'Robin Hood' by John Keats

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No! those days are gone away,
And their hours are old and gray,
And their minutes buried all
Under the down-trodden pall
Ofthe 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 "grene 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.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Robin Hood by John Keats: A Tale of Heroism and Social Rebellion

John Keats, one of the most celebrated poets of the Romantic era, wrote many poems that explored the themes of beauty, love, and nature. However, one of his lesser-known works, "Robin Hood," is a fascinating exploration of heroism, social rebellion, and the power of myth. In this 4000-word literary criticism and interpretation, we will delve deep into the poem's imagery, structure, and language to understand how Keats crafted a powerful narrative of a legendary hero who defies authority and fights for the oppressed.


Before we dive into the poem itself, it's essential to understand the cultural and literary context that gave rise to the legend of Robin Hood. The story of Robin Hood dates back to medieval England, where he was a popular folk hero. The earliest known written ballad about him dates back to the 15th century, and over time, the legend grew and evolved. Robin Hood became known as a skilled archer, a champion of the poor, and a thorn in the side of the rich and powerful.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, the legend of Robin Hood gained new life through popular literature, including ballads, plays, and novels. The Romantic era, in particular, was a time when many writers and artists looked to the past for inspiration, seeking to revive old stories and myths. Keats was no exception, and his poem "Robin Hood" is a testament to the enduring appeal of this legendary hero.


"Robin Hood" is a ballad, a type of poem that tells a story in a simple, rhythmic form. The poem is composed of six stanzas, each with six lines. The rhyme scheme is ABABCC, with the final two lines of each stanza rhyming. The poem's meter is predominantly iambic tetrameter, with four stressed syllables per line.

The structure of the poem is essential to its meaning. The simple form and regular rhythm of the ballad create a sense of narrative momentum, propelling the story forward. The rhyme scheme and repetition of certain phrases, such as "greenwood tree," give the poem a musical quality and make it easy to remember. This would have been important in the days before widespread literacy, when stories and songs were passed down orally from generation to generation.


One of the most striking aspects of "Robin Hood" is its vivid use of imagery. Keats paints a picture of a lush and idyllic forest, where Robin Hood and his band of outlaws dwell. The forest is described as a "greenwood tree," a phrase that Keats repeats throughout the poem. This repetition emphasizes the forest's importance as a sanctuary for Robin Hood and his followers, a place where they can escape the oppression of the outside world.

The forest imagery is also significant because it represents a rejection of the norms of society. Robin Hood and his band of outlaws are fugitives from the law, living in the wilderness outside of the established order. The forest is a place of freedom, where Robin Hood can live on his own terms and fight for justice.

Another important image in the poem is that of the bow and arrow. Robin Hood is known for his skill with the bow, and Keats emphasizes this aspect of his character. In the second stanza, Keats writes, "Thus the bowman of Barnsdale, / Bold Robin Hood, / With his heart in a fettle, / His spirits as good, / Strode over the greenwood tree, / And went to the Sheriff's abode." The bow is not just a weapon for Robin Hood; it represents his strength and his connection to the natural world. The arrow, too, is a powerful symbol of rebellion. When Robin Hood fires his arrow at the Sheriff of Nottingham, he is striking back against authority and asserting his own power.


Keats's use of language in "Robin Hood" is another significant aspect of the poem. The language is simple and direct, with few complex words or phrases. This simplicity reflects the ballad form and makes the poem easy to understand. However, Keats also employs poetic techniques such as alliteration and repetition to create a musical quality that enhances the poem's emotional impact.

One of the most striking features of the poem's language is its use of dialect. Keats writes in a Yorkshire dialect, using words and phrases that would have been familiar to the people of that region. This dialect gives the poem a sense of authenticity, making it feel like a genuine folk ballad. It also emphasizes the social rebellion aspect of the poem, as Robin Hood and his followers are depicted as working-class heroes fighting against the oppression of the rich and powerful.


