- Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, Vol. II (The Young Tamlane) by Sir Walter Scott
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Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, Vol. II
The Young Tamlane

by Sir Walter Scott

O I forbid ye, maidens a',
That wear gowd on your hair,
To come or gae by Carterhaugh;
For young Tamlane is there.

There's nane, that gaes by Carterhaugh,
But maun leave him a wad;
Either goud rings or green mantles,
Or else their maidenheid.

Now, gowd rings ye may buy, maidens,
Green mantles ye may spin;
But, gin ye lose your maidenheid,
Ye'll ne'er get that agen.

But up then spak her, fair Janet,
The fairest o' a' her kin;
"I'll cum and gang to Carterhaugh,
"And ask nae leave o' him."

Janet has kilted her green kirtle, [A]
A little abune her knee;
And she has braided her yellow hair,
A little abune her bree.

And when she cam to Carterhaugh,
She gaed beside the well;
And there she fand his steed standing,
But away was himsell.

She hadna pu'd a red red rose,
A rose but barely three;
Till up and starts a wee wee man,
At Lady Janet's knee.

Says—"Why pu' ye the rose, Janet?
"What gars ye break the tree?
"Or why come ye to Carterhaugh,
"Withoutten leave o' me?"

Says—"Carterhaugh it is mine ain;
"My daddie gave it me;
"I'll come and gang to Carterhaugh,
"And ask nae leave o' thee."

He's ta'en her by the milk-white hand,
Amang the leaves sae green;
And what they did I cannot tell—
The green leaves were between.

He's ta'en her by the milk-white hand,
Amang the roses red;
And what they did I cannot say—
She ne'er returned a maid.

When she cam to her father's ha',
She looked pale and wan;
They thought she'd dried some sair sickness,
Or been wi' some leman.

She didna comb her yellow hair,
Nor make meikle o' her heid;
And ilka thing, that lady took,
Was like to be her deid.

Its four and twenty ladies fair
Were playing at the ba';
Janet, the wightest of them anes,
Was faintest o' them a'.

Four and twenty ladies fair
Were playing at the chess;
And out there came the fair Janet,
As green as any grass.

Out and spak an auld gray-headed knight,
Lay o'er the castle wa'—
"And ever alas! for thee, Janet,
"But we'll be blamed a'!"

"Now haud your tongue, ye auld gray knight!
"And an ill deid may ye die!
"Father my bairn on whom I will,
"I'll father nane on thee."

Out then spak her father dear,
And he spak meik and mild—
"And ever alas! my sweet Janet,
"I fear ye gae with child."

"And, if I be with child, father,
"Mysell maun bear the blame;
"There's ne'er a knight about your ha'
"Shall hae the bairnie's name.

"And if I be with child, father,
"'Twill prove a wondrous birth;
"For well I swear I'm not wi' bairn
"To any man on earth.

"If my love were an earthly knight,
"As he's an elfin grey,
"I wadna gie my ain true love
"For nae lord that ye hae."

She princked hersell and prinn'd hersell,
By the ae light of the moon,
And she's away to Carterhaugh,
To speak wi' young Tamlane.

And when she cam to Carterhaugh,
She gaed beside the well;
And there she saw the steed standing,
But away was himsell.

She hadna pu'd a double rose,
A rose but only twae,
When up and started young Tamlane,
Says—"Lady, thou pu's nae mae!

"Why pu' ye the rose, Janet,
"Within this garden grene,
"And a' to kill the bonny babe,
"That we got us between?"

"The truth ye'll tell to me, Tamlane;
"A word ye mauna lie;
"Gin ye're ye was in haly chapel,
"Or sained [B] in Christentie."

"The truth I'll tell to thee, Janet,
"A word I winna lie;
"A knight me got, and a lady me bore,
"As well as they did thee.

"Randolph, Earl Murray, was my sire,
"Dunbar, Earl March, is thine;
"We loved when we were children small,
"Which yet you well may mind.

