The real Robin Hood

The Real Robin Hood

The Real Robin Hood

Robin Hood, a charismatic fellow of folk lore and fairy tales. Did he really exist, and was he a hero?

There is little concrete information on the real Robin Hood, and a great deal of fantasy has arisen around the figure in the form of story books, comics, television programs, and films. So how did the legend come about?

Earliest records of Robin Hood (Robyn Hode)

There is more historical truth in many of the old ballads than in many modern histories

John Selden (1584-1654), keeper of records in the Tower of London.

The earliest record of Robin Hood is the child ballad Robin Hood and the Monk which exists in a manuscript dating back to sometime after 1450.  This text characterises Robin Hood’s strong religious faith and hostility towards aristocrats and royalty. It speaks in a far less lighthearted tone than the tales of today.

“This traytur name is Robyn Hode,
Under the grene wode lynde;
He robbyt me onys of a hundred pound,
Hit shalle never out of my mynde.”

Read my post on Robin Hood and the Monk.

A Gest of Robin Hood

A Gest of Robin Hood

A second publication, the ballad A Gest of Robin Hood, or A Lyttell Geste of Robyn Hode, was published between 1492 and 1534, and is possibly the second oldest record of Robin Hood. The ballad is lengthy and consists of eight fyttes. It is believed to be comprised of a number of existing tales dating back to 1450, as stated by James Holt.

This tale differs from Robin Hood and the Monk in that in portrays Robin as the charismatic outlaw we know and love today. The anti-establishmentarianistic Robin is loved by the poor and feared by the rich. Robin is portrayed as a “good outlaw”, fighting a system which is shown to be corrupt. He commits crimes, but his crimes are necessary retaliations against a system that has wronged him, his family, and his people. His crimes are for the greater good.

A Gest of Robin Hood can be read in it’s full middle-English entirety here.

Even earlier mentions

If I shulde deye bi this day-me liste nought to loke;
I can noughte perfitly my pater-noster- as the prest it syngeth,
But I can rymes of Robyn hood-and Randolf erle of Chestre,
Ac neither of owre lorde ne of owre lady-the leste that evere was made.

The Vision of William Concerning Piers the Plowman– William Langland (c. 1377).

The Scottish poet Andrew of Wyntoun (c. 1350 – c. 1423) refers to Robin Hood and Little John in his eight-syllabled metre Orygynale Cronykil of Scotland. Under the year 1283, Wyntoun speaks of Robin and Little John as real people, perhaps with relevance to Scotland’s own outlaw William Wallace. Another interesting fact of this document is that it is the first record of the word “Catholic”, of which Wyntoun was devout. You can read the publication in it’s entirety here.

Another Scott, the chronicler Walter Bower (1385 – 1449), wrote the following in his Scotichronicon (Scottish Chronicles) (c. 1440). He writes in Latin, under the year 1266:

the famous murderer, Robin Hood, as well as Little John.

A third Scott, the philosopher and chronicler John Mair, spoke of Robin Hood in his Historia majoris Britannae, tam Angliae quam Scotiae (1521). In his text he associates Robin Hood to the period of Richard I, which differs from earlier ballads that refer to king Edward (either I or II). John Mair’s text was popularised by novelist Sir Walter Scott in his work Ivanhoe (1820), and was then used as a basis by future novelists  and film directors.

Substance of facts?

Robin Hood and Little John by Louis Rhead 1912

Robin Hood and Little John

There is substance in John Mair’s association of Robin Hood during the reign of Richard I (1189 – 1199). According to J Holt, a biographer of Robin Hood, he was seen as an active criminal between 1193-1194. Later, during the reign of King Henry III (1216 – 1272), during 1225, Robin Hood became outlawed.  L.V.D. Owen, a researcher, found a record in the Yorkshire assize roles for 1225-1226 a mention of  a “Robert Hod, fugitive, had chattels worth 32s. 6d.” The money owed was to the Liberty of St. Peter’s York, a figure Holt notes as a tenant of the Archbishop of York.  Owen’s further research unearthed further references to Robert Hod, and one using the nickname Hobbehod.

