Tam Lin Balladry

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Tam Lin: 39J

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

cites: 'The Queen of the Fairies,' Macmath MS., p. 57

Title: Young Tamlane

Site reference number: 10


A maiden dressed in black travels to Katherine's hall to gather flowers, where she encounters Thomas, who chastises her and has his way with her. She in turns demands to know his identity. He reveals himself as a nobleman's son stolen by the fairies, and instructs her on how he may be saved, if she will take a bible and a holy water to intercept the fairy troop. During the struggle for him the Queen informs her that had she waited a day it would have been too late to save him, and then begins the series of transformations. The maiden holds him as he transforms, and then after he is won takes him home to clothe him in bright armour.

Tam Lin

  1. The maid that sits in Katherine's Hall,
    Clad in her robes so black,
    She has to yon garden gone,
    For flowers to flower her hat.
  2. She had not pulled the red, red rose,
    A double rose but three,
    When up there starts a gentleman,
    Just at this lady's knee.
  3. Says, Who 's this pulls the red, red rose
    Breaks branches off the tree?
    Or who's this treads my garden-grass,
    Without the leave of me?
  4. "Yes, I will pull the red, red rose,
    Break branches off the tree,
    This garden in Moorcartney wood,
    Without the leave o thee.'
  5. Hae took her by the milk-white hand
    And gently laid her down,
    Just in below some shady trees
    Where the green leaves hung down.
  6. "Come tell to me, kind sir,' she said,
    "What before you never told ;
    Are you an earthly man? ' said she,
    A knight or a baron bold?'
  7. 'I'll tell to you, fair lady,' he said,
    'What before I neer did tell;
    I'm Earl Douglas's second son,
    With the queen of the fairies I dwell.
  8. "When rifling through yon forest-wood,
    And by yon grass-green well,
    sudden sleep me overtook,
    And off my steed I fell.
  9. "The queen of the fairies, being there,
    Made me with her to dwell, '
    And still once in the seven years
    We pay a teind to hell.
  10. "And because I am an earthly man,
    Myself doth greatly fear,
    For the cleverest man in all our train
    To Pluto must go this year.
  11. "This night is Halloween, lady,
    And the fairies they will ride
    The maid that will her true-love win
    At Miles Cross she may bide.'
  12. "But how shall I thee ken, though, sir?
    Or how shall I thee know,
    Amang a pack o hellish wraiths,
    Before I never saw?
  13. "Some rides upon a black horse, lady,
    And some upon a brown,
    But I myself on a milk-white steed,
    And I aye nearest the toun.
  14. "My right hand shall be covered, lady,
    My left hand shall be bare,
    And that's a token good enough,
    That you will find me there.
  15. "Take the Bible in your right hand,
    With God for to be your guide,
    Take holy water in thy left hand,
    And throw it on every side.'
  16. She's taen her mantle her about,
    A cane into her hand,
    And she has unto Miles Cross gone,
    As hard as she can gang
  17. First she has letten the black pass by,
    And then she has letten the brown,
    But she's taen a fast hold o the milk-white steed,
    And she's pulled Earl Thomas doun.
  18. The queen of the fairies being there,
    Sae loud she 's letten a cry
    The maid that sits in Katherine's Hall
    This night has gotten her prey.
  19. 'But hadst thou waited, fair lady,
    Till about this time the morn,
    He would hae been as far from thee or me
    As the wind that blew when he was born.'
  20. They turned him in this lady's arms
    Like the adder and the snake;
    She held him fast; why should she not?
    though her poor heart was like to break.
  21. They turned him in this lady's arms
    Like two red gads of airn;
    She held him fast; why should she not?
    She knew they could do her no harm.'
  22. They turned him in this lady's arms
    Like to all things that was vile;
    She held him fast; why should she not?
    The father of her child.
  23. They turned him in this lady's arms
    Like to a naked knight;
    She 'a taen him hame to her ain bower,
    And clothed him in armour bright.

Version Notes

This version was not included in the initial volume of Child's Ballads, but appears in fragments in the additions and corrections to volumes I and II

Notes from Child's text:

"Taken down by me 14th October, 1886, from the recitation of Mr Alexander Kirk, Inspector of Poor, Dalry, in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright, who learned it about fifty years ago from the singing of David Ray, Barlay, Balmaclellan."

This copy has been considerably made over, and was very likely learned from print. The cane in the maid's hand, already sufficiently occupied, either with the Bible or with holy water, is an imbecility such as only the "makers" of latter days are capable of. (There is a cane in another ballad which I cannot at this moment recall.)

Added to site: October 1997