Tam Lin Balladry

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Tam Lin: 39A

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

cites: Johnson's Museum, 1729, communicated by Burns

Title: Tam Lin

Site reference number: 1

Summary

The woods of Carterhaugh are guarded by Tam Lin, a man who demands payment of all maidens who pass through, in the form of a belonging or their virginity. A maiden named Janet travels to Carterhaugh and picks a rose, causing Tam Lin to appear. He questions her presence, to which she relies that Carterhaugh is rightfully hers. She then travels to her fathers house where she exhibits the early signs of pregnancy, much to the concern of the household. She states that her lover is elven, and then returns to Carterhaugh, once again encountering Tam Lin. He reveals he is not elven, but a mortal captured by the queen of Faeries, and that he may be sacrificied to hell as part of the faerie tithe. He then details how she can save him to be her mate, if she will undergo a trial on Halloween night. She must pull him from his horse as the faeries process through the woods, and hold onto him as he is transformed into various beasts, then plunge him into a well when he turns into a brand of fire. When he regains his own naked shape she must cover him with her green mantle and he will be free. She does all of this, much to the anger of the watching Queen of faeries.

Tam Lin

  1. O I forbid you, maidens a',
    That wear gowd on your hair,
    To come or gae by Carterhaugh,
    For young Tam Lin is there.
  2. There's nane that gaes by Carterhaugh
    But they leave him a wad,
    Either their rings, or green mantles,
    Or else their maidenhead.
  3. Janet has kilted her green kirtle
    A little aboon her knee,
    And she has broded her yellow hair
    A little aboon her bree,
    And she's awa to Carterhaugh
    As fast as she can hie.
  4. When she came to carterhaugh
    Tam Lin was at the well,
    And there she fand his steed standing,
    But away was himsel.
  5. She had na pu'd a double rose,
    A rose but only twa,
    Till upon then started young Tam Lin,
    Says, Lady, thou's pu nae mae.
  6. Why pu's thou the rose, Janet,
    And why breaks thou the wand?
    Or why comes thou to Carterhaugh
    Withoutten my command?
  7. "Carterhaugh, it is my own,
    My daddy gave it me,
    I'll come and gang by Carterhaugh,
    And ask nae leave at thee."
  8. Janet has kilted her green kirtle
    A little aboon her knee,
    And she has broded her yellow hair
    A little aboon her bree,
    And she is to her father's ha,
    As fast as she can hie.
  9. Four and twenty ladies fair
    Were playing at the ba,
    And out then came the fair Janet,
    The flower among them a'.
  10. Four and twenty ladies fair
    Were playing at the chess,
    And out then came the fair Janet,
    As green as onie glass.
  11. Out then spake an auld grey knight,
    Lay oer the castle wa,
    And says, Alas, fair Janet, for thee,
    But we'll be blamed a'.
  12. "Haud your tongue, ye auld fac'd knight,
    Some ill death may ye die!
    Father my bairn on whom I will,
    I'll father none on thee."
  13. Out then spak her father dear,
    And he spak meek and mild,
    "And ever alas, sweet Janet," he says,
    "I think thou gaest wi child."
  14. "If that I gae wi child, father,
    Mysel maun bear the blame,
    There's neer a laird about your ha,
    Shall get the bairn's name.
  15. "If my love were an earthly knight,
    As he's an elfin grey,
    I wad na gie my ain true-love
    For nae lord that ye hae.
  16. "The steed that my true love rides on
    Is lighter than the wind,
    Wi siller he is shod before,
    Wi burning gowd behind."
  17. Janet has kilted her green kirtle
    A little aboon her knee,
    And she has broded her yellow hair
    A little aboon her bree,
    And she's awa to Carterhaugh
    As fast as she can hie.
  18. When she came to Carterhaugh,
