Editors: George W. Tuma, Professor Emeritus of English, and Dinah Hazell, Independent Scholar
Hosted by the English Department, San Francisco State University



King Edward and the Shepherd

God, that sittis in Trinité,
Gyffe thaym grace wel to the
        That listyns me a whyle!
Alle that louys of melody,
Off heuon blisse God graunte thaim party:
        Theyre soules shelde fro peryle.
At festis and at mangery,
To tell of kyngys, that is worthy-
        Talis that byn not vyle.
And ye wil listyn how hit ferd
Betwene Kyng Edward and a scheperd,
        Ye shalle lawghe of gyle. (1-12)

God, who sits in Trinity, give good grace to those who listen to me for a while! Grant some of heaven's bliss to all who love melody and shield their souls from peril. At feasts it is worthy to tell of kings, not vile tales. If you will listen to the story of King Edward and a shepherd, you will have a laugh about guile.

One May morning our king went to the riverside for sport. Disguised as a merchant, he took no knight or squire, only a groom for his journey.1 He met a shepherd and gave him a friendly greeting right away. The shepherd responded, "Sir, good day," but he loved his hat so much he never took it off. The king asked where he was from, and the shepherd said, "I was born in Windsor, which is but a mile away; you can see the town from here. I am so robbed by the king that I must flee from my home and am therefore very grieved. I had possessions, but now I have none. They take my livestock and slay them, and pay with only a tally stick."2

"It is a great sin that such things continue and Edward doesn't know about it," said the king. "But don't worry, come tomorrow and you will get your money. I was born in your town.3 I have lived in many places since then; I have a friend in the court, and when I go there the treasurer shall be sought for your sake." Edward asked what the people thought of the king: "Not much, I'll wager!" But the shepherd was busy tending his sheep and didn't reply. Chuckling to himself the king repeated his question:

"For not answering me at my command, I wish you in the mire! I asked for news of our king, his men and their deeds, for I have some concern. I am a merchant and ride about and often worry about my own welfare. Confidentially, the king's men owe me a thousand pounds and more.4 Does he owe any great debts in this country? How much does he owe you? Since we are neighbors, I'll tend to both our needs, so have no care."

"Sir," said the shepherd, "by St Edmond I am owed £4 and 2s with only a hazel stick as proof. If you help me as you promise, truly I will give you a coat and 7s tomorrow when I get my money."

"Agreed," said our king. "What is your name and where do you live?"

"Sir," he said, "I am called Adam. And whose son of our town are you? Is Hugh your father?"

"No, you know nothing of me, and you guess amiss," replied Edward. "My father was a Welsh knight, and my mother, Isabel, lived in the castle as queen, and I was loved by the previous Edward. As a merchant, I often travel over the sea, and my son is with the present queen, who loves him well, I can safely say.5 Whatever he asks her for, if it is possible, it will be done. She will never say no. I have such a friend in the court that I will be served speedily. Come see me tomorrow morning and you will have your money by midday."

"Sir, by St Thomas of India, where shall I find you, and what shall I call you?" asked Adam.

The king replied, "My name is Joly Robyn, and I am known to all in bowers and hall. Ask the porter to let you speak with me, for I shall not be far away and you will see me somewhere within the castle's wall.6

"You and others whose things are taken often curse the king, and you are not to be blamed. Others do those deeds and are worthy of great shame. If I knew who they were, the king would hear of it, by God and St James, and I swear that the offenders would pay, for the king bears all the infamy."

Adam answered, "Sir, you are quite right. But there are others far worse who have nothing to do with the king. There are eight or nine who go about and cause the husbandmen much pain. They take geese, capons, hens and anything they can run away with, and steal our possessions. Some of them were caught and hung, yet there are nine more. Just yesterday they were at my house, took hens and geese and led away all my fleecy sheep. They lay with my daughter all night and have promised to return; I pray for your help. They left all their things and I am sure they will be back, and I am very worried. I have a fair three-room house,7 but I was driven into the carthouse; they put my wife out of the house because she is old and grey. If I had a lord to help me, there would be a reckoning and they would not come back.

