POETRY WEDNESDAY: I got these first from Diana Wynne Jones’s Fire and Hemlock, which rings several changes on both “Thomas the Rhymer” and “Tam Lin”… but they’re much older than that!

True Thomas lay on Huntlie bank;

A ferlie he spied wi’ his ee;

And there he saw a lady bright,

Come riding down by the Eildon Tree.

Her skirt was o the grass-green silk,

Her mantle o the velvet fyne,

At ilka tett of her horse’s mane

Hang fifty siller bells and nine.

True Thomas he pulld aff his cap,

And louted low down to his knee:

“All hail, thou mighty Queen of Heaven!

For thy peer on earth I never did see.”

“O no, O no, Thomas,” she said,

“That name does not belang to me;

I am but the Queen of fair Elfland,

That am hither come to visit thee.

“Harp and carp, Thomas,” she said,

“Harp and carp, along wi’ me,

And if ye dare to kiss my lips,

Sure of your bodie I will be!”

“Betide me weal, betide me woe,

That weird sall never daunton me;

Syne he has kissed her rosy lips,

All underneath the Eildon Tree.

“Now, ye maun go wi me,” she said,

“True Thomas, ye maun go wi me,

And ye maun serve me seven years,

Thro weal or woe as may chance to be.”

She mounted on her milk-white steed,

She’s taen True Thomas up behind,

And aye wheneer her bride rung,

The steed flew swifter than the wind.

O they rade on, and farther on -

The steed gaed swifter than the wind -

Until they reached a desart wide,

And living land was left behind.

“Light down, light down, now, True Thomas,

And lean your head upon my knee;

Abide and rest a little space,

And I will shew you ferlies three.

“O see ye not yon narrow road,

So thick beset with thorns and briers?

That is the path of righteousness,

Tho after it but few enquires.

“And see ye not that braid braid road,

That lies across that lily leven?

That is the path of wickedness,

Tho some call it the road to heaven.

“And see not ye that bonny road,

That winds about the fernie brae?

That is the road to fair Elfland,

Where thou and I this night maun gae.

“But, Thomas, ye maun hold your tongue,

Whatever ye may hear or see,

For, if you speak word in Elflyn land,

Ye’ll neer get back to your ain countrie.”

O they rade on, and farther on,

And they waded thro rivers aboon the knee,

And they saw neither sun nor moon,

But they heard the roaring of the sea.

It was mirk mirk night, and there was nae stern light,

And they waded thro red blude to the knee;

For a’ the blude that’s shed an earth

Rins thro the springs o that countrie.

Syne they came on to a garden green,

And she pu’d an apple frae a tree:

“Take this for thy wages, True Thomas,

It will give the tongue that can never lie.”

“My tongue is mine ain,” True Thomas said,

“A gudely gift ye wad gie me!

I neither dought to buy nor sell,

At fair or tryst where I may be.

“I dought neither speak to prince or peer,

Nor ask of grace from fair ladye:”

“Now hold thy peace,” the lady said,

“For as I say, so must it be.”

He has gotten a coat of the even cloth,

And a pair of shoes of velvet green,

And till seven years were gane and past

True Thomas on earth was never seen.

——————————————————————————————-

O I forbid you, maidens a’,

That wear gowd on your hair,

To come or gae by Carterhaugh,

For young Tam Lin is there.

There’s nane that gaes by Carterhaugh

But they leave him a wad,

Either their rings, or green mantles,

Or else their maidenhead.

Janet has kilted her green kirtle

A little aboon her knee,

And she has broded her yellow hair

A little aboon her bree,

And she’s awa to Carterhaugh

As fast as she can hie.

When she came to carterhaugh

Tam Lin was at the well,

And there she fand his steed standing,

But away was himsel.

She had na pu’d a double rose,

A rose but only twa,

Till upon then started young Tam Lin,

Says, Lady, thou’s pu nae mae.

Why pu’s thou the rose, Janet,

And why breaks thou the wand?

Or why comes thou to Carterhaugh

Withoutten my command?

“Carterhaugh, it is my own,

My daddy gave it me,

I’ll come and gang by Carterhaugh,

And ask nae leave at thee.”

Janet has kilted her green kirtle

A little aboon her knee,

And she has broded her yellow hair

A little aboon her bree,

And she is to her father’s ha,

As fast as she can hie.

Four and twenty ladies fair

Were playing at the ba,

And out then came the fair Janet,

The flower among them a’.

Four and twenty ladies fair

Were playing at the chess,

And out then came the fair Janet,

As green as onie glass.

