“Robin Fool and His Disconsolate Men” by William Trowbridge

William Trowbridge


The snag arose right away: the rich
had troops and portcullises, making it
very risky to rob them. And the poor
were supposed to receive the swag, not

surrender it. So Fool decided they’d
rob the not-so-rich. However, rob them
enough and they become poor. Give
enough to the poor and, after a while,

they become the rich—a dispiriting treadmill.
Alan-a-Dale, the men’s minstrel, tried to
make up a song about it but couldn’t think
of a good lyric. Little John grew morose,

and Friar Tuck doubled his windy prayers.
Fool suggested they get into forest crafts:
whittled whistles and bowls, leaf pillows,
boar-tusk pipe bowls, rabbits’ feet.

“Bowls and pillows, bowls and pillows,”
sang Alan-a-Dale, then faltered. Fool
suggested they could use a catchy slogan.
“Shop here or we kill you,” offered Little John.

They considered, “Don’t settle for that
crappy town stuff when you can buy
from the Merry Men.” “Too long,” muttered
Will Scarlet. “And not all of us are men,”

chimed in Maid Marion. “How about,
‘You wanna buy this?’” Fool suggested.
Though no one saluted when they ran it
up the flagpole, the progeny of King John

and his pal the Sheriff of Nottingham
later weaponized the concept, deploying
the first ad agency, which allowed them
to rob pretty much everybody.

from Rattle #74, Winter 2021


William Trowbridge: “After publishing a book of poems about Fool, I still can’t shake this guy. Perhaps it’s because he’s an archetype to whom, I believe, we’re all related. He may seem even more relevant these days, now that foolishness has gone viral as Covid. But my fool, for all his stumblings and fumblings, has a good heart, which I think is an essential trait of the archetype.” (web)

Rattle Logo