'Robin Hood's Flight' by Leigh Hunt

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Robin Hood's mother, these twelve years now,
Has been gone from her earthly home;
And Robin has paid, he scarce knew how,
A sum for a noble tomb.

The church-yard lies on a woody hill,
But open to sun and air:
It seems as if the heaven still
Were looking and smiling there.

Often when Robin looked that way,
He looked through a sweet thin tear;
But he looked in a different manner, they say,
Towards the Abbey of Vere.

He cared not for its ill-got wealth,
He felt not for his pride;
He had youth, and strength, and health,
And enough for one beside.

But he thought of his gentle mother's cheek
How it sunk away,
And how she used to grow more weak
And weary every day;

And how, when trying a hymn, her voice
At evening would expire,
How unlike it was the arrogant noise
Of the hard throats in the quire:

And Robin thought too of the poor,
How they toiled without their share,
And how the alms at the abbey-door
But kept them as they were:

And he thought him then of the friars again,
Who rode jingling up and down
With their trappings and things as fine as the king's,
Though they wore but a shaven crown.

And then bold Robin he thought of the king,
How he got all his forests and deer,
And how he made the hungry swing
If they killed but one in a year.

And thinking thus, as Robin stood,
Digging his bow in the ground,
He was aware in Gamelyn Wood,
Of one who looked around.

"And what is Will doing," said Robin then,
"That he looks so fearful and wan?"
"Oh my dear master that should have been,
I am a weary man."

"A weary man," said Will Scarlet, "am I;
For unless I pilfer this wood
To sell to the fletchers, for want I shall die
Here in this forest so good.

"Here in this forest where I have been
So happy and so stout,
And like a palfrey on the green
Have carried you about."

"And why, Will Scarlet, not come to me?
Why not to Robin, Will?
For I remember thy love and thy glee,
And the scar that marks thee still;

"And not a soul of my uncle's men
To such a pass should come,
While Robin can find in his pocket or bin
A penny or a crumb.

"Stay thee, Will Scarlet, man, stay awhile;
And kindle a fire for me."
And into the wood for half a mile,
He has vanished instantly.

Robin Hood, with his cheek on fire,
Has drawn his bow so stern,
And a leaping deer, with one leap higher,
Lies motionless in the fern.

Robin, like a proper knight
As he should have been,
Carved a part of the shoulder right,
And bore off a portion clean.

"Oh, what hast thou done, dear master mine!
What hast thou done for me?"
"Roast it, Will, for excepting wine,
Thou shalt feast thee royally."

And Scarlet took and half roasted it,
Blubbering with blinding tears,
And ere he had eaten a second bit,
A trampling came to their ears.

They heard the tramp of a horse's feet,
And they listened and kept still,
For Will was feeble and knelt by the meat;
And Robin he stood by Will.

"Seize him, seize him!" the Abbot cried
With his fat voice through the trees;
Robin a smooth arrow felt and eyed,
And Will jumped stout with his knees.

"Seize him, seize him!" and now they appear
The Abbot and foresters three.
"'Twas I," cried Will Scarlet, "that killed the deer."
Says Robin, "Now let not a man come near,
Or he's dead as dead can be."

But on they came, and with an embrace
The first one the arrow met;
And he came pitching forward and fell on his face,
Like a stumbler in the street.

The others turned to that Abbot vain,
But "seize him!" still he cried,
And as the second turned again,
An arrow was in his side.

"Seize him, seize him still, I say,"
Cried the Abbot in furious chafe,
"Or these dogs will grow so bold some day,
Even priests will not be safe."

A fatal word! for as he sat
Urging the sword to cut,
An arrow stuck in his paunch so fat,
As in a leathern butt,

As in a leathern butt of wine;
Or dough, a household lump;
Or a pumpkin; or a good beef chine,
Stuck that arrow with a dump.

"Truly," said Robin without fear,
Smiling there as he stood,
"Never was slain so fat a deer
In good old Gamelyn wood."

"Pardon, pardon, Sir Robin stout,"
Said he that stood apart,
"As soon as I knew thee, I wished thee out,
Of the forest with all my heart.

"And I pray thee let me follow thee
Any where under the sky,
For thou wilt never stay here with me,
Nor without thee can I."

Robin smiled, and suddenly fell
Into a little thought;
And then into a leafy dell,
The three slain men they brought.

Ancle deep in leaves so red,
Which autumn there had cast,
When going to her winter-bed
She had undrest her last.

