Robin Hood is significant, not because of the life of any real person but because he is a symbol. So, appropriations of his name in later centuries are significant because they highlight what the name meant to people like you and I in times past.
This poem, written by Robert Southey in 1791, has never been seen before by Robin Hood scholars. It is taken from the manuscript of a novel, currently unpublished, written by Robert Southey in 1791.
“There are two kinds of immortality: that which the soul really enjoys
after this life, and that imaginary existence by which men live in
their fame and reputation. The best and greatest actions have proceeded
from the prospect of the one or the other of these; but my design is to
treat only of those who have chiefly proposed to themselves the latter
as the principal reward of their labours.”
Through the centuries, many poets have turned their hand to writing about Robin Hood. In the 1740s, at the height of the neoclassical movement in English culture, John Winstanley reimagined Robin Hood as a classical archer who competed with Apollo.
The following poem, simply titled ‘Robin Hood’ appeared in “The Oriental Observer” in 1828.
The name of Robin Hood appears in the most unlikely of places. Here we meet an orphan boy from the eighteenth century who was given the hero’s name.
Hark ye! My Merry Men all and listen to me!
Of a very bad bishop who was a Tory!
Chartists writers loved drawing inspiration from England’s medieval past; in their campaign for political reform, which better figure could they choose than England’s famous outlaw from the Middle Ages?
Whenever a politician proposes raising a new tax or cutting a public service, a newspaper columnist will often respond that the proposed changes are ‘Reverse Robin Hood’. Alternatively, those who look favourably upon governmental tax and finance reforms might attempt to portray the politician in question as embodying Robin Hood values.
In the earliest medieval poems, Robin Hood is devoted to the Virgin Mary. While this may seem odd, many thieves in medieval Europe had an attachment to her.