Child's, The English And Scottish Ballads

Volume 5 of 8 from 1860 edition - online book

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Nor need the occurrence of exhibitions of archery and of the Eobin Hood plays and pageants, at this time of the year, occasion any difficulty. Repeated statutes, from the 13th to the 16th cen­tury, enjoined practice with the bow, and ordered that the leisure time of holidays should be em­ployed for this purpose. Under Henry the Eighth the custom was still kept up, and those who par­took in this exercise often gave it a spirit by assum­ing the style and character of Robin Hood and his associates. In like manner the society of archers in Elizabeth's time, took the name of Arthur and his knights: all which was very natural then and would be now. None of all the merrymakings in merry England surpassed the May festival. The return of the sun stimulated the populace to the accumulation of all sorts of amusements. In addition to the traditional and appropriate sports of the season, there were, as Stowe tells us, divers warlike shows, with good archers, morris-dancers, and other devices for pas­time all day long, and towards the evening stage-plays and bonfires in the streets. A Play of Robin Hood was considered " very proper for a May-game," but if Robin Hood was peculiarly prominent in these entertainments, the obvious reason would appear to be that he was the hero of that loved green-wood to which all the world resorted, when the cold obstruction of winter was broken up, " to do observance for a morn of May."