Tam Lin of the Elves
- One fortnight past came you to Carterhaugh
And two roses you plucked without care.
Surely you learned, if you take what is mine
That your trespass will summon me there?
- Here you are once again, Janet so bold,
Who declared that this wood was your land.
Are you now bashful? I see you recall
How you trembled when I took your hand.
- For you’d ignored advice.
You knew the tales they tell
Of ev’ry maiden’s price
If she met Tam Lin of the Elves.
- Pull you no more, lady, that’s not a rose
But an herb that grows deadly and wild.
I know the weed, it’s procured for the use
Of a woman to rid her of child.
- Is that the way of it, Janet my sweet,
Have you come back confess’d of your plight?
Told your lord father that you’re fathered on
By an unholy grey Elfin knight?
- I’m not this thing you scorn,
Though I forget myself.
I was of woman born
Ere I was Tam Lin of the Elves.
- I was a lad in my grandfather’s hunt
When I careless from saddle was thrown,
Caught by a lady–the Queen of the Elves–
And she stole me away as her own.
- Years have I spent among Elf-land’s delights
And the Queen’s beauty held me in thrall.
Oft here on Carterhaugh stumbled a maid,
And my pleasure I’d take of them all.
- But then I looked on you,
And something new I felt.
‘Tis since that day I rue
That I am Tam Lin of the Elves.
- Though I returned to their magical realm,
It has savored me naught since we met.
Dark Faery hearts do not know mortal love
But my own heart won’t let me forget.
- I, before this, was the Queen’s favored knight,
But now, Janet, I’m deeply afeard.
Faery-land’s magic, it comes with a price
At the ending of each seventh year.
- Tonight is Hallow’s E’en,*
They pay a tithe to Hell.
I think tonight the Queen
Will give up Tam Lin of the Elves.
- Save your child’s father from Faery you might,
But my love, it’s a dangerous task.
And were it any lass other than you
I would not such a favor dare ask.
- At Dryburgh Abbey you’ll find an old well
And from there, at Miles Cross you must hide.
Round about midnight you’ll hear horse approach:
One by one will the Elven host ride.
- Past you the the black will speed,
Let pass the brown as well.
Run to the the milk-white steed
And pull down Tam Lin of the Elves.
- Still now, my dearest, I’m bound to the Queen,
So I know not what form I will take.
I’ll be an eagle who tries to pull free–
The next moment, a venomous snake…
- Then will she make me a bear in your arms
And I’ll bite and I’ll and claw at you so.
Next I’ll become a red-hot iron brand,
And I’ll burn you to make you let go!
- But if you hold me fast,
Carry me down the dell,
I can be yours at last
And no more Tam Lin of the Elves.
- My love she carried me near half a mile,
Although ev’ry step wracked her with pain.
Threw the hot iron in that holy well,
And a naked man took out again.
- Then did she cover me out of their sight
In her green mantle, smelling of sage.
Just as we came to the safe Abbey doors
Did the Faery Queen cry out in rage:
- “I’d pluck his eyes away
That my fair land beheld!
I want her life as pay
Who took my Tam Lin of the Elves!”
- But she had done it, son,
Fair Janet broke the spell,
And for her husband won
Your father, Tam Lin of the Elves.
Copyright 2013 by Eric Schrager (Drake Oranwood). Writing, video, and story notes can be found on his site.
Added to site August 2015