Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Merry Friar carrieth jolly Robin across the Water

                                                     ..bookS ON THE BRidge..

an excerpt from 





of Great Renown, in Nottinghamshire


By    Howard Pyle


Chapter II.

Robin  seeketh  the  Curtal  Friar  of  the  Fountain.

       "Now, good uncle," quoth Will Scarlet at last, when they had walked for a long time beside this sweet bright river, "just beyond yon bend is a shallow ford which in no place is deeper than thy mid-thigh, and upon the other side of the stream is a certain little hermitage hidden amidst the bosky tangle of the thickets wherein dwelleth the Friar of Fountain Dale."
       "Had I thought," quoth Robin, "that I should have had to wade water, even were it so crystal a stream as this, I had donned other clothes than I have upon me. But no matter now, for after all a wetting will not wash the skin away, and what must be must. But bide ye here, lads, for I would enjoy this merry adventure alone. Nevertheless, listen well, and if ye hear me sound upon my bugle-horn, come quickly." So saying he turned and left them, striding onward alone.
       Robin had walked no farther than where the bend of the road hid his good men from his view, when he stopped suddenly, for he thought that he heard voices. He stood still and listened, and presently heard words passed back and forth betwixt what seemed to be two men, and yet the two voices were wondrously alike. The sound came from over behind the bank, that here was steep and high, dropping from the edge of the road to the sedgy verge of the river.           
       "'Tis strange," muttered Robin to himself after a space, when the voices had ceased their talking; "surely there be two people that spoke the one to the other, and yet methinks their voices are mightily alike. I make my vow that never have I heard the like in all my life before. Truly, if this twain are to be judged by their voices no two peas were ever more alike. I will look into this matter." So saying, he came softly to the river bank, and laying him down upon the grass peered over the edge and down below. 
       Here, with his broad back against the rugged trunk of the willow tree, and half hidden by the soft ferns around him, sat a stout, brawny fellow, but no other man was there. His head was as round as a ball, and covered with a mat of close-clipped curly black hair that grew low down on his forehead. But his crown was shorn as smooth as the palm of one's hand, which, together with his loose robe, cowl, and string of beads, showed that which his looks never would have done, that he was a Friar. His neck was thick like that of a north country bull, and his round head closely set upon shoulders e'en a match for those of Little John himself. His legs were stretched wide apart, and betwixt his knees he held a great pasty compounded of juicy meats of divers kinds made savory with tender young onions, both meat and onions being mingled with a good rich gravy.
       "By my faith," quoth Robin to himself, "I do verily believe that this is the merriest feast, the merriest wight, the merriest place, and the merriest sight in all merry England. Methought there was another here, but it must have been this holy man talking to himself."
        So Robin lay watching the Friar, and the Friar, all unknowing that he was overlooked, took up his flask and began talking to himself as though he were another man, and answering himself as though he were somebody else.
       "Wilt thou not take a drink of good Malmsey? After thee, lad, after thee. Nay, I beseech thee, sweeten the draught with thy lips (here he passed the flask from his right hand to his left). An thou wilt force it on me so I must needs do thy bidding, yet with the more pleasure do I so as I drink thy very great health (here he took a long, deep draught). And now, sweet lad, 'tis thy turn next (here he passed the bottle from his left hand back again to his right). I take it, sweet chuck, and here's wishing thee as much good as thou wishest me." Saying this he took another draught, and truly he drank enough for two.
       All this time merry Robin lay upon the bank and listened, while his stomach so quaked with laughter that he was forced to press his palm across his mouth to keep it from bursting forth; for, truly, he would not have spoiled such goodly jest for the half of Nottinghamshire.
        Having gotten his breath from his last draught, the Friar began talking again in this wise: "Now, sweet lad, canst thou not sing me a song? Alas, I would fain not sing before one that can pipe so well and hath heard so many goodly songs and ballads, ne'ertheless, an thou wilt have it so, I will do my best. But now methinks that thou and I might sing some fair song together; dost thou not know a certain dainty little catch called "The Loving Youth and the Scornful Maid"? Why, truly, methinks I have heard it ere now. Then dost thou not think that thou couldst take the lass's part if I take the lad's? I know not but I will try; begin thou with the lad and I will follow with the lass."
       Then, singing first with a voice deep and gruff, and anon in one high and squeaking, he blithely trolled the merry catch of



