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[The following curious tract, which is reprinted from a copy preserved in the British Museum, is of a political nature, but, at the same time, affords some illustration of the popular character of Robin Goodfellow, and is in many respects curious and interesting. The tract itself is printed on four leaves, in very small quarto.]
“ The Midnight's Watch, or Robin Goodfellow his serious observation; Wherein is discovered the true state and strength of the kingdome as at this day it stands, without either Faction or Affaction. London, printed for George Lindsey, 1643.
“ The harmlesse spirit and the merry, commonly knowne to the world by the name of Robin Goodfellow, having told his Fairy mistresse of fleering upon strangers Elves, and the tickling of her nose with her petulant finger, and receaving but frownes for his favours and checks for his counsailes, he grew weary of her service, and being as light of love as he was of care he resolved to visit her no more. The troubles and commotions in the upper world had wrought his thoughts another way, and in a serious humour one night he resolved to goe abroad, to observe the new courses and alterations of the world.
“The first place he came at was Windsor, where he found a good part of the Army newly come from Redding, he heard them talke as confident of victory as if they had killed the Cavaliers already, he much admired the understanding and resolution of their Generall, and daring not to stay there any longer for feare he should be taken for a Malignant and be whipt, he made a swift dispatch for: Oxford ; yet not farre from Windsor he met at the townes end many sentinells and incountered some Courts of Guard,
though they were men of warre he heard them much to desire peace, and freezing in the cold, Robin could not chuse but laugh, to hear them comfort one another by boasting in what hot service they had been.
“When he came to Oxford, the first place he ventured into was St. Maries Church, where indeed he found a convocation of many reverend heads, some whereof had lately departed from London for their consciences sake, and esteemed the freedome of their minds of a greater consequence then their Revenues: they much lamented the iniquity of the times, and wisht indeed (if they could be found) that abler and more learned men might supply their deserted places. Robbin wondred at the gravity of the men, who with great wisdome and moderation were discoursing amongst themselves from whence the first cause of these distempers did arise, and some imputing it to this, and some to that, Robin departing from them three times, sneezed out aloud, Bishop, Bishop, Bishop.
“ From thence he come to Christchurch where he found a pack of cunning heads assembled together; these were men of another temper, and indeed they were the ottachousticons of the Kings, who whispered into his sacred eares all the ill counsells that they had contrived, Those were they that possessed him with impossible things, and induced him to believe them. They would tell him of great battels which were never fought, wherein he had the victory, and some conquests were told him to be atchieved by the Parliament wherein he received no losse at all. A band or two of men, have passed for a whole Army, and a Liter on the Thames for a whole fleet at Sea. Robbin much wondred that they being so neare unto him the influence of so Sacred a Majesty could work no better impression in their soules; and drawing neare unto the bed chamber he found His Majesty though in these distracted times yet full of native constancy, and tranquillity of mind, and secured better by his innocence then his Guard. With much joy and renowne he departed thence, and observing as he went (for it was past midnight) many a loose wench, in the armes of many of the Cavaliers, he gave every wench as he passed by a blue and secret nip on the arm without awakening her. He heard among the sentinells, as he was departing from Oxford, of a great victory obtained by one Sir Ralph Hopton against a part of the Parliaments forces, wherein the Earle of Stamfords regiments were said to be quite routed, many of his Souldiers slaine, many taken prisoners and great store of Armes, and Ammunition with them, amongst which a great brasse piece on which the Crown and the Rose were stampt, was most remarkable. Robbin had a great desire to go thither himself, and to justifie the truth of so absolute a Victory. He had not gone as far as Ensham, but he espied the nine Muses in a Vinteners Porch crouching close together, and defending themselves as well as they could from the cold visitation of the winters night. They were extream poore, and (which is most strange) in so short an absence and distance from Oxford they were grown extreamly ignorant, for they took him for their Apollo, and craved his Power and Protection to support them. Robbin told them they were much mistaken in him, for though he was not mortal he was but of middle birth no more than they, they being the daughters of Memorie, and he the son of Mirth, but he bade them take comfort for that now in Oxford there was sure news of Peace and a speedy hope of their return to their discontinued habitations: at this they seemed with much joy to rouse up themselves, and did assure him that if what he reported did prove true, they would sing his praises throughout all generations. The Elf proud of such a favour in the name of Oberon did thank them, and did conjure them to perform it, and in the twinkling of an eye he conveyed himself to Salt-ash in Cornwall, where Sir R. Hopton's forces were quartered. He found the defeat given to the Earl of Stamford nothing so great as Fame in Oxford confirmed it to be. Collonell Ruthens regiment indeed was sorely shaken, and some of his men slain, and many taken prisoners. With a curious eye he observed what Arms and Ammunition were taken, and above all he had a labouring desire to see the brasse piece with the Crowne and the Rose on it, which so much dignified his conquest: he searched up and down the Army, and in and about the Magazine, but he could not find it. At length despairing of what he looked for, the venterous Elf came into Sir Ralphs chamber, and finding him asleepe, and safe as Wine and Innocence, he dived into his pocket, and the first thing he took out, hee found to beare the impression of the Rose and Crowne, and it was a brave piece indeed, for it was a farthing token which was all peradventure that was in it. Robbin ashamed to see himself so deluded could not at the first but smile at the conceit, and putting it into its Magazine repenting himself of his journey, he did sweare that he would never trust fame, nor Pamphlet more, though printed in a thousand universities.
“ From thence with much indignation, and more speed he Aung away, and in a moment placed himselfe at Bristoll, where he found the face of things just like the aire of an April morning, it smiled and it rained both at once, some were greedy of peace, and some againe were as eager of war; here some stood for the King, there others for the Parliament, the greater number was for the one side, but the better for the other. The husband was divided against the wife, the sister against the brother, and the son lifting forbidden hands against the father. Robin beholding so strange a division amongst people so neer in blood, wished himselfe againe in Fairy Land; for, said he, we have no such dinne, no such tumults, nor unnaturall quarrels, but all silence and oblivion and a perpetuall peace. And quickly abandoning the place, he in an instant came into Glocestershire, to a Towne called Tedbury, where the more to increase his misery he met with the spirit of faction and distempered zeale. This was the spirit that was accustomed to make a great hubbub in the churches to teare off the Surplice from the Ministers shoulders, and when the children were to be signed with the signe of the Crosse (like a Divell dispossessed) to teare himself for fury, and with great noyse and foaming to runne out of the Temple. This spirit would faine have persuaded Robin to turne Roundhead, and told him that they were the best sort of Christians : I, replyed Robin, that is even as true as God