Tam Lin Balladry

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Tam Lin: Jennifer Holm

Source: Jennifer Holm

Title: Tam-Lin

Site reference number: 14


Despite (or because of) dire warnings about Tam-Lin and his propensity to de-flower maidens, Janet travels to Carterhaugh to pluck flowers. There she summons him, and they argue over rights and priviledges, at which point he deflowers her. She returns home, looking ill and pale, and neglects her appearance. One of the knights guesses that she is pregnant, and she angrily asserts that she is, but to a fine man. She then returns to Carterhaugh, and summons Tam Lin again. At this point he informs her of his heritage and his coming sacrifice, as well as the joys of Faerie-land, and instructs her on how she may save him. She follows his instructions, pulling him from out of the faerie troop on halloween night and holding onto him as he transformsl, rescuing him much to the anger of the Queen of faeries.

Tam Lin

  1. Oh, I forbid you, maidens all
    That wear gold on your hair,
    To come or go by Carterhaugh,
    For young Tam-Lin is there.
  2. There's none that goes by Carterhaugh
    But must leave him a wad;
    Either gold ring, or green mantles,
    Or else their maidenhead.
  3. Now gold rings ye may buy, maidens,
    Green mantles ye may spin;
    But, if you lose your maidenhead,
    you'll ne'er get that again.
  4. But up spoke her, fair Janet,
    The fairest of all her kin;
    I'll come and go to Carterhaugh,
    And ask no leave of him.
  5. Janet has belted her green kirtle,
    A little around her knee,
    And braided her yellow hair,
    A little around her bree.
  6. And to the wood of Carterhaugh
    She traveled forth alone,
    To pull the roses from the tree,
    In spite of young Tam-lin.
  7. And when she came to Carterhaugh,
    She went beside the well,
    And there she found his steed standing,
    But away was himsel'
  8. She had not plucked a red red rose
    A rose but barely three,
    Till up then started young Tam-Lin
    At Lady Janet's knee.
  9. Why plucks thou the rose Janet,
    And why breaks thou the tree?
    Or why come ye to Carterhaugh
    Without asking leave of me?
  10. Carterhaugh it is my own
    My da gave it to me,
    I'll come and go by Carterhaugh
    And ask no leave of thee.
  11. He took her by the milk-white hand,
    Amoung the leaves so green,
    And what they did I cannot tell--
    The green leaves were between.
    He took her by the milk-white hand,
    Amoung the roses red;
    And what they did, I cannot say--
    She ne'er returned a maid.
  12. When she came to her father's hall,
    She looked so pale and wan,
    They thought she had some strange sickness,
    or been with some leman.
  13. She didna comb her yellow hair,
    Nor make meikle o'er her head,
    An ill thing that the lady took,
    Was like to be her death.
  14. Four and twenty ladies fair,
    Were playing at the chess,
    And out then came fair Janet,
    as green as onie glass.
  15. Out then spoke an old grey knight,
    Lay o'er the castle wall--
    And says Alas! For thee Janet,
    But we'll be blamed all!
  16. Hold your tongue, ye old grey knight,
    Some ill death may you die,
    Father my bairn on whom I will,
    I'll father none on thee.
  17. Out then spoke her father dear,
    And he spoke meek and mild--
    And ever, alas! My sweet Janet,
    I think thou art with child.
  18. If that I am with child, father,
    Myself must bear the blame,
    There's not a lord about your hall
    Shall get the bairnie's name.
  19. And if I be with child, father,
    'Twill prove a wondrous birth,
    For I will swear I'm not with child
    To any man on Earth.
  20. If my love were an earthly knight,
    As he's a elfin grey,
    I would not give my own true love,
    For any lord you say.
  21. The steed that my true love rides on,
    Is lighter than the wind,
    With silver he is shod before,
    With burning gold behind.
  22. Janet has kilted her green kirtle,
    A little around her knee,
    And she has snooded her yellow hair
    A little about her bree.
    And she's away to Carterhaugh,
    As fast as she can be.
  23. And when she came to Carterhaugh,
    She went beside the well,
    And there she found his steed standing,
    But away was himsel'
  24. She had not plucked a red red rose
    A rose but barely three,
    Till up then started young Tam-Lin
    At Lady Janet's knee.
  25. Why plucks thou the rose Janet,
    Amoung the leaves so green,
    And all to kill the bonny babe,
    That we got us between.
  26. The truth you'll tell to me Tam-Lin,
    For's sake that died on tree,
    If ever you were in holy chapel,
    Or Christendom did see.
  27. The truth I'll tell to thee Janet,
    A word I will not lie'
    A knight me got, 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 turned of nine,
    My uncle sent for me,
    To hunt, to hawk, and ride with him,
    And keep him company.
  30. There came a wind out of the north,
    A sharp wind and a snell,
    A dead sleep then came over me,
    And from my horse I fell
  31. The Queen of Faeries caught me,
    And took me to hersel',
    And ever since, in yon green hill,
    With her I'm bound to dwell.
  32. And we that live in faeryland,
    No sickness know, nor pain,