"Ah, it's wilt thou come with me, my love?
And it's wilt thou, love be mine?
For I will give unto thee, my love,
Gay knots and ribbons so fine.
I'll woo thee, love, on my bended knee,
And I'll pipe sweet songs to none but thee.
Then it's hark! hark! hark!
To the wingèd lark.
And it's hark to the cooing dove!
And the bright daffodil
Groweth down by the rill,
So come thou and be my love.


"Now get thee away, young man so fine;
Now get thee away, I say;
For my true love shall never be thine,
And so thou hadst better not stay.
Thou art not a fine enough lad for me,
So I'll wait till a better young man I see.
For it's hark! hark! hark!
To the wingèd lark.
And it's hark to the cooing dove!
And the bright daffodil
Groweth down by the rill,
Yet never I'll be thy love.


"Then straight will I seek for another fair she,
For many a maid can be found,
And as thou wilt never have aught of me,
By thee will I never be bound.
For never is a blossom in the field so rare,
But others are found that are just as fair.
So it's hark! hark! hark!
To the joyous lark,
And it's hark to the cooing dove!
And the bright daffodil
Groweth down by the rill,
And I'll seek me another dear love.


"Young man, turn not so very quick away
Another fair lass to find.
Methinks I have spoken in haste to-day,
Nor have I made up my mind,
And if thou only wilt stay with me,
I'll love not other, sweet lad, but thee."

        Here Robin could contain himself no longer but burst forth into a mighty roar of laughter; then, the holy Friar keeping on with the song, Robin joined in the chorus, and together they sang, or, as one might say, bellowed:---

"So it's hark! hark! hark!
To the joyous lark,
And it's hark to the cooing dove!
And the bright daffodil
Groweth down by the rill,
And I'll be thine own true love."

