The Foresters

Act I

Scene II - The Outlawry

Scenes II, III, The Outlawry

Alfred Tennyson

Scene II. —A banqueting-hall in the house of ROBIN HOOD the Earl of Huntingdon. Doors open into a banqueting-hall where he is at feast with his friends.

Long live Richard,
    Robin and Richard!
Long live Richard!
    Down with John!
Drink to the Lion-heart
Pledge the Plantagenet,
    Him that is gone!
Who knows whither?
    God’s good Angel
Help him back hither,
    And down with John!
Long live Robin,
    Robin and Richard!
Long live Robin
    And down with John!

Enter PRINCE JOHN disguised as a monk and the SHERIFF OF NOTTINGHAM. Cries of ‘Down with John,’ ‘Long live King Richard,’ ‘Down with John.’

Down with John! ha! Shall I be known? is my disguise perfect?

Perfect—who should know you for Prince John, so that you keep the cowl down and speak not?

[Shouts from the banquet-room.

Thou and I will still these revelries presently.

[Shouts, ‘Long live King Richard!’

I come here to see this daughter of Sir Richard of the Lea and if her beauties answer their report. If so—

If so—

[Shouts, ‘Down with John!’

You hear!

Yes, my lord, fear not. I will answer for you.

Enter LITTLE JOHN, SCARLET, MUCH, etc., from the banquet singing a snatch of the Drinking Song

I am a silent man myself, and all the more wonder at our earl. What a wealth of words—O Lord, I will live and die for King Richard—not so much for the cause as for the earl. O Lord, I am easily led by words, but I think the earl hath right. Scarlet, hath not the earl right? What makes thee so down in the mouth?

I doubt not, I doubt not, and though I be down in the mouth, I will swear by the head of the earl.

Thou Much, miller’s son, hath not the earl right?

More water goes by the mill than the miller wots of, and more goes to make right than I know of, but for all that I will swear the earl hath right. But they are coming hither for the dance—


be they not, Friar Tuck? Thou art the earl’s confessor and shouldst know.

Ay, ay, and but that I am a man of weight, and the weight of the church to boot on my shoulders, I would dance too. Fa, la, la, fa, la, la!


But doth not the weight of the flesh at odd times overbalance the weight of the church, ha, friar?

Homo sum. I love my dinner—but I can fast, I can fast; and as to other frailties of the flesh—out upon thee! Homo sum, sed virgo sum; I am a virgin, my masters, I am a virgin.

And a virgin, my masters, three yards about the waist, is like to remain a virgin, for who could embrace such an armful of joy?

Knave, there is a lot of wild fellows in Sherwood Forest who hold by King Richard. If ever I meet thee there, I will break thy sconce with my quarterstaff.

Enter from the banqueting-hall SIR RICHARD LEA, ROBIN HOOD, etc.

My guests and friends, Sir Richard, all of you
Who deign to honour this my thirtieth year,
And some of you were prophets that I might be,
Now that the sun our King is gone, the light
Of these dark hours; but this new moon, I fear,
Is darkness. Nay, this may be the last time
When I shall hold my birthday in this hall:
I may be outlaw’d, I have heard a rumour.

God forbid!

Nay, but we have no news of Richard yet,
And ye did wrong in crying ‘Down with John;’
For be he dead, then John may be our King.

God forbid!

Ay, God forbid,
But if it be so we must bear with John.
The man is able enough—no lack of wit,
And apt at arms and shrewd in policy.
Courteous enough too when he wills; and yet
I hate him for his want of chivalry.
He that can pluck the flower of maidenhood
From off the stalk and trample it in the mire,
And boast that he hath trampled it. I hate him,
I hate the man. I may not hate the King
For aught I know,
So that our barons bring his baseness under.
I think they will be mightier than the King.

[Dance music.

MARIAN enters with other damsels.

The high Heaven guard thee from his wantonness,
Who art the fairest flower of maidenhood
That ever blossom’d on this English isle!

Cloud not thy birthday with one fear for me.
My lord, myself and my good father pray
Thy thirtieth summer may be thirty-fold
As happy as any of those that went before.

My Lady Marian, you can make it so
If you will deign to tread a measure with me.

Full willingly, my lord.

[They dance.

    ROBIN (after dance).
    My lady, will you answer me a question?

Any that you may ask.

A question that every true man asks of a woman once in his life.

I will not answer it, my lord, till King Richard come home again.

How she looks up at him, how she holds her face!
Now if she kiss him, I will have his head.

Peace, my lord; the earl and Sir Richard come this way.

Must you have these moneys before the year and the month end?

Or I forfeit my land to the abbot. I must pass overseas to one that I trust will help me.

Leaving your fair Marian alone here.

Ay, for she hath somewhat of the lioness in her, and there be men-at-arms to guard her.

[Robin, Sir Richard, and Marian pass on.