"When I was a boy just turned of nine,
"My uncle sent for me,
"To hunt, and hawk, and ride with him,
"And keep him cumpanie.

"There came a wind out of the north,
"A sharp wind and a snell;
"And a dead sleep came over me,
"And frae my horse I fell.

"The Queen of Fairies keppit me,
"In yon green hill to dwell;
"And I'm a Fairy, lyth and limb;
"Fair ladye, view me well.

"But we, that live in Fairy-land,
"No sickness know, nor pain;
"I quit my body when I will,
"And take to it again.

"I quit my body when I please,
"Or unto it repair;
"We can inhabit, at our ease,
"In either earth or air.

"Our shapes and size we can convert,
"To either large or small;
"An old nut-shell's the same to us,
"As is the lofty hall.

"We sleep in rose-buds, soft and sweet,
"We revel in the stream;
"We wanton lightly on the wind,
"Or glide on a sunbeam.

"And all our wants are well supplied,
"From every rich man's store,
"Who thankless sins the gifts he gets,
"And vainly grasps for more.

"Then would I never tire, Janet,
"In elfish land to dwell;
"But aye at every seven years,
"They pay the teind to hell;
"And I am sae fat, and fair of flesh,
"I fear 'twill be mysell.

"This night is Hallowe'en, Janet,
"The morn is Hallowday;

"And, gin ye dare your true love win,
"Ye hae na time to stay.

"The night it is good Hallowe'en,
"When fairy folk will ride;
"And they, that wad their true love win,
"At Miles Cross they maun bide."

"But how shall I thee ken, Tamlane?
"Or how shall I thee knaw,
"Amang so many unearthly knights,
"The like I never saw.?"

"The first company, that passes by,
"Say na, and let them gae;
"The next company, that passes by,
"Say na, and do right sae;
"The third company, that passes by,
"Than I'll be ane o' thae.

"First let pass the black, Janet,
"And syne let pass the brown;
"But grip ye to the milk-white steed,
"And pu' the rider down.

"For I ride on the milk-white steed,
"And ay nearest the town;
"Because I was a christened knight,
"They gave me that renown.

"My right hand will be gloved, Janet,
"My left hand will be bare;
"And these the tokens I gie thee,
"Nae doubt I will be there.

"They'll turn me in your arms, Janet,
"An adder and a snake;
"But had me fast, let me not pass,
"Gin ye wad be my maik.

"They'll turn me in your arms, Janet,
"An adder and an ask;
"They'll turn me in your arms, Janet,
"A bale [C] that burns fast.

"They'll turn me in your arms, Janet,
"A red-hot gad o' aim;
"But had me fast, let me not pass,
"For I'll do you no harm.

"First, dip me in a stand o' milk,
"And then in a stand o' water;
"But had me fast, let me not pass—
"I'll be your bairn's father.

"And, next, they'll shape me in your arms,
"A toad, but and an eel;
"But had me fast, nor let me gang,
"As you do love me weel.

"They'll shape me in your arms, Janet,
"A dove, but and a swan;
"And, last, they'll shape me in your arms,
"A mother-naked man:
"Cast your green mantle over me—
"I'll be mysell again."

Gloomy, gloomy, was the night,
And eiry [D] was the way,
As fair Janet, in her green mantle,
To Miles Cross she did gae.

The heavens were black, the night was dark,
And dreary was the place;

But Janet stood, with eager wish,
Her lover to embrace.

Betwixt the hours of twelve and one,
A north wind tore the bent;
And straight she heard strange elritch sounds
Upon that wind which went.

About the dead hour o' the night,
She heard the bridles ring;
And Janet was as glad o' that,
As any earthly thing!

Their oaten pipes blew wondrous shrill,
The hemlock small blew clear;
And louder notes from hemlock large,
And bog-reed struck the ear;
But solemn sounds, or sober thoughts,
The Fairies cannot bear.