       But no sooner had the last word been sung than the holy man seized his steel cap, clapped it on his head, and springing to his feet cried in a great voice, "What spy have we here? Come forth, thou limb of evil, and I will carve thee into as fine pudding-meat as e'er a wife in Yorkshire cooked of a Sunday." Hereupon he drew from beneath his robes a great broadsword full as stout as was Robin's.
       "Nay, put up thy pinking iron, friend," quoth Robin, standing up with the tears of laughter still on his cheeks. "Folk who have sung so sweetly together should not fight thereafter." Hereupon he leaped down the bank to where the other stood. "Dost thou know the country hereabouts, thou good and holy man?" asked Robin, laughing.
       "Yea, somewhat," answered the other, dryly.
       "And dost thou know of a certain spot called Fountain Abbey?"
       "Yea, somewhat."
       "Then perchance thou knowest also of a certain one who goeth by the name of the Curtal Friar of Fountain Abbey?"
       "Yea, somewhat."
       "Well then, good fellow, holy father, or whatever thou art," quoth Robin, "I would know whether this same Friar is to be found upon this side of the river or the other."
       "Truly, the river hath no side but the other," said the Friar.
       "How dost thou prove that?" asked Robin.
       "Why, thus;" said the Friar, noting the points upon his fingers. "The other side of the river is the other, thou grantest?"
       "Yea, truly."
       "Yet the other side is but one side, thou dost mark?"
       "No man can gainsay that," Said Robin.
       "Then if the other side is one side, this side is the other side. But the other side is the other side, therefore both sides of the river are the other side. Q. E. D."
       "'Tis well and pleasantly argued," quoth Robin; "yet I am still in the dark as to whether this same Curtal Friar is upon the side of the river on which we stand or upon the side of the river on which we do not stand?"
       "That," quoth the Friar, "is a practical question upon which the cunning rules appertaining to logic touch not. I do advise thee to find that out by the aid of thine own five senses; sight, feeling, and what not."
       "I do wish much," quoth Robin, looking thoughtfully at the stout priest, "to cross yon ford and strive to find this same good Friar."
       "Truly," said the other, piously, "it is a goodly wish on the part of one so young. Far be it from me to check thee in so holy a quest. Friend, the river is free to all."
       "Yea, good father," said Rovin; "but thou seest that my clothes are of the finest and I fain would not get them wet. Methinks thy shoulders are stout and broad; couldst thou not find it in thy heart to carry me across?"
       "Now, by the white hand of the holy Lady of the Fountain!" burst forth the Friar in a mighty rage; "dost thou, thou poor pumy striplin, thou kiss-my-lady-la poppenjay; thou---thou---What shall I call thee? Dost thou ask me, the holy Tuck, to carry thee? Now I swear"---Here he paused suddenly, then slowly the anger passed from his face, and his little eyes twinkled once more. "But why should I not?" quoth he, piously: "Did not the holy Saint Christopher ever carry the stranger across the river? and should I, poor sinner that I am, be ashamed to do likewise? Come with me, stranger, and I will do thy bidding in an humble frame of mind." So saying he clambered up the bank, closely followed by Robin, and led the way to the shallow pebbly ford, chuckling to himself the while as though he were enjoying some goodly jest within himself.
      Having come to the ford, he girded up is robes about his loins, tucked his good broadsword beneath his arm, and stooped his back to take Robin upon it. Suddenly he straightened up. "Methinks," quoth he, "thou'lt get thy weapon wet. Let me tuck it beneath mine arm along with mine own."
       "Nay, good father," said Robin, "I would not burden thee with aught of mine but myself."
       "Dost thou think," said the Friar, mildly, "that the good Saint Christopher would ha' sought his own ease so? Nay, give me thy tool as I bid thee, for I would carry it as a penance to my pride."
       Upon this, without more ado, Robin Hood unbuckled his sword from his side and handed it to the other, who thrust it with his own beneath his arm. Then once more the Friar bent his back, and, Robin having mounted upon it, he stepped sturdily into the water, and so strode onward, splashing in the shoal, and breaking all the smooth surface into ever-widening rings. At last he reached the other side and Robin leaped lightly from his back.

