Imágenes de página

political feeling, such a conclusion as the foregoing would have been retained after the second Edward's death. It is worthy of remark, that a poem apparently the same! as this, is found in the Auchinleck Manuscript, which seems, by the description of Sir Walter Scott, to have been continued up to the beginning of the next reign, when that manuscript was written.— "He appears to have concluded his history during the minority of Edward

III...' The concluding paragraph


'Now Jesu Crist and seynft] Richard
Save the yong king Edward,
And ;if him grace his land to ;eme,
Th»t it be Jesu Crist to queme,' &c."Explicit liber Regum Anglitt.

(II.) The poem of king Edward and the Shepherd, which we have already described, and which is preserved in this manuscript, bears internal proofs of having been written during the reign of the second Edward. It must not be forgotten that the spirit and apparent aim of this cycle of poems was to stir up among the people loyalty towards their king and hatred towards the overbearing barons, and therefore it might naturally be expected, that the king introduced as the object of their esteem would be the reigning monarch.* The present poem may perhaps have been an alteration of the previously existing ballad of Edward the First and his Reeve, which is mentioned by Percy as having been preserved in his folio manuscript. In the poem we have mentioned, the king pretends that he is a knight of the court.— "My fader was a Walshe knyjt, Dame Isabell my moder hyjt,

For sothe as I tell the, In the castell was hir dwellyng Thorow commaundment of the kyng, Whene she thar shuld be. Now wayte thou wher that I was borne; Thet other Edward here beforne

Full well he lovyd me."

* When the reigning king was unpopular, the name of the preceding king would probably be preserved in the popular poetry. The name of Edward II. however, would not, we think, be suffered to take the place of his successor. There seems, too, some reason for thinking that the writer of our manuscript was favourable to the royal party, during the second Edward's reign.

The Welsh knight is evidently intended to be king Edward the Second, whose queen was Isabelle, and we might hence be inclined to suppose our disguised king to be the third Edward, did not the expression "thet other Edward," which is repeated thrice in the poem, seem to prove decisively that when it was written, two Edwards only had occupied the throne. Again, the passage immediately following this,—

"I have a son is with the qwhene, She lovys hym well, as I wene,

That dar I savely say, [her) And he pray hir of a bone (aak a boon of jif that hit be for to done,

She will not onys say nay,"

seems evidently to describe the young prince who was afterwards Edward III. The third passage, moreover, where this expression occurs,

"The stewarde seid to Joly Robyn, (i. e.

the King Edward)
'Goo wesshe, sir, for it is tyme,

At the furst begynyng,
And, for that odur Edwart love,
Thou shalt sitte here above,

In stidde alle of the kyng,'"

could hardly have been said, unless 'Joly Robyn' were Edward II. The following passage seems to fix the time of its having been written to the period when the Earls of Lancaster and Warren were courted by the king, and when there appeared to be some hopes of tranquillity in the kingdom: —the shepherd had arrived at court,—

"'Joly Robyn,' he said,' I pray the, Speke with me a worde in private.'

'For God,' said the kyng, ' gladly.' He freyned the kyng in his ere, What lordis that thei were

That stondis here hym bye.

'The erle of Lancastur is thet on,
And the erle of Waryn Sir John,

Bolde and as hardy:
Thei mow do mycull with the kyng,
I have tolde hem of thy thyng,'

Then seid he, ' gramercy.'"

(III.) The only poem which seems to give us any difficulty in placing this manuscript as early as the reign of Edward II. is the last article but one of its contents, the prophecies of Thomas of Erceldoun, of which this is by far the oldest and best copy. The allusions, however, in this poem are vague and uncertain, and adroit of no better explanation than can be given by mere conjectures. We have a proof of this in the circumstance that Sir Walter Scott, who had not seen the Cambridge MS. and was thus obliged to rely upon the erroneous descriptions which have been given of it, supposed it to contain allusions to the battles of Floddon and Pinkie. It is a poem which seems to have been republished at different times, with additional circumstances, and moreexplicit allusions to those which were supposed to have been accomplished. If the bastard, mentioned in the third fit of our Cambridge copy, who was to be the ruler of all Britain, be Edward the First— the circumstance which was to mark the conclusion of his reign—

'' The bastard shalle go in the Holy Land;

Trow this wel as I the say: Tak his soule to his hande,

Jhesu Christe, that mycull may,"

proves it part of an edition published as early as 1306, when that king made a vow to end his life in an expedition against the Saracens. It is probable that in our Cambridge copy there is no allusion to events of a later period than the reign of Edward the Second. The curious mention of Black Agnes, the celebrated countess of Dunbar, who defended that castle against the English in 1337, seems to create a difficulty. But there is in the poem no allusion to that siege, we are not aware that the prophecy concerning her end was ever fulfilled, and the whole seems to show rather a feeling of resentment against her on the part of the English, arising from her already established character and her known opposition to the English interests. The singular connexion, too, which is described as existing between her and Thomas, the suppositious author of the prophecies, compared with the allusion at the head of the brief prophecies in the Harleian MS. No. 2253,* of the reign of the second Edward, would lead us to suppose that the two pieces were contemporary.

