The Sources and Analogues of 'A Midsummer-Night's Dream'/The Mad Merry Pranks of Robin

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The Mad Merry Pranks of Robin Good-fellow[edit]

(To the Tune of Dulcina.)
From Oberon, in fairy land,
The king of ghosts and shadows there,
Mad Robin I, at his command,
Am sent to view the night-sports here.
What revel rout
Is kept about,
In every corner where I go,
I will o'ersee
And merry be,
And make good sport, with ho, ho, ho!
More swift than lightning can I fly
About this airy welkin soon,
And, in a minute's space, descry
Each thing that's done below the moon,
There's not a hag
Or ghost shall wag,
Or cry, ware Goblins! where I go,
But Robin I
Their feats will spy,
And send them home, with ho, ho, ho!

Whene'er such wanderers I meet,
As from their night-sports they trudge home;
With counterfeiting voice I greet
And call them on, with me to roam
Thro' woods, thro' lakes,
Thro' bogs, thro' brakes;
Or else, unseen, with them I go,
All in the nick
To play some trick
And frolic it, with ho, ho, ho!
Sometimes I meet them like a man;
Sometimes an ox, sometimes a hound;
And to a horse I turn me can,
To trip and trot about them round.
But if, to ride,
My back they stride,
More swift than wind away I go,
O'er hedge and lands,
Thro' pools and ponds
I whirry, laughing ho, ho, ho!
When lads and lasses merry be,
With possets and with junkets fine;
Unseen of all the company,
I eat their cakes and sip their wine;
And, to make sport,
I sniff and snort;
And out the candles I do blow:
The maids I kiss;
They shriek—Who's this?
I answer nought but ho, ho, ho!
Yet now and then, the maids to please,
At midnight I card up their wool;
And while they sleep and take their ease,
With wheel to threads their flax I pull.
I grind at mill
Their malt up still;
I dress their hemp, I spin their tow,
If any wake,
And would me take,
I wend me, laughing ho, ho, ho!
When house or hearth doth sluttish lie,
I pinch the maidens black and blue;
The bed-clothes from the bed pull I,
And lay them naked all to view.
'Twixt sleep and wake,
I do them take,
And on the key-cold floor them throw:
If out they cry,
Then forth I fly,
And loudly laugh out ho, ho, ho!

When any need to borrow ought,
We lend them what they do require:
And for the use demand we nought;
Our own is all we do desire.
If to repay
They do delay,
Abroad amongst them then I go,
And, night by night,
I them affright
With pinchings, dreams, and ho, ho, ho!
When lazy queans have nought to do,
But study how to cog and lie;
To make debate and mischief too,
'Twixt one another secretly:
I mark their gloze,
And it disclose,
To them whom they have wrongéd so:
When I have done,
I get me gone,
And leave them scolding, ho, ho, ho!
When men do traps and engines set
In loop-holes, where the vermin creep,
Who from their folds and houses, get
Their ducks and geese, and lambs and sheep;
I spy the gin,
And enter in,
And seem a vermin taken so;
But when they there
Approach me near,
I leap out laughing ho, ho, ho!
By wells and rills, in meadows green,
We nightly dance our heydeguys;
And to our fairy king and queen
We chant our moon-light minstrelsies.
When larks 'gin sing,
Away we fling;
And babes new-born steal as we go,
And elf in bed
We leave instead,
And wend us laughing, ho, ho, ho!
From hag-bred Merlin's time have I
Thus nightly revell'd to and fro:
And for my pranks men call me by
The name of Robin Good-fellow.
Fiends, ghosts, and sprites,
Who haunt the nights,
The hags and goblins do me know;
And beldames old
My feats have told;
So Vale, Vale; ho, ho, ho!
A black-letter broadside, XVIIth cent.

This broadside is found in various editions in the larger collections (Roxburghe Coll., I. 230; Pepys, I. 80; also in the Bagford); the text here given is Percy's collation (as printed in his Reliques) of one or two of the above. The tune of Dulcina was famous; it may be seen in Chappell's Popular Music, 142.