Twas the night before Christmas and all through the shire
the villagers fretted while taxes climbed higher.
Prince John had declared -- for his Holiday Cheer --
an advance on the income from the harvest next year.
The farmers got little from this harvest past;
what little was left was dwindling fast.
There'd be no fat goose to roast on a spit.
A supper of dry sandy bread would be it.
There would be no pudding no pies and no treats.
The children spent nights a-longing for sweets.
Folks slept all huddled in the straw on the floor,
and the winter wind howled through the cracks in the door.
When out in the square, from the hush of the dells,
came the faint cheerful sound of jingling bells.
Men rushed to their shutters and peeked through the sash
just in case Prince John's thugs had come for their cash.
But as people peered out into the night
their eyes were all greeted by a wondrous sight!
Two horses came prancing through high drifts of snow.
They pulled a huge wagon awash in lamp glow.
The cart was piled high with boxes and sacks
and a dozen men and women carried more on their backs.
They were dressed all as hunters, in leathers and hide,
and more than one fellow had a sword at his side.
But the light in their eyes and the breadth of their smiles
said there wasn't a soldier to be seen within miles.
When the wagon had halted and the tailgate let down
a quartet of hunters passed the sacks and crates round.
A blond giant hefted the largest sacks high
and his bright blue eyes twinkled like stars in the sky.
A round jolly friar helped out with the task,
and occasionally sipped from his crockery flask.
A woman in red lent a hand to the scene,
with a manner so gracious she looked like a queen.
But the fourth man was set on a particular quest
to visit each farmer, his family, and guest.
As the hunters came round with sacks full of goods.
A special job to be done had he, Robin Hood.
He stole into their huts and left a small bag
that held riches untold by their shrouding of rag.
He snuck in and snuck out with hardly a squeak,
dispensing the gold he'd... (aherm) appropriated last week.
No one had noticed him leaving his stash
so the Great Thief of Sherwood got rid of his cash.
In a small weathered shack though he met with surprise
the curious look in a small child's eyes.
She'd heard the commotion and got up from her bed,
and came face to face with the Outlaw instead!
He reached out with his hand and pulled from her curl
a single gold coin for this wee little girl.
She accepted his token and gave a shy glance
that lightened his heart and made his eyes dance.
He tucked her in bed and made for the door.
The night was long yet; he could linger no more.
With a grin and a twinkle and wink of his eye
he fastened the door after waving goodbye.
All the townsfolk retired and bolted their portals
and the air rang again with their shouts and their chortles,
as one by one they let out a cry
when they saw the small sack Robin left on the sly.
As the villagers exclaimed at the gifts they'd received
Rob had no idea what he'd really achieved.
He'd thought that his plan had been very plain.
He'd given them food and drink to sustain.
Then he added a gift, just a small sack of gold
to pay off the piper when taxes were tolled.
But a far greater gift he never did see,
how the people had wept and danced in their glee.
Their prayers had been heard, and now they could cope.
In giving them Christmas Rob had given them hope.
The hunters were done and climbed into the wagon.
John took hold of the reins and Tuck offered his flagon.
A sweet siren call reached Robin Hood's ear,
and he warmed in his embrace his Marion dear.
And the few who had listened as the cart rode away
could have sworn that they heard noble Robin Hood say:
"Prince John can have all the gold he desires,
but it won't fill his belly, and it won't light his fires.
We're the ones who have riches, when push comes to shove.
We're all blessed this Christmas, we're gifted with love.
We've a long way to go, let the horses take flight!
Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"
LM Feltyberger December 2002
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