Verse > Anthologies > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Ballads
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CONTENTS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. (1863–1944).  The Oxford Book of Ballads.  1910.
 
2. Tam Lin
 
 
I

‘O I FORBID you, maidens a’,
  That wear gowd on your hair,
To come or gae by Carterhaugh,
  For young Tam Lin is there.
 
II

‘For even about that knight’s middle
        5
  O’ siller bells are nine;
And nae maid comes to Carterhaugh
  And a maid returns again.’
 
III

Fair Janet sat in her bonny bower,
  Sewing her silken seam,        10
And wish’d to be in Carterhaugh
  Amang the leaves sae green.
 
IV

She’s lat her seam fa’ to her feet,
  The needle to her tae,
And she’s awa’ to Carterhaugh        15
  As fast as she could gae.
 
V

And she has kilted her green kirtle
  A little abune her knee;
And she has braided her yellow hair
  A little abune her bree;        20
And she has gaen for Carterhaugh
  As fast as she can hie.
 
VI

She hadna pu’d a rose, a rose,
  A rose but barely ane,
When up and started young Tam Lin;        25
  Says, ‘Ladye, let alane.
 
VII

‘What gars ye pu’ the rose, Janet?
  What gars ye break the tree?
What gars ye come to Carterhaugh
  Without the leave o’ me?’        30
 
VIII

‘Weel may I pu’ the rose,’ she says,
  ‘And ask no leave at thee;
For Carterhaugh it is my ain,
  My daddy gave it me.’
 
IX

He’s ta’en her by the milk-white hand,
        35
  And by the grass-green sleeve,
He’s led her to the fairy ground
  At her he ask’d nae leave.
 
X

Janet has kilted her green kirtle
  A little abune her knee,        40
And she has snooded her yellow hair
  A little abune her bree,
And she is to her father’s ha’
  As fast as she can hie.
 
XI

But when she came to her father’s ha,’
        45
  She look’d sae wan and pale,
They thought the lady had gotten a fright,
  Or with sickness she did ail.
 
XII

Four and twenty ladies fair
  Were playing at the ba’,        50
And out then came fair Janet
  Ance the flower amang them a’.
 
XIII

Four and twenty ladies fair
  Were playing at the chess,
And out then came fair Janet        55
  As green as onie glass.
 
XIV

Out then spak’ an auld grey knight
  ’Lay owre the Castle wa’,
And says, ‘Alas, fair Janet!
  For thee we’ll be blamèd a’.’        60
 
XV

‘Hauld your tongue, ye auld-faced knight,
  Some ill death may ye die!
Father my bairn on whom I will,
  I’ll father nane on thee.
 
XVI

‘O if my love were an earthly knight,
        65
  As he is an elfin gay,
I wadna gie my ain true-love
  For nae laird that ye hae.
 
XVII

‘The steed that my true-love rides on
  Is fleeter nor the wind;        70
Wi’ siller he is shod before,
  Wi’ burning gold behind.’
 
XVIII

Out then spak’ her brither dear—
  He meant to do her harm:
‘There grows an herb in Carterhaugh        75
  Will twine you an’ the bairn.’
 
XIX

Janet has kilted her green kirtle
  A little abune her knee,
And she has snooded her yellow hair
  A little abune her bree,        80
And she’s awa’ to Carterhaugh
  As fast as she can hie.
 
XX

She hadna pu’d a leaf, a leaf,
  A leaf but only twae,
When up and started young Tam Lin,        85
  Says, ‘Ladye, thou’s pu’nae mae.
 
XXI

‘How dar’ ye pu’ a leaf?’ he says,
  ‘How dar’ ye break the tree?
How dar’ ye scathe my babe,’ he says,
  ‘That’s between you and me?’        90
 
XXII

‘O tell me, tell me, Tam,’ she says,
  ‘For His sake that died on tree,
If ye were ever in holy chapel
  Or sain’d in Christentie?’
 
XXIII

‘The truth I’ll tell to thee, Janet,
        95
  Ae word I winna lee;
A knight me got, and a lady me bore,
  As well as they did thee.
 
XXIV

‘Roxburgh he was my grandfather,
  Took me with him to bide;        100
And ance it fell upon a day,
  As hunting I did ride,
 
XXV

‘There came a wind out o’ the north,
  A sharp wind an’ a snell,
A dead sleep it came over me        105
  And frae my horse I fell;
And the Queen o’ Fairies she took me
  In yon green hill to dwell.
 
XXVI

‘And pleasant is the fairy land
  For those that in it dwell,        110
But ay at end of seven years
  They pay a teind to hell;
I am sae fair and fu’ o’ flesh
  I’m fear’d ’twill be mysell.
 