"If three other fellows and I met the nine in combat, my sling would take their sweet lives." This gave Adam the chance to brag about his skill with the sling, which no archer could match. "If I met the best archer in the land and gave him leave to shoot, there is no bow that can fly as far as a stone cast from my sling, not by many feet." He kept the king entertained with tales (many more than I can tell) all morning. He saw no reason to remove his hat and kept it fastened under his chin. He invited Joly Robyn home for a meal, which the king, amused by Adam's jokes, gladly accepted.

As they rode through the woods, Edward asked the shepherd to kill a few rabbits: "Adam, take up a stone and put it in your sling and let's wait here awhile. It would be great fun to kill two or three of them, I swear by St Giles."

"Stop! Not for my hat would I be taken with such a trick!" said Adam. "This is the king's warren, and neither knight nor squire would do such a deed; his sides would bleed if he slew a coney and took it away. The keeper is strong and fierce, honest and strict. Anyone poaching will pay for it in prison. But you can bet my coat there is no wild fowl that can escape my sling, as you will see when we dine. We'll have a good drink and song, and I'll teach you a game I know by rote."

The shepherd's house was in a fair forest full of deer, and the king said, "I swear by God Almighty, your heart must be light as you come homeward. If I had such a place, I'd have plenty of that game. I'd have some morning or night with which to make myself a friend."

"Quiet!" warned Adam. "The wood has ears, the field has eyes, and the forester has three young archers who serve the king and guard the deer day and night and have a lodge high upon a hill."

When they reached Adam's home, the shepherd played the good host, making Joly Robyn comfortable. Though he had lost some of his goods, which he hoped God would increase, he still had more. To the king's surprise he set a table covered with a fair cloth and served finely sifted wheat bread, two-penny ale, a pheasant, crane, heron, mallard, baked swan and many other kinds of fowl.8 "Bless you," said the king. "This is better than you promised me when we met today."

Adam told him, "I've taken all this with my sling and am generous. I invite my fellows to dine, but none will come. The devil may care!

"If you wish to eat, have no hesitation. But if you want drink, you must learn a game. When you see the cup, unless you say 'passilodion,' you won't drink this day. I will sit near you and answer 'berafrynde,' believe me." The king said, "I think it would be fun, so please teach me."

"'Passilodion' is this: whoever drinks first, more health to him! 'Berafrynde' is drinking the cup clean and filling it often and well. Thus shall the game go about. Whoever fails, I swear by St Michael, shall look for drink elsewhere for he will get none here, not until another day."

The king said, "Let's see that drink. I shall say what I think is right, and I've learned well. I am very thirsty." The shepherd had the cup filled; the king wished to drink and said "passilodion." "Berafrynde," responded Adam. "I see you are a witty man and will therefore drink well." Thus the king, Adam and his wife sat without strife, and when the king wished to drink, the wife filled the cup and he said "passilodion." It was a game of great comfort and solace for all who played.

Adam ate until he was sweating and finally took his hat off and set it on the end of the bench. And when he felt the drink was good, he winked, pushed up his hood, and said "berafrynde." He was of pale complexion, a well-born man from a good family, and had refined eating tastes.

Joly Robyn said, "In any good town, such a meal of dainties well set out would have cost dear. I will repay you, by my hood. Now, I would love a rabbit, prepared in my favorite manner; unless it is venison there is no meat I love so, if I come by it."

"Can you keep a secret?" asked Adam. "If so, you will have good game."

"Yes, on my honor!" said the king. "Any man who betrays a good friend, even if he were my kin, is worthy of shame."

Assured of the king's confidence, Adam produced three rabbits, well spiced and baked in pastry, and choice meat of both hart and roe that had "come there by moonlight" the night before.9 The king called Adam the foresters' fellow, since he could kill fowl with a sling, for which they would bring him venison. "If you were as good with a bow, you would have more deer and be faster to draw an arrow than any forester in the land."

"Not so!" replied Adam. "With my large sling I can hit a deer in the ribs with no blood and lead him home. With my smaller sling I can bring home two or three rabbits, but I give them as gifts to make friends with gentlemen and yeomen, who keep my secret and give me grain and bread, ale and wine, and anything I like."

