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Tears fell out of his eyen two,
He wolde have gone his wayo
I ne have more to pay."
Syr, never one wyll me know;
Grete bost then wolde they blowe,
As bestes on a rowe;
hen they me never sawe.”
Scathelocke and Much in fere [in company];
“For here is a symple chere." Before many hours the knight was pursuing his way with a full pocket and a full heart to redeem his lands. We must follow him to York. The day of payment has arrived. The chief officers of the Abbey are in a state of high excitement, on account of the value of the estates that will be theirs at nightfall if the knight comes not with the redemption money. The Abbot cannot repress his anticipations :
“But he come this ylke day,
Dysheryte shall he be.” The Prior endeavours to befriend the absent knight, but is answered impatiently
“Thou arte euer in my berde,” sayde the Abbot,
“ By God and Saynt Richarde." And then bursts in a “fat-headed monk,” the High Cellarer, with the exulting exclamation
“ He is dede or hanged," sayd the monke,
“ By God that bought me dere;
Foure hondred pounde by yere." To make all sure, the Abbot has managed to have the assistance of the High Justicer of England on the occasion by the usual mode of persuasion, a bribe ; and is just beginning to receive his congratulations when the knight arrives at the gate. But he appears in "symple wedes," and the alarm raised by his appearance soon subsides as he speaks:
“Do gladly, Syr Abbot," sayd the Knyght;
“I am come to holde my day.”
“ Hast thou brought my pay?"
“ By God that maked me.”
“Syr Justyce, drynke to me.” The knight tries to move his pity, but in vain ; and after some further passages between him and the Abbot, conceived and expressed in the finest dramatic spirit, the truth comes out in answer to a proposition from the Justice that the Abbot shall give two hundred pounds more to keep the land in peace; the knight then suddenly astounds the whole party by producing the four hundred pounds.
“ Have here thy golde, Syr Abbot,” sayd the Knyght,
“ Which that thou lentest me;
Rewarde sholdest thou have be."
For all his ryall [royal] chere ;
And fast began to stare.
“Syr Justyce, that I toke the."
" By God that dyed on a tree." A twelvemonth afterwards, and on the very day that the Knight has fixed for repaying Robin Hood, a magnificent procession of ecclesiasties and ecclesiastical retainers is passing through the forest; and being stopped by the outlaws, who should be at the head of the whole but our friend the fat-headed monk, the High Cellarer of St. Mary, York! Now Robin Hood's security, the only one that he would take from the Knight, had been that of the Virginwhat more natural than that he should think the High Cellarer of the Virgin's own house at York had come to pay him his four hundred pounds! It is in vain the holy man denies that he has come for any such purpose. At last, driven to his shifts, he ventures a falsehood when the actual state of his coffers is inquired into. His return, in official language, is twenty marks. Robin is very reasonable, and says, if there really be no more, not a penny of it will be meddled with.
Lytell Johan spread his mantell downe
As he had done before,
Eyght hundreth pounde and more.
Monk, what told I thee ?
Our Lady is the trewest woman
That ever yet founde I me. Anon a second, and to archer eyes still more attractive pageant, appears. It is the good and grateful Knight at the head of a hundred men clothed in white and red, and bearing as a present to the foresters a hundred bows of a quality to delight even such connoisseurs in the weapon, with a hundred sheaves of arrows, with heads burnished full bright, every arrow an ell long, y-dight with peacock plumes, and y-pocked with silver. The Knight had been detained on his way; the sun was down ; the hour of payment had passed when he arrived at the trysting-tree. His excuse was soon made to the generous outlaw. He had stayed to help a poor yeoman who was suffering oppression. The debt was forgiven; the monks had paid it doubly.
The ballads of Robin Hood which, century after century, followed the “ Lytell Geste” are, at any rate, evidences of the deep hold which this story of wild adventure, and of the justice of the strong hand, long retained upon the popular mind.
82.-JOHN AND ARTHUR.
