JOHN KEATS - ROBIN HOOD


John Keats (1795-1821) was born in London of modest means and died at age 25. In spite of his brief time here on earth, he produced some of the most moving poems in English literature, and is considered one of the great Romantic poets, along with William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lord Byron, and Percy Bysshe Shelley. His three Odes - Ode to a Grecian Urn, Ode to A Nightingale, and Ode to Melancholy - unite two aspects of reality, beauty and truth: the beauty of a sensual world and the truth of imagination. Unfortunately, he contracted tuberculosis while caring for his brother Thomas, who died in 1818. To Fanny is a passionate love poem dedicated to Fanny Brawne, who cared for him during his illness. He wrote Robin Hood near the end of his life.

The romantic legend of Robin Hood has persisted throughout the history of England. He was a skilled archer and swordsman who lived in Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire near the end of the twelfth century and remained loyal to King Richard the Lionheart during and following the Third Crusade. Accompanied by Maid Marian, Little John, Friar Tuck, and the Merry Men, Robin Hood robbed the rich and gave to the poor, particularly during the oppressive regime of John Lackland, who tried to usurp the crown from his brother during King Richard's one year and six week captivity in Austria and Germany. In fact, upon Richard's return to England on March 13, 1194, his first action to regain his property from John was to siege Nottingham Castle on March 25. Thus, there is a sound basis for Robin Hood to have aided King Richard in the recovery of his lands!




ROBIN HOOD

No! those days are gone away
And their hours are old and gray,
And their minutes buried all
Under the down-trodden pall
Of the leaves of many years:
Many times have winter's shears,
Frozen North, and chilling East,
Sounded tempests to the feast
Of the forest's whispering fleeces,
Since men knew nor rent nor leases.

No, the bugle sounds no more,
And the twanging bow no more;
Silent is the ivory shrill
Past the heath and up the hill;
There is no mid-forest laugh,
Where lone Echo gives the half
To some wight, amaz'd to hear
Jesting, deep in forest drear.

On the fairest time of June
You may go, with sun or moon,
Or the seven stars to light you,
Or the polar ray to right you;
But you never may behold
Little John, or Robin bold;
Never one, of all the clan,
Thrumming on an empty can
Some old hunting ditty, while
He doth his green way beguile
To fair hostess Merriment,
Down beside the pasture Trent;
For he left the merry tale
Messenger for spicy ale.

Gone, the merry morris din;
Gone, the song of Gamelyn;
Gone, the tough-belted outlaw
Idling in the 'green shawe';
All are gone away and past!
And if Robin should be cast
Sudden from his turfed grave,
And if Marian should have
Once again her forest days,
She would weep, and he would craze:
He would swear, for all his oaks,
Fall'n beneath the dockyard strokes,
Have rotted on the briny seas;
She would weep that her wild bees
Sang not to her—strange! that honey
Can't be got without hard money!

So it is: yet let us sing,
Honour to the old bow-string!
Honour to the bugle-horn!
Honour to the woods unshorn!
Honour to the Lincoln green!
Honour to the archer keen!
Honour to tight little John,
And the horse he rode upon!
Honour to bold Robin Hood,
Sleeping in the underwood!
Honour to maid Marian,
And to all the Sherwood clan!
Though their days have hurried by
Let us two a burden try.



Poetry