Tam Lin Balladry

A website of folklore and discovery.

Tam Lin: Joseph Kesselman

Source: Joseph Kesselman

cites: Joseph Kesselman

Title: Tam Lin

Site reference number: 22


Janet goes to Carterhaugh despite the warnings against it, to pick roses. There she encounters Tam Lin, and they argue. She returns to her family home, where her father observes that she is pregnant, and she refuses to say who her lover is. She returns to the woods to speak with Tam Lin again, and he reveals his human heritage and the threat against his life, including instructions on how she can save him. She does this, and angers the Queen of Faeries in the process.

Tam Lin

  1. Listen to me, ladies all
    Listen and beware
    Go ye not by Carter Hall
    For young Tam Lin is there
  2. None may pass by Carter Hall
    Save they leave him a pledge
    Either of their mantles green
    Or else their maidenhead
  3. Janet has tied her kirtle green
    A bit above her knee
    And she'd gone to Carter Hall
    As fast as go can she
  4. She has plucked the double rose
    A rose but only two
    When up steps young Tam Lin
    Says, "Lady, pull no more
  5. "And why come you to Carter Hall
    Without command from me?"
    "I come and go as I please," young Janet says,
    "And ask no leave of thee."
  6. Janet has tied her kirtle green
    A bit above her knee
    And she'd gone to her father
    As fast as go can she
  7. Then up spoke her father dear,
    And he spoke meek and mild
    "Ah, my dear Janet," he said,
    "I fear you go with child."
  8. "If that be so," young Janet said,
    "Myself shall bear the blame
    There's not a knight in all your halls
    That shares my baby's name.
  9. "If my love were an earthly knight,
    As he is elfin grey
    Still I'd not change my own true love
    For any knight you hae"
  10. Janet has tied her kirtle green
    A bit above her knee
    And she's gone to Carter Hall
    As fast as go can she.
  11. "Oh tell to me Tam Lin she said
    Why came you here to dwell"
    "The Fairy Queen caught me," he said,
    "When from my horse I fell.
  12. "And at the end of seven years
    She pays a tithe to hell
    I so fair and full of flesh
    Am feared it is myself.
  13. "But tonight is Halloween
    And the fairy court does ride
    She who would her true love win,
    At Miles' Cross she must hide
  14. First let pass the horses black
    And then let pass the brown
    Quickly run to the white steed
    And pull the rider down
  15. For I shall ride on the white steed,
    The nearest to the town
    Since I was an earthly knight,
    They give me that renown
  16. And they will turn me in your arms
    Into a newt or a snake
    Hold me tight and fear not,
    I am thy baby's father.
  17. And they will turn me in your arms
    Into a lion bold
    Hold me tight and fear not
    And you will love your child
  18. And they will turn me in your arms
    Into a naked knight
    Wrap me in your mantle green
    And keep me safe from sight
  19. And it was near the middle night
    She heard the bridle ring
    She heeded what he did say
    And Tam Lin she did win
  20. Then up spoke the fairy queen
    And an angry queen was she
    If I'd known what would happen, young Tam Lin...
    I'd have turned ye to a tree!

Version Notes

This version comes to me from Joseph Kesselman (website was http://members.tripod.com/~keshlam) , who learned the ballad many years ago and has adapted it as he has played it. He was kind enough to send it to me after I asked him about it, recorded here for the first time. His version is fairly close to the fairport convention version, but some alterations have occured over years of playing. I have included it both because it does have a few differences, and as an example of how a ballad changes as it is passed along.

Added to site: May 1998