Holt claims Hood was dead by 1247, based on a note by Thomas Gale, Dean of York (1697 – 1702) that Robin died on 24th December 1247.

Still, there are other suggestions about the history of Robin Hood. Robin Hood researcher David Crook has found evidence of the fugitive Robert of Wetherby, otherwise named Robert Hood, who resided in Yorkshire in 1225 (the same year Robin Hood was believed to be outlawed). According to records, Robert Hood was hunted down by the Sheriff of Yorksire (former Sheriff of Nottingham) and when caught, decapitated on capture and hung in public.

So what of Maid Marion or Friar Tuck?

The early ballads and records contain no mention of Maid Marion or Friar Tuck. It would seem Marion was a purely fictitious creation, perhaps since the French pastoral play Robin et Marion (c. 1283). Friar Tuck, however, is another story…

Further reading

Without rhyme or reason

Edmund Spenser - Without Rhyme or Reason

Edmund Spenser – Without Rhyme or Reason

It has been said the phrase without rhyme or reason stems back to a quatrain sent by Edmund Spenser to Queen Elizabeth. Allegedly Spenser was promised a payment of one hundred pounds, perhaps the reason for the rhyme? The Lord High Treasurer William Cecil refused to authorise the payment, believing it was too much. After receiving no payment for a period of time, Spenser sent the following quatrain to Queen Elizabeth:

I was promis’d on a time,
To have a reason for my rhyme:
But from that time unto this season,
I had neither rhyme or reason.

It is believed that, on receiving the quatrain, the Queen immediately instructed Cecil to make the payment.

Dating back further, it is believed to be recorded by John Russell’s The Boke of Nuture (c. 1460) as such:

As for ryme or reson, ye forewryter was not to blame,
For as he founde hit afore hym, so wrote he ye same.

In 1548, prior to Spenser’s birth, Nicholas Udall’s translation of The first tome or volume of the paraphrase of Erasmus upon the Newe Testament used the more usual term “rhyme nor reason”:

Seeyng there is nether ryme ne reason in saing ye one eiuill spirite driueth out an other eiuil spirite.

Shakespeare utilised the phrase more than once, first in his 1590 play Comedy of Errors, and then again in As You Like It in 1600.

From Comedy of Errors (1590):

Was there ever any man thus beaten out of season,
When in the why and the wherefore is neither rhyme nor reason?

From As You Like It (1600):

ROSALIND: But are you so much in love as your rhymes speak?
ORLANDO: Neither rhyme nor reason can express how much.

The phrase is still used in modern times to refer to something that makes no sense.

Robin Hood and the Monk

From a manuscript preserved at Cambridge University, possibly the earliest recording of the real Robin Hood, or Robyn Hode.

Robin Hood and the Monk

Robin Hood and the Monk

Robin Hood and the Monk

Ref: Cambridge University Manuscript Ff 5.48.

In somer, when the shawes be sheyne,
And leves be large and long,
Hit is full mery in feyre foreste
To here the foulys song,

To se the dere draw to the dale,
And leve the hilles hee,
And shadow hem in the leves grene,
Under the grene wode tre.

Hit befel on Whitson
Erly in a May mornyng,
The son up feyre can shyne,
And the briddis mery can syng.

“This is a mery mornyng,” seid Litull John,
“Be Hym that dyed on tre;
A more mery man then I am one
Lyves not in Cristianté.

“Pluk up thi hert, my dere mayster,”
Litull John can sey,
“And thynk hit is a full fayre tyme
In a mornyng of May.”

“Ye, on thyng greves me,” seid Robyn,
“And does my hert mych woo:
That I may not no solem day
To mas nor matyns goo.

“Hit is a fourtnet and more,” seid he,
“Syn I my Savyour see;
To day wil I to Notyngham,” seid Robyn,
“With the myght of mylde Marye.”

