Location: Inglesham, Wiltshire, England (SU2098)
Year: Perf. 1840 to 1850
Time of Occurrence: Christmas
Collective Name: Mummers


Alfred Williams
Round About the Upper Thames
London, Duckworth, 1922, pp.232,307-311




{Enter a TANNER}


Give room, give room, you gallants all,
And give me room to rhyme,
I'll show you an activity
This merry Christmas-time,
An activity of youth,
An activity of age,
And such an activity you never saw before
Nor acted on a stage.
I am a Tanner from Nottingham,
My name is Arthur O'Bran,
There's not a squire in Hampshire
That dares bid me to stand.
With my long pikestaff on my shoulder so high
As I go I clear the way,
By one, two, and three
I make them to flee,
And give them no leave to stay.
As I walked forth one summer's morning
To see the forest of merry Sherwood,
To view the red deer
That run here and there,
It was there I espied Robin Hood.
As soon as bold Robin gave me the spy
He thought fine sport to make,
He pulled out a wand
And bid me to stand,
And thus unto me he did speak.



Hold! Who art thou, thou bold fellow,
That reigns so boldly here?
I swear by my brief
Thou look'st like a thief
That art come to steal our king's deer.
I am the keeper of this forest,
The King he has put me in trust,
To look to the deer
That run here and there,
A stop thee, bold fellow, I must.


Speak clear, my good fellow,
And give better terms to me,
For thee I correct,
And thy neglect
Will make thee more manly.
And if thou art the keeper in this forest
And hast such a great command,
Thou must have more
For taking of store
Before thou can'st make me stand.


I have no more
For taking of store,
Nor have I any need,
For here is my staff
From another oaken graff,
And I'm sure he'll do his deed.

{The fight: the Tanner yields.}


Hold your hand! Hold your hand!
And let out quarrel fall,
Or we may get our bones to smash
And get no coin at all.
What little proud fellow is this coming down the hill?


That's Little John, my man, who shall fight with thee thy fill.

{Enter LITTLE JOHN, who goes to ROBIN HOOD.}


What's the matter then, master?
I pray unto me tell.
To see you stand
Your staff in hand,
I fear all is not well.


This is a Tanner that stands by my side,
He is a bonny blade,
Even now he swore he'd tan my hide
Like a master of his trade.


He is to be commended
If he the deed can do,
And if he is so stout
He and I will have a bout,
And then he can tan my hide, too.

{The fight for some time. Each alternately cries "Bout" (rest) and then pause for breath. At last LITTLE JOHN strikes the TANNER'S knee. The TANNER falls on one knee. LITTLE JOHN cries out:}

[Little John]

Doctor! Doctor! Where bist thee?
The Tanner's wounded in his knee.
Doctor! Doctor! Play thy part,
The Tanner's wounded in the heart.
Four guineas or five pound
If this noble doctor can be found!

{Enter DOCTOR with a tin box containing marbles.}


See! Sir, comes this noble doctor.
I travel much at home,
I carry good pills
To cure all ills,
Past remedy and time to come.
I am this noble doctor,
With my courageous hand
I can quickly purge the blood.
I can cure this man or any other man if he's not quite dead.
If you were to bring me an old woman seven years dead,
seven years laid in her grave,
if she can rise up and crack one of these golden pills
In the bond I'll be bound
Of fifty pound
Her life to quickly save.
You must not think I go about as rag-shag quack-doctors do,
rather to cure than kill.
I go about for the good of my country,
rather kill than cure.
I can cure the itch, the pitch, the molly-grubs and the pimple-pomples,
All pains within and without;
Mend a bee's broken sting,
Or a gnatfly's wing,
And charm away shingles and gout.
Break your neck and I'll set it again,
I charge you nothing for the pain.
Horses I cure, bulls, poultry or pigs,
They give me the name of Mr. Cleverlegs.
I've travelled through Ireland, Scotland, and France.
Rise up, bold Tanner, and let's have a dance!
{Here they dance a three-handed jig.}
They tell me there's the grandest man goes tramping about,
by the name of Jack Vinney.

{Enter JACK VINNEY, Clown.}


My name's not Jack Vinney.
My name's Mr. Vinney. A man of great respect and property;
could do more than you or any other man.


I wonder what you can do, then?


I can cure a magpie of a toothache.


Very clever bit, John, but I never knew a magpie with the toothache yet.


First I wrist off his head and throw his body in the ditch;
he never has the toothache again.
As I was walking down street this morning
I hitched my toe in a whimble-straw,
fell over a barn,
and saw a pig-sty thatched with candlesticks.
I knocked at the maid and the door came out,
and she asked me if I could drink a crust of bread and cheese
and eat a cup of ale,
and I said, "No thank you, if you please, miss."
After that I fell in love with her and I said:
"Suppose that I should marry you, my pretty, fair maid,
With your red rosy cheeks and your coal-black hair?"
"Please yourself, and that you may, kind sir," she quickly said,
"It's rolling in the dew makes the milkmaid so fair."
"What should you do for wedding clothes, my pretty, fair maid,
With your red rosy cheeks and your coal-black hair?"
"I'll cut my holland milking-smock,
and that will make a pretty frock -
"It's rolling in the dew makes the milkmaid so fair."
"Suppose that I should run away, my pretty, fair maid
With your red rosy cheeks and your coal-black hair?"
"Of curds and cream I should not lack,
my sand-red cow would call you back -"
"It's rolling in the dew makes the milkmaid so fair."
"Suppose I shouldn't marry you, my pretty, fair maid
With your red rosy cheeks and your coal-black hair?"
"You can wait until you're asked, kind sir," this maiden said -
"It's rolling in the dew makes the milkmaid so fair."


Peter Millington's Notes:

This text is incorporated in a factually-based story relating to 90-year old "grandfather Elijah of Inglesham" (p.294). The play was acted by the Mummers when he was a boy - probably about 1840 to 1850.

Williams' Notes:

p.232 "At Christmas-time the mummers went about playing Robin Hood or St. George, or, with a collection of old and new songs, perambulated the town and paid visits to the villages and remote farmhouses, where they were well received and entertained."

Peter Millington's Notes:

Initially encoded from a manuscript copy in the R.Morton Nance Collection in the Courtney Library, The Royal Institution of Cornwall, Truro.

R.M.Nance's Notes:

"This was probably intended as a Summer Play, for May Day, (Gloucester, Oxfordshire are Xmas also). The Doctor is most likely as vital to it, however, as he is to the St. George Play, which was in use with this of Robin Hood, although the two were kept distinct. A.W. mentions this but does not print the current version. The song at the end is a version of the Dabbling in the dew song, the Cor. Delkion Sevy, but is cut down considerably. It would be easy to restore most of the early part of Robin Hood to its original state, although a good many lines are altered. All except the introduction & the Doctor & Jack Vinney's speeches is taken from the St. ballad R.H. and the Tanner. The speeches are wrongly attributed and the fight between the Tanner & Little John is added. The adaptation must first have been made in Hampshire."

File History:

2001-05-17 - Encoded by Peter Millington
2021-01-15 - TEI-encoded by Peter Millington


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