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   English Poetry I: From Chaucer to Gray.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
15. Thomas Rymer and the Queen of Elfland
 
Traditional Ballads
 
 
TRUE THOMAS lay oer yond grassy bank,
  And he beheld a ladie gay,
A ladie that was brisk and bold,
  Come riding oer the fernie brae. 1
 
Her skirt was of the grass-green silk,        5
  Her mantel of the velvet fine,
At ilka tett 2 of her horse’s mane
  Hung fifty silver bells and nine.
 
True Thomas he took off his hat,
  And bowed him low down till his knee:        10
“All hail, thou mighty Queen of Heaven!
  For your peer on earth I never did see.”
 
“O no, O no, True Thomas,” she says,
  “That name does not belong to me;
I am but the queen of fair Elfland,        15
  And I’m come here for to visit thee.
 
“But ye maun go wi me now, Thomas,
  True Thomas, ye maun go wi me,
For ye maun 3 serve me seven years,
  Thro weel or wae as may chance to be.”        20
 
She turned about her milk-white steed,
  And took True Thomas up behind,
And aye wheneer her bridle rang,
  The steed flew swifter than the wind.
 
For forty days and forty nights        25
  He wade thro red blude to the knee,
And he saw neither sun nor moon,
  But heard the roaring of the sea.
 
O they rade on, and further on,
  Until they came to a garden green:        30
“Light down, light down, ye ladie free,
  Some of that fruit let me pull to thee.”
 
“O no, O no, True Thomas,” she says,
  “That fruit maun not be touched by thee,
For a’ the plagues that are in hell        35
  Light on the fruit of this countrie.
 
“But I have a loaf here in my lap,
  Likewise a bottle of claret wine,
And now ere we go farther on,
  We ’ll rest a while, and ye may dine.”        40
 
When he had eaten and drunk his fill,
  “Lay down your head upon my knee,”
The lady sayd, “ere we climb yon hill,
  And I will show you fairlies 4 three.
 
“O see not ye yon narrow road,        45
  So thick beset wi thorns and briers?
That is the path of righteousness,
  Tho after it but few enquires.
 
“And see not ye that braid braid road,
  That lies across yon lillie leven 5?        50
That is the path of wickedness,
  Tho some call it the road to heaven.
 
“And see not ye that bonnie road,
  Which winds about the fernie brae?
That is the road to fair Elfland,        55
  Whe[re] you and I this night maun gae.
 
“But Thomas, ye maun hold your tongue,
  Whatever you may hear or see,
For gin ae word you should chance to speak,
  You will neer get back to your ain countrie.”        60
 
He has gotten a coat of the even cloth,
  And a pair of shoes of velvet green,
And till seven years were past and gone
  True Thomas on earth was never seen.
 
Note 1. Lock. [back]
Note 2. Must. [back]
Note 3. Wonders. [back]
Note 4. Meadow. [back]
Note 5. I know. [back]
 

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