From Ruth Tongue’s manuscripts, in 1974 this “Fragmented ballad from the 15th century or before” was “Reconstructed from couplets or single lines of a very old hunting ballad (Tune now lost)”. She was “…helped in this completion by the old families of former forest-folk. Known once as very famous locally but dusty with age by faulty memories. Mostly from a very old forester of over 90 whose grandfather told him this, in take [sic] Woods near Crich Derbyshire 1920s”. Under a heading ‘Querys’, Tongue writes “Is this, as it seems, the folk memory of a sacrifice of a Woodland
King to a Woodland Deity?” Beneath this, in ‘Forest Lore Notes’, she asserts; “a) The Hart Royal must have 10 lines on his antlers, b) The Oak is the Watchman & Councellor of all woods c) Robin Hood (also locally called Robin Goodfellow or Puck) is the ghostly guardian of the Good Greenwood, bringing swift noble death to the hard hunted.”
The Death of the Hart Royal
Lyrics: Trad / Music: Benji Kirkpatrick
The Hart Royal sped where the old oak stood,
Dark were his flanks and his lips ran blood.
King John has sent after me companies three,
But none of them shall bring death to me.
Hart Royal am I, Hart Royal am I,
And the Lord of the Greenwood shall watch me die.
They hunted me high and they hunted me low,
With horse and hound and fine crossbow.
All through the land up to Nottingham town,
But never a one could drag me down.
They followed me far but the hounds ran true,
From dawning to dusk they harried me through.
The horses went lame, their hearts did crack,
But still the hounds are on my track.
Call Robin Hood with his longbow,
To Robin alone does the Hart Royal bow.
He never will die at the hands of men,
Call Goodman Oak again and again.
Bold Robin he stood on a far off hill,
Let fly his shot and the Hart lay still.
Farewell good Hart Royal bold Robin he said,
And the Hart sighed and lay dead
from Death and Other Animals
released October 7, 2016
Benji Kirkpatrick - voice, bouzouki, guitars, mandolin
Saul Rose – voice, melodeons
Paul Sartin - voice, oboe, cor anglais, violin
Recorded at Halsway Manor
Produced and engineered by Rupert Christie
Mixed by Sam Burden at Empire Record Studios
Mastered by Nick Cooke at Pure Records
all rights reserved