Robin Hood and Little John

When Robin Hood was about twenty years old,
With a hey down, down, and a down;
He happen'd to meet Little John,
A jolly brisk blade, right fit for the trade,
For he was a lusty young man.

Tho' he was call'd Little, his limbs they were large,
And his stature was seven foot high;
Whereever 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 would but listen awhile;
For this very jest, among all the rest,
I think it may cause you to smile.

For Robin Hood said to his jolly bowmèn,
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 the brook his journey he took,
A stranger he chanc'd to espy.

They happen'd to meet on a long narrow bridge,
And neither of them would give way;
Quoth bold Robin Hood, and sturdily stood,
I'll shew 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 offer to touch the string.

Quoth bold Robin Hood, Thou dost prate like an ass,
For were I to bend but my bow, an ass,
I could send a dart, quite thro' thy proud heart,
Before thou could'st strike me one blow.

Thou talk'st like a coward, the stranger reply'd;
Well arm'd 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,
Therefore 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 is lusty and tough,
Now here on the bridge we will play;
Whoever falls in, the other shall win
The battle, 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.

At first Robin he gave the stranger a bang,
So hard that he 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 am able to handle a staff,
To die in your debt, friend, I scorn.
Then to it each goes, and follow'd their blows,
As if they'd 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 follow'd his blows more severe.

So thick and so fast did 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 tumbl'd 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 pull'd himself out by a thorn;
Which done, at the last he blow'd a loud blast
Straitway on his fine bugle-horn:

The eccho of which through the vallies did fly,
At which his stout bowmen appear'd,
All cloathed in green, most gay to be seen,
So up to their master they steer'd.

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 tumbl'd 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;
Ne're doubt me, for I'll play my part.

His name shall be alter'd, 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 fetch'd him a brace of fat does,
With humming strong liquor likewise;
They lov'd what was good; so, in the green wood,
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 sweet pretty lad: much feasting they had;
Bold Robin the christ'ning grac'd,

With all his bowmen, which stood in a ring,
And were of the Nottingham breed;
Brave Stutely came then, with seven yeomèn,
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 whereever he goes,
His name shall be call'd 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 tippl'd strong liquor gillore.

Then Robin he took the pretty sweet babe,
And cloath'd 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 green wood 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 ev'ry 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 liv'd,
Altho' he was proper and tall,
Yet, nevertheless, the truth to express,
Still Little John they did him call.
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