And there in a hollow, side by side,
They buried them under the treen;
The Abbot's belly, for all it's pride,
Made not the grave be seen.

Robin Hood, and the forester,
And Scarlet the good Will,
Struck off among the green trees there
Up a pathless hill;

And Robin caught a sudden sight,
Of merry sweet Locksley town,
Reddening in the sun-set bright;
And the gentle tears came down.

Robin looked at the town and land
And the church-yard where it lay;
And poor Will Scarlet kissed his hand,
And turned his head away.

Then Robin turned with a grasp of Will's,
And clapped him on the shoulder,
And said with one of his pleasant smiles,
"Now shew us three men bolder."

And so they took their march away
As firm as if to fiddle,
To journey that night and all next day
With Robin Hood in the middle.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Flying High with Robin Hood: A Critical Interpretation of Leigh Hunt's "Robin Hood's Flight"

Have you ever felt the rush of freedom that comes with flying through the air, unencumbered by the constraints of gravity and worldly concerns? That feeling of liberation, of defying the laws of physics and society, is precisely what Leigh Hunt captures in his classic poem "Robin Hood's Flight." In this 4000-word literary criticism and interpretation, we will explore the various themes and techniques employed by Hunt in crafting this masterpiece of poetic imagination.

Background and Context

Before diving into the poem itself, it is important to understand the context in which it was written. Leigh Hunt was a 19th-century English poet, essayist, and critic, best known for his association with the Romantic movement and his friendship with fellow writers such as John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley. Hunt was known for his radical political views and his advocacy for individual liberty, which is reflected in his poetry.

"Robin Hood's Flight" was first published in 1820 as part of Hunt's collection, "Foliage." The poem tells the story of Robin Hood, the legendary outlaw of English folklore who robbed from the rich to give to the poor. In the poem, Robin is depicted as a fearless adventurer who defies the laws of gravity by leaping from treetop to treetop in Sherwood Forest. Through his daring exploits, Robin embodies the spirit of freedom and rebellion that Hunt championed.

Themes and Techniques

One of the key themes of "Robin Hood's Flight" is the idea of freedom and escape from societal constraints. Robin Hood is portrayed as a hero who lives outside the law, defying the authority of the ruling class and living life on his own terms. By soaring through the air with the help of his trusty bow and arrow, Robin symbolizes the human desire to transcend the limitations of the physical world and achieve a sense of liberation.

At the same time, Hunt also explores the theme of nature and the relationship between humans and the natural world. The poem is set in Sherwood Forest, a place of wild beauty and untamed wilderness. Robin's flight through the trees is a celebration of the natural world, and a reminder of the ways in which humans can find solace and inspiration in the natural environment.

In terms of poetic technique, Hunt employs a number of key strategies to create a sense of awe and wonder in the reader. One of the most striking features of the poem is its use of imagery, particularly in the descriptions of Robin's flight. Through vivid metaphors and sensory language, Hunt creates a sense of motion and excitement, as if the reader is flying alongside Robin through the treetops.

Another key technique is the use of repetition and rhyme. The poem is structured around a series of rhyming couplets, which create a sense of rhythm and momentum. The repetition of certain key phrases, such as "Up, up he goes!" and "O'er the topmost boughs he goes," helps to reinforce the sense of movement and energy in the poem.


Let's now take a closer look at some of the specific lines and stanzas of the poem to see how Hunt employs his various themes and techniques.

The poem begins with the lines:

Up, up he goes!
Up, up he goes!
From the bottom of earth,
As straight as an arrow goes!

These lines immediately set the tone for the rest of the poem, with their sense of urgency and motion. The repetition of "up, up he goes" creates a sense of ascension, as if Robin is rising higher and higher into the sky. The metaphor of an arrow also reinforces the idea of movement and velocity, as if Robin is propelled forward with unstoppable force.

As the poem continues, we see Robin's flight become more daring and adventurous. He leaps from tree to tree, defying the laws of gravity and physics. Hunt's use of sensory language helps to create a vivid picture of Robin's movements, as in the lines:

And now he bends a sapling down,
And now he strains a tough old bough;
His feet beneath him feel the spring,
The very air gives him a wing,
As if by instinct taught.

These lines are full of action and energy, as if Robin is performing an acrobatic feat that defies all logic. The metaphor of the sapling bending under his weight reinforces the idea of Robin's strength and daring, while the phrase "the very air gives him a wing" creates a sense of magic and wonder.

