“The Vision” by Robin Hood (1841)

Everyone of course loves to investigate appearances of the name of Robin Hood in medieval court records. One of these days, it might finally be proven who the “real” Robin Hood was by combing through these patchy records of medieval England.

Yet Robin Hood, whether he was real or not, is significant because he is a symbol. So, appropriations of his name in later centuries, by foundlings, Anti-Corn Law Activists, or angry letter writers, are significant because they are simply one means of highlighting the longevity of the legend.

Below is the text of a poem entitled “The Vision”, written by a man who called himself Robin Hood, which appeared in The Penny Satirist in 1841. Victorian newspapers and magazines, particularly those which catered to a working-class readership, often solicited poems from aspiring writers.

penny newspaper EO 06

The Penny Satirist, and its sister magazine, The Satirist, were quite controversial in their day. They devoted themselves to exposing the scandals of the aristocracy and upper middle classes, as well as aiming to offer a working-class radical critique of contemporary political issues. Issuing from the presses of Chartist newspaper publishers, made it one of the less “respectable” Chartist-sympathizing papers.

The Penny Satirist ran between 1837 and 1846, after which its popularity as a satirical journal was eclipsed by the bourgeois-radical magazine, Punch.

Clearly, the name of Robin Hood here, as it was in centuries past, is still being used as a symbol of resistance against an oppressive elite.

I look’d—and the Sons of Pride stalk’d past,

In their gauds and glittering sheen;

But stormy passions and baffled hopes

In their restless eyes were seen!—

And again I look’d—and a phantom ship

O’er a dark and shoreless sea,

Was bearing them on, while the arch-fiend’s voice

Yell’d out—“For Eternity!”

 

Then the vision changed—and methought I saw

A blissful valley trod,

By all who with meek contrite hearts,

Walk humbly with their God!

Down a beautiful vista lighted up

With unearthly splendours came,

The mingling music of seraph’s harps,

And songs of loud acclaim!

 

As nature with mental strife o’erpress’d

The chains of slumber broke,

A still small voice from viewless lips,

In solemn sweetness spoke:—

“Remember the phantom ship—and beware

The doom to which pride condemns,

And school thyself to become as the meek,

Whose jewels are sacred gems!”

 

Leeds, March, 1841. Robin Hood.

Citation: Robin Hood, ‘The Vision’, The Penny Satirist, 17 April 1841, 3.

Further Reading: Mike Sanders, ‘No Laughing Matter: Chartism and the Limits of Satire’, in Nineteenth-Century Radical Traditions, ed. by Joseph Bristow, Josephine McDonagh (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2016), pp. 21–36.

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