Tam Lin Balladry

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Tam Lin: 39D

Source: The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, 1882-1898 by Francis James Child

cites: a Motherwell's MS., p.532, a North Country version.
b Maidment's New Book of Old Ballads, 1844, p.54, from the recitation of an old woman.
c Pitcairns' MSS, 1837-1820, p.67 "procured by David Webster, Bookseller."

Title: Tomlin

Site reference number: 4


This version has Margret going to Chaster's wood for flowers after sewing in her bower, followed by a confrontation by Tomlin. It is during this initial meeting he instructs her on how to rescue him, which includes the command to salute some members of the procession rather than hiding from them. When Margret initially gets hold of Tomlin the court cries out before beginning the transformation, but she does capture him, to the annoyance of the queen.


  1. O all you ladies young and gay,
    Who are so sweet and fair,
    Do not go into Chaster's wood,
    For Tomlin will be there.
  2. Fair Margret sat in her bonny bower,
    Sewing her silken seam,
    And wished to be in Chaster's wood,
    Among the leaves so green.
  3. She let her seam fall to her foot,
    The needle to her toe,
    And she has gone to Chaster's wood,
    As fast as she could go.
  4. When she began to pull the flowers,
    She puud both red and green;
    Then by did come, and by did go,
    Said, Fair maid, let aleene.
  5. O why pluck you the flowers, lady,
    Or why climb you the tree ?
    Or why come ye to Chaster's wood
    'Whithout the leave of me ? '
  6. O I will pull the flowers,' she said,
    Or I will break the tree,
    For Chaster's wood it is my own,
    I'll no ask leave at thee.'
  7. He took her by the milk-white hand,
    And by the grass green sleeve,
    And laid her low down on the flowers,
    At her he asked no leave.
  8. The lady blushed, and sourly frowned,
    And she did think great shame;
    Says, ' If you are a gentleman,
    You will tell me your name.'
  9. 'First they did call me Jack,' he said,
    'And then they called me John,
    But since I lived in the fairy court
    Tomlin has always been my name.
  10. So do not pluck that flower, lady,
    That has these pimples gray;
    They would destroy the bonny babe
    That we've got in our play.'
  11. O tell me, Tomlin,' she said,
    And tell it to me soon,
    Was you ever at good church-door,
    Or got you christendoom ?
  12. O I have been at good church-door,
    And aff her yetts within;
    I was the Laird of Foulis's son,
    The heir of all this land.
  13. But it fell once upon a day,
    As hunting I did ride,
    As I rode east and west yon bill
    There woe did me betide.
  14. O drowsy, drowsy as I was!
    Dead sleep upon me fell;
    The Queen of Fairies she was there,
    And took me to hersell.
  15. The Elfins is a pretty place,
    In which I love to dwell,
    But yet at every seven years' end
    The last here goes to hell;
    And as I am ane o flesh and blood,
    I fear the next be mysell.
  16. The morn at even is Halloween;
    Our fairy court will ride,
    Throw England and Scotland both,
    Throw al the world wide
    And if ye would me borrow,
    At Rides Cross ye may bide.
  17. You may go into the Miles Moss,
    Between twelve hours and one;
    Take holy water in your hand,
    And cast a compass round.
  18. The first court that comes along,
    You'll let them all pass by;
    The next court that comes along,
    Salute them reverently.
  19. The next court that comes along
    Is clad in robes of green,
    And it's the head court of them all,
    For in it rides the queen.
  20. And I upon a milk-white steed,
    With a gold star in my crown;
    Because I am an earthly man
    I'm next to the queen in renown
  21. Then seize upon me with a spring,
    Then to the ground I'll fa,
    And then you 'll hear a rueful cry
    That Tomlin is awa.
  22. Then I'll grow in your arms two
    Like to a savage wild;
    But hold me fast, let me not go,
    I 'm father of your child.
  23. Then I'll grow in your arms two
    Like to an adder or a snake;
    But hold me fast, let me not go,
    To be your worthy maick.
  24. I'II grow into your arms two
    Then like iron in strong fire;
    But hold me fast, let me not go,
    Then you'll have your desire.'
  25. She rid down to Miles Cross,
    Between twelve hours and one,
    Took holy water in her hand,
    and cast a compass round.
  26. The first court that came along,
    She let them all pass by;
    The next court that came along
    Saluted reverently.
  27. The next court that came along
    Were clad in robes of green,
    With Tomlin, on a milk-white steed,
    She saw ride with the queen.
  28. She seized him in her arms two,
    He to the ground did f a,
    And then she heard a ruefuu cry
    'Tomlin is now awa.'
  29. He grew into her arms two
    Like to a savage wild;
    She held him fast, let him not go,,
    The father of her child.
  30. He grew into her arms two
    Like an adder or a snake;
    She held him fast, let him not go,
    He was her earthly maick.
  31. He grew into her arms two
    Like iron in hot fire;
    She held him fast, let him not go,
    He was her heart's desire.
  32. Then sounded out throw elphin court,
    With a loud shout and a cry,
    That the pretty maid of Chaster's wood
    That day had caught her prey.
  33. 'O stay, Tomlin,' cried Elphin Queen,
    'Till I pay you your fee;'
    'His father has lands and rents enough,
    He wants no fee from thee.'
  34. 'O had I known at early morn
    Tomlin would from me gone,
    I would have taken out a heart of flesh
    Iut in a heart of stone.'

Version Notes

The wording in verse 9, where Tomlin gives several versions of his name, is similar to wording often found in versions of "Hind Etin" or The King's Daughter Jane.

Added to site: October 1997