Three Great Robin Hood Poems
 

John Keats

Ellin Anderson

Alfred Noyes


ROBIN HOOD. TO A FRIEND.


No! those days are gone away,
And their hours are old and gray,
And their minutes buried all
Under the down-trodden pall
Of the leaves of many years:
Many times have winter's shears,
Frozen North, and chilling East,
Sounded tempests to the feast
Of the forest's whispering fleeces,
Since men knew nor rent nor leases.

   No, the bugle sounds no more,
And the twanging bow no more;
Silent is the ivory shrill
Past the heath and up the hill;
There is no mid-forest laugh,
Where lone Echo gives the half
To some wight, amaz'd to hear
Jesting, deep in forest drear.

   On the fairest time of June
You may go, with sun or moon,
Or the seven stars to light you,
Or the polar ray to right you;
But you never may behold
Little John, or Robin bold;
Never one, of all the clan,
Thrumming on an empty can
Some old hunting ditty, while
He doth his green way beguile
To fair hostess Merriment,
Down beside the pasture Trent;
For he left the merry tale
Messenger for spicy ale.

   Gone, the merry morris din;
Gone, the song of Gamelyn;
Gone, the tough-belted outlaw
Idling in the "grenč shawe;"
All are gone away and past!
And if Robin should be cast
Sudden from his turfed grave,
And if Marian should have
Once again her forest days,
She would weep, and he would craze:
He would swear, for all his oaks,
Fall'n beneath the dockyard strokes,
Have rotted on the briny seas;
She would weep that her wild bees
Sang not to her — strange! that honey
Can't be got without hard money!

   So it is: yet let us sing,
Honour to the old bow-string!
Honour to the bugle-horn!
Honour to the woods unshorn!
Honour to the Lincoln green!
Honour to the archer keen!
Honour to tight little John,
And the horse he rode upon!
Honour to bold Robin Hood,
Sleeping in the underwood!
Honour to maid Marian,
And to all the Sherwood-clan!
Though their days have hurried by
Let us two a burden try.
 




 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


 


THE OUTLAW


Not from the shade of cloistered grave,
But from the shadows of a cave
Within whose emerald mossy deep
Our spirits watch, but never sleep,
My eighty years in Lincoln green
Eight hundred winters more have seen.

Under this archer's keen blue eye,
Pageants of plenitude roll by:
Enameled litters, which they ride
With all the horses tucked inside —
Or so I deem — unless they go
By means that necromancers know.

My mission was to spread the wealth
By bold endeavor, not by stealth,
And so if pilgrim souls should deign
To foot it down my wooded lane,
I will endorse the hungry poor,
Quilled arrows for my signature.

I mean to say, I'll tax the rich —
But who can tell me which is which?
In Sherwood, there are none who want
So that they starve — and if I haunt
The memories of those who live,
There's other gold that's mine to give.

Marian throws a spectral crumb,
And as before, the blackbirds come;
Envy is such a crumb as this,
One that the rich will never miss —
And on your tongue, where they belong,
Such crumbs are sacrament and song.

But even as you shall atone
By coveting what is your own —
The fragrant blossoms of the lime
Above two lovers lost in time —
A wolf-age winter closes in,
And freezes on that creamy skin.

Possession of the fairest maid,
Whose fatal beauty, bow, and blade
Burn like a shaft of flame and frost,
Cannot replenish what is lost
Through vain content, by those unmanned
Here in this cradle-changeling land!

When I had slain my dastard foe,
And stuck his head upon my bow;
When in the furnace of my rage
One died for each year of my age,
So that fifteen lay on the field,
My fate at Nottingham was sealed,

Not lured by gold, or melting lass,
But taken as I knelt at Mass!
I would not cause Our Lady grief;
Love laughs at locks — so does belief;
Swindler and bounty-hunting cur
Shall die — the rest is up to Her.

