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1432 - Anonymous - Wiltshire Parliamentary Return

Allusion
Date 1432
Author Anonymous
Title Wiltshire Parliamentary Return
Mentions 1432

By Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2014-09-12. Revised by Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2017-09-26.

Allusion

[Acrostic:]
Adam
Belle
Clyme
Ocluw
Willyam
Cloudesle
Robyn
hode
Inne
Grenewode
Stode
Godeman
was
hee
lytel
Joon
Muchette
Millersson
Scathelok
Reynoldyn
[1]

Source notes

Holt includes a reproduction of the MS page.[2]

IRHB comments

Unusually for an allusion to Robin Hood almost every word in this one is a keyword. As Holt notes, this acrostic is the first mention of Adam Bell and his two comrades. In the parliamentary return for the following year, the scribe "arranged the sureties of the members returned for the county and borough of Wiltshire so that the initials of the names, which were entirely fictional, formed an acrostic making up a benign prayer for the well-being of those representing the local communities at Westminster."[3] Luckily for us, his lyrical efforts the preceding year showed a more popular and secular tendency.

There are vague similarities with the first few stanzas of the Gest. With "Robyn hode Inne Grenewode Stode" compare st. 31: "Robyn stode in Bernesdale". With "Godeman was hee" compare st. 22-3: "I shall you tel of a gode yeman [|] His name was Robyn hode". And of course Little John, Much the Miller's son and Scathelock are named members of Robin's gang featured in the Gest. In fytte III of that poem, Little John enter's the sheriff's service under the assumed name of Reynold Greenleaf.[4] However, another Reynold, a character distinct from Little John, as he is also in the acrostic, figures later, in sts. 292-93:

Thryes Robyn shot about
And alway he slist the wand
And so dyde good Gylberte
Wyth the whyte hande

Lytell Johan and good Scatheloke
Were archers good and fre
Lytell Much and good Reynolde
The worste wolde they not be.

As Little John is also mentioned here, he clearly is not identical with "Reynolde". According to Dobson & Taylor the poetaster responsible for the acrostic must almost certainly "have been familiar with a version of the outlaw saga similar or identical to that preserved in the famous Lytell Gest".[5] Yet all we can say with certainty is that the "version" he knew included the same named members of Robin's band and that the two snatches he cites vaguely resemble a couple of verses in the Gest. We should not attach too much importance to this, for in view of the great popularity of the Robin Hood figure, as attested by the many surviving allusions, the most natural assumption is that many now lost poems and tales about the outlaw were in circulation in the late medieval period. Writers who include literary allusions in their works may do so to show off their arcane knowledge, but with allusions to popular literature this seems much less likely. Such works and characters are referred to because they are popular and well-known. My bet is that Reynold's (Reynoldin's) claim to fame was something more than shooting an arrow or two in a single stanza of the Gest. The clause "Robyn hode Inne Grenewode Stode" is similar to the legal maxim "Robin Hood in Barnsdale (Sherwood etc.) stood".

Lists

MS source

  • PRO C219/14/3, part 2, no. 101.

Sources

Studies and criticism

Background

Notes

Also see