But you, perhaps, expect I should of nouelties intreate. I haue no tales of Robin Hood, though mal-content was he In better daies, first Richards daies, and liu’d in Woods as we A Tymon of the world: but not deuoutly was he soe,1 And therefore praise I not the man. But for from him did groe Words worth the note, a word or twaine of him ere home I go. Those daies begot some mal-contents: the Principall of whome A Countie was, that with a troope of Yomandrie did rome:2 Brave Archers, and deliuer men, since nor before so good:3 Those tooke from rich to giue the poore, and manned Robin Hood. Who fed them well, and lodg’d them safe in pleasant Caues and Bowers, Oft saying to his merrie men, what iuster life than ours? Here vse we Tallents, that abroade the Churles abuse or hide, Their Coffers excrements, and yet for common wants denide. We might haue sterued for their store, and they haue dycst our bones, Whose tongues, drifts, hearts, intice, meane, melt, as Syrenes, Foxes, stones, Yea euen the best that betterd them heard but aloofe our mones. And redelie the Churles could prie and prate of our amis, Forgetfull of their owne, when their reproofes had proofe as this: *It was at midnight when a Nonne, in trauell of a childe, Was checked of her fellowe Nonnes for being so defilde. The Ladie Prioresse heard a stirre, and starting out of bed, Did taunt the Nouasse bitterly. Who lifting vp her hed, Sayd, Madame, mend your hood (for why so hastely she rose, That on her head, mistooke for hood, she donde a Channons hose.4 *I did amis, not missing friends that wisht me to amend: I did amend, but missed friends when mine amis had end: My friends therefore shal find me true, but I will trust no frend. Not one I knewe that wisht me ill, nor any workt me well, To lose, lacke, liue, time, frendes, in yncke, an hell, an hell, an hell:5 Then happie we (quoth Robin Hood) in merrie Sherwood that dwell.
Albions England is a very long historical poem based on chronicle material. Warner dates the historical Robin Hood to the reign of King Richard I, but he tells the story out of sequence, under the reign of King Edward II, as an inset to another tale. The narrator is an unnamed hermit; he is addressing the opposition leader Thomas, Earl of Lancaster (like Robin Hood, a ‘malcontent’), who has encountered him in the woods at a time when Lancaster is a fugitive from his enemies. Warner’s immediate source for his version was evidently Richard Grafton’s Chronicle at Large (1569). Like Grafton, he makes Robin Hood into a nobleman. An extract from Grafton’s account of Robin Hood may be accessed on the web at the Teams Middle English Texts site.