Why that will be our opportunity
When I and thou will rob the nest of her.

Good prince, art thou in need of any gold?

Gold? why? not now.

I would give thee any gold,
So that myself alone might rob the nest.

Well, well then, thou shalt rob the nest alone.

Swear to me by that relic on thy neck.

I swear then by this relic on my neck—
No, no, I will not swear by this; I keep it
For holy vows made to the blessed Saints,
Not pleasures, women’s matters.
Dost thou mistrust me? Am I not thy friend?
Beware, man, lest thou lose thy faith in me.
I love thee much; and as I am thy friend,
I promise thee to make this Marian thine.
Go now and ask the maid to dance with thee,
And learn from her if she do love this earl.

    SHERIFF. (advancing toward MARIAN and ROBIN.)
Pretty mistress!

What art thou, man? Sheriff of Nottingham?

Ay, my lord. I and my friend, this monk, were here belated, and seeing the hospitable lights in your castle, and knowing the fame of your hospitality, we ventured in uninvited.

You are welcome, though I fear you be of those who hold more by John than Richard.

True, for through John I had my sheriffship. I am John’s till Richard come back again, and then I am Richard’s. Pretty mistress, will you dance?

[They dance.

    ROBIN. (talking to PRINCE JOHN).
What monk of what convent art thou? Why wearest thou thy cowl to hide thy face?

[PRINCE JOHN shakes his head.

Is he deaf, or dumb, or daft, or drunk belike?

[PRINCE JOHN shakes his head.

Why comest thou like a death’s head at my feast?

[PRINCE JOHN points to the SHERIFF, who is dancing with MARIAN.

Is he thy mouthpiece, thine interpreter?


    SHERIFF. (to MARIAN as they pass).
Beware of John!

                                I hate him.

                                                    Would you cast
An eye of favour on me, I would pay
My brother all his debt and save the land.

I cannot answer thee till Richard come.

And when he comes?

                                      Well, you must wait till then.

    LITTLE JOHN. (dancing with KATE).
Is it made up? will you kiss me?

You shall give me the first kiss.

There (kisses her). Now thine.

You shall wait for mine till Sir Richard has paid the abbot.

[They pass on.

[The SHERIFF leaves MARIAN with her father and comes toward ROBIN.

    ROBIN. (to Sheriff, Prince John standing by).
Sheriff, thy friend, this monk, is but a statue.

Pardon him, my lord: he is a holy palmer, bounden by a vow not to show his face, nor to speak word to any one, till he join King Richard in the Holy Land.

Going to the Holy Land to Richard! Give me thy hand and tell him—Why, what a cold grasp is thine!—as if thou didst repent thy courtesy even in the doing it. That is no true man’s hand. I hate hidden faces.

Pardon him again, I pray you; but the twilight of the coming day already glimmers in the east. We thank you, and farewell.

Farewell, farewell. I hate hidden faces.

[Exeunt Prince John and Sheriff.

    SIR RICHARD. (coming forward with MAID MARIAN).
How close the sheriff peer’d into thine eyes!
What did he say to thee?

                                                Bade me beware
Of John: what maid but would beware of John?

What else?

                      I care not what he said.

                                                                         What else?

That if I cast an eye of favour on him,
Himself would pay this mortgage to his brother,
And save the land.

                                    Did he say so, the sheriff?

I fear this Abbot is a heart of flint,
Hard as the stones of his abbey.
O good Sir Richard,
I am sorry my exchequer runs so low
I cannot help you in this exigency;
For though my men and I flash out at times
Of festival like burnished summer-flies,
We make but one hour’s buzz, are only like
The rainbow of a momentary sun.
I am mortgaged as thyself.

Ay! I warrant thee—thou canst not be sorrier than I am. Come away, daughter.

Farewell, Sir Richard; farewell, sweet Marian.

Till better times.

But if better times should never come?

Then I shall be no worse.

And if the worst time come?

Why, then I will be better than the time.

This ring my mother gave me: it was her own
Betrothal ring. She pray’d me, when I loved
A maid with all my heart, to pass it down
A finger of that hand which should be mine
Thereafter. Will you have it? Will you wear it?

Ay, noble earl, and never part with it.

    SIR RICHARD LEA(coming up).
Not till she clean forget thee, noble earl.

Forget him—never—by this Holy Cross
Which good King Richard gave me when a child—
Not while the swallow skims along the ground,
And while the lark flies up and touches heaven!
Not while the smoke floats from the cottage roof,
And the white cloud is roll’d along the sky!
Not while the rivulet babbles by the door,
And the great breaker beats upon the beach!
Till Nature, high and low, and great and small
Forgets herself, and all her loves and hates
Sink again into chaos!

                                                Away! away!

[Exeunt to music.

The Foresters - Contents    |     Act I - Scene III - The Outlawry

Back    |    Words Home    |    Tennyson Home    |    Site Info.    |    Feedback