They played the drinking game again, with Adam's favorite cup, Lanycoll. It held enough for three servings, which his wife filled with wine and asked Adam, "Who should begin, the gentleman, sir, or you?" He replied, "My guest; since he knows the game, I wish it so." The king took the cup right up and said "passilodion!" which he thought was good fun. The shepherd said, "'berafrynde' shall be ready, as I hope to thrive." He drank the cup empty and said, "I love this cup called Lanycoll, for it is deep; it is dear to me. Fill it often for Joly Robyn; I believe he has had no better wine in all of seven years! Fill it full for all who will learn to play my game."

The king drank and then prepared to leave, but first Adam said, "Sir, if you like, I will show Joly Robyn a little chamber that was made for me." The king gladly accepted, and Adam showed him a hidden, well-built underground storeroom filled with venison and wine. Adam called it Hakderne, his "page" that stored his goods and took no wage. The king admired the place and thanked Adam and bid him farewell. But the shepherd stopped him again: "No, you don't go yet; first you shall taste from a wooden bottle that a good friend sent me, the best that might be bought. Play 'passilodion' once, and I shall certainly answer 'berafrynde' immediately." Adam reminded Robyn that he knew more of the shepherd's secrets than anyone: "No one can betray this place but you, if you tell, and then you would be disloyal. There is no man in this country who knows so many of my secrets as you do. While I live, you are welcome to me; I promise wine, ale and dining on good meat."

When Edward left, Adam joined him to do a little hunting and had the king select the rabbits he wanted. He saw three and told Joly Robyn to "choose the one you wish; the one that runs or the one that sits, and I will give him to you." The king replied, "He that sits and will not leap seems to be the best of all to me." Adam hit the rabbit with a stone and broke his breast bone, and it soon died. The king then praised Adam and told him to "take the one running now and prove your craft," which Adam quickly did with his sling and swore it was "better than any bow with all its feathered arrows." The shepherd asked him "to tell no man how I won this game, or I will be blamed. And if you do my errand properly, I swear by God's mercy that I shall give you what I promised." The king told him, "Bring me your tally stick, and I will not fail you a penny that you have lost."

Edward went to court, and Adam went to his sheep, where his dog lay quietly. He then returned home at night with fresh kill; he would not die of want. He said to his wife, "Don't be sad. I will go to court and have all my will. Joly Robyn, who dined with me, has promised me my money. He is a powerful merchant, owed by many. His best friend since he was born was the previous Edward and he has a son who stays with the queen. He can do more than fifteen other men and swears by St Edmund that if he should give of his own possessions, I will have all of my money."

The next day, dressed in shepherd's garb of russet tunic and cloak, a black fur hood, muffler and cloth mittens,10 he went to the castle. On the way he met his daughter's lover and company, and he thought more than he said. He asked for Joly Robyn at the gate, and the porter had been advised of what to say. When the shepherd entered, the games began. The king said to the earls, "You will have good fun if you play along. I see a shepherd coming to ask his will; I pray that you call me Joly Robyn, and you will laugh your fill. He believes I am a merchant; men owe him money and I shall help him collect it. But I'll bet a tun of wine that there is no lord so good, although he lowers his hood to him, for whom the shepherd will do the same. Sir Ralph of Stafford, please see what he wants and tell me how it goes." "Gladly, lord. I would enjoy having such fun."

Sir Ralph of Stafford greeted Adam, and the shepherd answered as he thought proper but didn't remove his hood. He said, "Ask Joly Robyn, who I see over there, to speak with me." The earl told him to take his staff and mittens to the porter, but Adam said, "No, as I live, I shall not give up my staff; I will keep it in my hand, and no man gets my mittens while I can keep them, by God Almighty. Go and ask Joly Robyn to have a word with me, so that I can return to my sheep, which I fear will stray onto other men's lands."

Edward came and welcomed Adam, who reminded him of their agreement, and the king reassured him. Adam asked to speak to him privately and asked the identity of the lords standing nearby. Joly Robyn answered, "One is the Earl of Lancaster, and the other is Sir John, the Earl of Warrene, bold and hardy. They have influence with the king, and I have told them of your errand," and Adam thanked him.

