The Early Ballads 4

At this point, Robin has returned to the greenwood, however he receives a visit from Sir Richard’s wife, who tells him of her husband’s plight. In response, he rides into Nottingham with his merry men, rescues Sir Richard, and beheads the sheriff with the sword. Later, ‘Edward our comly kynge’ arrives in Nottingham; this is described in the seventh fytte. He becomes angry when he discovers that the outlaw has killed many of his deer in the royal forests, so he plans to capture both Robin and Sir Richard. The king dons the clothes of a monk and ventures into the greenwood, where he is captured and taken back to the outlaw’s camp. An archery contest is held, and after much frivolity, Robin and Sir Richard finally realize that their guest is none other than the king. He has taken a liking to the outlaws, and Robin asks for mercy for his men, so they are all pardoned and invited to court. In the last fytte the king and the merry men ride into Nottingham dressed in Lincoln green. Robin lives at court for ‘twelve months and three’, however he looses all his money and longs to return home. He begs to be allowed to return to Barnsdale, so he can pray at the Chapel of St. Mary Magdalen. The king grants his request on the condition that he return. Robin agrees, but when he reaches Barnsdale, he decides to break his promise, and lives there another twenty-two years. In the closing verses of the Gest, the prioress of Kyrkesly who ‘was of hys kynne’, and her lover Sir Roger of Donkester, plot to murder Robin. (Kyrkesly has been identified as Kirklees nunnery in Yorkshire). He goes to Kyrkesly to be let of blood and is betrayed. The Gest ends with the words:

Cryst have mercy on his soule
That dyed on the rode
For he was a good outlawe
And dyde pore men moch god