The Foresters

Act I

Scene III - The Outlawry

Alfred Tennyson

Scene III.—Same as Scene II.

ROBIN and his men.

All gone!—my ring—I am happy—should be happy.
She took my ring. I trust she loves me—yet
I heard this sheriff tell her he would pay
The mortgage if she favour’d him. I fear
Not her, the father’s power upon her.
                               Friends, (to his men)
I am only merry for an hour or two
Upon a birthday: if this life of ours
Be a good glad thing, why should we make us merry
Because a year of it is gone? but Hope
Smiles from the threshold of the year to come
Whispering ‘It will be happier;’ and old faces
Press round us, and warm hands close with warm hands,
And thro’ the blood the wine leaps to the brain
Like April sap to the topmost tree, that shoots
New buds to heaven, whereon the throstle rock’d
Sings a new song to the new year—and you,
Strike up a song, my friends, and then to bed.

What will you have, my lord?

                            ‘To sleep! to sleep!’

There is a touch of sadness in it, my lord,
But ill befitting such a festal day.

I have a touch of sadness in myself.

To sleep! to sleep! The long bright day is done,
And darkness rises from the fallen sun.
To sleep! to sleep!
Whate’er thy joys, they vanish with the day;
Whate’er thy griefs, in sleep they fade away.
To sleep! to sleep!
Sleep, mournful heart, and let the past be past!
Sleep, happy soul! all life will sleep at last.
To sleep! to sleep!

[A trumpet blown at the gates.

Who breaks the stillness of the morning thus?

    LITTLE JOHN. (going out and returning)
It is a royal messenger, my lord:
I trust he brings us news of the King’s coming.

Enter a PURSUIVANT who reads.

    O yes, O yes, O yes! In the name of the Regent. Thou, Robin Hood Earl of Huntingdon, art attainted and hast lost thine earldom of Huntingdon. Moreover, thou art dispossessed of all thy lands, goods, and chattels; and by virtue of this writ, whereas Robin Hood Earl of Huntingdon, by force and arms hath trespassed against the King in divers manners, therefore by the judgment of the officers of the said Lord King, according to the law and custom of the kingdom of England, Robin Hood Earl of Huntingdon is outlawed and banished.

I have shelter’d some that broke the forest laws.
This is irregular and the work of John.

[‘Irregular, irregular! (tumult) Down with him, tear his coat from his back!’

Ho there! ho there, the sheriff’s men without!

Nay, let them be, man, let them be. We yield.
How should we cope with John? The London folkmote
Has made him all but King, and he hath seized
On half the royal castles. Let him alone!
                                    (to his men)
A worthy messenger! how should he help it?
Shall we too work injustice? what, thou shakest!
Here, here—a cup of wine—drink and begone!

[Exit Messenger.
We will away in four-and-twenty hours,
But shall we leave our England?

                                                    Robin, Earl—

Let be the ‘Earl.’ Henceforth I am no more
Than plain man to plain man.

                                Well, then, plain man,
There be good fellows there in merry Sherwood
That hold by Richard, tho’ they kill his deer.

In Sherwood Forest. I have heard of them.
Have they no leader?

                                Each man for his own.
Be thou their leader, and they will all of them
Swarm to thy voice like bees to the brass pan.

They hold by Richard—the wild wood! to cast
All threadbare household habit, mix with all
The lusty life of wood and underwood,
Hawk, buzzard, jay, the mavis and the merle,
The tawny squirrel vaulting thro’ the boughs,
The deer, the highback’d polecat, the wild boar,
The burrowing badger—by Saint Nicholas,
I have a sudden passion for the wild wood—
We should be free as air in the wild wood—
What say you? shall we go? Your hands, your hands!

[Gives his hand to each.
You, Scarlet, you are always moody here.

‘Tis for no lack of love to you, my lord,
But lack of happiness in a blatant wife.
She broke my head on Tuesday with a dish.
I would have thwack’d the woman, but I did not,
Because thou sayest such fine things of women,
But I shall have to thwack her if I stay.

Would it be better for thee in the wood?

Ay, so she did not follow me to the wood.

Then, Scarlet, thou at least wilt go with me.
Thou, Much, the miller’s son, I knew thy father:
He was a manly man, as thou art, Much,
And gray before his time, as thou art, Much.

It is the trick of the family, my lord.
There was a song he made to the turning wheel—

‘Turn! turn!’ but I forget it.

                          I can sing it.

Not now, good Much! And thou, dear Little John,
Who hast that worship for me which Heaven knows
I ill deserve—you love me, all of you,
But I am outlaw’d, and if caught I die.
Your hands again. All thanks for all your service;
But if you follow me, you may die with me.

We will live and die with thee, we will live and die with thee!

The Foresters - Contents    |     Act II - Scene I - The Flight of Marian

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