Tam Lin


Written Text

“O I forbid you, maidens all,

That wear gold in your hair,

To come or go by Carter Hall,

For young Tam Lin is there.”

“None that go by Carter Hall

But they leave him a pledge

A ring, or their mantles of green,

Or else their maidenhead.”

Jenny has tied her green skirt,

A bit above her knee;

And pinned up her bright braided hair,

A bit above her eye;

And she’s away to Carter Hall,

As fast as she can ride.

She had not yet pulled a red rose,

A rose not yet one,

When up came young handsome Tam Lin,

Says, “Girl, let that alone!

“How dare you to pull the rose, Jenny?

Let rose and thorns be!

How dare you come to Carter Hall,

Without command from me?”

“I will pull the rose,” Jenny said,

“And ask no leave of thee;

For Carter Hall it is my own,

My daddy gave it me.”

He’s taken her by her soft hand,

And by her green sleeve,

He’s laid her on green fairy ground—

From her he asked no leave.

Jenny has tied her green skirt,

A bit above her knee;

And pinned up her bright braided hair,

A bit above her eye;

And back to her father’s great hall,

Rides fast as she can ride.

When she reached her father’s great hall,

She looked so wan and pale,

They thought she had got some great fright,

Or from sickness did ail.

Then twenty-four ladies so fair,

Danced all at the ball,

And out came pale Jenny who once

Was the flower of them all.

Up then spoke an old gray-faced knight

Atop the castle wall,

Says he, “Fair Jenny, alas!

For thee we’ll be blamed all!”

“You bite off your tongue, old-faced knight,

Some ill death come to you!

I will father my child as I choose,

I’ll father none on you!”

And soft spoke her dear father then,

He spoke meek and mild

“Alas, darling Jenny,” he said,

“I fear you go with child.”

“And is it a knight of great strength,

Wealth, land, and rich means?

Which man among all my great knights

Shall give the babe his name?”

“Oh, father, if I go with child,

Myself shall bear the blame.

I’ll not give my love to some knight,

To give the babe his name.

“O, were my love some earthly man,

And not a cursed elf,

I’d never abandon my love,

My poor babe or myself.”

Then whispered her elder brother,

He meant to do her harm;

“At Carter Hall grow poison thorns,

Your child need not be born.”

Jenny has tied her green skirt,

A bit above her knee;

And pinned up her bright braided hair,

A bit above her eye;

And she’s away to Carter Hall,

As fast as she can ride.

She’d pulled but just one poison thorn,

One thorn not yet two,

When up came young handsome Tam Lin,

Says, “Stop what you do!”

“What makes you pull poison thorns, Jenny?

Let the thorns be!

Why harm the poor babe yet unborn,

That I have got with thee?”

“Oh, I’ll pull the thorn, young Tam Lin,

And will not let be,

But I’ll never bear the wee babe

That you have got with me.

“If he’d be a true human child,

Not fathered by an elf,

I’d rock him through each winter’s night,

Love him more than myself.

“Now tell me God’s truth,” Jenny said,

Are you an elf-man wild?

Was Fairyland your true-born home?

Were you a human child?”

“God’s truth I will tell to you, Jenny,

Not one word will I lie,

We once loved, we two, as small children—

I a boy of nine.

“One morning my good old grandfather,

A white horse brought me,

To hunt, and to hawk, and ride with him,

To keep him company.

“There came a fierce wind from the north,

A sharp wind and a chill,

A deathly sleep came upon me,

From my horse I fell.

“The Queen of the Fairies she took me,

To her wild green to dwell,

To keep at her beck and her call,

And yield me to herself.

“And pleasant is wild Fairyland,

No sickness, nor pain;

My body I quit when I will,

And take to it again.

“Our shapes and our size we can change

To small or to grand;

A nut-shell can seem a great palace,

Mountains piles of sand.

“We sleep in soft rose-petal beds,

Bathe in drops of dew;

We flutter like wisps on the wind,

Life’s forever new.

“And Jenny, I never would tire,

In Fairyland to dwell;

But once in each seven long years,

They pay their rent to hell.

And I am so strong, fair of flesh,

I fear ‘twill be myself!

“Tonight will be Halloween, Jenny,

At morn Hallowday,

But win me from hell if you will—

Well I know you may.

“Each midnight when Halloween comes,

The fairy folk ride,

And they that would win their true love,

At Miles Cross must hide.

“The first elfin crowd that runs by,

And the next, let them be.

The last is the head court of all,

In it rides the Queen.

“I’ll ride on my great milk-white steed,

A gold star in my crown;

Because I was once an earthly knight,

They give me that renown.

Quick race to the great milk-white steed,

And pull his rider down.

And then you’ll hear fierce weird screams:

‘My Tam Lin’s gone!’

“They’ll change my shape in your arms,

A snake, then a knife;

But hold to me fast, squeeze me tight,

To be my earthly wife.

“My form they will change in your arms,

Red hot iron, and lion wild,

But hold to me fast, don’t let go

The father of your child.

“And last they’ll shape me in your arms,

A mother-naked man—

Then cast your green mantle upon me—

And win me back again!”

Jenny has tied her green skirt,

A bit above her knee;

And pinned up her bright braided hair,

A bit above her eye;

At midnight she’s off to Miles Cross,

As fast as she can ride.

Dark gloom and strange shades thronged the night,

Under an eerie glow,

As in her green mantle to Miles Cross,

Alone did Jenny go.

And first galloped past a black steed,

Then raced by a brown;

But Jenny quick gripped the white steed,

And pulled the rider down.

Tam Lin tumbled down from his horse,

Then all heard a pained groan

That roared to a wild elfish scream:

“My Tam Lin’s gone!”

They changed him in fair Jenny’s arms

A snake, then a knife

Hot iron and fierce lion, she clasped tight,

To be his human wife.

And last they shaped him in her arms,

A mother-naked man.

She cast her green mantle upon him—

At last her love she’d won.

Then shrieked out the fierce Fairy Queen,

An angry hag was she:

“She’s stolen away the dearest knight

In all my company!”

“Had I but the wit yester-eve,

I have bought here today,

I’d pay twenty times of hell’s rent,

Before he’d be won away!”

“If ever I’d known, young Tam Lin,

She’d steal you from me,

I’d have plucked out both your eyes,

And turned you to a tree!”

……………………………

“Tam Lin”

By Anon

Read by Ethan Holliman

Sung by Andrea Collins

Directed by Walter Evans

Copyright Georgia Regents University

2013 All rights reserved