Out then spake an auld grey knight,

Lay oer the castle wa,

And says, Alas, fair Janet, for thee,

But we’ll be blamed a’.

“Haud your tongue, ye auld fac’d knight,

Some ill death may ye die!

Father my bairn on whom I will,

I’ll father none on thee.”

Out then spak her father dear,

And he spak meek and mild,

“And ever alas, sweet Janet,” he says,

“I think thou gaest wi child.”

“If that I gae wi child, father,

Mysel maun bear the blame,

There’s neer a laird about your ha,

Shall get the bairn’s name.

“If my love were an earthly knight,

As he’s an elfin grey,

I wad na gie my ain true-love

For nae lord that ye hae.

“The steed that my true love rides on

Is lighter than the wind,

Wi siller he is shod before,

Wi burning gowd behind.”

Janet has kilted her green kirtle

A little aboon her knee,

And she has broded her yellow hair

A little aboon her bree,

And she’s awa to Carterhaugh

As fast as she can hie.

When she came to Carterhaugh,

Tam Lin was at the well,

And there she fand his steed standing,

But away was himsel.

She had na pu’d a double rose,

A rose but only twa,

Till up then started young Tam Lin,

Says, Lady, thou pu’s nae mae.

“Why pu’s thou the rose, Janet,

Amang the groves sae green,

And a’ to kill the bonny babe

That we gat us between?”

“O tell me, tell me, Tam Lin,” she says,

“For’s sake that died on tree,

If eer ye was in holy chapel,

Or christendom did see?”

“Roxbrugh he was my grandfather,

Took me with him to bide

And ance it fell upon a day

That wae did me betide.

“And ance it fell upon a day

A cauld day and a snell,

When we were frae the hunting come,

That frae my horse I fell,

The Queen o’ Fairies she caught me,

In yon green hill do dwell.

“And pleasant is the fairy land,

But, an eerie tale to tell,

Ay at the end of seven years,

We pay a tiend to hell,

I am sae fair and fu o flesh,

I’m feard it be mysel.

“But the night is Halloween, lady,

The morn is Hallowday,

Then win me, win me, an ye will,

For weel I wat ye may.

“Just at the mirk and midnight hour

The fairy folk will ride,

And they that wad their true-love win,

At Miles Cross they maun bide.”

“But how shall I thee ken, Tam Lin,

Or how my true-love know,

Amang sa mony unco knights,

The like I never saw?”

“O first let pass the black, lady,

And syne let pass the brown,

But quickly run to the milk-white steed,

Pu ye his rider down.

“For I’ll ride on the milk-white steed,

And ay nearest the town,

Because I was an earthly knight

They gie me that renown.

“My right hand will be gloved, lady,

My left hand will be bare,

Cockt up shall my bonnet be,

And kaimed down shall my hair,

And thae’s the takens I gie thee,

Nae doubt I will be there.

“They’ll turn me in your arms, lady,

Into an esk and adder,

But hold me fast, and fear me not,

I am your bairn’s father.

“They’ll turn me to a bear sae grim,

And then a lion bold,

But hold me fast, and fear me not,

And ye shall love your child.

“Again they’ll turn me in your arms

To a red het gand of airn,

But hold me fast, and fear me not,

I’ll do you nae harm.

“And last they’ll turn me in your arms

Into the burning gleed,

Then throw me into well water,

O throw me in with speed.

“And then I’ll be your ain true-love,

I’ll turn a naked knight,

Then cover me wi your green mantle,

And hide me out o sight.”

Gloomy, gloomy was the night,

And eerie was the way,

As fair Jenny in her green mantle

To Miles Cross she did gae.

At the mirk and midnight hour

She heard the bridles sing,

She was as glad at that

As any earthly thing.

First she let the black pass by,

And syne she let the brown,

But quickly she ran to the milk-white steed,

And pu’d the rider down.

Sae weel she minded what he did say,

And young Tam Lin did win,

Syne covered him wi her green mantle,

As blythe’s a bird in spring

Out then spak the Queen o Fairies,

Out of a bush o broom,

“Them that has gotten young Tam Lin

Has gotten a stately-groom.”

Out then spak the Queen o Fairies,

And an angry woman was she,

“Shame betide her ill-far’d face,

And an ill death may she die,

For she’s taen awa the bonniest knight

In a’ my companie.

“But had I kend, Tam Lin,” said she,

“What now this night I see,

I wad hae taen out thy twa grey een,

And put in twa een o tree.”

About Eve Tushnet

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