The Foresters

Act IV

Scene I - The Conclusion.

Alfred Tennyson

SCENE.—A forest bower, cavern in background. Sunrise.

    MARIAN (rising to meet ROBIN).
Robin, the sweet light of a mother’s eye,
That beam of dawn upon the opening flower,
Has never glanced upon me when a child.
He was my father, mother, both in one.
The love that children owe to both I give
To him alone.

(ROBIN offers to caress her.)

Quiet, good Robin, quiet!
You lovers are such clumsy summer-flies
For ever buzzing at your lady’s face.

Bees rather, flying to the flower for honey.

    MARIAN (sings).

The bee buzz’d up in the heat:
‘I am faint for your honey, my sweet.’
The flower said, ‘Take, it my dear,
For now is the spring of the year.
            So come, come!’
And the bee buzz’d down from the heat.

And the bee buzz’d up in the cold
When the flower was wither’d and old.
‘Have you still any honey, my dear?’
She said, ‘It’s the fall of the year,
            But come, come!’
And the bee buzz’d off in the cold.

Out on thy song!

                                Did I not sing it in tune?

No, sweetheart! out of tune with Love and me.

And yet in tune with Nature and the bees.

Out on it, I say, as out of tune and time!

Till thou thyself shalt come to sing it—in time.

    ROBIN. (taking a tress of her hair in his hand).
Time! if his backward-working alchemy
Should change this gold to silver, why, the silver
Were dear as gold, the wrinkle as the dimple.
Thy bee should buzz about the court of John.
No ribald John is Love, no wanton prince,
The ruler of an hour, but lawful King,
Whose writ will run thro’ all the range of life.
Out upon all hard-hearted maidenhood!

And out upon all simple bachelors!
Ah, well! thou seest the land has come between us,
And my sick father here has come between us,
And this rich sheriff too has come between us;
So, is it not all over now between us?
Gone, like a deer that hath escaped thine arrow!

What deer when I have mark’d him ever yet
Escaped mine arrow? over is it? wilt thou
Give me thy hand on that?

                              Take it.

    ROBIN (kisses her hand).
                                   The sheriff!
This ring cries out against thee. Say it again,
And, by this ring, the lips that never breathed
Love’s falsehood to true maid will seal Love’s truth
On those sweet lips that dare to dally with it.

Quiet, quiet! or I will to my father.

So, then, thy father will not grace our feast
With his white beard to-day.

                                     Being so sick.
How should he, Robin?

                                     Then that bond he hath
Of the abbot—wilt thou ask him for it?


I have sent to the abbot and justiciary
To bring their counter-bond into the forest.

But will they come?

                 If not I have let them know
Their lives unsafe in any of these our woods,
And in the winter I will fire their farms.
But I have sworn by our Lady if they come
I will not tear the bond, but see fair play
Betwixt them and Sir Richard—promised too,
So that they deal with us like honest men,
They shall be handled with all courteousness.

What wilt thou do with the bond then?

                                    Wait and see.
What wilt thou do with the sheriff?

                                    Wait and see.
I bring the bond.

[Exit Marian.

Enter LITTLE JOHN, FRIAR TUCK, and MUCH, and FORESTERS and PEASANTS laughing and talking.

Have you glanced down thro’ all the forest ways,
And mark’d if those two knaves from York be coming?

Not yet, but here comes one of bigger mould.

Art thou a knight?

                     I am.

                                And walkest here
Unarmour’d? all these walks are Robin Hood’s,
And sometimes perilous.

                                         Good! but having lived
For twenty days and nights in mail, at last
I crawl’d like a sick crab from my old shell,
That I might breathe for a moment free of shield
And cuirass in this forest where I dream’d
That all was peace—not even a Robin Hood—
(Aside) What if these knaves should know me for their King?

Art thou for Richard, or allied to John?

I am allied to John.

                               The worse for thee.

Art thou that banish’d lord of Huntingdon,
The chief of these outlaws who break the law?

I am the yeoman, plain Robin Hood, and being out of the law how should we break the law? if we broke into it again we should break the law, and then we were no longer outlaws.

But, earl, if thou be he——

Fine him! fine him! he hath called plain
Robin an earl. How much is it, Robin, for a knight?

A mark.

    KING RICHARD (gives it).

