A Gest Of Robyn Hode - The Fifth Fytte (281-316) Argument.--The story now returns to the Sheriff of Nottingham, and relates how he offered a prize for the best archer in the north. Robin Hood, hearing of this match, determines to go to it, and to test the sheriff's faith to his oath (see the Third Fytte, stt. 202-4). Robin wins the prize, and is starting home to the greenwood, when the sheriff recognises and attacks him, but is beaten off by a shower of arrows. Robin and his men retire, shooting as they go, until they come to a castle. Here dwells the knight to whom Robin had lent the money--'Sir Richard at the Lee.' He takes in Robin and his men, and defies the sheriff; Robin, he says, shall spend forty days with him.

This fytte is no doubt based on some single lost ballad of a shooting-match at which Robin was victorious, and at which the Sheriff of Nottingham attempted in vain to arrest him. But the compiler of the Gest has carefully linked it to the preceding fyttes by such references as Robin's determination to try the sheriff's faith (st. 287), which is made clear in stt. 296-8; and the identification of the knight whose castle protects Robin and his men with the knight to whom the money had been lent (stt. 310-312).


Now hath the knyght his leve i-take,
And wente hym on his way;
Robyn Hode and his mery men
Dwelled styll full many a day.

Lyth and listen, gentil men,
And herken what I shall say,
How the proud sheryfe of Notyngham
Dyde crye a full fayre play;

That all the best archers of the north
Sholde come upon a day,
And he that shoteth allther best
The game shall bere away.

He that shoteth allther best,
Furthest fayre and lowe,
At a payre of fynly buttes,
Under the grene wode shawe,

A ryght good arowe he shall have,
The shaft of sylver whyte,
The hede and feders of ryche rede golde,
In Englond is none lyke.

This than herde good Robyn
Under his trystell-tre:
'Make you redy, ye wyght yonge men;
That shotynge wyll I se.

'Buske you, my mery yonge men;
Ye shall go with me;
And I wyll wete the shryvës fayth,
Trewe and yf he be.'

Whan they had theyr bowes i-bent,
Theyr takles fedred fre,
Seven score of wyght yonge men
Stode by Robyn's kne.

Whan they cam to Notyngham,
The buttes were fayre and longe;
Many was the bolde archere
That shoted with bowës stronge.

'There shall but syx shote with me;
The other shal kepe my hevede,
And standë with good bowës bent,
That I be not desceyved.'

The fourth outlawe his bowe gan bende,
And that was Robyn Hode,
And that behelde the proud sheryfe,
All by the but as he stode.

Thryës Robyn shot about,
And alway he slist the wand,
And so dyde good Gylberte
With the whytë hande.

Lytell Johan and good Scatheloke
Were archers good and fre;
Lytell Much and good Reynolde,
The worste wolde they not be.

Whan they had shot aboute,
These archours fayre and good,
Evermore was the best,
For soth, Robyn Hode.

Hym was delyvred the good arowe,
For best worthy was he;
He toke the yeft so curteysly;
To grenë-wode wolde he.

They cryed out on Robyn Hode,
And grete hornës gan they blowe:
'Wo worth the, treason!' sayd Robyn,
'Full evyl thou art to knowe.

'And wo be thou, thou proudë sheryf,
Thus gladdynge thy gest!
Other wyse thou behotë me
In yonder wylde forest.

'But had I thee in grenë-wode,
Under my trystell-tre,
Thou sholdest leve me a better wedde
Than thy trewe lewtë.'

Full many a bowë there was bent,
And arowës let they glyde;
Many a kyrtell there was rent,
And hurt many a syde.

The outlawes shot was so stronge
That no man might them dryve,
And the proud sheryfës men,
They fled away full blyve.

Robyn sawe the busshement to-broke,
In grene wode he wolde have be;
Many an arowe there was shot
Amonge that company.

Lytell Johan was hurte full sore,
With an arowe in his kne,
That he myght neyther go nor ryde;
It was full grete pytë.

'Mayster,' then sayd Lytell Johan,
'If ever thou lovedst me,
And for that ylkë lordës love
That dyed upon a tre,

'And for the medes of my servyce,
That I have servëd thee,
Lete never the proudë sheryf
Alyve now fyndë me.

'But take out thy brownë swerde,
And smyte all of my hede,
And gyve me woundës depe and wyde;
No lyfe on me be lefte.'

'I wolde not that,' sayd Robyn,
'Johan, that thou were slawe,
For all the golde in mery Englonde,
Though it lay now on a rawe.'

'God forbede,' sayd Lytell Much,
'That dyed on a tre,
That thou sholdest, Lytell Johan,
Parte our company.'

Up he toke hym on his backe,
And bare hym well a myle;
Many a tyme he layd him downe,
And shot another whyle.

Then was there a fayre castell,
A lytell within the wode;
Double-dyched it was about,
And walled, by the rode.

And there dwelled that gentyll knyght,
Syr Rychard at the Lee,
That Robyn had lent his good,
Under the grene-wode tree.

In he toke good Robyn,
And all his company:
'Welcome be thou, Robyn Hode,
Welcome arte thou to me;

'And moche I thanke thee of thy comfort,
And of thy curteysye,
And of thy gretë kyndënesse,
Under the grene-wode tre.

'I love no man in all this worlde
So much as I do thee;
For all the proud sheryf of Notyngham,
Ryght here shalt thou be.

'Shyt the gates, and drawe the brydge,
And let no man come in,
And arme you well, and make you redy,
And to the walles ye wynne.

'For one thynge, Robyn, I the behote;
I swere by Saynt Quyntyne,
These forty dayes thou wonnest with me,
To soupe, ete, and dyne.'

Bordes were layde, and clothes were spredde,
Redely and anone;
Robyn Hode and his mery men
To mete can they gone.

A Gest Of Robyn Hode - The Fifth Fytte (281-316) by Frank Sidgwick