Than spake Moche, the mylner sun,
Ever more wel hym betyde!
“Take twelve of thi wyght yemen,
Well weppynd, be thi side.
Such on wolde thi selfe slon,
That twelve dar not abyde.”

“Of all my mery men,” seid Robyn,
“Be my feith I wil non have,
But Litull John shall beyre my bow,
Til that me list to drawe.”

“Thou shall beyre thin own,” seid Litull Jon,
“Maister, and I wyl beyre myne,
And we well shete a peny,” seid Litull Jon,
Under the grene wode lyne.”

“I wil not shete a peny,” seyd Robyn Hode,
“In feith, Litull John, with the,
But ever for on as thou shetis,” seide Robyn,
“In feith I holde the thre.”

Thus shet thei forth, these yemen too,
Bothe at buske and brome,
Til Litull John wan of his maister
Five shillings to hose and shone.

A ferly strife fel them betwene,
As they went bi the wey;
Litull John seid he had won five shillings,
And Robyn Hode seid schortly nay.

With that Robyn Hode lyed Litul Jon,
And smote hym with his hande;
Litul Jon waxed wroth therwith,
And pulled out his bright bronde.

“Were thou not my maister,” seid Litull John,
“Thou shuldis by hit ful sore;
Get the a man wher thou wille,
For thou getis me no more.”

Then Robyn goes to Notyngham,
Hym selfe mornyng allone,
And Litull John to mery Scherwode,
The pathes he knew ilkone.

Whan Robyn came to Notyngham,
Sertenly withouten layn,
He prayed to God and myld Mary
To bryng hym out save agayn.

He gos in to Seynt Mary chirch,
And knelyd down before the rode;
Alle that ever were the church within
Beheld wel Robyn Hode.

Beside hym stod a gret-hedid munke,
I pray to God woo he be!
Ful sone he knew gode Robyn,
As sone as he hym se.

Out at the durre he ran,
Ful sone and anon;
Alle the gatis of Notyngham
He made to be sparred everychon.

“Rise up,” he seid, “thou prowde schereff,
Buske the and make the bowne;
I have spyed the kynggis felon,
For sothe he is in this town.

“I have spyed the false felon,
As he stondis at his masse;
Hit is long of the,” seide the munke,
“And ever he fro us passe.

“This traytur name is Robyn Hode,
Under the grene wode lynde;
He robbyt me onys of a hundred pound,
Hit shalle never out of my mynde.”

Up then rose this prowde schereff,
And radly made hym yare;
Many was the moder son
To the kyrk with hym can fare.

In at the durres thei throly thrast,
With staves ful gode wone;
“Alas, alas!” seid Robyn Hode,
“Now mysse I Litull John.”

But Robyn toke out a too-hond sworde,
That hangit down be his kne;
Ther as the schereff and his men stode thyckust
Thedurwarde wolde he.

Thryes thorow at them he ran then,
For sothe as I yow sey,
And woundyt mony a moder son,
And twelve he slew that day.

His sworde upon the schireff hed
Sertanly he brake in too;
“The smyth that the made,” seid Robyn,
“I pray to God wyrke hym woo!

“For now am I weppynlesse,” seid Robyn,
“Alasse! agayn my wyll;
But if I may fle these traytors fro,
I wot thei wil me kyll.”

Robyn in to her churche ran,
Thro out hem everilkon,


Sum fel in swonyng as thei were dede,
And lay stil as any stone;
Non of theym were in her mynde
But only Litull Jon.

“Let be your rule,” seid Litull Jon,
“For His luf that dyed on tre,
Ye that shulde be dughty men;
Het is gret shame to se.

“Oure maister has bene hard bystode
And yet scapyd away;
Pluk up your hertis, and leve this mone,
And harkyn what I shal say.

“He has servyd Oure Lady many a day,
And yet wil, securly;
Therfor I trust in hir specialy
No wyckud deth shal he dye.

