True Thomas lay oer yond grassy bank,
And he beheld a ladie gay,
A ladie1 that was brisk and bold,
Come riding oer the ferny brae.

Her skirt was of the grass-green silk,
Her mantle of the velvet fine,
At ilka tett2 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:
"All hail, thou mighty Queen of Heaven!
For your peer on earth I never did see."

"Oh no, oh no, True Thomas," she says,
"That name does not belong to me;
I am but the queen of fair Elfland,
And I've come here for to visit thee.

"Harp and carp, Thomas," she said,
"Harp and carp along with me,
And if ye dare to kiss my lips,
Sure of your body I will be."

"But ye maun go wi me now, Thomas,
True Thomas, ye maun go wi me,
For ye maun now serve me seven years,
Thro weel or wae3 as may chance be."

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,
He wade thro red blude to the knee,
And he saw neither sun nor moon,
But heard the roaring of the sea.

Oh they rode on, and further on,
The steed gaed swifter than the wind,
Until they reached a desert wide,
And living land was left behind.

"Light down, light down now, True Thomas,
And lean you head upon my knee;
Abide and rest a little space,
And I will show you ferlies4 three.

"O see not ye yon narrow road,
So thick beset wi thorns and briers?
That is the path of righteousness,
Tho after it but few enquires.

"And see ye not that braid, braid5 road,
That lies across yon lillie leven6?
That is the path of wickedness,
Tho some call it the road to Heaven.

"And see ye not that bonny road,
Which winds about the fernie brae?
That is the road to fair Elfland,
Where you and I this night maun gae.

But Thomas, ye maun hold your tongue,
Whatever you may hear or see,
For gin ae7 word you should chance to speak,
You will neer get back to your ain countrie."

Then they came on to a garden green,
And she pulled an apple frae a tree,
"Take this for you wages, True Thomas,
It will give the tongue that can never lie."

My tongue is my own", True Thomas said,
"A goodly gift ye would give to me,
I neither dought8 to buy or sell,
At fair or tryst where I may be.

"I dought neither speak to prince nor peer,
Nor ask of grace from fair lady."
"Now hold your peace," the lady said,
For as I say, so it must be."

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.






1. ladie- lady. (The "y" to "ie" shift is actually fairly common.)
2. ilka tett- each lock
3. weel or wae- "wealth or woe"
4. ferlies- wonders 5. braid- broad 6. lillie leven- charming glade 7. gin ae- again a
8. dought- either "thought" or "sought". Quite possibly, both.


Thomas the Rhymer:
aka Thomas Learmont, Thomas of Erceldoune, Thomas of Britain.

ca. 1220-1297, Scotland.

Poet and prophet, possible author of the Tristan of Thomas (usually published with the Gottfried von Strassburg version). This version of the Tristan and Iseult legend was first published in 1804 by Sir Walter Scott, from a manuscript dating to about 1300. From that manuscript, little is known of Thomas, other than that he is a poet, fluent in the Anglo-Norman dialect of French, who according to von Strassburg lived either in Britain or Brittany, the former being more likely.

He is best known from the ballad "Thomas the Rhymer" (see above), included by Scott in his collection Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border. His prophecies first appeared in the 15th century Romance and Prophecies of Thomas of Erceldoune.

It seems that, like Merlin, Thomas, though a historical person, was at some point confused with an earlier legend about a Tom who is abducted by the Queen of Elfland and made her lover. This Tom is the same as Tom O'Bedlam (a song, as well as Edgar's mad persona in King Lear) and Tam Lin of the famous ballad.

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