Tam Lin Balladry

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Tam Lin: 39I

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

cites: a Ministrelsy of the Scottish Border, II, 337, ed 1833
b II, 228, ed. 1802

Title: Tam Lin

Site reference number: 9


Janet defiantly travels to Carterhaugh after being warned of the dangers there. She encounters Tam Lin, and they interact among the green leaves. When she returns home she seems ill, and takes little care over her appearance, until one of the knights jokes that she must be pregnant. She proclaims the wonders of the father of the child, and returns to the woods to seek Tam Lin. She asks of his lineage, and he reveals that he knew her when he was a young child, before he was stolen away by the fairies. Fearing sacrifice to hell he informs her with some urgency of how he may be rescued, including dipping in stands of milk and of water. She does so, and the Queen of Fairies reflects on the things she would have done to prevent his escape

Tam Lin

  1. I forbid ye, maidens a',
    That wear gowd on your hair,
    To come or gae by Carterhaugh,
    For young Tamlane is there.
  2. 'There's nane that gaes by Carterhaugh
    But maun leave him a wad,
    Ether gowd rings, or green mantles,
    Or else their maidenheid.
  3. 'Now gowd rings ye may buy, maidens,
    Green mantles ye may spin,
    But, gin ye lose your maidenheid,
    Ye'll neer get that agen.'
  4. But up then spak her, fair Janet,
    The fairest o a' her kin :
    'I'll cum and gang to Carterhaugh,
    And ask nae leave o him.'
  5. Janet has kilted her green kirtle
    A little abune her knee,
    And she has braided her yellow hair
    A little abune her bree.
  6. And when she came to Carterhaugh,
    She gaed beside the well,
    And there she fand his steed standing,
    But away was himsell.
  7. She hadna pu'd a red red rose,
    A rose but barely three,
    Till up and starts a wee wee man,
    At lady Janet's knee.
  8. Says, Why pu ye the rose, Janet ?
    What gears ye break the tree ?
    Or why come ye to Carterhaugh,
    Withouten leave o me ?
  9. Says, Carterhaugh it is mine ain,
    My daddie gave it me;
    I'll come and gang to Carterhaugh,
    And ask nae leave o thee.
  10. He's taen her by the milk-white hand,
    Among the leaves sae green,
    And what they did I cannot tell.
    The green leaves were between.
  11. He's taen her bv the milk-white hand,
    Among the roses red,
    And what they did I cannot say,
    She neer returnd a maid.
  12. When she cam to her father's ha,
    She looked pale and wan;
    They thought she'd dreed some sair sickness,
    Or been with some leman.
  13. She didna comb her yellow hair
    Nor make meikle o her head,
    And ilka thing that lady took
    Was like to be her deid.
  14. It 's four and twenty ladies fair
    Were playing at the ba;
    Janet, the fairest of them anes,
    Was faintest o them a'.
  15. Four and twenty ladies fair
    Were playing at the chess
    And out there came the fair Janet,
    As green as any grass.
  16. Out and spak an auld grey-headed knight,
    Lay oer the castle wa:
    And ever, alas I for thee, Janet,
    But we'll be blamed a'!'
  17. Now hand your tongue, ye auld grey knight,
    And an ill deid may ye die !
    Father my bairn on whom I will,
    I'll father nane on thee.'
  18. Out then spak her father dear,
    And he spak meik and mild
    And ever, alas I my sweet Janet,
    I fear ye gae with child.'
  19. And if I be with child, father,
    Mysell maun bear the blame;
    There's neer a knight about your ha
    Shall hae the bairnie's name.
  20. And if I be with child, father.
    'Twill prove a wondrous birth,
    For weel I swear I'm not wi bairn
    'To any man on earth.
  21. If my love were an earthly knight,
    As he's an elfin arey,
    I wadna gie my ain true love
    For nae lord that ye hae.'
  22. She prinkd hersell and prinnd hersell,
    By the ae light of the moon,
    And she's away to Carterhaugh,
    To speak wi young Tamlane.
  23. And when she cam to Carterhaugh,
    She gaed beside the. well,
    And there she saw the steed standina,
    But away was himsell.
  24. She hadna pu'd a double rose,
    A rose but only twae,
    When up and started young Tamlane,
    Says, Lady, thou pu's nae mae.
  25. Why pu ye the rose, Janet
    Within this garden grene,
    And a' to kill the bonny babe
    That we got us between
  26. The truth ye'lI tell to me, Tamlane,
    Aword ye manna lie;
    Gin eer ye was in haly chapel,