So, what is the meaning of "Robin Hood"? On the surface, it is a simple story of a hero who fights for justice against a corrupt authority. However, the poem has deeper meanings that are worth exploring.

Firstly, "Robin Hood" can be seen as a celebration of rebellion. Robin Hood is a figure who defies authority and stands up for the oppressed. In doing so, he becomes a symbol of resistance against an unjust system. This theme would have resonated with Keats's audience, who lived in a time of great social upheaval. The French Revolution had recently occurred, and the Industrial Revolution was transforming Britain. The idea of a hero who fights against oppression and inequality would have been particularly powerful in this context.

Secondly, the poem can be seen as a meditation on the power of myth. Robin Hood is a legendary figure, and his story has been told and retold for centuries. The fact that his legend endures is a testament to the enduring appeal of stories of rebellion and heroism. As Keats writes in the final stanza of the poem, "The bonny brown deer hath broke the bough, / The last arrow's flown, / The wild deer's wept since the wolf is dead, / And the greenwood tree is gone." The image of the "greenwood tree" being gone suggests that the world has changed, and the old myths and stories no longer hold the same power. However, the fact that Keats is still telling the story of Robin Hood suggests that myth and legend still have the power to inspire and captivate us.


In conclusion, "Robin Hood" is a fascinating exploration of heroism, rebellion, and the power of myth. Its simple structure, vivid imagery, and powerful language make it a memorable and impactful poem. Keats's portrayal of Robin Hood as a hero who defies authority and stands up for the oppressed is a timeless theme that continues to resonate with audiences today. The poem is a testament to the enduring appeal of stories of rebellion and heroism and a celebration of the power of myth to inspire and captivate us.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry Robin Hood: A Masterpiece by John Keats

John Keats, one of the most celebrated poets of the Romantic era, is known for his vivid imagery, sensuous language, and exploration of nature and human emotions. His poem "Robin Hood" is a classic example of his poetic genius, which captures the essence of the legendary outlaw and his band of merry men. In this 2000-word analysis, we will delve into the themes, symbols, and literary devices used by Keats in "Robin Hood" and explore the deeper meanings behind this timeless work of art.

The poem "Robin Hood" is a ballad, a narrative poem that tells a story in a simple and direct manner. It consists of eight stanzas, each with four lines, and follows a regular rhyme scheme of ABAB. The poem begins with a description of the forest, where Robin Hood and his men live, and sets the stage for the action that follows. The first stanza reads:

"Bold Robin Hood, and his merry men all, They lived in the forest, both spacious and tall; Green leaves were their bed, and the sky was their wall, And their motto was, 'Rob the rich to feed all.'"

This stanza introduces the main character, Robin Hood, and his band of outlaws, who live in the forest and survive by stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. The use of alliteration in "Bold Robin Hood" and "merry men" creates a sense of rhythm and musicality, while the imagery of the forest as a spacious and tall place with green leaves as a bed and the sky as a wall creates a sense of freedom and adventure.

The second stanza describes Robin Hood's appearance and his prowess as an archer. It reads:

"Robin was a tall man, and a very bold knight, With a quiver of arrows, and a sword at his right; And he wore a green mantle, from his shoulder to his thigh, And 'twas embroidered with gold, and with jewels so high."

This stanza establishes Robin Hood as a heroic figure, with his tall stature, archery skills, and noble attire. The use of the color green, which symbolizes nature and freedom, reinforces the idea of Robin Hood as a man of the forest. The mention of the embroidered mantle with gold and jewels adds a touch of luxury and extravagance, which contrasts with the simplicity of his lifestyle.

The third stanza introduces the conflict between Robin Hood and the Sheriff of Nottingham, who is portrayed as a corrupt and oppressive figure. It reads:

"The Sheriff of Nottingham, he was a great foe, And he hunted our Robin through frost and through snow; But Robin was cunning, and he gave him the slip, And he laughed at the Sheriff, with a smile on his lip."

