134: Robin Hood and the Beggar, II

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Child’s published version is a collation of a modern (eighteenth century) printed Newcastle version republished by Ritson in 1795 in his famous ‘Robin Hood’ collection of ballads, and an Aberdeen stall copy printed by Alexander Keith c1810-1835. Motherwell in his ‘Ancient Minstrelsy’ claims to have seen ‘pretty early stall copies…at Aberdeen and Glasgow’ but I doubt this as the language in the two extant versions is very modern, mid-eighteenth century at the earliest. Ritson states ‘This poem, a north country (or,perhaps, Scotish) composition of some antiquity, is given from a modern copy printed at Newcastle, where the editor accidentally picked it up: no other having, to his knowledge, been ever seen or heard of. –The original title is, “A pretty dialogue betwixt Robin Hood and a beggar”.’ The story may be ancient but I very much doubt the ballad is.

Child had a high opinion of it, backing up Ritson’s statement and adding, ‘This is by far the best of the RH ballads of the secondary, so to speak cyclic, period’. Calling it part of the ‘’secondary cyclic period’ would seem to contradict the ‘ancient’ description. One would perhaps expect a professor of literature to prefer this ballad to some of the more basic ones, but it is its very polished nature that suggests to me a quite recent composition by a literary hand, perhaps an acquaintance of Alexander Keith, or even Ritson himself? Other factors which have formed my opinion on this ballad are the precise stress and metre, the attention to alliteration and the over-complex plot.

Bronson prints the Blaikie tune with this title, from the Paisley region, and surmises it ought to be applied to 134, as 133 already has the 125/126 tune. He gives no other versions and it is not known in oral tradition.