“Old Robin of Portingale”


Old Robin's young wife arranges with her lover Sir Gyles for 24 men to kill Robin. Warned by a page, he kills Gyles, then cuts off his wife's breasts and ears. He makes the page his heir, burns a cross into his shoulder and goes to the holy land.


This ballad is so thoroughly nasty, I'm surprised it isn't more popular. - PJS

The likely explanation is that it is literary; there is no evidence that it ever entered oral tradition. And the moral, that young women should not marry old men, is adequately taught in other songs. - RBW


  1. Child 80, "Old Robin of Portingale" (1 text)
  2. Percy/Wheatley III, pp. 50-58, "Old Robin of Portingale" (2 texts, the second being that of the folio manuscript and the first being Percy's rewrite)
  3. OBB 53, "Old Robin of Portingale" (1 text)
  4. Roud #3971
  5. BI, C080


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1765 (Percy)