    I quit my body when I will,
    And take to it again.
  33. I quit my body when I please,
    Or unto it repair,
    We can inhabit at our ease,
    In either earth or air.
  34. Our shapes and sizes we can convert,
    To either large or small,
    An old nut shell's the same to us
    as is the lofty hall.
    We sleep in rosebuds soft and sweet,
    We revel in the stream,
    We wanton lightly on the wind,
    Or glide on a sunbeam.
  35. And all our wants are well supplied
    From every rich man's store,
    Who thankless sins the gifts he gets,
    And vainly grasps for more.
  36. And it is such a bonny place,
    And I like it so well,
    That I would never tire, Janet,
    In faeryland to dwell.
  37. But aye, at every seven years,
    They pay the tiend to hell,
    And I'm so fair and full of flesh,
    I fear 'twill be mysel'.
  38. This night is Hallow-e'en, Janet,
    The morn' is Hallow-day,
    And if ye dare your true love win,
    Ye haven't time to stay.
  39. The night it is good Hallow-e'en,
    When faery folk will ride,
    And she that would her true love win,
    At Miles Cross she must bide.
  40. And how shal thee I ken, Tam-Lin?
    And how shall thee I know,
    Amoung so many faery folk,
    The like I never saw?
  41. The first company that passes by,
    Stand still and let them go,
    The next company that passes by,
    Stand still and do right so.
  42. The third company that passes by
    All clad in robes of green,
    It is the head one of them all
    For in it rides the queen.
  43. I'll there ride ride on the milk-white steed,
    With a gold star in my crown,
    Because I was an earthly knight,
    They give me that renown.
    First let pass the black Janet,
    And then let pass the brown,
    But grip ye to the milk-white steed,
    And pull the rider down.
  44. My right hand will be gloved, Janet,
    My left hand will be bare,
    And these the tokens I give to thee,
    If ye would win me there.
  45. They'll turn me in your arms, lady,
    Into an esk and adder,
    But hold me fast, don't let me pass,
    I am your bairn's father.
  46. They'll turn me into a bear so grim,
    And then a lion bold,
    But hold me fast, and fear me not,
    As ye shall love your child.
  47. Again they'll turn me in your arms,
    Into a red hot brand of iron,
    But hold me fast, let me not pass,
    I'll do to you no harm.
  48. First dip me in a stand o' milk,
    And then in a stand of water,
    But hold me fast, let me not pass--
    I'll be your bairn's father.
  49. They'll shape me in your arms, Janet,
    A dove and then a swan,
    At last they'll shape me in your arms
    A mother naked man.
  50. Cast your green mantle over me,
    I'll be myself again,
    Cast your green mantle over me,
    And so I will be won.
  51. Gloomy, gloomy was the night,
    And eerie was the way
    As fair Janet, in her green mantle,
    To Miles Cross she did gae.
  52. The heavens were black, the night was dark,
    And dreary was the place,
    But Janet stood with eager wish,
    Her lover to embrace.
  53. Betwixt the hours of twelve and one,
    A northwind tore the bent,
    And straight she heard the elfish sounds,
    Upon that wind which went.
  54. About that dread hour of the night,
    She heard the bridles ring,
    And Janet was as glad of that,
    As any earthly thing.
  55. Their oaten pipes blew wondrous shrill,
    The hemlock small blew clear,
    And louder notes from hemlocks large
    And bog-reed struck the ear,
  56. Fair Janet, stood, with mind unmoved,
    The dreay heath upon,
    And louder, louder waxed the sound,
    As they came riding on.
  57. Will of the Wisp before them went,
    Sent forth a twinkling light,
    And soon she saw the faery bands
    All riding in her sight.
  58. First she let the black pass by,
    And then she let the brown,
    But fast she gripped the milk-white steed,
    And pulled the rider down.
  59. She pulled him from the milk-white steed,
    And let the bridle fall,
    And up there raise an elritch cry--
    He's won amoung us all!
  60. They shaped him in fair Janets arms
    An esk, and then an adder,
    She held him fast in every shape--
    To be her bairn's father.
  61. They shaped him in her arms at last,
    A mother naked man,
    She wrapped him in her green mantle,
    And so her true love won!
  62. Up then spoke the Faery Queen,
    Out of a bush of broom--
    She that has borrowed young Tam-Lin,
    has got a stately groom.
    Up then spoke the Faery Queen
    Out of a bush of rye--
    She has ta'en away the bonniest knight
    In all my company.
  63. But had I known Tam-Lin, she says
    What now this night I see,
    I would have taken thy two grey eyes,
    And turned thee to a tree.
  64. Oh had I known, Tam-Lin, she says
    Before ye came from home,
    I would ta'en your heart o' flesh,
    Put in a heart o' stone.
  65. Had I but the wit yestereen
    That I have bought today--
    I'd pay my tiend seven times to hell
    Ere you'd been won away,
    My love,
    Ere you'd been won away!

Version Notes

This version comes to me from Jennifer Holm. Jennifer created this version for fun based on the others she had read or heard, and attempted to combine them and translate them, with this version being the end result.

Added to site: September 1997