The earls welcomed him as a friend and neighbor of Joly Robyn, and though Adam wished them "God save you both," as great lords as they were, the hood stayed on his head. The lords said to the king, "Joly Robyn, don't let him leave until we have eaten. He seems to be an odd fellow and we may yet have more fun before his errand is done."

The king told Adam not to leave until they had spoken. "I promised you that an errand would be done and I want you to be served soon so that it isn't forgotten. We will go together to the marshal and I shall tell him the situation myself."

"Robyn," said Adam, "you are true and shall never regret it; you will have your reward." The king went to the hall to find the steward and took Adam with him, who hoped to have his business done by midday. The king left him in the hall, which was empty, and the shepherd asked him not to leave him alone for long since he knew no one. He felt lost and out of place in the castle: "This court is full of pride with wide, bare walls; I know nothing of such places."

The king laughed when he left, and when he met the marshal he said, "A shepherd awaits me in the hall, at whom we will all laugh during the meal. He has come to ask for £4 and 2s; go and fetch it immediately, and be sure he gets all his pay, by God. By my best horse, he must be served before he leaves, and by midday. He believes I am a merchant and calls me Joly Robyn. Be sure he is near me during the meal," and the marshal agreed.

The marshal brought the steward to the king, who asked, "Have you done as I have told you?" The marshal replied, "Sir, it is ready. By our Lady, I wouldn't know him if he stood in front of me." "Go and pay the man at once, and tell him to thank Joly Robyn; we will have some good fun." The three went to Adam and the steward sternly questioned the shepherd: "Tell me, fellow, before us all, what you want."

Adam told him, "Sir, you owe me £4 and 2s, of which I have witness, by God, within this castle wall. It is scored on this tally stick; you take it, I have kept it long enough!" The steward said he had no match, and they all laughed.

"If Joly Robyn weren't here, you would get nothing from me today," said the steward, who gave him the money. Adam happily counted it but kept part in his hand and said to Joly Robyn, "Let us have a word or two between us privately. Yesterday I promised you 7s, and here it is. Take it; it will do you no harm. And for helping me now, you have my thanks and we shall be fellows forever, you and I."

The king wouldn't take the money "for a tun of wine," but promised he would "do more than speak a word or two for your sake, which you may prove sometime." He invited Adam to dine with him privately but Adam declined, since he ate as well at home:

"No, sir! I have no need of the king's food; there is no one in this proud company who always has such plenty as I have."

"Yes," agreed the king, "but you must eat a meal with me once before you go! I understand the greatest lords of the land have asked that you stay."

"For your friendship, Robyn, I will gladly. Today I met my enemy who lay with my daughter; I told you about him yesterday-I wish he were in hell! The company is at my house and will do harm while I am out, so I should not linger here. If you would speak to the king, he would allow me to use my sling and fell their pride!"

The king replied, "I will go to the two earls who were standing with me. They will speak to the king for you, so that you will be avenged. There are twenty in this court at my command, and when you go home the gang will be taken before you know it, if there were three times as many."

Thus the king made Adam stay, and everyone in the room was amazed at the shepherd. Robyn and Adam walked about the room like men saying their prayers, but no one knew why. Adam kept his staff under his arm and would let no one take it until mealtime; such were his manners! The king told everyone to speak to Adam as though they were his friend.

The tables were set and the shepherd was led into the hall to sit at the head of a table, with his mittens hanging from his belt, hooded like a friar, and carrying his staff, which he would not give up for anything. When the trumpet was blown announcing the first course, Adam was alarmed and thought he had heard a devil. Everyone around him thought him mad and laughed scornfully at the shepherd's ignorant behavior.

The steward told Joly Robyn, "Go wash, sir, for it is time to begin. And for that other Edward's love, you shall sit high at the dais in place of the king." When he had washed and been seated, the queen was brought to join him, for she was most worthy. At every end of the dais sat an earl and a fair lady. The king told the steward to ask Adam to sit at the head of a table, so that they could all laugh at his bad manners. The steward said to Adam, "We all wish you to sit here, since you know Joly Robyn and he speaks well of you." But Adam resisted: "By God, no! Whatever is thought is best kept secret. If I don't do well by Robyn, I must be hanged with a rope!"

