Tam Lin Balladry

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Tam Lin: William Aytoun

Source: The Ballads of Scotland, Vol. II by William Edmonstoune Aytoun, 1858

cites: Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border by Sir Walter Scott
A New Book of Old Ballads by Mr. Maidment

Title: Tamlane

Site reference number: 43


Maidens are forbidden to go to Caterhaugh for fear of Tam Lin. Janet goes to Carterhaugh by moonlight to pluck roses. She meets Tam Lin, they argue, he lays her down among the flowers. Afterwards, she asks his name, at which point he reveals his heritage and reminds her that they knew each other as children. He was captured by the faeries, and would remain among them, except they perform sacrifices to hell and he fears he will be next. He instructs her to go to Miles Cross, bringing holy water. The faerie troop will come by, and he will be on a white steed among the green clad riders. She must hold on to him through transformations. She does so, and the Queen of Faeries wishes she'd taken out his eyes for eyes of wood, and his heart for a heart of stone, or paid the tithe to hell seven times before losing him.


  1. " O I forbid ye, maidens a',
    That bind in snood your hair,
    To come or gae by Carterhaugh,
    For young Tamlane is there."
  2. Fair Janet sat within her bower,
    Sewing her silken seam,
    And fain would be at Carterhaugh,
    Amang the leaves sae green.
  3. She's prink'd hersell, and preen'd hersell,
    By the ae light o' the moon,
    And she's awa to Carterhaugh,
    As fast as she could gang.
  4. She hadna pu'd a red red rose,
    A rose but barely three,
    When up and starts the young Tamlane,
    Says, " Lady, let a-be !
  5. " What gars ye pu' the rose, Janet ?
    What gars ye break the tree ?
    Or why come ye to Carterhaugh,
    Without the leave o' me ?"
  6. " O I will pu' the flowers," she said,
    " And I will break the tree ;
    For Carterhaugh it is my ain,
    I'll ask nae leave of thee."
  7. He took her by the milk-white hand,
    And by the grass-green sleeve,
    And laid her down upon the flowers,
    Nor ever asked her leave.
  8. " Now ye maun tell the truth," she said,
    " A word ye maunna lie ;
    O, were ye ever in haly chapel,
    Or sained in Christentie ?''
  9. " The truth I'll tell to thee, Janet,
    A word I winna lie ;
    I was ta'en to the good church-door,
    And sained as well as thee.
  10. " Randolph, Earl Murray, was my sire,
    Dunbar, Earl March, was thine ;
    We loved when we were children small,
    Which still you yet may mind.
  11. " When I was a boy just turned of nine,
    My uncle sent for me,
    To hunt, and hawk, and ride with him,
    And keep him companie.
  12. " There came a wind out of the north,
    A sharp wind and a snell,
    And a dead sleep came over me,
    And frae my horse I fell ;
    The Queen of Fairies she was there,
    And took me to hersell.
  13. " And never would I tire, Janet,
    In fairy-land to dwell,
    But aye, at every seven years,
    They pay the teind to hell ;
    And I'm sae fat and fair of flesh,
    I fear 'twill be mysell !
  14. " The morn at e'en is Hallowe'en,
    Our fairy court will ride,
    Through England and through Scotland baith,
    And through the warld sae wide,
    And if that ye wad borrow me,
    At Miles Cross ye maun bide.
  15. " And ye maun gae to the Miles Moss,
    Between twelve hours and one,
    Tak' haly water in your hand,
    And cast a compass roun'."
  16. " And how shall I ken thee, Tamlane ?
    And how shall I thee knaw,
    Amang the throng o' fairy folk,
    The like I never saw ?"
  17. " The first court that comes along,
    Ye'll let them a' pass by ;
    The neist court that comes along
    Salute them reverently.
  18. " The third court that comes along
    Is clad in robes o' green,
    And it's the head court of them a',
    And in it rides the Queen.
  19. " And I upon a milk-white steed,
    Wi' a gold star in my crown ;
    Because I am a christened man,
    They give me that renown.
  20. " Ye'll seize upon me with a spring,
    And to the ground I'll fa',
    And then ye'll hear an elrish cry
    That Tamlane is awa'.
  21. " They'll turn me in your arms, Janet,
    An adder and a snake ;
    But haud me fast, let me not pass,
    Gin ye wad be my maik.
  22. " They'll turn me in your arms, Janet,
    An adder and an aske,
    They'll turn me in your arms, Janet,
    A bale that burns fast.
  23. " 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
    And sae shall I be wan !"
  24. Gloomy, gloomy was the night,
    And eerie was the way,
    As fair Janet, in her green mantle,
    To Miles Cross she did gae.
  25. There's haly water in her hand,
    She casts a compass round ;
    And straight she sees a fairy band
    Come riding o'er the mound.
  26. And first gaed 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.
  27. She pu'd him frae the milk-white steed,
    And loot the bridle fa' ;
    And up their raise an elrish cry :
    " He's won amang us a' !"
  28. They shaped him in fair Janet's arms,
    An aske, but and an adder;
    She held him fast in every shape,
    To be her ain true lover.
  29. They shaped him in her arms at last
    A mother-naked man,
    She cuist her mantle over him,
    And sae her true love wan.
  30. Up then spake the Queen o' Fairies,
    Out of a bush o' broom :
    " She that has borrowed young Tamlane,
    Has gotten a stately groom !"
  31. Up then spake the Queen o' Fairies
    Out of a bush of rye :
    " She's ta'en away the bonniest knight
    In a' my companie !
  32. " But had I kenned, Tamlane," she says,
    " A lady would borrow thee,
    I wad hae ta'en out thy twa grey e'en,
    Put in twa e'en o' tree !
  33. " Had I but kenned, Tamlane," she says,
    " Before ye came frae hame,
    I wad hae ta'en out your heart of flesh,
    Put in a heart o' stane !
  34. " Had I but had the wit yestreen
    That I hae coft this day,
    I'd hae paid my kane seven times to hell
    Ere you'd been won away !"

Version Notes

From Ayoun' text:

The following version of this curious old fairy ballad differs materially from that inserted by Sir Walter Scott in the "Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border," which contains a number of verses avowedly modern, and others which I strongly suspect to have been interpolated at a much earlier period. I have excised all doubtful stanza- I venture to think to the decided improvement of the ballad- and I have added nothing for which I have not warrant in other versions. In the task of collation I have derived much assistance from a fragment given by Mr Maidment, in a little volume entitled "A New Book of Old Ballads," which was printed at Edinburgh in 1843, for private circulation.

The ballad belongs to Selkirkshire, and is of undoubted antiquity, being mentioned in the "Complaynt of Scotland," printed at St. Andrews in 1549

Although Ayoun cites Maidment as a primary source for this version, it still differs in several places from Child's 39D, from the same source.

Added to site: October 2014