“Therfor be glad,” seid Litul John,
“And let this mournyng be;
And I shal be the munkis gyde,
With the myght of mylde Mary,
And I mete hym,” seid Litul John
“We will go but we too.

“Loke that ye kepe wel owre tristil-tre,
Under the levys smale,
And spare non of this venyson,
That gose in thys vale.”

Forthe then went these yemen too,
Litul John and Moche on fere,
And lokid on Moch emys hows;
The hye way lay full nere.

Litul John stode at a wyndow in the mornyng,
And lokid forth at a stage;
He was war wher the munke came ridyng,
And with hym a litul page.

“Be my feith,” seid Litul John to Moch,
“I can the tel tithyngus gode;
I se wher the munke cumys rydyng,
I know hym be his wyde hode.”

They went in to the way, these yemen bothe,
As curtes men and hende;
Thei spyrred tithyngus at the munke,
As they hade bene his frende.

“Fro whens come ye?” seid Litull Jon,
“Tel us tithyngus, I yow pray,
Of a false owtlay,
Was takyn yisterday.

“He robbyt me and my felowes bothe
Of twenti marke in serten;
If that false owtlay be takyn,
For sothe we wolde be fayn.”

“So did he me,” seid the munke,
Of a hundred pound and more;
I layde furst hande hym apon,
Ye may thonke me therfore.”

“I pray God thanke you,” seid Litull John,
“And we wil when we may;
We wil go with you, with your leve,
And bryng yow on your way.

“For Robyn Hode hase many a wilde felow,
I tell you in certen;
If thei wist ye rode this way,
In feith ye shulde be slayn.”

As thei went talking be the way,
The munke and Litull John,
John toke the munkis horse be the hede,
Ful sone and anon.

Johne toke the munkis horse be the hed,
For sothe as I yow say;
So did Much the litull page,
For he shulde not scape away.

Be the golett of the hode
John pulled the munke down;
John was nothyng of hym agast,
He lete hym falle on his crown.

Litull John was so agrevyd,
And drew owt his swerde in hye;
The munke saw he shulde be ded,
Lowd mercy can he crye.

“He was my maister,” seid Litull John,
“That thou hase browght in bale;
Shalle thou never cum at oure kyng,
For to telle hym tale.”

John smote of the munkis hed,
No longer wolde he dwell;
So did Moch the litull page,
For ferd lest he wolde tell.

Ther thei beryed hem bothe,
In nouther mosse nor lyng,
And Litull John and Much in fere
Bare the letturs to oure kyng.

Litull John cam in unto the kyng
He knelid down upon his kne:
“God yow save, my lege lorde,
Jhesus yow save and se!

“God yow save, my lege kyng!”
To speke John was full bolde;
He gaf hym the letturs in his hand,
The kyng did hit unfold.

The kyng red the letturs anon,
And seid, “So mot I the,
Ther was never yoman in mery Inglond
I longut so sore to se.

“Wher is the munke that these shuld have brought?”
Oure kyng can say.
“Be my trouth,” seid Litull John,
“He dyed after the way.”

The kyng gaf Moch and Litul Jon
Twenti pound in sertan,
And made theim yemen of the crown,
And bade theim go agayn.

He gaf John the seel in hand,
The scheref for to bere,
To bryng Robyn hym to,
And no man do hym dere.

John toke his leve at oure kyng,
The sothe as I yow say;
The next way to Notyngham
To take he yede the way.

Whan John came to Notyngham
The gatis were sparred ychon;
John callid up the porter,
He answerid sone anon.

“What is the cause,” seid Litul Jon,
“Thou sparris the gates so fast?”
“Because of Robyn Hode,” seid porter,
“In depe prison is cast.

“John and Moch and Wyll Scathlok,
For sothe as I yow say,
Thei slew oure men upon oure wallis,
And sawten us every day.”

Litull John spyrred after the schereff,
And sone he hym fonde;
He oppyned the kyngus privé seell,
And gaf hym in his honde.