As Adam surveyed the splendor of the court, the likes of which he had never seen, the prince was called to speak with the king and queen. The king asked the prince if he would learn "passilodion" and "berafrynde," and the boy answered, "Lord, what may that be? I don't know it; it is a new language."

The king told him, "I believe you, as you are young and don't know everything. There is a man in this town who will make sense of it to king, squire and page, and I shall lead you to his school. He is a shepherd; I have been to his house this past week, and if a dozen knights had come with me, they would have had plenty of the food I found prepared there." He taught the boy how to play the game and told him, "The shepherd sits over there in a furry hood. Take him this gold ring and give him many thanks from Joly Robyn, which he thinks is my name. I told him yesterday that I have a son who is dear to the queen. Go to him, say 'passilodion,' and see what he says."

The prince answered, "Lord, I will do so gladly. I know it perfectly and have learned a new game." When he came to the shepherd, he told him to enjoy his meal and said, "Many thanks for inviting Joly Robyn to dine and for entertaining my lord. Why are you not playing 'passilodion' as you did yesterday at home? I know the game to the end and to say 'berafrynde.'"

"Dear child," said Adam, "be quiet for God's sake! Go tell your father he has done me great shame! Why has he betrayed me? Since this is how I'm repaid for a good deed, I'll never again host a merchant or reveal my secrets." He covered his face with his hood in sorrow and drank a cup of wine.

The prince said, "That was well done; it shall be filled again soon with the best wine. Play 'passilodion' and have no fear, and have a gold ring as reward and wear it for my love."

"I will not, for truthfully it would not last half a day before it broke, then 'farewell' to it. A hat is better than three such rings to protect from rain and sunshine."

The prince took a seat where he liked, as is right, and all the lords in the hall laughed at the shepherd's mistakes. When they had eaten and the tables were cleared, they washed, as is the custom, then played "passilodion" until each man had his fill. The lords soon gathered in the adjoining chamber and the king sent for the shepherd, who was brought immediately. He bowed his head and tore his hair and believed he was ruined; he didn't know what to expect. When he heard French and Latin,11 he didn't know what was happening and drew aside, alone. "Jesus, for your great grace, bring me out of this place! Lady, hear my plea! What ailed me to allow myself to be betrayed for so little good? God, I was so witless. If God, for His mother's love, would bring me away, no fair speech could make me tell my secrets to a merchant; I am so afraid to die!"

The king was glad to see him so sorry, asked him to come near, and offered him wine with spices to calm him. The shepherd entered sorrowfully and said, "Is this what I have for my good deed? I rue the day I came here!" He took the wine and left the spice; then they knew he was a fool, and he was miserable. He ate the spice and drank the wine, and the king gave him a secret wink.

"Joly Robyn," thought Adam, "woe to you that ever we met! By God, if I had you as we were yesterday, you would suffer the pains of my sling to chastise you. You would not spread tales about me, no matter how fast you rode!"

The king told a squire, "Tell the shepherd in his ear that I am the king. When he hears of it, you will see by his face that he'd rather be in France. He has shown me his secrets and therefore expects to be dead and will make mourning. But I mean it all for his own good. I would not do otherwise, by the rood or my best gold ring!"

The squire privately took his leave, tugged at Adam's sleeve and said, "Man, you are mad! Why don't you take off your hood? You are all out of line! You are speaking to the king, who may tear you limb from limb if he wishes. If you have done anything wrong, fall on your knees and ask for grace, and he will give you peace."

Adam was indeed wretched at this news and the sorriest he had ever been. He took off his hood, fell on his knees, and cried, "Lord, have mercy! By our Lady, I didn't know you when I came into this room, and if I had foreseen this sorrow when we met yesterday, I would not be in this trouble."12
                                                Non Finis Sed Punctus


King Edward and the Shepherd is classified as a ballad by some scholars, perhaps because of its similarity to scenes in Robin Hood ballads, particularly A Gest of Robin Hood. However, following editors French and Hale, here it is considered a romance. The basic story of this poem was popular, written about several different kings (Henry II, Edward II, Edward III, Edward IV, Henry IV, and John (French and Hale 949), but it has received scant attention from modern scholars and editors. Internal textual biographical and historical references confirm that King Edward and the Shepherd was written about Edward III (reigned 1327-77).

