Percy's Reliques - Robin Good-Fellow.

Robin Good-Fellow.

Alias Pucke, alias Hobgoblin, in the creed of ancient superstition, was a kind of merry sprite, whose character and achievements are recorded in this ballad, and in those well-known lines of Milton's L'Allegro, which the antiquarian Peck supposes to be owing to it:--

"Tells how the drudging Goblin swet
To earn his cream-bowle duly set:
When in one night, ere glimpse of morne,
His shadowy flail hath thresh'd the corn
That ten day-labourers could not end;
Then lies him down the lubber fiend,
And stretch'd out all the chimneys length,
Basks at the fire his hairy strength,
And crop-full out of doors he flings,
Ere the first cock his matins rings."

The reader will observe that our simple ancestors had reduced all these whimsies to a kind of system, as regular, and perhaps more consistent, than many parts of classic mythology; a proof of the extensive influence and vast antiquity of these superstitions. Mankind, and especially the common people, could not every where have been so unanimonsly agreed concerning these arbitrary notions, if they had not prevailed among them for many ages. Indeed, a learned friend in Wales assures the Editor, that the existence of Fairies and Goblins is alluded to by the most ancient British Bards, who mention them under various names, one of the most common of which signifies "the spirits of the mountains."

This song, which Peck attributes to Ben Jonson (though it is not found among his works), is chiefly printed from an ancient black-letter copy in the British Museum. It seems to have been originally intended for some masque.

This ballad is entitled, in the old black-letter copies, "The merry Pranks of Robin Goodfellow. To the tune of Dulcina," &c. (See No. xiv. above.)

FROM Oberon, in fairye land,
The king of ghosts and shadowes there,
Mad Robin I, at his command,
Am sent to viewe the night-sports here.
What revell rout
Is kept about,
In every corner where I go,
I will o'ersee,
And merry bee,
And make good sport, with ho, ho, ho!

More swift than lightening can I flye
About this aery welkin soone,
And, in a minutes space, descrye
Each thing that's done belowe the moone,
There's not a hag
Or ghost shall wag,
Or cry, "ware Goblins!" where I go,
But Robin I
Their feates will spy,
And send them home, with ho, ho, ho!

Whene'er such wanderers I meete,
As from their night-sports they trudge home;
With counterfeiting voice I greete
And call them on, with me to roame
Thro' woods, thro' lakes,
Thro' bogs, thro' brakes;
Or else, unseene, with them I go,
All in the nicke
To play some tricke
And frolicke it, with ho, ho, ho!

Sometimes I meete them like a man;
Sometimes, an ox, sometimes, a hound;
And to a horse I turn me can;
To trip and trot about them round.
But if, to ride,
My backe they stride,
More swift than wind away I go,
Ore hedge and lands,
Thro' pools and ponds
I whirry, laughing, ho, ho, ho

When lads and lasses merry be,
With possets and with juncates fine;
Unseene of all the company,
I eat their cakes and sip their wine;
And, to make sport,
I fart and snort;
And out the candles I do blow;
The maids I kiss;.
They shrieke,"Who's this?."
I answer nought, but ho, ho, ho!

Yet now and then, the maids to please,
At midnight I card up their wooll;
And while they sleepe and take their ease,
With wheel to threads their flax I pull.
I grind at mill
Their malt up still;
I dress their hemp, I spin their tow,
If any 'wake,
And would me take,
I wend me, laughing, ho, ho, ho!

When house or harth doth sluttish lye,
I pinch the maidens black and blue;
The bed-clothes from the bed pull I,
And lay them naked all to view.
'Twixt sleepe and wake,
I do them take,
And on the key-cold floor them throw:
If out they cry,
Then forth I fly,
And loudly laugh out, ho, ho, ho!

When any need to borrowe ought,
We lend them what they do require:
And for the use demand we nought;
Our owne is all we do desire.
If to repay,
They do delay,
Abroad amongst them then I go,
And, night by night,
I them affright
With pinchings, dreames, and ho, ho, ho!

When lazie queans have nought to do,
But study how to cog and lye;
To make debate and mischief too,
'Twixt one another secretlye
I mark their gloze,
And it disclose,
To them whom they have wronged so:
When I have done,
I get me gone,
And leave them scolding, ho, ho, ho!

When men do traps and engins set
In loop holes, where the vermine creepe,
Who from their foldes and houses, get
Their duckes and geese, and lambes and sheepe:
I spy the gin,
And enter in,
And seeme a vermine taken so;
But when they there
Approach me neare,
I leap out laughing, ho, ho, ho!

By wells and rills, in meadowes greene,
We nightly dance our hey-day guise;[ 1]
And to our fairye king and queene
We chant our moon-light minstrelsies.
When larks 'gin sing,
Away we fling;
And babes new borne steal as we go,
And elfe in bed
We leave instead,
And wend us laughing, ho, ho, ho!

From hag-bred Merlin's time have I
Thus nightly revell'd to and fro:
And for my pranks men call me by
The name of Robin Good-fellow.
Fiends, ghosts, and sprites,
Who haunt the nightes,
The hags and goblins do me know;
And beldames old
My feates have told;
So Vale, Vale; ho, ho, ho!

NOTES

1. This word is perhaps corruptly given; being apparently the same with HEYDEGUIES, or HEYDEGUIVES, which occurs in Spenser, and means a "wild frolic dance."-- Johnson's Dictionary.

 

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