemonth afterwards, and on the very day that the Knight has fixed for repaying Robin Hood, a magnificent procession of ecclesiastics and ecclesiastical retainers is passing through the forest; and being stopped by the outlaws, who should be at the head of the whole but our friend the fat-headed monk, the High Cellarer of St. Mary, York " Now Robin Hood's security, the only one that he would take from the Knight, had been that of the Virgin—what more natural than that he should think the High Cellarer of the Virgin's own house at York had come to pay him his four hundred pounds ! It is in vain the holy man denies that he has come for any such purpose. At last, driven to his shifts, he ventures a falsehood when the actual state of his coffers is inquired into. His return, in official language, is twenty marks. Robin is very reasonable, and says, if there really be no more, not a penny of it will be meddled with.
Lytell Johan spread his mantell downe
And he tolde out of the monkes male
No wonder that Robin exclaims—
Anon a second, and to archer eyes still more attractive pageant, appears. It is the good and grateful Knight at the head of a hundred men clothed in white and red, and bearing as a present to the foresters a hundred bows of a quality to delight even such connoisseurs in the weapon, with a hundred sheaves of arrows, with heads burnished full bright, every arrow an ell long, y-dight with peacock plumes, and y-mocked with silver. The Knight had been detained on his way; the sun was down; the hour of payment had passed when he arrived at the trysting-tree. His excuse was soon made to the generous outlaw. He had stayed to help a poor yeoman who was suffering oppression. The debt was forgiven; the monks had paid it doubly.
The ballads of Robin Hood which, century after century, followed the “Lytell Geste” are, at any rate, evidences of the deep hold which this story of wild adventure, and of the justice of the strong hand, long retained upon the popular mind.