A. I Tam Lin,' Johnson's Museum, p. 423, 1792. Communicated by Burns.
B. ' Young Tom Line,' Glenriddell MS., vol. xi, No 17, 1791.
C. Kertonha, or, The Fairy Court,' Herd, The Ancient and Modern Scots Songs, 1769, p. 300.
D. ' Tom Linn.' a. Motherwell's NIS., p. 532. b. Maidment's New Book of Old Ballads, p. 54. e. I Tom o Linn,' Pitcairn's MSS, 111, fol. 67.
E. ' Young Tamlin,' Motherwell's Note-Book, fol. 13.
F. ' Tomaline,' Motherwell's MS., p. 64.
G. ' Tam-a-line, the Elfin Knight,' Buchan's MSS, I, 8 ; ' Tam a-Lin, or The Knight of Faerylande,' Motherwell's MS., p. 595. Dixon, Scottish Traditionary Versions of Ancient Ballads, Percy Society, XVII, 11.
H. ' Young Tam Lane,' Campbell MSS, II, 129.
I. ' The Young Tamlane.' Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border: a, II, 337, ed. 1833; b, II, 228, ed. 1802.
THE first twenty-two stanzas of B differ from the corresponding ones in A, 1-33, omitting 16, by only a few words, and there are other agreements in the second half of these versions. Burns's intimacy with Robert Riddell would naturally lead to a communication from one to the other ; but both may have derived the verses that are common from the same third party. Herd's fragment, C, was the earliest printed. Scott's version, I, as he himself states, was compounded of the Museum copy, Riddell's, Herd's, and " several recitals from tradition.' I b, the edition of 1803, contained fragments of I The Bromfield Hill' and of ' The Wee Wee Man,' which were dropped from the later edition ; but unfortunately this later edition was corrupted with eleven new stanzas, which are not simply somewhat of a modern cast as to diction, as Scott remarks, but of a grossly modern invention, and as unlike popular verse as anything can be. I is given according to the later edition, with those stanzas omitted; and all that is peculiar to this version, and not taken from the Museum, Glenriddell, or Herd, is distinguished from the rest by the larger type. This, it will be immediately seen, is very little.
The copy in Tales of Wonder, II, 459, is A, altered by Lewis. Mr Joseph Robertson notes, Kinloch HISS, VI, 10, that his mother had communicated to him some fragments of this ballad slightly differing from Scott's version, with a substitution of the name True Tammas for Tam Lane.
The Scots Magazine for October, 1818, LXXXII, 8373:.a. has a "fragment" of more than sixty stanzas, composed in an abominable artificial lingo, on the subject of this ballad, and alleged to have been taken from the mouth of a good old peasant, who, not having heard the ballad for thirty years, could remember no more. Thomas the Rhymer appears in the last lines with very great distinction, but it is not clear what part he has in the story. 1.
A copy printed in Aberdeen, 1862, and said to have been edited by the Rev. John Burnett Pratt, of Cruden, Aberdeenshire, is made up from Aytoun and Scott, with a number of slight changes2.
" The Tayl of the yong Tamlene' is spoken of as told among a company of shepherds, in Vedderburn's Complaint of Scotland, 1549, p. 63 of Dr James A. H. Murray's edition for the Early English Text Society. 'Thom of Lyn' is mentioned as a dance of the same party, a little further on, Murray, p. 66, and `Young Thomlin' is the name of an air in a medley in " Woods MS.," inserted, as David Laing thought, between 1600 and 1620, and printed in Forbes's Cantus,1666 : Stenhouse's ed. of The Scots' Musical Museum, 1853, IV, 4-10. "A ballett of Thomalyn " is licensed to Master John Wallye and Mistress Tove in 1558 : Arber, Transcript of tile Registers of the Company of Stationers, I, 22; cited by Furnivall, Captain Cox, &c., Ballad Society, p. clxiv.
