The poem Robin Hood is an ode by John Keats in praise of the legendary Robin Hood. Although the author dedicates the poem to a friend whom he does not mention, the poem praises the achievements of the legendary Robin Hood. The legend of Robin Hood has it that he was a warrior who was committed to the plight of the poor and the trodden on in the society. As a great warrior, Robin Hood was good with the arrow, a weapon he used in pursuit of justice for everyone in the society. Keats’ poem is an ode in praise of positive heroism on the society by one selfless warrior of the ancient times. This paper shall analyze Keats’ poem through the prism of responsible leadership. The thesis statement shall be: Leaders should be held accountable for the condition of the societies they lead.
As far as the structure is concerned, the poem has five stanzas and sixty-two lines. Like any other ode, the number of lines in each stanza varies greatly. For instance, stanza one has 10 lines while stanza two has 8 lines. Stanza has three has 14 lines like a sonnet while stanza four has 16 lines and finally, stanza five has 14 lines. Despite having 14 lines in two stanzas, Robin Hood cannot be said to be a sonnet or a ballad.
The rhyme scheme in the first stanza takes a form of AA, BB, CC, DD, CC, and the second stanza takes a rhyme scheme of EE, BB, FF, and GG. The rhyme scheme in the poem can be said to be regular with the rhymes coming out as end rhymes. There are no notable internal rhymes throughout the poem. The poet has also made good use of assonance and consonance. In the first stanza, for example, the words away, gray, all, pall, years, shears, east, feast, fleeces, and leases have all been used to bring out the assonance and consonance rhyme scheme at the same time. They also bring out the major theme of the poem as shall be seen.
The tone of the poem sets the mood for the themes explored in the poem. The speaker in the poem uses a tone that is critical of the old practices against which Robin Hood fought. The speaker also uses an approving tone for Robin Hood for his philanthropic acts of heroism. Keats explores the miserable living conditions in which the old order pushed a section of the society to live. He says:
“Frozen North, and chilling East,
Sounded tempests to the feast
Of the forests whispering fleeces,
Since men knew nor rent nor leases (Stanza 1, Lines 7-10).”
From these lines, the poet introduces the audience to what the early society went through during the times of Robin Hood. The poet uses the word fleeces as a symbol of the level of poverty to which a section of the society was reduced. That is particularly so since fleeces are known to be parasites, or in other terms, animals that have nothing of their own but which must survive. That implies that the society was subjected to abject poverty such that they had nothing of their own. They had to survive like parasites that fleece on a host though with a greater risk of being killed when stumbled upon.
The speaker also indicates that many people ran away into the forest, and when winter came, the conditions were unbearable. No one did care for those destitute citizens whom the system continued to oppress. Therefore, the rise of Robin Hood to assist those considered second-rate citizens was not only heroic but also philanthropic. The speaker, therefore, remembers such great deeds with nostalgia although he lived not in that era. Therefore, despite the fact that there is no more sounding of the bugle and twanging of the bow (stanza 2, Lines 11-12), the speaker observes that the society should honor Robin Hood for the great deeds he did for the downtrodden. The speaker says:
“Honor to bold Robin Hood,
Sleeping in the underwood! (Stanza 5, Lines 57-58).”
From the tone of the poem, the speaker shifts between praising Robin Hood to alluding to the poor governance witnessed in past. Since the major themes touch on leadership, poverty and heroism, one can observe that Keats’ poem serves as a reminder to the society that there is a need for its leadership to be held accountable for the conditions of the society. Although Robin Hood’s heroism and achievement are the focal point, the theme of the poem is also intricately connected and interwoven with justice in the society. The lines and stanzas that allude to the poor living conditions serve as a warning to leaders that it is failure on their side to be unjust and irresponsible. Had there been no failure on leadership, even Robin Hood would not have risen, as there would be no injustices. However, Robin Hood rises owing to the insensitivity of the ruling class, poverty amongst the low class and overall injustice in the society. The poem is a reminder of how poor leadership can wreak havoc on society and how responsible leadership can bring positive change in society.
Keats, John. Robin Hood. 2014. Web. Accessed October 7, 2014, from http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/173748