The style is appropriate to the farcical tone of the poem, but beneath the humor lie serious issues. The romantic image of medieval outlaws created by the Robin Hood ballads is easily dispelled in King Edward and the Shepherd, which represents reality. Technically, "outlaw" refers to those who have been expelled from their society for committing a crime or not abiding by societal norms. One could be banished from a village for seemingly minor acts such as taking sheaves of wheat during gleaning, and anyone who harbored such a person would be penalized (Raftis 134).

However, the outlaws in King Edward and the Shepherd represent the type of organized crime seen in documentary evidence and complaints. There were usually two or more associates, some temporarily allied, others more permanently grouped, often relatives (Hanawalt, Ballads 266). All classes could be found among outlaws, including nobility and clergy. Banditry was not confined to the forests; roads, towns and villages weren't safe, and peasants like Adam were frequent victims. He and his family are ill-treated but escape the homicide that could accompany robberies. Laws (Ordinances of Trailbaston) were instituted but largely ineffective, and could be used oppressively by unscrupulous officials.

Poaching, though less menacing than outlawry, offended the king's law, pride, sport and even economy, since venison and other game provided food during times of dearth. Despite severe penalties and enforcement efforts, both crimes were unstoppable. Hunting of game was protected and restricted to the king and nobility. The Awntyrs off Arthure at the Terne Wathelyne (The Adventures of Arthur at the Tarn Wadling), included in this collection, opens with the king and his retainers dressed in "the wlonkest / in wedes" ("the most splendid clothing"; 9) for a festive outing. They are going into the woods to hunt female deer "that longe had ben hydde" (that had long been hidden"; 5), since they could only be taken between November and February. Adam's poaching reflects the desire for access to hunting and fishing privileges for the folk, which was among the demands during the Rising of 1381. The commons asked that all game throughout the realm in waters, parks and woods could be taken without restriction but, like all their demands, it failed along with the Rising.

The exploitation of the lower classes by both royal and manorial officials was equally uncontrollable and attacked by social critics. Among many methods of oppression, goods were taken from the peasantry, and the theoretical purchase was recorded on a tally stick, a piece of wood that was divided between debtor and creditor, to be matched upon payment. As seen in King Edward and the Shepherd, the system was much abused by the debtor, of which Edward III had been advised (French and Hale 951).

Thomas Hoccleve's Regiment of Princes (early fifteenth century) is often used as evidence of the tradition that Edward III went into the country in disguise. In his section on justice, Hoccleve stresses the king's responsibility to ensure justice for his poor people; one who does not protect them from oppression by unjust ministers is not a "governour" but a "wilful destroyour" (2554-55). His reputation at the local level depends on the actions of his men, who seldom govern justly; "oppressioun regneth in every herne" ("oppression reigns in very corner"; 2541). Ignorance is no excuse; the king should dress in simple clothes and go into the country alone to know if he "cursed were or blessid" (2559) as did worthy King Edward III.

The meeting of king and commoner addresses a deep political conflict, based partly on the complaint of the lower classes that they had no representation in parliament or voice to the king. This is expressed in the literary theme of a king who is both unaware and unaccountable for social ills and abuses because he relies on the advice of "evil counselors" who shield him from his people, and guide him and exert their power in their own interests. The poetic belief that if the king knew of the conditions of his land and people he would make them right was a naïve hope in the face of courtly reality. Ohlgren's reading of the cultural memory of Edward III in King Edward and the Shepherd and analogous poems as a king "not only concerned about what his subjects think about him but . . . committed to redressing the injustices committed by his officials," as confirmed by Hoccleve (Ohlgren 12), is countered by many voices of complaint in contemporary literature.