    Tam Lin was at the well,
    And there she fand his steed standing,
    But away was himsel.
  19. She had na pu'd a double rose,
    A rose but only twa,
    Till up then started young Tam Lin,
    Says, Lady, thou pu's nae mae.
  20. "Why pu's thou the rose, Janet,
    Amang the groves sae green,
    And a' to kill the bonny babe
    That we gat us between?"
  21. "O tell me, tell me, Tam Lin," she says,
    "For's sake that died on tree,
    If eer ye was in holy chapel,
    Or christendom did see?"
  22. "Roxbrugh he was my grandfather,
    Took me with him to bide
    And ance it fell upon a day
    That wae did me betide.
  23. "And ance it fell upon a day
    A cauld day and a snell,
    When we were frae the hunting come,
    That frae my horse I fell,
    The Queen o' Fairies she caught me,
    In yon green hill do dwell.
  24. "And pleasant is the fairy land,
    But, an eerie tale to tell,
    Ay at the end of seven years,
    We pay a tiend to hell,
    I am sae fair and fu o flesh,
    I'm feard it be mysel.
  25. "But the night is Halloween, lady,
    The morn is Hallowday,
    Then win me, win me, an ye will,
    For weel I wat ye may.
  26. "Just at the mirk and midnight hour
    The fairy folk will ride,
    And they that wad their true-love win,
    At Miles Cross they maun bide."
  27. "But how shall I thee ken, Tam Lin,
    Or how my true-love know,
    Amang sa mony unco knights,
    The like I never saw?"
  28. "O first let pass the black, lady,
    And syne let pass the brown,
    But quickly run to the milk-white steed,
    Pu ye his rider down.
  29. "For I'll ride on the milk-white steed,
    And ay nearest the town,
    Because I was an earthly knight
    They gie me that renown.
  30. "My right hand will be gloved, lady,
    My left hand will be bare,
    Cockt up shall my bonnet be,
    And kaimed down shall my hair,
    And thae's the takens I gie thee,
    Nae doubt I will be there.
  31. "They'll turn me in your arms, lady,
    Into an esk and adder,
    But hold me fast, and fear me not,
    I am your bairn's father.
  32. "They'll turn me to a bear sae grim,
    And then a lion bold,
    But hold me fast, and fear me not,
    And ye shall love your child.
  33. "Again they'll turn me in your arms
    To a red het gand of airn,
    But hold me fast, and fear me not,
    I'll do you nae harm.
  34. "And last they'll turn me in your arms
    Into the burning gleed,
    Then throw me into well water,
    O throw me in with speed.
  35. "And then I'll be your ain true-love,
    I'll turn a naked knight,
    Then cover me wi your green mantle,
    And hide me out o sight."
  36. Gloomy, gloomy was the night,
    And eerie was the way,
    As fair Jenny in her green mantle
    To Miles Cross she did gae.
  37. At the mirk and midnight hour
    She heard the bridles sing,
    She was as glad at that
    As any earthly thing.
  38. First she let the black pass by,
    And syne she let the brown,
    But quickly she ran to the milk-white steed,
    And pu'd the rider down.
  39. Sae weel she minded what he did say,
    And young Tam Lin did win,
    Syne covered him wi her green mantle,
    As blythe's a bird in spring
  40. Out then spak the Queen o Fairies,
    Out of a bush o broom,
    "Them that has gotten young Tam Lin
    Has gotten a stately-groom."
  41. Out then spak the Queen o Fairies,
    And an angry woman was she,
    "Shame betide her ill-far'd face,
    And an ill death may she die,
    For she's taen awa the bonniest knight
    In a' my companie.
  42. "But had I kend, Tam Lin," said she,
    "What now this night I see,
    I wad hae taen out thy twa grey een,
    And put in twa een o tree."

Version Notes

This is the best known version of Tam Lin. Much of the analysis on the rest of this site is based on this version.

If you're finding this version hard to read, you can either read other versions or you can read a translation of this one.

Added to site: September 1997