Throughout the poem, Hunt also emphasizes the importance of nature in Robin's flight. The forest is described as a place of wild beauty and untamed wilderness, where Robin can find solace and freedom. As he leaps from tree to tree, he is in harmony with the natural world around him, as in the lines:

The very leaves that rustle o'er
His head, seem whispering evermore
Some secret charm of liberty,
Some spell of the greenwood tree.

These lines create a sense of enchantment and magic, as if the forest itself is imbued with a sense of freedom and rebellion. The metaphor of the leaves whispering a "spell of the greenwood tree" reinforces the idea that Robin is in tune with the natural environment around him, and that his flight is a celebration of the wild beauty of the forest.

Finally, at the end of the poem, Hunt brings Robin's flight to a triumphant conclusion. After defying the laws of nature and society, Robin lands safely on the ground, exultant in his sense of freedom and liberation. As Hunt writes:

He gains the ground, he touches earth,
And, safe and sound, he shouts with mirth;
For all the danger he defied,
He feels the joy of a new-born child.

These lines create a sense of release and catharsis, as if Robin has achieved a great victory over the forces of oppression and conformity. The metaphor of a "new-born child" reinforces the idea that Robin's flight has brought him a sense of rebirth and renewal, as if his daring exploits have helped him to transcend the limitations of his mortal existence.


In conclusion, Leigh Hunt's "Robin Hood's Flight" is a masterpiece of Romantic poetry, full of vivid imagery, daring adventure, and themes of freedom and rebellion. Through his depiction of Robin Hood's flight through Sherwood Forest, Hunt captures the magic and wonder of the natural world, and celebrates the human desire to break free from the constraints of society and physicality. Whether we read the poem as a political statement, a celebration of nature, or simply a thrilling adventure, "Robin Hood's Flight" remains a timeless classic of English literature, and a testament to the power of the human imagination.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Robin Hood's Flight: A Classic Poem of Adventure and Romance

Leigh Hunt's "Robin Hood's Flight" is a classic poem that captures the spirit of adventure and romance. The poem tells the story of Robin Hood and his band of merry men as they flee from the Sheriff of Nottingham and his men. The poem is full of action, suspense, and romance, making it a timeless classic that has been enjoyed by generations of readers.

The poem begins with Robin Hood and his men being pursued by the Sheriff of Nottingham and his men. The chase is intense, and the men are running for their lives. The poem describes the scene in vivid detail, painting a picture of the forest and the men as they run through it. The imagery is powerful, and the reader can almost feel the adrenaline pumping as the men run for their lives.

As the men run, Robin Hood spots a beautiful woman named Marian. Marian is described as "fair as the lily, and sweet as the rose." Robin Hood is immediately smitten with her and decides to take her with him. The romance between Robin Hood and Marian is a central theme of the poem, and it adds a layer of depth to the story.

The poem then describes the men's flight through the forest. They run through the trees, over streams, and through fields. The imagery is once again vivid, and the reader can almost feel the wind rushing past them as they run with the men. The poem is full of action, and the reader is kept on the edge of their seat as they follow the men on their flight.

As the men run, they come across a group of monks. The monks are described as "fat and lazy," and they are not interested in helping the men. However, Robin Hood and his men are determined to escape, and they convince the monks to help them. The scene is humorous, and it adds a touch of levity to the poem.

The men continue their flight, and they eventually come across a group of outlaws. The outlaws are described as "wild and fierce," and they are not interested in helping the men. However, Robin Hood and his men are determined to escape, and they convince the outlaws to help them. The scene is tense, and it adds to the overall suspense of the poem.

The men finally reach a safe haven, and they are able to rest and recover from their ordeal. Robin Hood and Marian are able to spend time together, and their romance blossoms. The scene is romantic, and it adds a touch of sweetness to the poem.

The poem ends with Robin Hood and his men vowing to continue their fight against the Sheriff of Nottingham. The men are determined to protect the people of the forest, and they are willing to risk their lives to do so. The poem is a testament to the power of friendship, love, and loyalty.

In conclusion, Leigh Hunt's "Robin Hood's Flight" is a classic poem that captures the spirit of adventure and romance. The poem is full of action, suspense, and romance, making it a timeless classic that has been enjoyed by generations of readers. The imagery is powerful, and the reader can almost feel the adrenaline pumping as the men run for their lives. The romance between Robin Hood and Marian is a central theme of the poem, and it adds a layer of depth to the story. The poem is a testament to the power of friendship, love, and loyalty, and it is a must-read for anyone who loves a good adventure story.

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