Sir Walter Scott relates a tradition of an attempt to rescue a woman from fairydom which recalls the ill success of many of the efforts to disenchant White Ladies in Germany: The wife of a farmer in Lothian had been carried off by the fairies, and, during the year of probation. repeatedly appeared on Sunday, in the midst of her children, combing their hair. Oil one of these occasions site was accosted by her husband ; when she related to him the unfortunate event which bad separated them, instructed him by what means lie might win her, and exhorted him to exert :111 his courage, since her temporal and eternal happiness depended on the success of his attempt. The farmer, who ardently loved his wife, set out at Halloween, and, in the midst of a plot of furze, waited impatiently for the procession of the fairies. At the ringing of the fairy bridles, and the wild, unearthly sound which accompanied the cavalcade, his heart failed him, and he suffered the ghostly train to pass by without interruption. When the last had rode past, the whole troop vanished, with loud shouts of laughter and exultation, among which he plainly discovered the voice of his wife, lamenting that he had lost her forever." The same author proceeds to recount a real incident, which took place at the town of North Berwick, within memory, of a man who was prevented from undertaking, or at least meditating, a similar rescue only by shrewd and prompt practical measures on the part of his minister3.
This fine ballad stands by itself, and is not, as might have been expected, found in possession of any people but the Scottish. Yet it has connections, through the principal feature in the storv. the retransformation of Tam Lin, with Greek popular tradition older than Homer.
Something of the successive changes of shape is met with in a Scandinavian ballad : 'Nattergalen,' Grundtvig, II, 168, No 57 ; Den f0:rtrollade Prinsessan,' Afzelius, II, 67, No 41, Atterbom, Poetisk Kalender, 1816, p. 44; Dybeck, Runa, 1844, p. 94, No 2 ; Axelson, Vandring i Wermlands Elfdal, p. 21, No 3 ; Lindeman, Norske Fjeldmelodier Tekstbilag tit 1ste Bind, p. :3, No 10.
Though many copies of this ballad have been obtained from the mouth of the people, all that ,ire known are derived from flying sheets, of which there is a Danish one dated 1721 and a Swedish of the year 1738. What is of more account, the style of the piece, as we have it. is not quite popular. Nevertheless, the story is entirely of the popular stamp, and so is the feature in it, which alone concerns ns materially. A nightingale relates to a knight how she had once had a lover, bat a stepmother soon upset all that, and turned her into a bird and her brother into a wolf. The curse was not to be taken off the brother till he drank of his step-dame's blood, and after seven years he caught her, when she was taking a walk in a wood, tore out her heart, and regained his human shape. The knight proposes to the bird that she shall come and pass the winter in his bower, and go back to the wood in the summer: this, the nightingale says, the step-mother bad forbidden, as long as she wore feathers. The knight seizes the bird by the foot, takes her home to his bower, and fastens the windows and doors. She turns to all the marvellous beasts one ever heard of,- to a lion, a bear, a variety of small snakes, and at last to a loathsome lind-worm. The knight makes a sufficient incision for blood to come, and a maid stands on the floor as fair as a flower. He now asks after her origin, and she answers, Egypt's king was my father, and its queen my mother; my brother was doomed to rove the woods as a wolf. " If Egypt's king," he rejoins, " was your father, and its queen your mother, then for sure you are my sister's daughter, who was doomed to be a nightingale.4"
We come much nearer, and indeed surprisingly near, to the principal event of the Scottish ballad in a Cretan fairy-tale, cited from Chourmouzis by Bernhard Schmidt5. A voting peasant of the village Sgourokephali who was a good player on the rote, used to be taken by the nereids into their grotto for the sake of his music. He fell in love with one of them, and, not knowing how to help himself, had recourse to an old woman of his village. She gave him this advice: that just before cock-crow he should seize his beloved by the hair, and hold on, unterrified, till the cock crew, whatever forms she should assume. The peasant gave good heed, and the next time he was taken into the cave fell to playing, as usual, and the nereids to dancing. But as cock-crow drew nigh, he put down hiss in. strument, sprang upon the object of big pas- sion, and grasped her by her locks. She instantly changed shape; became a dog, a snake, a camel, fire. But he kept his courage and held on, and presently the cock crew, and the nereids vanished all but one. His love returned to her proper beauty, and went with him to his home. After the lapse of a year she bore a son, but in all this time never uttered a word. The young husband was fain to ask counsel of the old woman again, who told him to heat the oven hot, and say to his wife that if she would not speak he would throw the boy into the oven. He acted upon this prescription ; the nereid cried out, Let go my child, dog ! tore the infant from his arms, and vanished.