And those who toss their Books of Hours
From the stretched necks of screeching towers —
Like an oaf who leaves the wheat,
Mills the chaff, and finds it sweet —
Shall never know me, by my faith,
As Robin — just some nameless wraith:

A wraith in heavens of green, not blue,
Whose heart is blithe, whose needs are few,
Commander of full seven score,
And as night falls, there will be more
In answer to the huntsman's call,
Till Sherwood cannot hold them all.

Aye, till it strains with livid thieves
As bloodless as these withered leaves
That even specters kick to dust.
And will you pallid shadows trust
Old tales, and seek to join the host
Of heroes as a fettered ghost?

Betrayed, like one who could not guess
What treason moved the Prioress
To such black leechcraft as to drain
With knife and cup, my every vein,
Whose thin red currents trickle down
To meet the Thames in London-town.

In spring, I saw a ragged serf
Who trod the snow to rend the turf,
And from the plough, towards the Plough
His eyes would wander, and allow
Those bootless frozen feet to write
A wordless rubric, stamped on white.

The muck consumed his scarlet trail
Like tears lost in a harlot's grail.
Seek them within that mortar-cup
Of vileness, or be swallowed up,
You children of the Morning Star
Who do not know how rich you are.

© 2008 by Ellin Anderson. All rights reserved. No part of  this work may be copied or used in any way without written  permission from the author.


A SONG OF SHERWOOD


Sherwood in the twilight, is Robin Hood awake?
Grey and ghostly shadows are gliding through the brake,
Shadows of the dappled deer, dreaming of the morn,
Dreaming of a shadowy man that winds a shadowy horn.

Robin Hood is here again: all his merry thieves
Hear a ghostly bugle-note shivering through the leaves,
Calling as he used to call, faint and far away,
In Sherwood, in Sherwood, about the break of day.

Merry, merry England has kissed the lips of June:
All the wings of fairyland were here beneath the moon,
Like a flight of rose-leaves fluttering in a mist
Of opal and ruby and pearl and amethyst.

Oaken-hearted England is waking as of old,
With eyes of blither hazel and hair of brighter gold:
For Robin Hood is here again beneath the bursting spray
In Sherwood, in Sherwood, about the break of day.

Love is in the greenwood building him a house
Of wild rose and hawthorn and honeysuckle boughs:
Love is in the greenwood, dawn is in the skies,
And Marian is waiting with her laughter-loving eyes.

Hark! The dazzled laverock climbs the golden steep!
Marian is waiting: is Robin Hood asleep?
Where the last dark arrow fell, the white scuts flash away,
In Sherwood, in Sherwood, about the break of day.

Oberon, Oberon, the hazel copses ring,
Time to hush the night-jar and let the throstle sing,
Time to let the blackbird lift a bonny head,
And wake Will Scarlett from his leafy forest bed.

Friar Tuck and Little John are riding down together
With quarter-staff and drinking-can and grey goose feather.
The dead are coming back again, the years are rolled away
In Sherwood, in Sherwood, about the break of day.

Softly over Sherwood the south wind blows.
All the heart of England hid in every rose
Hears across the greenwood the sunny whisper leap,
Sherwood in the red dawn, is Robin Hood asleep?

Hark, the voice of England wakes him as of old
And, shattering the silence with a cry of brighter gold,
Bugles in the greenwood echo from the steep,
Sherwood in the red dawn, is Robin Hood asleep?

Where the deer are gliding, down the shadowy glen,
All across the glades of fern he calls his merry men —
Doublets of the Lincoln green glancing through the may
In Sherwood, in Sherwood, about the break of day —

Calls them and they answer: from aisles of oak and ash
Rings the Follow! Follow! and the boughs begin to crash,
The ferns begin to flutter and the flowers begin to fly,
And through the crimson dawning the robber band goes by.

Robin! Robin! Robin! All his merry thieves
Answer as the bugle-note shivers through the leaves,
Calling as he used to call, faint and far away,
In Sherwood, in Sherwood, about the break of day.



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