Our conviction of the importance of establishing the age of this manuscript

* La countesse de Donbar demanda a Thomas de Escedoune, quant la guere d'Escoce prendreit fin, e yl la respowndy e dyt, &c.

has perhaps led us to make too long a digression from our more immediate subject. If it be all a work of the reign of the second Edward, or even supposing it to have been written at different times by a person who lived during that reign, and part, or the whole, of that of Edward the Third, there can be no doubt of the ballad it contains being one of those popular songs of Robin Hood to which allusion is made in the histories of Fordun, and by the poet who wrote the vision of Piers Plowman. It shews us, what indeed might be collected from the passage of this latter poem where they are called ' rymes,' that these popular productions were not then written in alliterative verse, but that they were composed in the same metre which was the general characteristic of our black-letter ballads. The earliest of the Robin Hood ballads, which has been preserved, is written in a southern and correct dialect, and is much superior in poetical execution to any that follow. The opening is extremely beautiful.

"In somer when the shawes be sheyn, (wood» are bright)

And leves be large and long, Hit is full mery in feyre foreste

To here the foulys song,

To se the dere draw to the dale And leve the hilles hee, (high) And shadow hem in the leves grene Undur the grene-wode tre." One May morning, in Whitsontide, when the sun shone bright, and the birds sung, Robin Hood determined to go to Nottingham to hear mass. Little John, who was his only companion, proposed to 'shoot a peny'as they passed through the wood, and he having gained five shilling from his master, a strife arose, which ended in their mutually parting from each other. Little John returned to the forest of Sherwood, and Robin Hood proceeded to Nottingham, where he entered St. Mary's church, and knelt down before the rood. A monk, whom he had robbed of an hundred pounds, recognised him, and carried information to the sheriff, who caused the gates of the town to be closed, surrounded the church with his company, and secured the outlaw, who broke his sword on the sheriff's head in defending himself. The monk was dispatched with tidings to the king at London,and Little John and Much, who had learned the disaster which had happened to their master, determined to way-lay him.

"Fforthe then went these jemen too, Litul John and Moche in fere, (in cowipanu)

And lokid on Moche emys (uncle's) hows, The hye-way lay full nere.

Litul John stode at a wyndow in the mornyng,

And lokid forth at a stage, He was war when the munke came ridyng,

And wyth hym a litul page.

'Be my feith,' seid Litul John to Moch, * I can the tel tithyngus gode,

1 se wher the man' i uinys rydyng, I know hym be his wyde hode.'"

Little John and Much went to the monk, learnt from his own mouth the tidings he carried, slew him and his page, and themselves carried the letters of the sheriff to the king, telling him that the monk who should have brought them was dead by the way. He was much rejoiced by the contents of the sheriff's letters, rewarded well the bearers, made them both yeomen of the crown, and gave them letters to the sheriff of Nottingham commanding that Robin Hood should be sent to the king. On their arrival at Nottingham, they found the gates fastened, and they were not admitted until they had shown the king's seal. When the sheriff saw the letters, he inquired, naturally enough, after the monk, and was informed by Little John that the king was so gratified by the intelligence of which he had been the bearer, that he had made him abbat of Westminster. At night Little John and Much went to the jail.

"Litul John callid up the jayler,

And bade hym rise anon, He seid Robyn Hode had brokyn preson

And out of hit was gon.

The porter rose anon, sertan,
As sone as he herd John calle,

Litul John was redy with a swerd
And bare hym to the walle.'Now wil I be porter,' seid litul John,
'And take the keyes in honde;'

He toke the way to Robyn Hode,
And sone he hym unbonde.

He gaf hym a gode swerde in his hond,

His hed with for to kepe;
And ther as the walls were lowyst

Anon down can thei lepe."

When they reached the forest, Robin and Little John were immediately reconciled, and the escape of the outlaw was celebrated by festivity among his followers—

"They filled in wyne, and made hem glad,

Under the levys smale, And jete pastes of venysan

That gode was with-ale."

