Robin Hood, the bandit of Sherwood Forest who stole from the rich and gave to the poor - much to the chagrin of Prince John and the Sheriff of Nottingham, has been a subject of legend for centuries. Many of the tales of Robin Hood's adventures were bandied about and handed down by wandering minstrels and storytellers, but within the past century or so, a multitude of authors have drawn from the well of tales about the bandit and his merry troupe of rogues. Perhaps the two most famous renditions of the legend of Robin Hood come from early 20th century British authors Howard Pyle and Paul Creswick.
Recently I finished the Creswick version of "Robin Hood," which was penned in 1917. The wonderful volume was beautifully illustrated by N.C. Wyeth. After completing the novel last night, I determined to honor that author's work by noting it here along with the poem "Robin Hood" by John Keats. (One British legend writing on another.) But, to my surprise, I found that had already used the Keat's work in a column a couple of years ago.
Not wanting to repeat myself, I searched for another poetic tribute to the famous outlaw of Sherwood Forest and came up with "Robin Hood, An Outlaw," by 19th century British poet James Henry Leigh Hunt. Mr. Hunt's Robin Hood shares a familiar feel with that of Mr. Creswick.
I cannot recommend Paul Creswick's book highly enough, and the Wyeth illustrations are enthralling.
Robin Hood, An Outlaw
by James Henry Leigh Hunt
Robin Hood is an outlaw bold
Under the greenwood tree;
Bird, nor stag, nor morning air
Is more at large than he.
They sent against him twenty men,
Who joined him laughing-eyed;
They sent against him thirty more,
And they remained beside.
All the stoutest of the train,
That grew in Gamelyn wood,
Whether they came with these or not,
Are now with Robin Hood.
And not a soul in Locksley town
Would speak him an ill word;
The friars raged; but no man's tongue,
Nor even feature stirred;
Except among a very few
Who dined in the Abbey halls;
And then with a sigh bold Robin knew
His true friends from his false.
There was Roger the monk, that used to make
All monkery his glee;
And Midge, on whom Robin had never turned
His face but tenderly;
With one or two, they say, besides,
Lord! that in this life's dream
Men should abandon one true thing,
That would abide with them.
We cannot bid our strength remain,
Our cheeks continue round;
We cannot say to an aged back,
Stoop not towards the ground;
We cannot bid our dim eyes see
Things as bright as ever;
Nor tell our friends, though friends from youth,
That they'll forsake us never:
But we can say, I never will,
Friendship, fall off from thee;
And, oh sound truth and old regard,
Nothing shall part us three.