Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tam Lin

Fairport Convention

“I forbid you maidens all that
wear gold in your hair
To travel to Carterhaugh, for
young Tam Lin is there

None that go by Carterhaugh
but they leave him a pledge
Either their mantles of green
or else their maidenhead”

Janet tied her kirtle green a
bit above her knee
And she's gone to Carterhaugh
as fast as go can she.

She'd not pulled a double rose,
a rose but only two
When up then came young
Tam Lin, says,“Lady, pull no more”

“And why come you to Carterhaugh
without command from me?”
“I'll come and go,” young Janet said,
“and ask no leave or be”

Janet tied her kirtle green a bit
above her knee
And she's gone to her father
as fast as go can she.

Well, up then spoke her father dear
and he spoke meek and mild,
“Oh, and alas, Janet,” he said,
“I think you go with child”

“Well, if that be so,” Janet said,
“myself shall bear the blame
There's not a knight in all your
hall shall get the baby's name

For if my love were an earthly knight,
as he is an elfin grey
I'd not change my own true love
for any knight you have”

So Janet tied her kirtle green a
bit above her knee
And she's gone to Carterhaugh
as fast as go can she.

“Oh, tell to me, Tam Lin,” she said,
“why came you here to dwell?”
“The Queen of Fairies caught me
when from my horse I fell

And at the end of seven years
she pays a tithe to hell
I so fair and full of flesh
and fear it be myself

But tonight is Halloween
and the fairy folk ride
Those that would let true love
win at Mile's Cross they must hide.

So first let pass the horses black
and then let pass the brown
Quickly run to the white steed
and pull the rider down.

For I'll ride on the white steed,
the nearest to the town
For I was an earthly knight,
they give me that renown.

Oh, they will turn me, in your
arms, into a newt or a snake
But hold me tight and fear not,
I am your baby's father.

And they will turn me, in your
arms, into a lion bold,
But hold me tight and fear not
and you will love your child.

And they will turn me' in your
arms' into a naked knight
But cloak me in your mantle
and keep me out of sight”

In the middle of the night
she heard the bridle ring
She heeded what he did say
and young Tam Lin did win.

Then up spoke the Queen of Faerie,
and an angry queen was she,
Woe betide her ill-far'd face,
an ill death may she die

“Oh, had I known, Tam Lin,” she said,
“what this night I did see
I'd have looked him in the eyes
and turned him to a tree”

[trad. arr. Dave Swarbrick]

(Copyright © 1969 Warlock Music)

Tam Lin is probably the best-known of the traditional fairy ballads. In many ways, it is the canonical ballad. Featuring a maid named Janet, the Queen of Elfland, and a handsome hero imprisoned under the Hill; recorded by both Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span; turned into a picture book by Jane Yolen and a coming-of-age novel in the Fairy Tales series by Pamela Dean, it is also the inspiration for a raft of other beloved fantasy novels, including Diana Wynne Jones's Fire and Hemlock, Elizabeth Marie Pope's The Perilous Gard, Dahlov Ipcar's The Queen of Spells, and Patricia McKillip's Winter Rose (which blends the story of Tam Lin with elements of Christina Rossetti's Goblin Market).

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