The anger of the king loses itself in his admiration of the fidelity of Little John to his master—"' He is trew to his maister,' seide owre kyng,

'I sei be swete seynt John, He lovys better Robyn Hode

Then he dose us ychon. (each one)

Robyn Hode is ever bond to hym,

Bothe in strete and stalle, Speke no more of this mater,' seid oure kyng,

'But John has begyled us alle.'"

In the foregoing ballad we recognize the same popular story, which again appears in the more northern ballad of 'Adam Bel, Clym of the Clough, and William of Cloudislee;' three outlaws who made free with the king's deer in the forest of Inglewood in Cumberland. William visited his wife at Carlisle, and was recognised by an old woman, who carried information to the sheriff; the towns-people were raised, the house surrounded, and the outlaw taken, after a desperate resistance, in which his bow was broken. He was condemned to be hanged, but his companions entered the town by showing to the porter a letter which, as they pretended, bore the king's seal, and succeeded in liberating William, and carrying him to the green wood, where he found his wife and children. The king was much enraged when he heard of his escape, but in the end the yeomen were pardoned.

While speaking of this ballad of Adam Bel, &c. of the age of which we are very uncertain, the earliest copy of it being a black-letter tract of the earlier part of the sixteenth century, we may observe, that it contains another popular story which became one of the Robin Hood cycle, that wherein the outlaws go to the king for pardon, which they obtain by the intercession of the queen, who favours them.

There existed, previous to the middle of the fifteenth century, another Robin

Hood ballad, wherein the hero was brought into peril by his devout attendance upon mass, and which may be rightly placed in the class of conies devdts, or saint's legends. We have already expressed a doubt of the authenticity of the passage of Fordun, where mention is made of our hero; indeed, it has every appearance of being an interpolation, it only being found in one of the late manuscripts, and differing so much from that author's general manner. The name of Robin Hood is mentioned merely for the sake of introducing the story of this ballad, how in his retreat in Barnisdale he heard mass regularly every day, how in the midst of his devotions, he was one day warned of the approach of the sheriff and his officers; how he disdained to retreat until the holy service was ended—and how, for his piety, an easy victory was given him over his too numerous enemies, in consequence of which he ever afterwards held the clergy in a special esteem.

The second ballad, apparently, in point of antiquity which has been preserved, occurs also in a manuscript of the Public Library of the University of Cambridge, marked E e. 4, 35, written not, as Ritson imagined, in the reign of Henry the Seventh, but in that of Henry the Sixth, as appears by a memorandum on one page, setting forth the expenses of the feast on the marriage of the King with Margaret:— "Thys ys exspences off fflesche at the mariageoff my ladeyMarg'et, that sche had owt off Eynglonde," &c. The orthography is rude, and the dialect would seem to be that of some one of our midland counties. It would appear, too, by the blunders with which it abounds, to have been taken down from recitation.

In this ballad, Robin Hood is represented as visiting the sheriff in the disguise of a potter, to whom he had given his own garments. Robin carried his ware to Nottingham, where he put up his horse, and cried " Pots! Pots I" in the midst of the town, right opposite the sheriff's gate. He sold his pots quickly, because he gave for threepence what was worth fivepence, and when he had but five left, he sent them as a present to the sheriff's wife. In return for this courtesy, the pretended potter was invited to dine with the sheriff, who received him kindly, and during the dinner mention was made of a great shooting match for forty shillings, which was soon to be tried. The potter went to the shooting, and, borrowing a bow of the sheriff, proved himself more skilful in its use than the sheriff's men. He then took a bow from his cart, which he said had been given him by Robin Hood, on which the sheriff demanded if he knew the out-law, and if he would lead him to where he might be found. The potter immediately offered to be his guide, and on the morrow they travelled together towards the forest, where the birds were singing on the branches.

"And when he cam yn to the fforeyst,
Yender (under) the leffes grene,

Berdys there sange on bowhes prest,
Het was gret goy (joy) to se.

'Here het ys merey to be,' sayde Roben,
'For a man that had hawt (anything)
to spende.

Be may home he (ye) schall awet,
Yef (if) Roben Hode be here.'"

