148: The Noble Fisherman or Robin Hood's Preferment

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This ballad was entered in the Stationers’ Register for 1631. Plenty of versions survive on seventeenth century broadsides in all the major collections and it appeared in the 1663 and 1670 Garlands It continued to be printed as stall copies in the eighteenth century at Aldermary Churchyard and by L How of London. After describing the plot Child wrote, ‘All this may strike us as infantile but the ballad was evidently in great favour 200 years ago.’ (i.e. c1690). Personally I think this story fits together well and has more of the folk song feel to it than many of the other RH ballads.

Bronson discusses possible tunes for those RH ballads that begin with ‘In summer time when leaves grow green’ as this one does. He arrives at the conclusion that this tune has not yet been identified. We might gain a clue here by looking at other than RH ballads that employ this phrase. He gives no versions and none have been found in oral tradition.