Thou payest easily, like a good fellow,
But being o’ John’s side we must have thy gold.

But I am more for Richard than for John.

What, what, a truckler! a word-eating coward!
Nay, search him then. How much hast thou about thee?

I had one mark.

                       What more?

                                           No more, I think.
But how then if I will not bide to be search’d?

We are four to one.

                          And I might deal with four.

Good, good, I love thee for that! but if I wind
This forest-horn of mine I can bring down
Fourscore tall fellows on thee.

                                       Search me then.
I should be hard beset with thy fourscore.

Robin, he hath No more. He hath spoken truth.

I am glad of it. Give him back his gold again.

But I had liefer than this gold again—
Not having broken fast the livelong day—
Something to eat.

                        And thou shalt have it, man.
Our feast is yonder, spread beneath an oak,
Venison, and wild boar, wild goose, besides
Hedge-pigs, a savoury viand, so thou be
Squeamish at eating the King’s venison.

Nay, Robin, I am like thyself in that
I look on the King’s venison as my own.

    Ay, ay, Robin, but let him know our forest laws: he that pays not for his dinner must fight for it. In the sweat of thy brow, says Holy Writ, shalt thou eat bread, but in the sweat of thy brow and thy breast, and thine arms, and thy legs, and thy heart, and thy liver, and in the fear of thy life shalt thou eat the King’s venison—ay, and so thou fight at quarterstaff for thy dinner with our Robin, that will give thee a new zest for it, though thou wert like a bottle full up to the cork, or as hollow as a kex, or the shambles-oak, or a weasel-sucked egg, or the head of a fool, or the heart of Prince John, or any other symbol of vacuity.

[They bring out the quarterstaffs, and the foresters and peasants crowd round to see the games, and applaud at intervals.

Great woodland King, I know not quarterstaff.

A fine! a fine! He hath called plain Robin a king.

A shadow, a poetical fiction—did ye not call me king in your song?—a mere figure. Let it go by.

No figure, no fiction, Robin. What, is not man a hunting animal? And look you now, if we kill a stag, our dogs have their paws cut off, and the hunters, if caught, are blinded, or worse than blinded. Is that to be a king? If the King and the law work injustice, is not he that goes against the King and the law the true King in the sight of the King of kings? Thou art the King of the forest, and I would thou wert the King of the land.

This friar is of much boldness, noble captain.

He hath got it from the bottle, noble knight.

Boldness out of the bottle! I defy thee.
Boldness is in the blood, Truth in the bottle.
She lay so long at the bottom of her well
In the cold water that she lost her voice,
And so she glided up into the heart
O’ the bottle, the warm wine, and found it again.
In vino veritas.    Shall I undertake
The knight at quarterstaff, or thou?

Peace, magpie!
Give him the quarterstaff. Nay, but thyself
Shalt play a bout with me, that he may see
The fashion of it.

[Plays with FRIAR TUCK at quarterstaff.

            Well, then, let me try.

[They play.
I yield, I yield. I know no quarterstaff.

Then thou shalt play the game of buffets with us.

What’s that?

I stand up here, thou there. I give thee
A buffet, and thou me. The Holy Virgin
Stand by the strongest! I am overbreathed,
Friar, by my two bouts at quarterstaff.
Take him and try him, friar.



    KING RICHARD (strikes).

[FRIAR falls.

Thou hast roll’d over the Church militant
Like a tod of wool from wagon into warehouse.
Nay, I defy thee still. Try me an hour hence.
I am misty with my thimbleful of ale.

Thou seest, Sir Knight, our friar is so holy
That he’s a miracle-monger, and can make
Five quarts pass into a thimble. Up, good Much.

And show thyself more of a man than me.

Well, no man yet has ever bowl’d me down.

Ay, for old Much is every inch a man.

We should be all the more beholden to him.

Much and more! much and more! I am the oldest of thy men, and thou and thy youngsters are always muching and moreing me.

    Because thou art always so much more of a man than my youngsters, old Much.

Well, we Muches be old.

Old as the hills.

Old as the mill. We had it i’ the Red King’s time, and so I may be more of a man than to be bowled over like a ninepin. There!



[MUCH falls.

‘Much would have more,’ says the proverb; but Much hath had more than enough. Give me thy hand, Much; I love thee (lifts him up). At him, Scarlet.