At the sound of Robin's horn. Little John and his companions hastened to the spot, welcomed the sheriff, and, before he left them, deprived him of his horse and of his "other gere." "Hither you came on horse," said Robin, who had now thrown aside his assumed character, "and home you shall go on foot. Greet well the good woman your wife: I send her, as a present, a white palfrey, which ambles as the wind. For her sake, you shall receive no further harm." The sheriff glad to escape, carried home the message to his wife:

"With that she toke op a lowde lawhyng, And swhare, be hem that deyed on tre,

'Now haffe yow paved flbr all the pottys That Robin gaffe to me.'"

There is preserved at Paris a curious and valuable Norman poem of the beginning of the thirteenth century, which has been lately published, recounting the deeds of Eustace the monk,* a notableBoulonois outlaw and pirate, who was engaged in the wars between our King John and his barons. It is extremely interesting to us, as proving how common at that period were the kind of stories which formed

* See our vol. III. p. 31 (Jan. 1835.)


Cycle of the Robin Hood Ballads.

the material of our Robin Hood ballads. The same stratagems, which outwitted the sheriff and his men, were used by Eustace to deceive the count of Boulogne. Eustace once adopted the disguise of a potter, whom he had compelled to exchange garments with him.

In a collection of songs and carols among the Sloane manuscripts in the British Museum, which an incidental coincidence has proved to be written in the Warwickshire dialect, perhaps nearly contemporary with the ballad last mentioned, is a song which appears to belong to our cycle, at least by its subject, if not by the person whose death it celebrates. It recounts the fate of a yeoman named Robin, who had gone to the green wood with his companion Gandeleyn :— "I herde a carpyng of a clerk

Al at 3one wodes ende,
Of gode Rubyti and Gandelayn

Was ther non other gynge; Stronge thevys wern tho chylderin non,

But bowmen gode and hende; He wentyn to wode to getyn hem fleych,

If God wold it hem sende."

Towards evening they met with half a hundred fallow deer, of which the fattest fell by Robin's arrow. Scarcely had the deer fallen, when Robin himself was felled by an arrow from an unknown hand:—

"Gandeleyn lokyd hym est and lokyd

And sowt under the sunne, [west, He saw a lytil boy

He clepyn Wrennok of Doune;A good bowe in his hand, A brod arwe therine, And fowre and xx goode arwis Trusyd in a thrumme."

'Wrennok,' it would appear, was one of the keepers of the forest, and he immediately challenged Gandeleyn. They let fly their arrows at each other, and the former was slain. The exultation of Gandeleyn on having thus revenged the death of his master, Robin, finishes his song :— "Nowxalt (thalt) thu nover jolpe, Wren

At ale ne at wyn, [nok, That thu hast slawe goode Robyn

And his knave Gandeleyn;
Now xalt thu never jelpe, Wrennok,

At wyn ne at ale,
That thu hast slawe goode Robyn

And Gandeleyyn his knawe."

Ge.nt. Mao. Vol. VII.

These are all the genuine remains of the early Robin Hood cycle, which we at present possess. We come now to that singular production the "Lytell Geste of Robyn Hode," which was first printed by Wynkyn de Worde, at the latter end of the fifteenth century, and which would seem to be an attempt to string together some of the ballads that were then popular, into something like a consistent story. It is, in fact, an epic poem, and it is, as such, both perfect and beautiful.

One, perhaps, of the ballads which contributed to the formation of this poem, may have been simply the adventure of Robin Hood and the Knight, which here occupies the first and second 'fyttes,' and is made to run more or less through the whole. The knight was a character respected by the peasantry, and in the personage of the unfortunate and injured Sir Richard of the Lee, he probably drew forth as much commiseration from those to whom the adventure was sung in the village alehouse, as in the courtly halls of the nobles when he appeared in misfortune in the romances of Sir Cleges or Sir Amadas. They were all the same story, under different forms, in the one instance reduced to a popular shape. Robin sends Little John, Much, and Scathelock, to seek for a guest to dinner, having first admonished them that they should not injure husbandmen, good yeomen, or knights and squires who were good fellows, but that their hostilities should be more particularly directed against bishops and archbishops, and, above all, against the sheriff of Nottingham:

"But loke ye do no housbonde harme

That tylleth with his plough; No more ye shall no good yeman

That walketh by grene-wode shawe, Ne no knyght, ne no squyer,

That wolde be a good felawe. These byshoppes and thyse archehyshoppes,

Ye shall them bete and bynde; The hye sheryfe of Notynghame,

Hym holde in your mynde."

The party went up to the 'Sayles' and Watling-street, and at length they espied a knight, all dreary and melancholy, riding by a 'derne strete' in Barnysdale. Little John addressed him courteously, and bade him to dinE

« AnteriorContinuar »