Whan the scheref saw the kyngus seell,
He did of his hode anon:
“Wher is the munke that bare the letturs?”
He seid to Litull John.

“He is so fayn of hym,” seid Litul John,
“For sothe as I yow say,
He has made hym abot of Westmynster,
A lorde of that abbay.”

The scheref made John gode chere,
And gaf hym wyne of the best;
At nyght thei went to her bedde,
And every man to his rest.

When the scheref was on slepe,
Dronken of wyne and ale,
Litul John and Moch for sothe
Toke the way unto the gale.

Litul John callid up the jayler,
And bade hym rise anon;
He seyd Robyn Hode had brokyn the prison,
And out of hit was gon.

The porter rose anon sertan,
As sone as he herd John calle;
Litul John was redy with a swerd,
And bare hym throw to the walle.

“Now wil I be jayler,” seid Litul John,
And toke the keyes in honde;
He toke the way to Robyn Hode,
And sone he hym unbonde.

He gaf hym a gode swerd in his hond,
His hed ther with to kepe,
And ther as the wallis were lowyst
Anon down can thei lepe.

Be that the cok began to crow,
The day began to spryng;
The scheref fond the jaylier ded,
The comyn bell made he ryng.

He made a crye thoroout al the town,
Wheder he be yoman or knave,
That cowthe bryng hym Robyn Hode,
His warison he shuld have.

“For I dar never,” seid the scheref,
“Cum before oure kyng;
For if I do, I wot serten
For sothe he wil me heng.”

The scheref made to seke Notyngham,
Bothe be strete and styne,
And Robyn was in mery Scherwode,
As light as lef on lynde.

Then bespake gode Litull John,
To Robyn Hode can he say,
“I have done the a gode turne for an ill,
Quit me whan thou may.

“I have done the a gode turne,” seid Litull John,
“For sothe as I the say;
I have brought the under the grene-wode lyne;
Fare wel, and have gode day.”

“Nay, be my trouth,” seid Robyn,
“So shall hit never be;
I make the maister,” seid Robyn,
“Of alle my men and me.”

“Nay, be my trouth,” seid Litull John,
“So shalle hit never be;
But lat me be a felow,” seid Litull John,
“No noder kepe I be.”

Thus John gate Robyn Hod out of prison,
Sertan withoutyn layn;
Whan his men saw hym hol and sounde,
For sothe they were full fayne.

They filled in wyne and made hem glad,
Under the levys smale,
And yete pastes of venyson,
That gode was with ale.

Than worde came to oure kyng
How Robyn Hode was gon,
And how the scheref of Notyngham
Durst never loke hym upon.

Then bespake oure cumly kyng,
In an angur hye:
“Litull John hase begyled the schereff,
In faith so hase he me.

“Litul John has begyled us bothe,
And that full wel I se;
Or ellis the schereff of Notyngham
Hye hongut shulde he be.

“I made hem yemen of the crowne,
And gaf hem fee with my hond;
I gaf hem grith,” seid oure kyng,
“Thorowout all mery Inglond.

“I gaf theym grith,” then seid oure kyng;
“I say, so mot I the,
For sothe soch a yeman as he is on
In all Inglond ar not thre.

“He is trew to his maister,” seid oure kyng;
“I sey, be swete Seynt John,
He lovys better Robyn Hode
Then he dose us ychon.

“Robyn Hode is ever bond to hym,
Bothe in strete and stalle;
Speke no more of this mater,” seid oure kyng,
“But John has begyled us alle.”

Thus endys the talkyng of the munke
And Robyn Hode I wysse;
God, that is ever a crowned kyng,
Bryng us alle to His blisse!

A murder of a maid – Thomas Savage

Thomas Savage

Thomas Savage from

The following excerpts can be found in A Complete History of the Lives and Robberies of the Most Notorious Highwaymen, Footpads, Shoplifts, and Cheats of Both Sexes by Captain Alexander Smith. They document the murder of a maid by a sixteen year old apprentice, a Thomas Savage from St Giles in the Fields. It is said the accused was later captured and hung for his deed.