I cannot cope with him: my wrist is strain’d.

Try, thyself, valorous Robin!

I am mortally afeard o’ thee, thou big man,
But seeing valour is one against all odds,


[ROBIN falls back, and is caught in the arms of LITTLE JOHN.

Good, now I love thee mightily, thou tall fellow.
Break thine alliance with this faithless John,
And live with us and the birds in the green wood.

I cannot break it, Robin, if I wish’d.
Still I am more for Richard than for John.

Look, Robin, at the far end of the glade
I see two figures crawling up the hill.

[Distant sound of trumpets.

The Abbot of York and his justiciary.

    KING RICHARD (aside).
They know me. I must not as yet be known.
Friends, your free sports have swallow’d my free hour.
Farewell at once, for I must hence upon
The King’s affair.

                     Not taste his venison first?

Hast thou not fought for it, and earn’d it? Stay,
Dine with my brethren here, and on thine own.

And which be they?

Wild geese, for how canst thou be thus allied
With John, and serve King Richard save thou be
A traitor or a goose? but stay with Robin;
For Robin is no scatterbrains like Richard,
Robin’s a wise man, Richard a wiseacre,
Robin’s an outlaw, but he helps the poor;
While Richard hath outlaw’d himself, and helps
Nor rich nor poor. Richard’s the king of courtesy;
For if he did me the good grace to kick me
I could but sneak and smile and call it courtesy,
For he’s a king.
And that is only courtesy by courtesy—
But Robin is a thief of courtesy
Whom they that suffer by him call the blossom
Of bandits. There—to be a thief of courtesy—
There is a trade of genius, there’s glory!
Again, this Richard sacks and wastes a town
With random pillage, but our Robin takes
From whom he knows are hypocrites and liars.
Again, this Richard risks his life for a straw,
So lies in prison—while our Robin’s life
Hangs by a thread, but he is a free man.
Richard, again, is King over a realm
He hardly knows, and Robin King of Sherwood,
And loves and dotes on every dingle of it.
Again, this Richard is the lion of Cyprus,
Robin the lion of Sherwood—may this mouth
Never suck grape again, if our true Robin
Be not the nobler lion of the twain!

Gramercy for thy preachment! if the land
Were rulable by tongue, thou shouldst be King.
And yet thou know’st how little of thy King!
What was this realm of England, all the crowns
Of all this world, to Richard when he flung
His life, heart, soul into those holy wars
That sought to free the tomb-place of the king
Of all the world? thou, that art churchman too
In a fashion, and shouldst feel with him. Farewell!
I left mine horse and armour with a squire,
And I must see to ’em.

                                     When wilt thou return?

Return, I? when? when Richard will return.

No sooner? when will that be? canst thou tell?
But I have ta’en a sudden fancy to thee.
Accept this horn! if e’er though be assail’d
In any of our forests, blow upon it
Three mots, this fashion—listen! (blows) Canst thou do it?

Blown like a true son of the woods. Farewell!

[Exit King Richard.


Church and Law, halt and pay toll!

Rogue, we have thy captain’s safe-conduct; though he be the chief of rogues, he hath never broken his word.

There is our bond.

[Gives it to ROBIN

                                    I thank thee.

                                              Ay, but where,
Where is this old Sir Richard of the Lea?
Thou told’st us we should meet him in the forest,
Where he would pay us down his thousand marks.

Give him another month, and he will pay it.

We cannot give him a month.

                                       Why, then a week.

No, not an hour: the debt is due to-day.

Where is this laggard Richard of the Lea?

He hath been hurt, was growing whole again,
Only this morning, in his agony
Lest he should fail to pay these thousand marks,
He is stricken with a slight paralysis.
Have you no pity? must you see this man?

Ay, ay, what else? how else can this be settled?

Go, men, and fetch him hither on the litter.

[SIR RICHARD LEA is brought in. MARIAN comes with him.

Here is my father’s bond.

[Gives it to ROBIN HOOD.

                                    I thank thee, dear.

Sir Richard, it was agreed when you borrowed these moneys from the abbot that, if they were not repaid within a limited time, your land should be forfeit.

The land! the land!

You see he is past himself.
What would you more?

