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THE MERRY PRANKS OF ROBIN GOODFELLOW,
From Oberon, in fairye land, The king of ghosts and shadowes there, Mad Robin I, at his command, Am sent to viewe the night-sports here. What ravell rout is kept about, In every corner where I go, I will o'ersee, and merry bee, And make good sport, with ho, ho, ho! More swift than lightening can I flye About this aery welkin soone, And, in a minute's space, descrye Each thing that's done belowe the moone: There's not a hag or ghost shall wag, Or cry, 'ware goblins! where I go; But Robin I their feates will spy, And send them home, with ho, ho, ho! Whene'er such wanderers I meete, As from their night-sports they trudge home; With counterfeiting voice I greete, And call them on, with me to roame Thro’ woods, thro' lakes, thro' bogs, thro' brakes ; Or else, unseen, with them I go, All in the nicke to play some tricke And frolicke it, with ho, ho, ho! Sometimes I meete them like a man; Sometimes, an ox, sometimes, a hound; And to a horse I turn me can; To trip and trot about them round. But if, to ride, my backe they stride, More swift than wind away I go; 1 This title is given by Bishop Percy from an old black-letter copy in the British Museum.
O’er hedge and lands, thro' pools and ponds,
I whirry, laughing, ho, ho, ho!
When lads and lasses merry be,
With possets and with juncates fine;
Unseene of all the company,
I eat their cakes and sip their wine;
And, to make sport, I fart and snort,
And out the candles I do blow :
The maids I kiss; they shrieke, — Who's this?
I answer nought, but ho, ho, ho!
Yet now and then, the maids to please,
At midnight I card up their wooll;
And while they sleepe and take their ease,
With wheel to threads their flax I pull:
I grind at mill their malt up still;
I dress their hemp, I spin their tow :
If any wake, and would'me take,
I wend me, laughing, ho, ho, ho!
When house or harth doth sluttish lye,
I pinch the maidens black and blue;
The bed-clothes from the bed pull I,
And lay them naked all to view :
'Twixt sleepe and wake, I do them take,
And on the key-cold floor them throw:
If out they cry, then forth I fly,
And loudly laugh out, ho, ho, ho!
When any need to borrowe ought,
We lend them what they do require;
And for the use demand we nought:
Our owne is all we do desire.
If, to repay, they do delay,
Abroad amongst them then I go,
And night by night I them affright
With pinchings, dreames, and ho, ho, ho!
When lazie queans have nought to do,
But study how to, cog and lye;
To make debate and mischief too,
"Twixt one another secretlye;
I marke their gloze, and it disclose
To them whom they have wronged so;
When I have done, I get me gone,
And leave them scolding, ho, ho, ho!
When men do traps and engins set
In loope-holes, where the vermine creepe,
Who, from their foldes and houses, get
Their duckes and geese, and lambes and sheepe;
I spy the gin, and enter in,
And seeme a vermine taken so;
But when they there approach me neare,
I leap out laughing, ho, ho, ho!
By wells and rills, in meadowes greene,
We nightly dance our hey-dey guise;
And to our fairye king and queene
We chant our moonlight minstrelsies :
When larks 'gin sing, away we fling;
And babes new-borne steal as we go,
And elfe in bed we leave instead,
And wend us laughing, ho, ho, ho!
From hay-bred Merlin's time have I
Thus nightly revell’d to and fro;
And for my pranks men call me by
The name of Robin Goodfellów.
Fiends, ghosts, and sprites, who haunt the nightes,
The hags and goblins, do me know;
And beldames old my feates have told;
So, Vale, Vale ! ho, ho, ho!? % This ballad has been generally attributed to Ben Jonson ; and Mr. Collier has a version in a manuscript of the time, with the initials B. J. at the end. This copy, he says, varies somewbat from that given above, and has an additional stanza, which we subjoin :
6 When as my fellow elfes and I
In circled ring do trip around,
If that our sports by any eye
Do happen to be seene or found;
If that they no words do say,
But mum continue as they go,
Each night I do put groat in shoe,
And wind out laughing, ho, ho, ho !"
Moth. A wonder, master! here's a Costard broken in a shin.