Robert and the Rat by Ness Ayton

A piece of doggerel that first appeared in "The Alternative Robin of Sherwood Zine" many years ago. Again problems with breaks between verses - sorry!

There's a famous forest in England called Sherwood,

That's noted for fresh air and fun,

And Mr and Mrs de Rainault

Went there with young Robert, their son.

A fine little lad was young Robert,

All dressed in his best; quite a swell,

With a sword with an 'orse's 'ead 'andle,

The finest the blacksmith could sell.

They didn't think much to the oak trees:

The acorns was fiddlin' and small,

There was no hunts, no poachers, no pagans,

Fact, nothing to laugh at at all.

So, seeking for further amusement,

They rode into Notting'am town,

Where they'd soldiers and jugglers and outlaws,

And a castle on top of a mound.

They soon entered into the castle,

For the Sheriff, who were really a snob,

Liked entertaining lords and their ladies;

Said it were part of 'is job.

He pointed them in right direction

For tortures bloodcurdling and cruel;

Down to the dungeons they ventured

Where prisoners were fed upon gruel.

There was one ancient man in this 'ell-'ole,

Who kept a very strange pet;

A rat, whose first name was Arfur,

Who by the old man's feet, vigil kept.

Now Robert had heard about rats, see,

How they was fearsome and wild -

To see Arfur lying so peaceful,

Well, it didn't seem right to the child.

So straightway the mean little feller,

Showing only a morsel of fear,

Took 'is sword with the 'orse's 'ead 'andle

And poked it in Arfur rat's ear.

You could tell that the rat didn't like it,

For giving a kind of a squeak,

It bit Robert sharp on the backside,

Which put 'im in bed for a week.

Now Sir, who had seen what had happened,

And turning around to his wife,

Said, "Lady, yon rat's bitten Robert,

He could be damaged for life!"

Then Mr and Mrs de Rainault -

Quite rightly, when all's said and done -

Complained to the Keeper of Dungeons

That the rat had bitten their son.

Now the Sheriff he had to be sent for.

He came and said, "What's the to-do?"

Lady said, "That rat's bitten Robert,

And 'im dressed in his best tights too."

The Sheriff he wanted no trouble,

He took out his purse right away,

Saying, "How much to settle the matter?"

And Sir said, "What do you usually pay?"

But the Lady had turned a bit funny,

Having thought about her little one,

Said, "Money's not really the issue;

How about you giving work to my son?"

The Sheriff's face it did whiten,

For this was kind of a shock,

His household was full and o'erflowing,

As for children, they made his knees knock.

He stuttered and bumbled and gurgled,

Saying that he weren't really too sure.

Lady went bright red, then purple,

And dragged family out through the door.

So it turned out that they all went to London,

And stood there in front of the King,

Giving both sides of the story,

And waiting him judgment to bring.

He stood there, all regal and splendid,

Stoney faced, surveying the scene,

Listening one way and the other,

Turning to defer to the Queen.

At last he stood up, and they bowed low,

Said, "Sheriff's shouldn't keep pets tame or wild,

No matter if they are in the dungeons,

And in this case I find for the child."

The de Rainaults they were ecstatic,

Especially when King asked what job it should be.

Robert, he smiled sort of smugly,

And said, "A position with authority."

When King asked, "What about Sheriff?"

Nottingham went into a dead faint.

The lords said, "A child at the castle?

A strange notion, but awfully quaint."

And now my story is ended,

No need to turn over this leaf,

For that's how Robert de Rainault,

Of Nottingham, now is Sheriff.

All along the forest streams,

Through the rushes tall,

Outlaws are a-paddling,

Bare feet all.

Bare feet, bare heads,

Fishing lines a-bobbing,

Fires gently puffing smoke

To feed those who're a-robbing.

Dark green undergrowth

Where the fox cubs lie,

Here we keep our swords and bows

Safe from Norman eyes.

Everyone for what he likes,

We like to be

Paddling in the forest streams,

Living wild and free.

High in the blue above

Birds whirl and call;

We are here a-paddling

Bare feet all.

I'll tell of a battle of Sherwood,

As wild and as fierce as they come,

When Robin led outlaws to glory,

And Gisburne got shot in the bum.

It were this way - one day in October

The Knight, who were always a toff,

Having nothing planned for the moment,

Had given his lads a day off.

They all lazed around in the courtyard,

When the Sheriff, in young knight's ear,

Bellowed, "Go and put breeze up the Saxons";

Said Guy, "By gum, that's an idea."

Then turning around to his soldiers,

He lifted his big Norman voice,

Shouted - "Hands up who's coming to Sherwood."

That was swank 'cos they hadn't no choice.

They started away about tea-time -

Their armour making a terrible sound,

And at quarter to ten the next morning

They arrived at a good battleground.

Robin Hood came up as they stopped there -

His face wore a confident smile -

He said, "If you've come to get Albion,

You'll need lots of cunning and guile."

At this Gisburne rose, cool but angry,

And said, "Give us none of your cheek;

You Wolfsheads have no chance 'gainst soldiers,

You'll be forgotten next week."

Robin smiled at this 'ere defiance,

What would happen, he knew, would be true,

Ans some soft words in pagan,

To which Gisburne answered - "And you."

'Twere a beautiful day for a battle,

The soldiers were right full of glee,

And when both sides was duly assembled,

They tossed for the top of the tree.

Robin Hood he won the advantage,

On a wide branch he took up his stand,

With his wife and friends all around him,

His bow at the ready in his 'and.

The Normans had nowt in their favour,

Their chance of a victory seemed small,

For the height of the tree were against them,

And the wind in their faces and all.

The kick-off were sharp at two-thirty,

And soon as the whistle had went,

Arrows flew fast between them

Till the swineherds could hear them in Kent.

The outlaws had best line of forwards,

Well armed with longbow and sword.

The soldiers just had heavy crossbows

And when half-time came only Robin had scored.

So Gisburne called his soldiers together

And said, "Let's pretend that we're beat,

Once we get Wolfsheads down on the level,

We'll cut off their means of retreat."

So they ran - and the outlaws ran after,

Exactly as Gisburne had planned,

Leaving Robin alone in the tree-top

His bow at the ready in his 'and.

When the Steward saw what had happened,

His sword, from his scabbard, he drew;

He climbed up to Robin to fight him.

He were off-side, but what could they do?

He tried to fight up in the branches

But instead he did fast become.

He knocked Robin's arm as he toppled,

And fell with arrow in the bum.

The Normans turned around in a fury,

Held back by both parry and thrust,

They all took in situation,

Then you couldn't see soldiers for dust.

The outlaws returned to their leader,

Now that the battle was done,

Then they all fell about laughing,

Seeing Guy had been shot in the bum.

Then Robin sent Guy from the forest,

And he went all forlorn and meek.

He'll never forget this 'ere battle

'Cos he didn't sit right for a week! ÿ

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