The Mad Pranks and Merry Jests of Robin Good Fellow
From the introduction:
Shakespeare’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” in
which Robin Good-fellow figures under the name
of Puck (although his other designations are all
given) was first printed in 1600, and probably
it was not acted much before that year : at what-
ever date it was brought out, it is evident that
Shakespeare was acquainted with the tract en-
titled ” Robin Good-fellow his mad Prankes and
merry Jests.” As might be supposed, it will be
found to contain some amusing and interesting
illustrations of Shakespeare’s drama.
THE MERRY PRANKS OF ROBIN GOOD-FELLOW
VERY PLEASANT AND WITTY.
Shewing his birth, and whose soune he was.
HERE doe begin the merry iests
of Robin Good-fellow;
I’de wish you for to reade this booke,
if you his Pranks would know.
But first I will declare his birth,
and what his Mother was,
And then how Robin merrily
did bring his knacks to passe.
In time of old, when Fayries us’d
to wander in the night,
And through key-holes swiftly glide,
Now marke my story right,
Among these pretty fairy Elves
Was Oberon, their King,
Who us’d to keepe them company
still at their revelling.
And sundry houses they did use,
but one, above the rest,
Wherein a comely Lasse did dwell
that pleas’d King Oberon best.
This lovely Damsell, neat and faire,
so courteous, meek, and mild,
As sayes my booke, by Oberon
she was begot with child.
She knew not who the Father was ;
but thus to all would say
In night time he to her still came,
and went away ere day.
The midwife having better skill
than had this new made mother,
Quoth she, surely some Fairy ’twas,
for it can be no other.
And so the old wife rightly judg’d,
For it was so indeed.
This Fairy shew’d himself most kind,
and helpt his love at need ;
For store of linnen he provides,
and brings her for her baby,
With dainty cates and choised fare,
he serv’d her like a Lady.
The Christening time then being come,
most merry they did pass ;
The Gossips drained a cheerful cup
as then provided was.
And Robin was the infant call’d,
so named the Gossips by :
What pranks he played both day and night
Ile tell you certainly.
Declaring how Robin Good-fellow serv’d an old lecherous man.
THERE was an old man had a Neece,
a very beauteous maid ;
To wicked lust her Unkle sought
This faire one to perswade.
But she a young man lov’d too deare
to give consent thereto ;
‘Twas Robin’s chance upon a time
to heare their grievous woe ;
Content your selfe, then Robin saies,
and I will ease your griefe,
I have found out an excellent way
that will yeeld you reliefe.
He sends them to be married straight,
and he, in her disguise,
Hies home with all the speed he may
to blind her Uncle’s eyes :
And there he plyes his work amaine,
doing more in one houre,
Such was his skill and workmanship,
than she could doe in foure.
The old man wondred for to see
the worke goe on so fast,
And there withall more worke doth he
unto good Robin cast.
Then Robin said to his old man,
good Uncle, if you please
To grant me but one ten pound
Ile yeeld your love-suit ease.
Ten pounds, quoth he, I will give thee,
sweet Neece, with all my heart,
So thou wilt grant to me thy love,
to ease my troubled heart.
Then let me a writing have, quoth he,
from your owne hand with speed,
That I may marry my sweet-heart
when I have done this deed.
The old man he did give consent
that he these things should have,
Thinking that it had bin his Neece
that did this bargain crave ;
And unto Robin then quoth he,
my gentle Neece, behold,
Goe thou into thy chamber soone,
and He goe bring the gold.
When he into the chamber came,
thinking indeed to play,
Straight Robin upon him doth fall,
and carries him away
Into the chamber where the two
faire Lovers did abide,
And gives to them their Unkle old,
I, and the gold beside.
The old man vainly Robin sought,
so many shapes he tries ;
Sometimes he was a hare or hound,
sometimes like bird he flies.
The more he strove the less he sped,
the Lovers all did see ;
And thus did Robin favour them
full kind and merrilie.
Thus Robin lived a merry life
as any could enjoy,
‘Mongst country farms he did resort
and oft would folks annoy :
But if the maids doe call to him,
he still away will goe
In knavish sort, and to himselfe
he’d laugh out hoe, hoe, hoe !
He oft would beg and crave an almes,
but take nought that they’d give :
In severall shapes he’d gull the world,
thus madly did he live.
Sometimes a cripple he would seeme,
sometimes a souldier brave :
Sometimes a fox, sometimes a hare ;
brave pastimes would he have.
Sometimes an owle he’d seeme to be,
sometimes a skipping frog ;
Sometimes a kirne, in Irish shape,
to leape ore mire or bog :
Sometime he’d counterfeit a voyce,
and travellers call astray,
Sometimes a walking fire he’d be,
and lead them from their way.
Some call him Robin Good-fellow,
Hob goblin, or mad Crisp,
And some againe doe tearme him oft
by name of Will the Wispe ;
But call him by what name you list,
I have studied on my pillow,
I think the best name he deserves
is Robin the Good Fellow.
At last upon a summer’s night
King Oberon found him out,
And with his Elves in dancing wise
straight circled him about.
The Fairies danc’t, and little Tom Thumb
on his bag-pipe did play,
And thus they danc’t their fairy round
till almost break of day.
Then Phebus he most gloriously
begins to grace the aire,
When Oberon with his fairy traine
begins to make repaire,
With speed unto the Fairy land,
they swiftly tooke their way,
And I out of my dreame awak’t,
and so ’twas perfect day.
Thus having told my dreame at full
lie bid you all farewell.
If you applaud mad Robin’s prankes,
may be ere long lie tell
Some other stories to your eares,
which shall contentment give :
To gaine your favours I will seeke
The longest day I live.
HOW ROBIN GOOD-FELLOW SERVED A LEACHEROUS GALLANT.
ROBIN alwayes did helpe those that suffered wrong, and never would hurt any but those that did wrong to others. It was his chance one day to goe thorow a field where he heard one call for helpe : hee, going neere where he heard the cry, saw a lusty gallant that would have forced a young maiden to his lust; but the mayden in no wise would yeelde, which made her cry
for helpe. Robin Good-fellow, seeing of this, turned himselfe into the shape of a hare, and so ranne betweene the lustfull gallants legges. This gallant, thinking to have taken him, hee presently turned himselfe into a horse, and so perforce carried away this gallant on his backe. The gentleman cryed out for helpe, for he thought that the devill had bin come to fetch him for
his wickednesse ; but his crying was in vaine, for Robin did carry him into a thicke hedge, and there left him so prickt and scratched, that hee more desired a playster for his paine, then a wench for his pleasure. Thus the poore mayde was freed from this ruffin, and Robin Good-fellow, to see this gallant so tame, went away laughing, ho, ho, hoh!