The "bills" they carry here are also weapons, similar to a halberd. It was originally an agricultural billhook used for chopping, and it was then adapted for military use. For more information, see Wikipedia.
Finally, don't be fooled by the "sack" at the end. That sack is a type of fortified wine; so-called "Sherris sack" is what is known today as "sherry." More information again at Wikipedia.
[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).
Robin Hood’s Delight
Doun a doun a doun a doun
And some of yeoman good,
But I will tell you of Will Scarlock,
Little John and Robin Hood.
Doun a doun a doun a doun
They were outlaws, as ’tis well known,
And men of a noble blood,
And many a time was their valour shown
In the forrest of merry Sheerwood.
Vpon a time it chanced so,
As Robin Hood would have it be,
They all three would a walking go,
Some pastime for to see.
And as they walked the forest along,
Upon a midsummer day,
There was they aware of three keepers,
Clade all in green aray.
With brave long faucheons by their sides,
And forest-bills in hand,
They call'd aloud to those bold outlaws,
And charged them to stand.
‘Why, who are you,’ cry’d bold Robin,
‘That speaks so boldly here?’
‘We three belong to King Henry,
And are keepers of his deer.’
‘The devil thou art!’ sayes Robin Hood,
‘I am sure that it is not so;
We be the keepers of this forest,
And that you soon shall know.
‘Come, your coats of green lay on the ground,
And so will we all three,
And take your swords and bucklers round,
And try the victory.’
‘We be content,’ the keepers said,
‘We be three, and you no less;
Then why should we be of you afraid,
And we never did transgress?’
‘Why, if you be three keepers in this forest,
Then we be three rangers good,
And we will make you to know, before you do go,
You meet with bold Robin Hood.’
‘We be content, thou bold outlaw,
Our valour here to try,
And we will make you know, before we do go,
We will fight before we will fly.
‘Then, come draw your swords, you bold outlaws,
And no longer stand to prate,
But let us try it out with blows,
For cowards we do hate.
‘Here is one of us for Will Scarlock,
And another for Little John,
And I my self for Robin Hood,
Because he is stout and strong.’
So they fell to it full hard and sore;
It was on a midsummer's day.
From eight a clock till two and past,
They all shewed gallant play.
There Robin, and Will, and Little John,
They fought most manfully,
Till all their winde was spent and gone,
Then Robin aloud did cry:
‘O hold, O hold,’ cries bold Robin,
‘I see you be stout men;
Let me blow one blast on my bugle-horn,
Then I’le fight with you again.’
‘That bargain’s to make, bold Robin Hood,
Therefore we it deny.
Though a blast upon thy bugle-horn
Cannot make us fight nor fly.
‘Therefore fall on, or else be gone,
And yield to us the day.
It shall never be said that we were afraid
Of thee, nor thy yeomen gay.’
‘If that be so,’ cries bold Robin,
‘Let me but know your names,
And in the forest of merry Sheerwood
I shall extol your fames.’
‘And with our names,’ one of them said,
‘What hast thou here to do?
Except that you will fight it out,
Our names thou shalt not know.’
‘We will fight no more,’ sayes bold Robin,
‘You be men of valour stout.
Come and go with me to Nottingham,
And there we will fight it out.
‘With a but of sack we will bang it out,
To see who wins the day.
And for the cost, make you no doubt
I have gold and money to pay,
‘And ever after, so long as we live,
We all will brethren be,
For I love those men with heart and hand
That will fight, and never flee.’
So away they went to Nottingham,
With sack to make amends;
For three dayes space they wine did chase,
And drank themselves good friends.
Next: The Pedlars