What more? one thousand marks,
Or else the land.
You hide this damsel in your forest here,

[Pointing to MARIAN.
You hope to hold and keep her for yourself,
You heed not how you soil her maiden fame,
You scheme against her father’s weal and hers;
For, so this maid would wed our brother, he
Would pay us all the debt at once, and thus
This old Sir Richard might redeem his land.
He is all for love, he cares not for the land.

The land! the land!

    ROBIN (giving two bags to the Abbot).
                Here be one thousand marks
Out of our treasury to redeem the land.

[Pointing to each of the bags.
Half here, half there.

[Plaudits from his band.

Ay, ay, but there is use, four hundred marks.

    ROBIN (giving a bag to JUSTICIARY).
There then, four hundred marks.


                             What did I say?
Nay, my tongues tript—five hundred marks for use.

    ROBIN (giving another bag to him).
A hundred more? There then, a hundred more.


Ay, ay, but you see the bond and the letter of the law. It is stated there that these moneys should be paid in to the abbot at York, at the end of the month at noon, and they are delivered here in the wild wood an hour after noon.

The letter — O, how often justice drowns
Between the law and letter of the law!
O God, I would the letter of the law
Were some strong fellow here in the wild wood,
That thou mightst beat him down at quarterstaff!
Have you no pity?

You run down your game,
We ours. What pity have you for your game?

We needs must live. Our bowmen are so true
They strike the deer at once to death—he falls
And knows no more.

Pity, pity—There was a man of ours
Up in the north, a goodly fellow too,
He met a stag there on so narrow a ledge—
A precipice above, and one below—
There was no room to advance or to retire.
The men lay down—the delicate-footed creature
Came stepping o’er him, so as not to harm him—
The hunter’s passion flash’d into the man,
He drove his knife into the heart of the deer,
The deer fell dead to the bottom, and the man
Fell with him, and was crippled ever after.
I fear I had small pity for that man.—
You have the moneys and the use of them.
What would you more?

What? must we dance attendance all the day?

Dance! ay, by all the saints and all the devils, ye shall dance! When the Church and the Law have forgotten God’s music, they shall dance to the music of the wild wood. Let the birds sing, and do you dance to their song! What, you will not? Strike up our music, Little John. (He plays.) They will not! Prick ’em in the calves with the arrow-points prick ’em in the calves!

    Rogue, I am full of gout. I cannot dance.

And Sir Richard cannot redeem his land. Sweat out your gout, friend, for, by my life, you shall dance till he can. Prick him in the calves!

Rogue, I have a swollen vein in my right leg, and if thou prick me there I shall die.

Prick him where thou wilt, so that he dance.

Rogue, we come not alone.

Not the right.

We told the prince and the sheriff of our coming.

Take the left leg, for the love of God.

They follow us.

You will all of you hang.

Let us hang, so thou dance meanwhile; or, by that same love of God, we will hang thee, prince or no prince, sheriff or no sheriff.

Take care, take care! I dance—I will dance—I dance

[ABBOT and JUSTICIARY dance to music, each holding a bag in each hand.


The sheriff! the sheriff, follow’d by Prince John
And all his mercenaries! We sighted ’em
Only this moment. By Saint Nicholas
They must have sprung like ghosts from underground,
Or like the devils they are, straight up from hell.

Crouch all into the bush!

[The FORESTERS and PEASANTS hide behind the bushes.

                             Take up the litter!

Move me no more! I am sick and faint with pain!

But, sir, the sheriff—

                      Let me be, I say!
The sheriff will be welcome! let me be!

Give me my bow and arrows. I remain.
Beside my father’s litter.

                          And fear not thou!
Each of us has an arrow on the cord;
We all keep watch.



Speak not. I wait upon a dying father.

The debt hath not been paid. She will be mine.
What are you capering for? By old Saint Vitus,
Have you gone mad? Has it been paid?

    ABBOT (dancing).
                                          O, yes.

Have I lost her then?

    JUSTICIARY (dancing).
                     Lost her? O, no, we took
Advantage of the letter—O Lord, the vein!
Not paid at York—the wood—prick me no more!

What pricks thee, save it be thy conscience, man?

By my halidome, I felt him at my leg still.
Where be they gone to?

Thou art alone in the silence of the forest,
Save for this maiden and thy brother abbot,
And this old crazeling in the litter there.