The treatment of Adam by Edward and his courtiers reflects a common attitude towards peasants. Their humiliation of the shepherd is based on his rusticity rather than his crimes, of which most of them are presumably ignorant. Despite peasants' productive and necessary place in the economy, they were often held in contempt and ridiculed: "The rustic or villain was a literary type for the base. . . . He served as a model of how not to act, epitomizing qualities opposed to the chivalry of the knight." The representations in parody or satire reflected "discourses about the peasantry," since "what makes the parody funny is that the villain is already recognized as a ridiculous figure" (Freedman 133).

Contempt for peasants was more than literary convention. Besides being viewed as boorish and ill-mannered like Adam, they were dirty and ignorant. Justification for their subjugation and oppression came not only from their lowly status but their fate as toilers that resulted from the Fall of Adam the first husbandman, Noah's curse, and Cain's sins. They were also feared as potential threats; the Rising of l381 (also known, somewhat misleadingly, as the Peasants' Revolt) is the most extreme example of resistance activities that occurred periodically before and after the Rising.

Though seldom depicted in literature, peasant society was stratified and complex, with both poor and rich. Particularly after the Plague (onset 1348-49), when economic and living conditions were favorable for the lower classes, peasants who rose to the top applied pressure on the level above them and needed to be kept in their place. The socioeconomic structure was also disturbed by increased peasant mobility and wage earning opportunities, which could not be curbed by legislation.

Finally, the poet broaches the pervasive medieval value of trouthe, here manifested in truth and trust, in a deceptively complex manner for a seemingly simple work, proof that medieval romances were more than just entertaining tales.

The edition used for this translation is Middle English Metrical Romances. Ed. Walter Hoyt French and Charles Brockway Hale. 1930. New York: Russell & Russell Inc., 1964. The editors date the poem towards the end of the fourteenth century.


1 It is traditional that Edward III enjoyed going about the countryside in disguise.

2 A tally stick was a piece of wood on which the agreement of debtor and creditor was recorded, then split and divided between the two. It was much abused, subject to alteration or purposeful loss of the stick by the debtor.

3 Edward III was born in Windsor and was particularly fond of it. Windsor Castle, built in the 1070s by William the Conqueror, underwent successive changes over the centuries. Under Edwards' direction it was reconstructed to serve as a royal palace, and in the 1360s he created the immense St George's Hall for the newly founded Order of the Garter.

4 There were a number of ways in which royal financial needs were met, which were particularly heavy during times of war, such as with Scotland and France during the fourteenth century. In addition to taxes and subsidies, loans were made by various sources, including merchants. Loans were not always repaid, and Edward III's own bankruptcy caused the failure of some Italian banking houses and continental bankers.

5 Edward is telling his family history. His father was Edward II, born in Wales, and his mother was Isabella of France. His own queen was Philippa of Hainault, and the prince to whom he refers is Edward of Woodstock, the Black Prince.

6 Noble and royal residences had separate private rooms, bowers (bedchambers) and a hall for feasting and entertaining. When Chaucer describes the poor widow's sooty, cramped cottage in the Nun's Priest's Tale as having a "bower" and "hall" (2833), it is intended as irony.

7 Types of housing varied regionally and depended on a number of factors. One example, based on architectural studies in Worcestershire in the West Midlands, shows that a cottage with three separate spaces, or bays, and outbuildings was typical of the average peasant (Dyer, Everyday Life 138). A three-bay house would provide approximately 675 square feet of living space.

8 The game birds served by Adam were those found on aristocratic tables.

9 Male deer could not be hunted between September and June, and females could only be hunted between November and February. Since the story takes place in May, Adam is hunting during closed season on top of poaching.

10 Adam wears clothing of russet, coarse brown material proscribed for shepherds at the time. In order to preserve class distinction, legislative attempts were made (unsuccessfully) to regulate manner of dress, such as color, style and fabric.

11 French (Anglo-Norman) was the vernacular of the upper classes and, along with Latin, was used in judicial and parliamentary proceedings.

12 It is likely that the text is incomplete, as noted by the scribal rubric "Non finis sed punctus" ("Not finished at this point") rather than "Explicit" as in other romances, and the missing conclusion may be conjectured from analogs. In other versions, the shepherd is made knight and rewarded well (French and Hale 985), and Snell believes that a "similarly splendid outcome" may be assumed for Adam as in related texts (151).

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