Historical records of the era detail a Thomas Savage, 3rd Earl Rivers (born 1628), who died 14th September 1694 on Great Queens Street, St Giles in the Fields.  Thomas Savage was a wealthy royalist and reputable person of note, but it is recorded he had three children – Richard Savage (4th Earl Rivers, born 1654), Elizabeth Savage, and a Thomas Savage (born circa 1648). A connection between this Thomas Savage and the Thomas Savage spoken of in the excerpt is speculation, but there is likely a connection given the date and location.

The following text is paraphrased as the original text is several pages long.

This unhappy person, namely Thomas Savage, was born of honest parents in the parish of St Giles in the Fields.

Breaking the Sabbath (by his own confession) was the first inlet of his vices, especially whoredom, drunkenness, and theft; for frequenting a bawdy-house in Ratcliff Highway, he there became acquainted with one Hannah Blay, a vile common strumpet, to whom he would often carry two or three bottles of wine at a time, to junket with her.

The strumpet, her wicked desires unsatisfied, requests Thomas bring her money, which he may do by robbing his master. This is something Thomas can not do, as at home the maid is always with him. The strumpet entices Thomas to murder the maid:

Hang the jade, quoth she, knock her brains out, and I’ll receive the money, and go anywhere with you beyond sea, to avoid the stroke of justice.

On the day of the murder, the strumpet made him “almost drunk with bad brandy” before sending him on his way between 12 and 1 o’clock.

The maid then upbraiding him with having been at a bawdy-house, which would be the ruin of him in the end, he was much vexed with her, and while he was at dinner, the devil entered so strongly into him that he resolved within himself to kill her.

He went into the bar and fetched a hammer, with which he began to make a great noise, as he sat by the fire, by knocking on the bellows. Hereupon says the maid to him: “Sure the boy is mad! Sirrah, what do you make this noise for?”

To this he made no answer, but going to the kitchen- window began to knock and make the same noise there, of which the maid then taking no notice, he, to provoke her, got on the clean dresser, and walked up and down thereon several times with his dirty shoes. This piece of malice exasperating the maid, so that she scolded at him pretty heartily, he threw the hammer at her suddenly with such violence that, hitting her on the head, it felled her to the ground, and she shrieked out. He then went and took up the hammer, intending to repeat the blow, but laid it down again thrice, not being yet hardened enough in cruelty to strike her any more; but at last, taking it up the fourth time, the devil had then gained such an absolute mastery over him that he gave her several strokes with all the force he could, and quickly dispatched her out of the world.

The account is several pages long, speaking of the eventual capture of Thomas Savage, but a strange turn of events occur when the man is hanged:

The sheriff ordered him to be cut down, when, being received into the arms of some of his friends, he was conveyed into a house not far from the place of execution. There being laid upon a table, he began, to the astonishment of the beholders, to breathe, and rattle in the throat, so that it was evident life was whole in him. Hereupon he was carried from thence to a bed in the same house, where he breathed more strongly, and opened his eyes and mouth, though his teeth were set before, and he offered to speak, but could not recover the use of his tongue.

However, his reviving being blazed abroad within an hour, the sheriff’s officers came to the house where he was, and carrying him back to the place of execution, hung him up again till he was really dead.

It was a common belief at the time that if a prisoner survived a hanging it was deemed as an Act of God, meaning the prisoner would be set free. The accuracy of the above paragraph is therefore open to debate.

As for the strumpet, it was said she delayed her execution by claiming to be pregnant. Often, in these cases it is common to escape execution.

More can be read on Google Books and ExClassics.

The Extasie, by John Donne

John Donne (1572 – 1631), was an English poet, considered the pre-eminent representative of the metaphysical poets.

This is a wondrous poem entitled The Extasie:

WHERE, like a pillow on a bed,
A Pregnant banke swel’d up, to rest
The violets reclining head,
Sat we two, one anothers best.