Enter on one side FRIAR TUCK from the bush, and on the other PRINCE JOHN and his SPEARMEN, with banners and trumpets, etc.

    JUSTICIARY (examining his leg)
They have miss’d the vein.

                  And we shall keep the land.

Sweet Marian, by the letter of the law
It seems thy father’s land is forfeited.

No! let me out of the litter. He shall wed thee:
The land shall still be mine. Child, thou shalt wed him,
Or thine old father will go mad—he will,
He will—he feels it in his head.

                            O, peace!
Father, I cannot marry till Richard comes.

And then the sheriff!

                                                Ay, the sheriff, father,
Would buy me for a thousand marks in gold—
Sell me again perchance for twice as much.
A woman’s heart is but a little thing,
Much lighter than a thousand marks in gold;
But pity for a father, it may be,
Is weightier than a thousand marks in gold.
I cannot love the sheriff.

                But thou wilt wed him?

Ay, save King Richard, when he comes, forbid me.
Sweet heavens, I could wish that all the land
Were plunged beneath the waters of the sea,
Tho’ all the world should go about in boats.

Why, so should all the love-sick be sea-sick.

Better than heart-sick, friar.

                            See you not
They are jesting at us yonder, mocking us?
Carry her off, and let the old man die.

[Advancing to MARIAN.
Come, girl, thou shalt along with us on the instant.

    FRIAR TUCK (brandishing his staff).
Then on the instant I will break thy head.

Back, thou fool-friar! Knowest thou not the prince?

    FRIAR TUCK (muttering).
He may be prince; he is not gentleman.

Look! I will take the rope from off thy waist,
And twist it round thy neck and hang thee by it.
Seize him and truss him up, and carry her off.

[FRIAR TUCK slips into the bush.

    MARIAN (drawing the bow).
No nearer to me! back! My hand is firm,
Mine eye most true to one hair’s-breadth of aim.
You, prince, our King to come—you that dishonour
The daughters and the wives of your own faction—
Who hunger for the body, not the soul—
This gallant prince would have me of his—what?
Household? or shall I call it by that new term
Brought from the sacred East, his harem? Never,
Tho’ you should queen me over all the realms
Held by King Richard, could I stoop so low
As mate with one that holds no love is pure,
No friendship sacred, values neither man
Nor woman save as tools—God help the mark!—
To his own unprincely ends. And you, you, sheriff,

[Turning to the sheriff.
Who thought to buy your marrying me with gold,
Marriage is of the soul, not of the body.
Win me you cannot, murder me you may,
And all I love, Robin, and all his men,
For I am one with him and his; but while
I breathe Heaven’s air, and Heaven looks down on me,
And smiles at my best meanings, I remain
Mistress of mine own self and mine own soul.
[Retreating, with bow drawn, to the bush.

            I am here, my arrow on the cord.
He dies who dares to touch thee.

                            Advance, advance!
What, daunted by a garrulous, arrogant girl!
Seize her, and carry her off into my castle.

Thy castle!

                        Said I not, I love thee, man?
Risk not the love I bear thee for a girl.

Thy castle!

                        See thou thwart me not, thou fool!
When Richard comes he is soft enough to pardon
His brother; but all those that held with him,
Except I plead for them, will hang as high
As Haman.

She is mine. I have thy promise.

O, ay, she shall be thine—first mine, then thine,
For she shall spend her honeymoon with me.

Woe to that land shall own thee for her King!

Advance, advance!

[They advance shouting. The KING in armour reappears from the wood.

What shouts are these that ring along the wood?

    FRIAR TUCK (coming forward).
Hail, knight, and help us. Here is one would clutch
Our pretty Marian for his paramour,
This other, willy-nilly, for his bride.

Damsel, is this the truth?

                             Ay, noble knight.

Ay, and she will not marry till Richard come.

    KING RICHARD (raising his visor).
I am here, and I am he.

    PRINCE JOHN (lowering his, and whispering to his men).
It is not he—his face—tho’ very like—
No, no! we have certain news he died in prison.
Make at him, all of you, a traitor coming
In Richard’s name—it is not he—not he.

[The men stand amazed.

    FRIAR TUCK (going back to the bush).
Robin, shall we not move?