BURKE. Richard dying without lawful issue, the succession to his dominions again became dubious. They consisted of various territories, governed by various rules of descent, and all of them uncertain. There were two competitors; the first was prince John, youngest son of Henry II. ; the other was Arthur, son of Constance of Bretagne, by Geoffrey, the third son of that monarch. If the right of consanguinity were only considered, the title of John to the whole succession had been indisputable. If the right of representation had then prevailed, which now universally prevails, Arthur, as standing in the place of his father Geoffrey, had a solid claim. About Brittany there was no dispute Anjou, Poitou, Touraine, and Guienne, declared in favour of Arthur, on the principle of representation. Normandy was entirely for John. In England the point of law had never been entirely settled, but it seemed rather inclined to the side of consanguinity. The.cfore in England, where this point was dubious at best, the claim of Arthur, an infant and a stranger, had little force against the pretensions of John, declared heir by the will of the late king, supported by his armies, possessed of his treasures, and at the head of a powerful party, He secured in his interests Hubert, Archbishop of Canterbury, and Glanville, the chief Justiciary; and by then the body of the ecclesiastics and the law. It is remarkable also, that he paid court to the cities and boroughs, which is the first instance of that policy ; but several of these communities now happily began to merge from their slavery, and, taking advantage of the necessities and confusion of the late reign, increased in wealth and consequence, and had then first attained a free and regular form of administration. The towns, new to power, declared heartily in favour of a prince, who was willing to allow that their declaration could confer a right. The pobility, who saw themselves beset by the church, the law, and the burghers, had taken no measures, nor even a resolution; and therefore had nothing left but to concur in acknowledging the title of John, whom they knew and hated. But though they were not able to exclude him from the succession, they had strength enough to oblige him to a solemn promise of restoring those liberties and franchises, which they had always claimed, without having ever enjoyed, or even perfectly understood. The clergy also took advantage of the badness of his title to establish one altogether as ill-founded. Hubert, Archbishop of Canterbury, in the speech which he delivered at the king's coronation, publicly affirmed, that the crown of England was of right elective. He drew his examples in support of this doctrine, not from the histories of the ancient Saxon kings, although a species of election within a certain family had then frequently prevailed, but from the history of the first kings of the Jews; without doubt in order to revive those pretensions, which the clergy first set up in the election of Stephen, and which they had since been obliged to conceal, but had not entirely forgotten. John accepted a sovereignty weakened in the very act by which he acquired it; but he submitted to the times. He came to the throne at the age of thirty-two. He had entered early into business, and had been often involved in difficult and arduous enterprises, in which he experienced a variety of men and fortunes. His father, whilst he was very young, had sent him into Ireland, which kingdom was destined for his portion, in order to habituate that people to their future sovereign, and to give the young prince an opportunity of conciliating the favour of his new subjects. But he gave on this occasion no good omens of capacity for government. Full of the insolent levity of a young man of high rank, without education, and surrounded with others equally unpractised, he insulted the Irish chiefs; and ridiculing their uncouth garb and manners, he raised such a disaffection to the English government, and so much opposition to it, as all the wisdom of his father's best officers and counsellors was hardly able to overcome. In the decline of his father's life, he joined in the rebellion of his brothers, with so much more guilt, as with more ingratitude and hypocrisy. During the reign of Richard he was the perpetual author of seditions and tumults; and yet was pardoned, and even favoured by that prince to his death, when he very unaccountably appointed him heir to all his dominions.
It was of the utmost moment to John, who had no solid title, to conciliate the favour of all the world. Yet one of his first steps, whilst his power still remained dubious and unsettled, was, on pretence of consanguinity, to divorce his wife Avisa, with whom he had lived many years, and to marry Isabella of Angoulesme, a woman of extraordinary beauty, but who had been betrothed to Hugh, count of Marche ; thus disgusting at once the powerful friends of his divorced wife, and those of the Earl of Marche, whom he had so sensibly wronged.
The king of France, Philip Augustus, saw with pleasure these proceedings of John, as he had before rejoiced at the dispute about the succession. He had been always employed, and sometimes with success, to reduce the English power, through the reigns of one very able, and one very warlike prince. He had greater advantages in this conjuncture, and a prince of quite another character now to contend with. He was therefore not long without choosing his part ; and whilst he secretly encouraged the count of Marche, already stimulated by his private wrongs, he openly supported the claim of Arthur to the dutchies of Anjou and Touraine. It was the character of this prince readily to lay aside, and as readily to reassume, his enterprises, as his affairs demanded. He saw that he had declared himself too rashly, and that he was in danger of being assaulted upon every side. He saw it was necessary to break an alliance, which the nice circumstances and timid character of John would enable him to do. In fact, John was at this time united in a close alliance with the Emperor and the earl of Flanders ; and these princes were engaged in a war with France. He had then a most favourable opportunity to establish all his claims, and at the same time to put the king of France out of a condition to question them ever again. But he suffered himself to be over-reached by the artifices of Philip; he consented to a treaty of peace, by which he received an empty acknowledgement of his right to the disputed territories ; and in return for which acknowledgment he renounced his alliance with the Emperor. By this act he at once strengthened his enemy, gave up his ally, and lowered his character with his subjects, and with all the world.
This treaty was hardly signed when the ill consequences of his conduct became evident. The earl of Marche and Arthur immediately renewed their claims and hostilities, under the protection of the king of France, who made a strong diversion by invading Normandy. At the commencement of these motions, John, by virtue of a prerogative hitherto undisputed, summoned his English barons to attend him into France ; but instead of a compliance with his orders, he was surprised with a solemn demand of their ancient liberties. It is astonishing that the barons should at that time have ventured on a resolution of such dangerous importance, as they had provided no sort of means to support them. But the history of those times furnishes many instances of the like want of design in the most momentous affairs; and shews, that it is in vain to look for political causes for the actions of men, who were most commonly directed by a brute caprice, and were for the greater part destitute of any fixed principles of obedience or resistance. The king, sensible of the weakness of his barons, fell upon some of their castles with such timely vigour, and treated those whom he had reduced with so much severity, that the rest immediately and abjectly submitted. He levied a severe tax upon their fiefs; and