XXVII

‘But the night is Hallowe’en, Janet,
        115
  The morn is Hallowday;
Then win me, win me, an ye will,
  For weel I wat ye may.
 
XXVIII

‘The night it is gude Hallowe’en,
  The fairy folk do ride,        120
And they that wad their true-love win,
  At Miles Cross they maun bide.’—
 
XXIX

‘But how should I you ken, Tam Lin,
  How should I borrow you,
Amang a pack of uncouth knights        125
  The like I never saw?’—
 
XXX

‘You’ll do you down to Miles Cross
  Between twel’ hours and ane,
And fill your hands o’ the holy water
  And cast your compass roun’.        130
 
XXXI

‘The first company that passes by,
  Say na, and let them gae;
The neist company that passes by,
  Say na, and do right sae;
The third company that passes by,        135
  Then I’ll be ane o’ thae.
 
XXXII

‘O first let pass the black, ladye,
  And syne let pass the brown;
But quickly run to the milk-white steed,
  Pu’ ye his rider down.        140
 
XXXIII

‘For some ride on the black, ladye,
  And some ride on the brown;
But I ride on a milk-white steed,
  A gowd star on my crown:
Because I was an earthly knight        145
  They gie me that renown.
 
XXXIV

‘My right hand will be gloved, ladye,
  My left hand will be bare,
And thae’s the tokens I gie thee:
  Nae doubt I will be there.        150
 
XXXV

‘Ye’ll tak’ my horse then by the head
  And let the bridle fa’;
The Queen o’ Elfin she’ll cry out
  “True Tam Lin he’s awa’!”
 
XXXVI

‘They’ll turn me in your arms, ladye,
        155
  An aske but and a snake;
But hauld me fast, let me na gae,
  To be your warldis make.
 
XXXVII

‘They’ll turn me in your arms, ladye,
  But and a deer so wild;        160
But hauld me fast, let me na gae,
  The father o’ your child.
 
XXXVIII

‘They’ll shape me in your arms, ladye,
  A hot iron at the fire;
But hauld me fast, let me na go,        165
  To be your heart’s desire.
 
XXXIX

‘They’ll shape me last in your arms, Janet,
  A mother-naked man;
Cast your green mantle over me,
  And sae will I be won.’        170
 
XL

Janet has kilted her green kirtle
  A little abune the knee;
And she has snooded her yellow hair
  A little abune her bree,
And she is on to Miles Cross        175
  As fast as she can hie.
 
XLI

About the dead hour o’ the night
  She heard the bridles ring;
And Janet was as glad at that
  As any earthly thing.        180
 
XLII

And first gaed by the black, black steed,
  And syne gaed by the brown;
But fast she gript the milk-white steed
  And pu’d the rider down.
 
XLIII

She’s pu’d him frae the milk-white steed,
        185
  An’ loot the bridle fa’,
And up there rase an eldritch cry,
  ‘True Tam Lin he’s awa’!’
 
XLIV

They shaped him in her arms twa
  An aske but and a snake;        190
But aye she grips and hau’ds him fast
  To be her warldis make.
 
XLV

They shaped him in her arms twa
  But and a deer sae wild;
But aye she grips and hau’ds him fast,        195
  The father o’ her child.
 
XLVI

They shaped him in her arms twa
  A hot iron at the fire;
But aye she grips and hau’ds him fast
  To be her heart’s desire.        200
 
XLVII

They shaped him in her arms at last
  A mother-naked man;
She cast her mantle over him,
  And sae her love she wan.
 
XLVIII

Up then spak’ the Queen o’ Fairies,
        205
  Out o’ a bush o’ broom,
‘She that has borrow’d young Tam Lin
  Has gotten a stately groom.’
 
XLIX

Out then spak’ the Queen o’ Fairies,
  And an angry woman was she,        210
‘She’s ta’en awa’ the bonniest knight
  In a’ my companie!
 
L

‘But what I ken this night, Tam Lin,
  Gin I had kent yestreen,
I wad ta’en out thy heart o’ flesh,        215
  And put in a heart o’ stane.
 
LI

‘And adieu, Tam Lin! But gin I had kent
  A ladye wad borrow’d thee,
I wad ta’en out thy twa grey e’en
  Put in twa e’en o’ tree.        220
 
LII

‘And had I the wit yestreen, yestreen,
  That I have coft this day,
I’d paid my teind seven times to hell
  Ere you had been won away!’
 
GLOSS:  dought] could.  even cloth] smooth cloth.  tae] toe.  bree] eye-brow.  twine] part, sunder.  scathe] harm.  sain’d] blessed, baptised.  snell] keen, cold.  teind] tithe.  borrow] ransom.  uncouth] unknown.  aske] newt, lizard.  make] mate, husband.  loot] let.  eldritch] unearthly.  tree] wood.  coft] bought.
 

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