                                 It is the King
Who bears all down. Let him alone awhile.
He loves the chivalry of his single arm.
Wait till he blow the horn.

    FRIAR TUCK (coming back).
                                  If thou be King,
Be not a fool! Why blowest thou not the horn?

I that have turn’d their Moslem cresent pale—
I blow the horn against this rascal rout!

[FRIAR TUCK plucks the horn from him and blows. RICHARD dashes alone against the SHERIFF and JOHN’S men, and is almost borne down, when ROBIN and his men rush in and rescue him.

Thou hast saved my head at the peril of thine own.

A horse! a horse! I must away at once;
I cannot meet his eyes. I go to Nottingham.
Sheriff, thou wilt find me at Nottingham.


If anywhere, I shall find thee in hell.
What! go to slay his brother, and make me
The monkey that should roast his chestnuts for him!

I fear to ask who left us even now.

I grieve to say it was thy father’s son.
Shall I not after him and bring him back?

No, let him be. Sheriff of Nottingham,

[SHERIFF kneels.
I have been away from England all these years,
Heading the holy war against the Moslem,
While thou and others in our kingless realms
Were fighting underhand unholy wars
Against your lawful King.

                                  My liege, Prince John—

Say thou no word against my brother John.

Why then, my liege, I have no word to say.

My good friend Robin, Earl of Huntingdon,
For earl thou art again, hast thou no fetters
For those of thine own band who would betray thee?

I have; but these were never worn as yet.
I never found one traitor in my band.

Thou art happier than thy King. Put him in chains.

[They fetter the SHERIFF.

Look o’er these bonds, my liege.

[Shows the KING the bonds. They talk together.

You, my lord Abbot, you Justiciary,

[The ABBOT and JUSTICIARY kneel.
I made you abbot, you justiciary:
You both are utter traitors to your King.

O my good liege, we did believe you dead.

Was justice dead because the King was dead?
Sir Richard paid his moneys to the abbot.
You crost him with a quibble of your law.

But on the faith and honour of a King
The land is his again.

                      The land! the land!
I am crazed no longer, so I have the land.

[Comes out of the litter and kneels.
God save the King!

    KING RICHARD (raising Sir Richard).
                            I thank thee, good Sir Richard.
Maid Marian.

                Yes, King Richard.

                                    Thou wouldst marry
This sheriff when King Richard came again

              The King forbade it. True, my liege.

How if the King command it?

                                           Then, my liege,
If you would marry me with a traitor sheriff,
I fear I might prove traitor with the sheriff.

But if the King forbid thy marrying
With Robin, our good Earl of Huntingdon?

Then will I live forever in the wild wood.

    ROBIN (coming forward).
And I with thee.

                          On nuts and acorns, ha!
Or the King’s deer? Earl, thou when we were hence
Hast broken all our Norman forest-laws,
And scruplest not to flaunt it to our face
That thou wilt break our forest laws again
When we are here. Thou art overbold.

                                   My King,
I am but the echo of the lips of love.

Thou hast risk’d thy life for mine: bind these two men.

[They take the bags from the ABBOT and JUSTICIARY, and proceed to fetter them.

But will the King, then, judge us all unheard?
I can defend my cause against the traitors
Who fain would make me traitor. If the King
Condemn us without trial, men will call him
An Eastern tyrant, not an English king.

Besides, my liege, these men are outlaws, thieves,
They break thy forest laws—nay, by the rood,
They have done far worse—they plunder—yea, even bishops,
Yea, even archbishops—if thou side with these,
Beware, O King, the vengeance of the Church.

    FRIAR TUCK (brandishing his staff).
I pray you, my liege, let me execute the vengeance of the Church upon them. I have a stout crabstick here, which longs to break itself across their backs.

Keep silence, bully friar, before the King.

If a cat may look at a King, may not a friar speak to one?

I have had a year of prison-silence, Robin,
And heed him not—the vengeance of the Church!
Thou shalt pronounce the blessing of the Church
On those two here, Robin and Marian.

He is but hedge-priest, Sir King.

                            And thou their Queen.
Our rebel abbot then shall join your hands,
Or lose all hope of pardon from us—yet
Not now, not now—with after-dinner grace.
Nay, by the dragon of Saint George, we shall
Do some injustice if you hold us here
Longer from our own venison. Where is it?
I scent it in the green leaves of the wood.