This Cretan tale, recovered from tradition even later than our ballad, repeats all the important circumstances of the forced marriage of Thetis with Peleus. Chiron, like the old woman, suggested to his protege that he should lay hands on the nereid, and keep his hold through whatever metamorphosis she might make. He looked out for his opportunity and seized her; she turned to fire, water, and a wild beast, but he did not let go till she resumed her primitive shape. Thetis, having borne a son, wished to make him immortal ; to which end she buried him in fire by night, to burn out his human elements, and anointed him with ambrosia by day. Peleus was not taken into counsel, but watched her, and saw the boy gasping in the fire, which made him call out ; and Thetis, thus thwarted, abandoned the child and went back to the nereids. Apollodorus, Bibliotheca, III, 13, 5, 6. The Cretan tale does not differ from the one repeated by Apollodorus from earlier writers a couple of thousand years ago more than two versions of a story gathered from oral tradition in these days are apt to do. Whether it has come down to our time from mouth to mouth through twenty-five centuries or more, or whether, having died out of the popular memory, it was reintroduced through literature, is a question that cannot be decided with certainty; but there will be nothing unlikely in the former supposition to those who bear in mind the tenacity of tradition among people who have never known books:6.
First dip me in a stand of milk,has an occult and very important significance which has only very lately been pointed out, and which modern reciters had completely lost knowledge of, as appears by the disorder into which the stanzas have fallen7. Immersion in a liquid, generally water, but sometimes milk, is a process requisite for passing from eh non-human shape, produced by enchantment, back into the human, and also for returning from the human to a non-human state, whether produced by enchantment or original. We have seen that the serpent which Lanzelet kisses, in Ulrich's romance, is not by that simple though essential act instantly turned into a woman. It is still necessary that she should bathe in a spring (p. 308). In an Albanian tale, I Taubenliebe,' Hahn, No 10.`3, II, 130, a dove flies into a princess's window, and, receiving her caresses, asks, Do you love me ? The princess answering Yes, the dove says, Then have a dish of milk ready to-morrow, and you shall see what a handsome man I am.
And then in a stand of water;
Haud me fast, let me na gas,
I 'll be your bairnie's father,
To morne of belle pe foulle fendeThe elf-queen, A 42, B 40, would have taken out Tam's twa gray een, had she known he was to be borrowed, and have put in twa een of tree, B 41, D 34, E 21, H 14 ; she would have taken out his heart of flesh, and have put in, B, D, E, a heart of stane, H of tree. The taking out of the eyes would probably be to deprive Tam of the faculty of recognizing fairy folk thereafter. Mortals whose eyes have been touched with fairies' salve can see them when they are to others invisible, and such persons, upon distinguishing and saluting fairies, have often had not simply this power but their ordinary eyesight taken away: see Cromek's Remains of Nithsdale and Galloway Song, p. 304, Thiele, Danmarks Folkesagn, 1843, II, 202, IV, etc. Grimm has given instances of witches, Slavic, German, Norse and Italian, taking out the heart of man (which they are wont to devour), and replacing it in some instances with straw, wood, or something of the kind; nor do the Roman witches appear to have been behind later ones in this dealing: Deutsche Mythologie, 904 f, and the note III, 31 2.
Amange this folke will feche his fee ;
And pou art mekill man and hende ;
I trowe full wele be wolde these the.
Tom a Lin and his wife, and his wines mother,Mr Halliwell-Phillips (as above) says that an immense variety of songs and catches relating to Tommy Linn are known throughout the country." Brian o Lynn seems to be popular in Ireland: Lover's Legends and Stories of Ireland, p. °60 f. There is no connection between the song and the ballad beyond the name: the song is no parody, no burlesque, of the ballad, as it has been called.
They went ouer a bridge all three together;
The bridge was broken, and they fell in
The deuil go with all : ' quoth Tom a Lin.
Whar they war aware o the Fairy Ring,Return to main text
A huntan wi his train.
Four an twenty gentlemen
Cam by on steeds o brown ;
In his hand ilk bore a siller wand,
On his head a siller crown.
Four an twenty beltit knichts
On daiplit greys cam by ;
Gowden their wands an crowns, whilk scanct
Like streamers in the sky.
Four an twenty noble kings
Cam by on steeds o snaw,
But True Thomas, the gude Rhymer,
Was king outower them a'.