Tam Lin Balladry

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Tam Lin: Child's Notes Version

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

cites: various

Title: Tam Lein

Site reference number: 12


Ladies are warned against going to Carterhaugh for fear of Tam Lien. Janet (or Jenet) bets she can go and return a maid, so she dresses in green and goes off to the woods. She pulls a rose, causing Tam Lien to appear. He challenges her, she challenges him, he takes her by the hand and lays her down. She returns home, where her father notices she looks pale and green, and asks her if she is with child by Tamlane. None months later, she dresses in green and goes back to the woods. She finds Tam-lane sleeping there. He tells her how he was taken by the faeries, and the pleasures of the faerie realm, but that unless she captures him that night, he's gone for seven years. He instructs her how to capture him away from the faeries, including holding him as he transforms and passes through her clothing. She follows his instructions, and wins him away. The faerie Queen praises him as her fairest knight. Janet returns home with Tam Lin, running into her uncle on the way, and finally shows him to her father, to her father's delight.

Tam Lin

  1. I charge ye, a' ye ladies fair,
    That wear goud in your hair,
    To come an gang bye Carterhaugh,
    For young Tam Lien is there.
  2. I'll wager, I'll wager, I'll wager wi you
    Five hunder merk and ten,
    I'll maiden gang to Carterhaugb,
    And maiden come again.
  3. She princked hersell, and prin'd hersell,
    By the ae light of the moon,
    And she's away to Carterhaugh
    As fast as she could win.
  4. Then Janet kilted her green cleadin
    A wee aboon her knee,
    An she's gane away to Carterhaugh,
    As fast as she can dree.
  5. When Janet cam to Carterhaugh,
    Tam Lien was at the wall,
    An there he left his steed stannin,
    But away he gaed his sell.
  6. She had na pu'd a red, red rose,
    Arose but only thre,
    Till up then startit young Tam Lien,
    Just at young Jenet's knee.
  7. "What gars ye pu the rose, Janet,
    Briek branches free the tree,
    An come an gang by Carterhaugh,
    An speir nae leave of me?'
  8. "What need I speir leave o thee, Tam ?
    What need I speir leave o thee,
    When Carterhaugh is a' mine
    My father gas it me ?
  9. He's taen her by the milk-white hand,
    And by the grass-green sleeve,
    He's led her to the fairy ground,
    And spierd at her nae leave.
  10. Gowd rings I can buy, Thomas,
    Green mantles I can spin,
    But gin ye take my maidenheid
    I'll neer get that again.'
  11. She's kiltit up her green cleadin
    Awee aboon her knee,
    An she's away to her ain bower-door,
    As fast as she can dree.
  12. There war four-an-twentie fair ladies
    A' dancin in a chess,
    An some war blue an some war green,
    But Janet was like the gress.
  13. There war four-an-twentie fair ladies
    A' playin at the ha,
    An some war red an som wer white,
    But Jennet was like the snaw.
  14. 'Is it to a man of might, Janet,
    Or is it to a man o mean ?
    Or is it unto Young Tamlane,
    That 's wi the fairies gane
  15. ."Twas down by Carterhaugh, father,
    I walked beside the wa,
    And there I saw a wee, wee man,
    The least that eer I saw.'
  16. Janet 's put on her green cleicling,
    When near nine months were gane,
    And she's awa, to Carterhaugh,
    To speak wi young Tamlane
  17. And she's away to Carterhaugh,
    And gaed beside the wood,
    And there was sleeping young Tam-lane,
    And his steed beside him stood.
  18. My father was a noble knight,
    And was much gi'n'to play,
    And I myself a bonny boy,
    And followed him away.
  19. He rowd me in his hunting-coat
    And layd me down to sleep,
    And by the queen of fairies came,
    And took me up to keep.
  20. She set me on a milk-white steed;
    It was o the elfin kind;
    His feet were shot wi beaten good,
    And fleeter than the wind.
  21. "But we that live in Fairy-land
    No sickness know nor pain;
    I quit my body when I will,
    And take to it again.
  22. "I quit my body when I please,
    Or unto it repair;
    We can inhabit at our ease
    In either earth or air.
  23. 'Our shapes and size we can convert
    To either large or small;
    An old nut-shell's the same to us
    As is the lofty hall.
  24. We sleep in rose-buds soft and sweet
    We revel in the stream;
    We wanton lightly on the wind
    Or glide on a sunbeam.
  25. "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.'
  26. "And pleasant are our fairie sports,
    We flie o'er hill and dale;
    But at the end of seven years
    They pay the teen to hell.
  27. "And now's the time, at Hallowmess,
    Late on the morrow's even,
    And if ye miss me then, Janet,
    I 'm lost for yearis seven.'
  28. 'The night, the night is Halloween,
    Tomorrow's Hallowday,
    'The night, the night is Halloween,
    Our seely court maun ride,
    Thro England and thro Ireland both,
    And a' the warld wide.
  29. "The firsten court that comes ye bye,
    You'll lout, and let them gae ;
    The seconden court that comes you bye,
    You'll hail them reverently.
  30. "The thirden court that comes you by,
    Sae weel's ye will me ken,
    For some will be on a black, a black,
    And some will be on a brown,
    But I will be on a bluid-red steed,
    And will ride neist the queen.
  31. 'The thirden court that comes you bye,
    Sae weel's ye will me ken,
    For I 'll be on a bluid-red steed,
    Wi three stars on his crown.
  32. 'Ye 'll tak the horse head in yer hand,
    And grip the bridle fast;
    The Queen o Elfin will gie a cry,
    " True Tamas is stown awa ! "
  33. 'And I will grow in your twa hands
    An adder and an eel;
    But the grip ye get ye'll hold it fast,
    I 'll be father to yer chiel.
  34. 'I will wax in your twa hans
    As hot as any coal;
    But if you love me as you say,
    You'll think of me and thole.
  35. 'O I will grow in your twa hands
    An add'er and a snake;
    The grip ye get now hold it fast,
    And I'll be your world's mait.
  36. 'I'll grow into your arms two
    Like ice on frozen lake ;
    But hold me fast, let me not go,
    Or from your goupen break.'
  37. "0 I'll gae in at your gown sleeve,
    And out at your gown hem,
    And I 'II stand up before thee then
    A freely naked man.
  38. 'O I 'll gae in at your gown sleeve,
    And out at your gown hem,
    And I'll stand before you then,
    But claithing I'll hae nane.
  39. 'Ye'll do you down to Carden's Ha,
    And down to Carden's stream,
    And there you'll see our seely court,
    As they come riding hame.'
  40. And it's next night into Miles Moss
    Fair Margaret has gone,
    When lo she stands beside Rides Cross,
    Between twelve hours and one.
  41. The heavens were black, the night was dark, '
    And dreary was the place,
    But Janet stood with eager wish
    Her lover to embrace.
  42. Betwixt the hours of twelve and one
    A north wind tore the bent,
    And straight she heard strange elritch sounds
    Upon that wind which went.
  43. There 's holy water in her hand,
    She casts a compass round,
    And presently a fairy band
    Comes riding o'er the mound.
  44. Their oaten pipes blew wondrous shrill,
    The hemlock small blew clear,
    And louder notes from hemlock large,
    And bog-reed, struck the ear ;
    But solemn sounds, or sober thoughts,
    The fairies cannot bear.
  45. They sing, inspired with love and joy,
    Like skylarks in the air;
    Of solid sense, or thought that's grave,
    You'll find no traces there.
  46. Fair Janet stood, with mind unmoved,
    The dreary heath upon,
    And louder, louder waxd the sound
    As they came riding on.
  47. Will o Wisp before them went,
    Sent forth a twinkling light,
    And soon she saw the fairy bands
    All riding in her sight.
  48. Out and spak the queen o fairies,
    Out o a shot o wheat,
    She that has gotten young Tamlane
    Has gotten my heart's delight.'
  49. Fair Janet, in her green cleiding,
    Returned upon the morn,
    And she met her father's as brother,
    The laird of Abercorn
  50. 'It's nae wonder, my daughter Janet,
    True Tammas ye thought on;
    An he were a woman as he's a man,
    My bedfellow he should be.'

