Outlaws and Highwaymen

Passage from Michael Drayton’s Poly-Olbion
Michael Drayton, Poly-Olbion. A chorographicall description of all the tracts, rivers, mountains, forests, and other Parts of this Renowned Isle of Great Britain, Book II, Song XXVI, (London, 1622), pp. 122–123.

Finished 1619; published 1622

Robin Hoods Story.

...That lustie Robin Hood, who long time like a King
Within her compasse liu’d, and when he list to range1
For some rich Booty set, or else his ayre to change,
To Sherwood still retyr’d, his onely standing Court,
Whose praise the Forrest thus doth pleasantly report.
         The merry pranks he playd, would ask an age to tell,
And the aduentures strange that Robin Hood befell,
When Mansfield many a time for Robin hath bin layd,
How he hath cosned them, that him would have betrayd;
How often he hath come to Nottingham disguisd,
And cunningly escapt, being set to be surprizd.
In this our spacious Isle, I thinke there is not one,
But he hath heard some talke of him and little Iohn;
And to the end of time, the Tales shall ne’r be done,
Of Scarlock, George a Greene, and Much the Millers sonne,
Of Tuck the merry Frier, which many a Sermon made,
In praise of Robin Hood, his Out-lawes, and their Trade.
An hundred valiant men had this braue Robin Hood,
Still ready at his call, that Bow-men were right good,
All clad in Lincolne Greene, with Caps of Red and Blew,
His fellowes winded Horne, not one of them but knew,
When setting to their lips their little Beugles shrill,
The warbling Eccho’s wakt from euery Dale and Hill:
Their Bauldricks set with Studs, athwart their shoulders cast,
To which vnder their armes, their Sheafes were buckled fast,
A short Sword at their Belt, a Buckler scarse a span,
Who strooke below the knee, not counted then a man:
All made of Spanish Yew, their Bowes were wondrous strong;
They not an Arrow drew, but was a cloth-yard long.
Of Archery they had the very perfect craft,
With Broad-arrow, or But, or Prick, or Rouing Shaft,2
At Markes full fortie score, they vs’d to Prick, and Roue,3
Yet higher then the breast, for Compasse never stroue;4
Yet at the farthest marke a foot could hardly win:
At Long-buts, short, and Hoyles, each one could cleaue the pin:5
Their Arrowes finely pair’d, for Timber, and for Feather,
With Birch and Brazill peec’d, to flie in any weather;6
And shot they with the round, the square, or forked Pyle,7
The loose gaue such a twang, as might be heard a myle.
And of these Archers braue, there was not any one,
But he could kill a Deere his swiftest speed vpon,
Which they did boyle and rost, in many a mightie wood,
Sharpe hunger the fine sauce to their more kingly food.
Then taking them to rest, his merry men and hee
Slept many a Summers night vnder the Greenewood tree.
From wealthy Abbots chests, and Churles abundant store,
What often times he tooke, he shar’d amongst the poore:
No lordly Bishop came in lusty Robins way,
To him before he went, but for his Passe must pay:
The Widdow in distresse he graciously relieu’d,
And remedied the wrongs of many a Virgin grieu’d:
He from the husbands bed no married woman wan,
But to his Mistris deare, his loued Marian
Was euer constant knowne, which wheresoere she came,
Was soueraigne of the Woods, chiefe Lady of the Game:
Her Clothes tuck’d to the knee, and daintie braided haire,
With Bow and Quiuer arm’d, shee wandred here and there,
Amongst the Forrests wild; Diana neuer knew8
Such pleasures, nor such Harts as Mariana slew.
     Of merry Robin Hood, and of his merrier men,
The Song had scarcely ceas’d, when as the Muse agen
Wades Erwash ...9

Michael Drayton

Textual Note

Robin Hoods Story: this is a marginal note in the original.


Notes and page design © Gillian Spraggs 2001, 2007
Text added to site on 14 October 2001 | Page last modified on 28 August 2007

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