First, King, a boon!

                       Why, surely ye are pardon’d,
Even this brawler of harsh truths—I trust
Half truths, good friar: ye shall with us to court.
Then, if ye cannot breathe but woodland air,
Thou, Robin, shalt be ranger of this forest,
And have thy fees, and break the law no more.

It is not that, my lord.

                         Then what, my lady?

This is the gala-day of thy return.
I pray thee for the moment, strike the bonds
From these three men, and let them dine with us,
And lie with us among the flowers, and drink—
Ay, whether it be gall or honey to ’em—
The King’s good health in ale and Malvoisie.

By Mahound, I could strive with Beelzebub!
So now which way to the dinner?

                               Past the bank
Of foxglove, then to left by that one yew.
You see the darkness thro’ the lighter leaf.
But look! who comes?


We heard Sir Richard Lea was here with Robin.
O good Sir Richard, I am like the man
In Holy Writ, who brought his talent back;
For tho’ we touch’d at many pirate ports,
We ever fail’d to light upon thy son.
Here is thy gold again. I am sorry for it.

The gold—my son—my gold, my son, the land—
Here abbot, sheriff—no—no, Robin Hood.

Sir Richard, let that wait till we have dined.
Are all our guests here?

                             No—there’s yet one other:
I will not dine without him. Come from out

That oak-tree. This young warrior broke his prison
And join’d my banner in the Holy Land.
And cleft the Moslem turban at my side.
My masters, welcome gallant Walter Lea.
Kiss him, Sir Richard—kiss him, my sweet Marian.

O Walter, Walter, is it thou indeed
Whose ransom was our ruin, whose return
Builds up our house again? I fear I dream.
Here—give me one sharp pinch upon the cheek
That I may feel thou art no phantom—yet
Thou art tann’d almost beyond my knowing, brother.

[They embrace.

But thou art fair as ever, my sweet sister.

Art thou my son?

                   I am, good father, I am.

I had despair’d of thee—that sent me crazed.
Thou art worth thy weight in all those marks of gold,
Yea, and the weight of the very land itself,
Down to the inmost centre.

                                      Walter Lea,
Give me that hand which fought for Richard there.
Embrace me, Marian, and thou, good Kate

[To KATE entering.
Kiss and congratulate me, my good Kate.
[She kisses him.

Lo now! lo now!
I have seen thee clasp and kiss a man indeed,
For our brave Robin is a man indeed.
Then by thine own account thou shouldst be mine.

Well then, who kisses first?

                              Kiss both together.

[They kiss each other.

Then all is well. In this full tide of love,
Wave, heralds, wave: thy match shall follow mine (to LITTLE JOHN).
Would there were more—a hundred lovers more
To celebrate this advent of our King!
Our forest games are ended, our free life,
And we must hence to the King’s court. I trust
We shall return to the wood. Meanwhile, farewell,
Old friends, old patriarch oaks. A thousand winters
Will strip you bare as death, a thousand summers
Robe you life-green again. You seem, as it were,
Immortal, and we mortal. How few Junes
Will heat our pulses quicker! How few frosts
Will chill the hearts that beat for Robin Hood!

And yet I think these oaks at dawn and even,
Or in the balmy breathings of the night,
Will whisper evermore of Robin Hood.
We leave but happy memories to the forest.
We dealt in the wild justice of the woods.
All those poor serfs whom we have served will bless us,
All those pale mouths which we have fed will praise us—
All widows we have holpen pray for us,
Our Lady’s blessed shrines throughout the land
Be all the richer for us. You, good friar,
You Much, you Scarlet, you dear Little John,
Your names will cling like ivy to the wood.
And here perhaps a hundred years away
Some hunter in day-dreams or half asleep
Will hear out arrows whizzing overhead,
And catch the winding of a phantom horn.

And surely these old oaks will murmur thee,
Marian, along with Robin. I am most happy—
Art thou not mine?—and happy that our King
Is here again, never, I trust, to roam
So far again, but dwell among his own.
Strike up a stave, my masters, all is well.



Now the King is home again, and nevermore to roam again.
Now the King is home again, the King will have his own again,
Home again, home again, and each will have his own again,
All the birds in merry Sherwood sing and sing him home again.

The Foresters - Contents

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