Our hands were firmely cimented
With a fast balme, which thence did spring,
Our eye-beames twisted, and did thred
Our eyes, upon one double string;

So to’entergraft our hands, as yet
Was all the meanes to make us one,
And pictures in our eyes to get
Was all our propagation.

As ‘twixt two equall Armies, Fate
Suspends uncertaine victorie,
Our soules, (which to advance their state,
Were gone out,) hung ‘twixt her, and mee.

And whil’st our soules negotiate there,
Wee like sepulchrall statues lay;
All day, the same our postures were,
And wee said nothing, all the day.

If any, so by love refin’d,
That he soules language understood,
And by good love were growen all minde,
Within convenient distance stood,

He (though he knew not which soule spake,
Because both meant, both spake the same)
Might thence a new concoction take,
And part farre purer then he came.

This Extasie doth unperplex
(We said) and tell us what we love,
Wee see by this, it was not sexe,
Wee see, we saw not what did move:

But as all severall soules containe
Mixture of things, they know not what,
Love, these mixt soules, doth mixe againe,
And makes both one, each this and that.

A single violet transplant,
The strength, the colour, and the size,
(All which before was poore, and scant,)
Redoubles still, and multiplies.

When love, with one another so
Interinanimates two soules,
That abler soule, which thence doth flow,
Defects of lonelinesse controules.

Wee then, who are this new soule, know,
Of what we are compos’d, and made,
For, th’Atomies of which we grow,
Are soules, whom no change can invade.

But O alas, so long, so farre
Our bodies why doe wee forbeare?
They are ours, though they are not wee, Wee are
The intelligences, they the spheare.

We owe them thankes, because they thus,
Did us, to us, at first convay,
Yeelded their forces, sense, to us,
Nor are drosse to us, but allay.

On man heavens influence workes not so,
But that it first imprints the ayre,
Soe soule into the soule may flow,
Though it to body first repaire.

As our blood labours to beget
Spirits, as like soules as it can,
Because such fingers need to knit
That subtile knot, which makes us man:

So must pure lovers soules descend
T’affections, and to faculties,
Which sense may reach and apprehend,
Else a great Prince in prison lies.

To’our bodies turne wee then, that so
Weake men on love reveal’d may looke;
Loves mysteries in soules doe grow,
But yet the body is his booke.

And if some lover, such as wee,
Have heard this dialogue of one,
Let him still marke us, he shall see
Small change, when we’are to bodies gone

See Donne, John, in The Metaphysical Poets, ed., Gardiner, Helen, Penguin (1972) in Useful Reading.

Useful reading

The Lodger - Shakespeare on Silver Street - Charles Nicholl

The Lodger – Shakespeare on Silver Street – Charles Nicholl

This list is of excellent research material on Shakespeare and early modern history. I’ve tried to refrain from any weighty academic texts, keeping the list to books a general reader would enjoy.

The haunting of Paul Fox, a silke weaver

The following is an excerpt from the chapbook Strange and Fearful News from Plaisto in the Parish of Westham (1645). The author speaks of one Paul Fox, a silke weaver, who found his house haunted for a period of one month. Witnesses of events were said to be in the thousands, including notable scholars of the time.

Two years after the release of Strange and Fearful News from Plaisto in the Parish of Westham of 1645 came the release of another piece entitled The Most Strange and Wonderful Apparition of Blood in a Pool at Garreton (1647).  Both pieces are analysed in the book The Battle of the Frogs and Fairford’s Flies by Jerome Friedman.

In the parish of Westham in the County of Essex liveth one Paul Fox, a silke Weaver, a man of an honest life and conversation, and hath a wife and children. This mans house for the space of one month last past or more hath beene haunted with a Spirit.  There hung a sword in the Chamber with the hilts downwards, and the point in the sealing of the house, which in a sudden came flourishing about the roome, flying up and downe, no hand touching it.  The said Paul Fox being then in the roome, and some others, but the Sword came not neere any of them: and although at first it was some terror to the Beholders, the said Fox took hold of it by the hilt, the point still turning in his hand in severall ways, and he forthwith ran into the next room with it, laying it downe upon a Bench where it lay still.  After, he lockt the Chamber door, the Sword being in it, but while he was talking of this business, the Sword came again into the roome and flourished about as before, the doore not opening, nor any signe appearing how it came out of the roome.