    Or sained in Christentie
  27. The truth I'll tell to thee, Janet,
    A word I winna lie ;
    Aknight me got, and a lady me bore
    As well as they did thee.
  28. Randolph, Earl Murray, was my sire,
    Dunbar, Earl March, is thine;
    We loved when we were children small
    Which yet you well may mind,
  29. When I was a boy just turnd of nine,
    My uncle sent for me,
    To hunt and hawk, and ride with him,
    And keep him compani.e
  30. There came a wind out of the north,
    A sharp wind and a snell,
    And a deep sleep came over me,
    And frae my horse I fell.
  31. The Queen of Fairies keppit me
    In yon green hill to dwell,
    And I'm a fairv, lyth and limb,
    Fair ladye, view me well.
  32. Then would I never tire, Janet,
    In Elfish land to dwell,
    But aye, at every seven years,
    They pay the teind to hell;
    And I am sae fat and fair of flesh,
    I fear 't will be mysell.
  33. This night is Halloween, Janet,
    The morn is Hallowday,
    And gin ye dare your true love win,
    Ye hae nae time to stay.
  34. The night it is good Halloween,
    When fairy folk will ride,
    And they that wad their true-love win,
    Miles Cross they maun bide.'
  35. But how shall I thee ken, Tamlane ?
    Or how shall I thee knaw,
    Amang so many unearthly knights,
    The like I never saw ?
  36. The first company that passes by,
    say na, and let them gae ;
    The next company that passes by,
    say na, and do right sae ;
    The third company that passes by,
    Then I'll be ane o thae.
  37. First let pass the black, Janet,
    And syne let pass the brown,
    But gript ye to the milk-white steed,
    And pu the rider down.
  38. I'll ride on the milk-white steed,
    On the side nearest the town;
    because I was a christend knight,
    they give me that renown.
  39. My right hand will be gloved, Janet,
    my left hand will be bare ;
    -And these the tokens I gie thee,
    Nae doubt I will be there.
  40. 'They'll turn me in your arms, Janet,
    An adder and a snake
    But had me fast, let me not pass,
    Gin ye wad be my maik.
  41. 'They'll turn me in your arms, Janet,
    An adder and an ask ;
    They'll turn me in your arms, Janet,
    A bale that burns fast.
  42. 'They 'II turn me in your arms Janet
    A red-hot gad o airn ;
    But haud me fast, let me not pass,
    For I'll do you no harm.
  43. 'First dip me in a stand o milk,
    And then in a stand o water
    But bad me fast let me not pass,
    I'll be your bairn's father.
  44. 'And next they'll shape me in your arms
    A tod but and an eel
    But had me fast, nor let me gang,
    As you do love me weel.
  45. They'll shape me in your arms, Janet,
    A dove but and a swan,
    And last they 'll shape me in your arms
    A mother-naked man;
    Cast your green mantle over me,
    I'II be myself again.'
  46. Gloomy, gloomy, was the night,
    And eiry was the way,
    As fair Janet, in her green mantle,
    To Miles Cross she did gae.
  47. About the dead hour o the night
    She heard the bridles ring.
    And Janet was as g1ad o that
    As any earthly thing.
  48. And first gae by the black black steed,
    And then gaed by the brown;
    But fast she gript the milk-white steed,
    And pu'd the rider down.
  49. She pu'd him frae the milk-white steed,
    And loot the bridle fa,
    And up there raise an erlish cry,
    He's 'won amang us a'
  50. They shaped him in fair Janet's arms
    An esk but and an adder;
    She held him fast in every shape,
    To be her bairn's father.
  51. They shaped him in her arms at last
    A mother-naked man,
    She wrapt him in her green mantle,
    And sae her true love wan.
  52. Up then spake the Queen o Fairies,
    Out o a bush o broom:
    She that has borrowd young Tamlane
    Has gotten a stately groom.,
  53. Up then spake the Queen o Fairies,
    Out o a bush o rye :
    She's taen awa the bonniest knight
    In a' my cumpanie.
  54. But had I kennd, Tamlane,' she says,
    A lady wad borrowd thee
    I wad taen out thy twa grey een,
    Put in twa een o tree.
  55. Had I but kennd, Tamlane,' she says,
    Before ye came frae hame,
    I wad taen out your heart o flesh,
    Put in a heart o stane.
  56. Had I but had the wit yestreen
    That I hae coft the day,
    I'd paid my kane seven times to bell
    Ere you'd been won away.'

Version Notes

See Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border: Introduction to Tamlane for Scott's commentary on this version.

Added to site: October 1997