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Allusions to ballads

By Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2014-07-17. Revised by Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2017-05-05.

This page includes literary allusions to Robin Hood ballads in general as well as to specific titles.


1377 - Langland, William - Piers Plowman

I kan noȝt parfitly my Paternoster as þe preest it syngeþ,
But I kan rymes of Robyn hood and Randolf Erl of Chestre.[1]

1563 - Foxe, John - Actes and Monuments (3)

Writers write their fantasy, my lord, and preachers preach what either liketh them, or what God putteth in their heads. It is not by and by done, that is spoken. The people buy those foolish ballads of Jack-a-Lent. So bought they in times past pardons, and carols, and Robin Hood's tales. All be not wise men, and the foolisher a thing is, to some (although not to the more part) it is the more pleasant and meet. And peradventure of the sermons there is (and indeed there is, if it be true that we have heard) otherwise spoken and reported to you, than it was of the preachers there and then spoken or meant. Lent remaineth still, my lord, and shall, God willing, till the king's highness, with our advice and the residue of his grace's council, take another order, although some light and lewd men do bury it in writing; even as the king's majesty remaineth head of the church, although, through sinister ways, and by subtle means, some traitors have gone about, and daily do, to abuse the king's majesty's supremacy, and bring in the bishop of Rome's tyranny, with other superstition and idolatry.[2]

1661 - Wood, Anthony - Note on Robin Hood ballads

[Note on the back of a slip pasted on f. 319a of Anthony Wood's MS 'Survey of the Antiquities of the City of Oxford' (1661-66):] Robin Hood and Maid Marian; R. H. and the bishop; R. H.'s progress to Notingham; R. H. newly revived; The noble fisherman or R. H.'s preferment; R. H. and the beggar; R. H. and the butcher; R. H.'s chase; R. H. and the shepherd; Renowned R. H.[3]

1662 - Young Robin - To Robert Harley

[16]62, August 8.—I now perceive it impossible to live within the cities of London and Westminster and not turn courtier. I wish your lodging had been at Wapping. But whether I write to a man of this world or to an angel is a dispute, yet I expect an answer and am indifferent from what place, but to let you see that a son of Robin Hood cannot be ill natured I will make this manly interpretation of your unkindness, that it is as difficult to find me as a stag in the forest of Sherwood, where men of that race could hardly be harboured, as many worthy balletical records can inform you, yet knowing you to be almost one of us (though of an Indian race) I dare tell you that I am sometimes at Swarkeston, sometimes at Warsop, and now at Bestwood, merry in all places and which is more, well pleased and drink your health [p. 42:] dead or alive, which your captain and cornet never will refuse, and thus I have given you a true and perfect account of the plots and affairs of this county as to mankind. But should I enter into or upon the other sex, and tell you a true account of my Lady Newcastle's horsematch, I must crave aid from Sir John Denham and his fellows who trade in nectar, yet to speak truth we have good squeezed malt that smells full out as well as saudwich (sic), and that well followed makes us appear like men; let others express our actions and hers, for we are not book-learned. And now Robin by name and not by nature I bid you farewell, and if thou darest meet me near Warsop upon the forest at the Lady Newcastle's horsematch the last of August, where in taffeta instead of armour bright 'tis six to four I may appear, you shall see such a fight as England affords not the fellow and possibly become one of the brotherhood, which will be no small honour, laying your ordinary knighthood aside, to you and a particular kindness from, &c.
Postscript.—I have a lady and some of my race remembers you. Direct your letters by the Nottingham post to Bestwood and they will find.[4]

1933 - Orwell, George - Down and Out in Paris and London

Another tramp told the story of Gilderoy, the Scottish robber. Gilderoy was the man who was condemned to be hanged, escaped, captured the judge who had sentenced him, and (splendid fellow!) hanged him. The tramps liked the story, of course, but the interesting thing was to see that they had got it all wrong. Their version was that Gilderoy escaped to America, whereas in reality he was recaptured and put to death. The story had been amended, no doubt deliberately; just as children amend the stories of Samson and Robin Hood, giving them happy endings which are quite imaginary.[5]