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Late 15th cent. - Anonymous - Untitled burlesque (3)

Date 1500 (late 15th century)
Author Anonymous
Title Untitled burlesque
Mentions Robin Hood; Barnsdale; Our Lady; Geoffrey Cook; Jack boy

By Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2014-08-14. Revised by Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2018-07-12.


Robyn Hudde in bernsdale stode : he leynyd hym tyll a maple thystyll
then came owre lady and swete seynt Andrew : slepes thow
wakes thou Geffrey coke
a hundredth wynter the water was brawde J cannot tell you
how depe
He toke a gose neck in hys hond and ouer the water he went
Jack boy ys thy boo J broke; or hase anyman done the
wryugulde wrage
He toke a bend boo in hys hond : and set hym down by þe fyre
my dame began to spyn a threde : hyr nose stode all a
crokyd into the sowth
Who darbe so harde darde ; as to crack under the walles of dover[1]

Source notes

The printed source includes a facsimile of the MS as well as a transcript. I follow the MS facsimile with regard to line divisions and capitalization. Holt and Takamiya divide the text into four quatrains.

IRHB comments

The MS in which this song is found was used as a fly leaf in a book but was originally part of a royal household account. The song was written after the accounts; this would have been after 1457 since two royal servants listed as recipients of payments appear to have died that year.[2] When the piece of account roll was later folded and inserted into a book to serve as a fly leaf, this was done in such a way that the account entries and the verse lines were now oriented vertically, i.e. perpendicularly to the line orientation of the body of the book. A few notations and jottings were made on the fly leaf after it was fitted in the book. These follow the normal line orientation of the book. The earliest of them is from c. 1500. Thus the song must have been written down sometime between c. 1458 and c. 1500. Holt and Takamiya note that the song was written in a 15th century hand that possibly was not much later than that of the accounts.[3] They do not discuss how likely royal household account rolls would be to be scrapped very soon after they were made, but I think it would be reasonable to assume that this only happened after some time, so that a date closer to 1500 would seem inherently more likely.

A version of this song is included in John Rastell's interlude of the Nature of the Four Elements (1520), where it is sung by the character Yngnoraunce. Rastell does not include the four last lines of the present version, the last two of which are "mildly indecent".[4] If they were included in the version that served as his source, he may have left them out because they would not have been suitable for the young audience he seems to have had in mind when he wrote the play. On the other hand, the present version also lacks some lines found in the play.


darbe so harde darde, in the last line: "darbe" = "dare be"; harde darde = "hardydardy", which OED2[5] explains as a "reduplicated extension of hardy: cf. handy-dandy". It lists the senses "[r]ash or foolish daring" and a "daring fellow, dare-devil", thus it knows this word only as a substantive, not an adjective as in the burlesque. The earliest of its only two quotations is from John Skelton's Speak Parrot, which the dictionary dates ante 1529, but which was perhaps written in 1521. The word is not found in the MED.

For other glosses, see the page on Rastell's Four Elements.




  1. Holt, J.C.; Takamiya, T. 'A New Version of A Rhyme of Robin Hood', English Manuscript Studies 1100-1700, vol. 1 (1989), pp. 213-21; see pp. 218-20.
  2. Holt and Takamiya (1989), p. 214.
  3. Holt and Takamiya (1989), p. 218.
  4. Holt and Takamiya (1989), p. 218.
  5. s.n. hardydardy.

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