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1401 - Anonymous - Lincoln Cathedral MS 132

Allusion
Date c. 1401-25
Author Anonymous
Title [Untitled doggerel in MS]
Mentions Robin Hood in Sherwood stood

By Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2014-08-16. Revised by Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2017-09-26.

Allusion

Robyn hod in scherewod stod hodud and hathud hosut and schod ffour
And thuynti arowus he bar In hits hondus

[Latin translation:]
Robertus hod stetit in
[...] de metore capiciatus et tropellatus calligatus et cauciatus tenens quatuor
et viginti sagittas in mane sua[1]

Source notes

Latin translation as in the MS. G.E. Morris, who published the above, added full stop after each line. I have removed them and put his ellipsis in brackets. Letters in italics (as in Morris) expand MS abbreviations. Morris has "hit" in "In hits hondus", but he notes that the MS possibly reads "hits". I have assumed the latter is the correct reading.

IRHB comments

The above lines of doggerel are scribbled on the verso of a blank leaf in Lincoln Cathedral MS 132, a vellum book written during the 13th and 14th centuries containing miscellaneous texts by ancient writers and medieval scholars such as Maximianus, Claudian, Alexander Neckham, John of Garland etc. G.E. Morris finds that "[o]bscurities in the Latin version suggest that the writing is a copy of an original made by a person who scarcely understood Latin." Thus one "scribble probably conceals a misunderstood contraction mark or marks in the original."[2] While this may be the case, a simpler assumption is that the English and Latin scribbles were both the work of a schoolboy who tried his hand at Latin translation. That he wrote "in mane sua" instead of in "manu sua" tells us he had not advanced far in his studies, a conclusion borne out by the quality of his handwriting.

The Latin is very difficult to read, and it is by no means certain that the transcription is exact. However, the important bit is certainly that in English. This is the first time Robin Hood is connected with Sherwood. Morris notes that "[t]he metre is not, as might have been expected, ballad stanza but four-stress lines rhyming in couplets."[3] I believe various scansions are possible, but this clearly was not a poem like the earliest ballads that have come down to us. It is hard, though perhaps not impossible, to imagine a situation in which such detail as Robin's being "hodud and hathud hosut and schod" would be called for unless the intent was humorous. This therefore seems to be the earliest of several known burlesques or parodies to mention Robin Hood.

Robin Hood in this little poetic snatch holds 24 arrows in his hands. Twenty-four seems to have been a standard number of arrows for an archer to carry. In 1544, Henry VIII as part of his preparations for war with France ordered the bailiffs of Colchester to provide 15 able footmen, including three archers "everye oone furnyshed with a good bow in a cace with XXIIII good arrowes in a cace". A military ordinance of perhaps the same period required each archer to have "[...] his bowe and arrowes, that is to wytte thirty or 24 at the least headed and in a sheaf."[4]

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