       "Many thanks, good father," quoth he. "Thou art indeed a good and holy man. Prythee give me my sword and let me away, for I am in haste."
       At this the stout Friar looked upon Robin for a long time, his head on one side, and with a most waggish twist to his face; then he slowly winked his right eye. "Nay, good youth," said he, gently, "I doubt not that thou art in haste with thine affairs, yet thou dost think nothing of mine. Thine are of a carnal nature; mine are of a spiritual nature, a holy work, so to speak; moreover, mine affairs do lie upon the other side of this stream. I see by thy quest of this same holy recluse that thou art a good young man and most reverent to the cloth. I did get wet coming hither, and am sadly afraid that should I wade the water again I might get certain cricks and pains i' the joints that would mar my devotions for many a day to come. I know that since I have so humbly done thy bidding thou wilt carry me back again. Thou seest how Saint Godrick, that holy hermit whose natal day this is, hath placed in my hands two swords and in thine never a one. Therefore be persuaded, good youth, and carry me back again."
       Robin Hood looked up and he looked down, biting his nether lip. Quoth he, "Thou cunning Friar, thou hast me fair and fast enow. Let me tell thee that not one of thy cloth hath so hoodwinked me in all my life before. I might have known from thy looks that thou wert no such holy man as thou didst pretend to be."
       "Nay," interrupted the Friar, "I bid thee speak not so scurrilously neither, lest thou mayst perchance feel the prick of an inch or so of blue steel."
       "Tut, tut," said Robin, "speak not so, Friar; the loser hath ever the right to use his tongue as he doth list. Give me my sword; I do promise to carry thee back straightway. Nay, I will not lift the weapon against thee."
       "Marry, come up," quoth the friar, "I fear thee not, fellow. Here is thy skewer; and get thyself presently ready, for I would hasten back."
       So Robin took his sword again and buckled it at his side; then he bent his stout back and took the Friar upon it.
       Now I wot Robin Hood had a heavier load to carry in the Friar than the Friar had in him. Moreover he did not know the ford, so he went stumbling among the stones, now stepping into a deep hole, and now nearly tripping over a bowlder, while the sweat ran down his face in beads from the hardness of his journey and the heaviness of his load. Meantime, the Friar kept digging his heels into Robin's sides and bidding him hasten, calling him many ill names the while. To all this Robin answered never a word, but, having softly felt around till he found the buckle of the belt that held the Friar's sword, he worked slyly at the fastenings, seeking to loosen them. Thus it came about that, by the time he had reached the other bank with his load, the Friar's sword-belt was loose albeit he knew it not; so when Robin stood on dry land and the Friar leaped from his back, the yeoman gripped hold of the sword so that blade, sheath, and strap came away from the holy man, leaving him without a weapon.
       "Now then," quoth merry Robin, panting as he spake and wiping the sweat from his brow, "I have thee, fellow. This time that same Saint of whom thou didst speak but now hath delivered two swords into my hand and hath stripped thine away from thee. Now if thou dost not carry me back, and that speedily, I swear I will prick thy skin till it is as full of holes as a slashed doublet."
       The good Friar said not a word for a while, but he looked at Robin with a grim look. "Now," said he at last, "Truly, thou hast me upon the hip. Give me my sword, and I promise not to draw it against thee save in self-defense; also I promise to do thy bidding and take thee upon my back and carry thee."
       So jolly robin gave him his sword again, which the Friar buckled to his side, and this time looked to it that it was more secure in its fastenings; then tucking up his robes once more, he took Robin Hood upon his back and without a word stepped into the water, and so waded on in silence while Robin sat laughing upon his back. At last he reached the middle of the ford where the water was deepest. Here he stopped for a moment, and then, with a sudden lift of his hand and heave of his shoulders, fairly shot Robin over his head as though he were a sack of grain. "There," quoth the holy man, calmly turning back again to the shore, "let that cool thy hot spirit, if it may."


Howard Pyle was born March 5, 1853 in Wilmington, Delaware and died November 9, 1911 in Florence, Italy. He was one of America's best- loved illustrators and founded the Brandywine school of painting.  Howard Pyle had an enormous impact on the world of American illustration and literature; and this influence continues to the present day.

Howard Pyle was a Quaker and attended the Friends' School in Wilmington. But, as Pyle himself later recalled, "I spent my time largely in scrawling drawings on my slate and in my books."  Realizing their son's lack of interest in studying, his parents gave up their idea of sending Howard to college and, instead, encouraged him to study art. At sixteen he began three years of daily commutes to Philadelphia in order to study under the Belgian artist Van der Weilen. 

Three years later he set up a studio in Wilmington and helped his father in his leather business while beginning his career as an illustrator. His earliest work was published in Scribner's Monthly in 1876. That same year he moved to New York, where he was associated with the Art Students' League from 1876-77. His early illustrations, short stories and poems appeared in the leading New York periodicals at that time, including Harpers Weekly.

Howard Pyle flourished as an illustrator and author, gaining an international reputation.  In America he became something of a national celebrity.

In 1910, Howard Pyle relocated his family to Florence, Italy where he hoped to learn the technique of mural painting. It was his second trip abroad. In November of 1911, he suddenly became ill and died of a kidney infection. He was only 58 years old. 

                         Based on Vici Churchman's biography at Howard Pyle

The medallion and page decoration are also by Howard Pyle from The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood

..bookS ON THE BRidge.. is a series of articles on this site that feature bridges in story, verse, and art---the bridges may be actual or metaphorical.  (There is certainly no typical bridge in the story posted here today.)

No comments:

Post a Comment