Version Notes

Child's notes contained a number of variant or additonal verses which were unknown at the time of the initial compilation, too fragmented to be included in the main text, or corrupted inclusions from other ballads. His additions and corrections also included three versions of the ballad that were, in my view, too flawed to be included in the numbered versions. 39M had very little to do with the ballad of Tam Lin but instead resembled the ballad of Thomas the Rhymer with two or three verses of Tam Lin thrown in, while 39N was all of two verses in length. 39L was rejected on less defensable grounds, in that it included Janet's initial encounter with Tam Lin and her pregnancy upod returning home, but went no further (it runs roughly up to the thirteenth stanza above). I could not bring myself to include a version with no hope of salvation included.

Rather that attempt to incorporate the notes into the pages for the other versions, I've stitched the verses together here to form an almost; complete version of Tam Lin based on left over pieces of the others. I've left out a few of the additional verses (mainly the aforementioned pieces lifted from Thomas the Rhymer) and re-arranged the others to try to fill in the gaps. There are changes in names, and tones, so all together this version is quite strange. Note that the rather odd final stanza also occurs in the ballad "William O Winsbury".

The verses listed in Child's Notes and not given their own letter designation can also be seen in Child's Notes (link coming soon)s.

The original, separate, lettered versions are also available:

Added to site: April 1998