Then there being a Cane standing in the Kitchen (such a one as men usually walk withall in the street) the Cane itself came hopping up the staires, giving a tap on every stair as it came, and presented itself in the Roome, standing upright on one end.  It began to dance round about the Table on which the Sword lay for the space of halfe a quarter of an hour.  This being ended, Paul Fox was in good hopes that he should heareafter have quiet, but one good Evening there was a strange kind of rapping at the doore, and a Spirit with a soft hollow voyce commanded him to open the doore.  To which Paul Fox replyd that he thought it was an evill spirirt and wished it to return to Hell Gates.  But it seems this made the Spirit angry, for the next day at noon, Fox and his son and two servants were at their worke, cutting peeces in the Loome, when the silke shot off, and great stone Tyles, Brick-bats, Oyster shells, peeces of bread, and other things, came in at the Window and broke all the Glasse, and frightened young Fox and two servants out of the roome but did not hurt any of them.

In the yard lay a great stone of about half a hundred weight, and as Paul Fox and divers others were in a roome, one paire of staires high, this stone came tumbling up stairs into the middell of the room without any thing seene to move it.  One of Fox’s men tooke up the stone and laid it back down in the yard, but within a quarter on an hour, the same stone came tumbling up the stairs as before.  These things being behold by at least 100 people at once.  I should be too tedious to relate every particular that hath happened here within this month, how Fox and his sons are sometimes pulled by the hayre, lugged by the ears, knockt on the head, pulled out of their beds, troubled with many noyses, their bookes and bread throwne about the room.  The wife of Paul Fox, having made a porrage, left the pot with the residue in the corner at the end of the kitchen, but after it had stood there close covered for the space of half an houre, the lid suddenly sprung right up, and the porrage dashed against the walls and was dispersed about the roome.

In some parts of the Countries whole flocks of Geese have been feeding on the greens over night and in the morning some of them have been found fluttering on their back with their heele upwards, others running and reeling up and down and making hidious noyse, and many of them starke dead.  In those that were dead was found a long quill (as it were) thrust the length of ones finger into the fundament of the Geese and in others that were but half dead the quill was in but about an inch and a halfe, and within a few houres they dyed also.  These things are thought apparently to exceed from witchcraft.

Matthias Grünewald

Matthias Grünewald, c.1475 - 1528

Matthias Grünewald, c.1475 – 1528

Matthias Grünewald, c.1475 – August 31st 1528, is a major figure among German Renaissance painters such as Albrecht Dürer, Lucas Cranach, and Albrecht Altdorfer. Matthias (also first name Mathis, surname Gothart or Neithardt) focused on paintings of a religious nature.

In total there are only ten Grünewald paintings, several comprising of a number of panels. There are additionally thirty-five of his drawings known to be in existence. Much of his work was lost at sea in transport to Sweden as war booty.

Here is some of his work:

Matthias Grünewald - Concert of Angels and Nativity

Matthias Grünewald – Concert of Angels (left) and Nativity (right). 1510-1515. Oil on panel.
Musée d’Unterlinden, Colmar, France.

Matthias Grünewald - Panel from Isenheim Altarpiece

Matthias Grünewald – Panel from Isenheim Altarpiece. Source: WebMuseum

Matthias Grünewald - Temptation of St Anthony

Matthias Grünewald – Temptation of St Anthony. This is one panel from The Isenheim Altarpiece, Grünewald’s most famous piece.

The Isenheim Altarpiece was painted between 1512 and 1516 and is on display at The Unterlinden Museum at Colmar, Alsace, in France. More information on the piece can be found on Wikipedia.