This stanza establishes the Sheriff of Nottingham as the antagonist of the story, who is determined to capture Robin Hood and bring him to justice. However, Robin Hood is portrayed as a clever and resourceful character, who outwits his enemy and mocks him with a smile on his lip. The use of the phrase "gave him the slip" creates a sense of suspense and excitement, as the reader wonders how Robin Hood managed to escape.

The fourth stanza describes the loyalty and camaraderie among Robin Hood's men, who are willing to risk their lives for their leader. It reads:

"His merry men followed him, both faithful and true, And they fought by his side, whatever they knew; For Robin was kind, and he shared all his store, And he never forgot them, though they were poor."

This stanza highlights the theme of friendship and loyalty, which is a recurring motif in the ballad. Robin Hood is portrayed as a generous and compassionate leader, who shares his wealth with his followers and treats them with respect and kindness. The use of the phrase "whatever they knew" suggests that Robin Hood's men come from different backgrounds and have different skills, but they are united by their loyalty to their leader.

The fifth stanza introduces Maid Marian, Robin Hood's love interest, who is portrayed as a beautiful and virtuous woman. It reads:

"Maid Marian was fair, and her eyes were so bright, And she loved Robin Hood, with all her heart's might; And she lived in the forest, with her maids by her side, And she cheered the brave outlaws, with her sweet voice and wide."

This stanza adds a romantic element to the story, as Maid Marian is portrayed as Robin Hood's true love and a source of inspiration for the outlaws. The use of the phrase "her sweet voice and wide" suggests that Maid Marian is not only beautiful but also talented and charismatic, which makes her a valuable member of the group.

The sixth stanza describes a battle between Robin Hood and the Sheriff of Nottingham, which ends with Robin Hood's victory. It reads:

"The Sheriff of Nottingham, he came with his men, And he thought to capture Robin, in his own den; But Robin was ready, with his bow and his sword, And he fought like a lion, for his own reward."

This stanza is the climax of the ballad, as it describes the moment of conflict between the hero and the villain. The use of the simile "fought like a lion" creates a sense of bravery and strength, while the phrase "for his own reward" suggests that Robin Hood is not fighting for personal gain but for his freedom and the well-being of his people.

The seventh stanza describes the aftermath of the battle, as Robin Hood and his men celebrate their victory. It reads:

"The Sheriff of Nottingham, he fled in dismay, And he left Robin Hood, with his men to play; And they feasted and danced, till the break of the day, And they sang of their triumph, in a merry array."

This stanza is a moment of relief and joy, as Robin Hood and his men enjoy their freedom and celebrate their victory over their oppressor. The use of the phrase "feasted and danced" creates a sense of merriment and festivity, while the repetition of the word "they" emphasizes the unity and solidarity of the group.

The eighth and final stanza concludes the ballad with a moral lesson, which emphasizes the importance of justice and compassion. It reads:

"So let us all praise, the bold Robin Hood, Who fought for the poor, and the true and the good; And let us remember, his deeds of renown, And strive to be like him, when he wore the green gown."

This stanza is a call to action, as it encourages the reader to emulate Robin Hood's virtues and fight for justice and equality. The use of the phrase "the true and the good" suggests that Robin Hood's cause is not only noble but also righteous, and that his actions are guided by a sense of morality and compassion. The repetition of the phrase "let us" creates a sense of urgency and responsibility, as the reader is urged to take action and make a difference in the world.

In conclusion, "Robin Hood" is a masterpiece of poetry, which combines adventure, romance, and social commentary in a simple and powerful narrative. John Keats's use of vivid imagery, sensuous language, and literary devices such as alliteration, simile, and repetition, creates a sense of rhythm and musicality, and reinforces the themes of friendship, loyalty, justice, and compassion. The ballad of Robin Hood has inspired generations of readers and writers, and its message of hope and courage is as relevant today as it was in the 19th century.

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