Robin Hood: Little John a Begging

To disguise himself as a beggar, Little John needs "palmer's weed." The word "palmer" refers to a pilgrim who had visited the holy places of the Middle East and brought back a palm leaf as a token of the pilgrimage. Meanwhile, the word "weed" here refers to clothing, as in the phrase "widow's weeds." The word comes from the Old English waed, meaning "garment." You will also see the word "carel" (carril, carl) in this ballad, which means a low-born person.

[Notes by LKG]

This story is part of the Robin Hood unit. Story source: The English and Scottish Popular Ballads by Francis James Child (1882-1898).


Little John a Begging



ALL you that delight to spend some time
With a hey down down a down down
A merry song for to sing,
Vnto me draw neer, and you shall hear
How Little John went a begging.

As Robin Hood walked the forrest along,
And all his yeomandree,
Sayes Robin, ‘Some of you must a begging go,
And, Little John, it must be thee.’

Sayes John, ‘If I must a begging go,
I will have a palmer's weed,
With a staff and coat, and bags of all sort,
The better then I shall speed.

‘Come, give me now a bag for my bread,
And another for my cheese,
And one for a peny, when as I get any,
That nothing I may leese.’

Now Little John he is a begging gone,
Seeking for some relief,
But of all the beggers he met on the way,
Little John he was the chief.

But as he was walking himself alone,
Four beggers he chanced to spy,
Some deaf, and some blind, and some came behind;
Says John, ‘Here’s brave company!’

‘Good-morrow,’ said John, ‘my brethren dear,
Good fortune I had you to see.
Which way do you go? Pray let me know,
For I want some company.’

‘O what is here to do?’ then said Little John,
‘Why rings all these bells?’ said he;
‘What dog is a hanging? Come, let us be ganging,
That we the truth may see.’

‘Here is no dog a hanging,’ then one of them said,
‘Good fellow, we tell unto thee.
But here is one dead wil give us cheese and bred,
And it may be one single peny.’

‘We have brethren in London,’ another he said,
‘So have we in Coventry,
In Barwick and Dover, and all the world over,
But nere a crookt carril like thee.

‘Therefore stand thee back, thou crooked carel,
And take that knock on the crown.’
‘Nay,’ said Little John, ‘I’le not yet be gone,
For a bout will I have with you round.’

‘Now have at you all,’ then said Little John,
‘If you be so full of your blows.
Fight on, all four, and nere give ore,
Whether you be friends or foes.’

John nipped the dumb, and made him to rore,
And the blind that could not see,
And he that a cripple had been seven years,
He made him run faster then he.

And flinging them all against the wall,
With many a sturdie bang,
It made John sing, to hear the gold ring,
Which against the walls cryed twang.

Then he got out of the beggers cloak
Three hundred pound in gold.
‘Good fortune had I,’ then said Little John,
‘Such a good sight to behold.’

But what found he in a begger's bag,
But three hundred pound and three?
‘If I drink water while this doth last,
Then an ill death may I dye!

And my begging-trade I will now give ore,
My fortune hath bin so good;
Therefore I’le not stay, but I will away
To the forrest of merry Sherwood.’

And when to the forrest of Sherwood he came,
He quickly there did see
His master good, bold Robin Hood,
And all his company.

‘What news? What news?’ then said Robin Hood.
‘Come, Little John, tell unto me;
How hast thou sped with thy begger's trade?
For that I fain would see.’

‘No news but good,’ then said Little John,
‘With begging ful wel I have sped.
Six hundred and three I have here for thee,
In silver and gold so red.’

Then Robin took Little John by the hand,
And danced about the oak-tree.
‘If we drink water while this doth last,
Then an il death may we die!’

So to conclude my merry new song,
All you that delight it to sing,
’Tis of Robin Hood, that archer good,
And how Little John went a begging.

Next: The Bishop


(600 words)






















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