They sing, inspired with love and joy,
Like sky-larks in the air;
Of solid sense, or thought that's grave,
You'll find no traces there.

Fair Janet stood, with mind unmoved,
The dreary heath upon;
And louder, louder, wax'd the sound,
As they came riding on.

Will o' Wisp before them went,
Sent forth a twinkling light;
And soon she saw the Fairy bands
All riding in her sight.

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

She pu'd him frae the milk-white steed,
And loot the bridle fa';
And up there raise an erlish [E] cry—
"He's won amang us a'!"

They shaped him in fair Janet's arms,
An esk [F], but and an adder;
She held him fast in every shape—
To be her bairn's father.

They shaped him in her arms at last,
A mother-naked man;
She wrapt him in her green mantle,
And sae her true love wan.

Up then spake the Queen o' Fairies,
Out o' a bush o' broom—
"She that has borrowed young Tamlane,
Has gotten a stately groom."

Up then spake the Queen of Fairies,
Out o' a bush of rye—
"She's ta'en awa the bonniest knight
In a' my cumpanie.

"But had I kenn'd, Tamlane," she says,
"A lady wad borrowed thee—
"I wad ta'en out thy twa gray een,
"Put in twa een o' tree.

"Had I but kenn'd, Tamlane," she says,
"Before ye came frae hame—
"I wad tane out your heart o' flesh,
"Put in a heart o' stane.

"Had I but had the wit yestreen,
"That I hae coft [G] the day—
"I'd paid my kane seven times to hell,
"Ere you'd been won away!"
The ladies are always represented, in Dunbar's Poems, with green mantles and yellow hair. Maitland Poems, Vol. I. p. 45.


Bale—A faggot.

Eiry—Producing superstitious dread.

Erlish—Elritch, ghastly.




Randolph, Earl Murray, was my sire,
Dunbar, Earl March, is thine, &c.—P. 185, v. 5.
Both these mighty chiefs were connected with Ettrick Forest, and its vicinity. Their memory, therefore, lived in the traditions of the country. Randolph, earl of Murray, the renowned nephew of Robert Bruce, had a castle at Ha' Guards, in Annandale, and another in Peebles-shire, on the borders of the forest, the site of which is still called Randall's Walls. Patrick of Dunbar, earl of March, is said by Henry the Minstrel, to have retreated to Ettrick Forest, after being defeated by Wallace.
And all our wants are well supplied,
From every rich man's store;
Who thankless sins the gifts he gets, &c.—P. 187. v. 3.
To sin our gifts, or mercies, means, ungratefully to hold them in slight esteem. The idea, that the possessions of the wicked are most obnoxious to the depredations of evil spirits, may be illustrated by the following tale of a Buttery Spirit, extracted from Thomas Heywood:—

An ancient and virtuous monk came to visit his nephew, an inn-keeper, and, after other discourse, enquired into his circumstances. Mine host confessed, that, although he practised all the unconscionable tricks of his trade, he was still miserably poor. The monk shook his head, and asked to see his buttery, or larder. As they looked into it, he rendered visible to the astonished host an immense goblin, whose paunch, and whole appearance, bespoke his being gorged with food, and who, nevertheless, was gormandizing at the innkeeper's expence, emptying whole shelves of food, and washing it down with entire hogsheads of liquor. "To the depredation of this visitor will thy viands be exposed," quoth the uncle, "until thou shalt abandon fraud, and false reckonings." The monk returned in a year. The host having turned over a new leaf, and given christian measure to his customers, was now a thriving man. When they again inspected the larder, they saw the same spirit, but woefully reduced in size, and in vain attempting to reach at the full plates and bottles, which stood around him; starving, in short, like Tantalus, in the midst of plenty. Honest Heywood sums up the tale thus:
In this discourse, far be it we should mean
Spirits by meat are fatted made, or lean;
Yet certain 'tis, by God's permission, they
May, over goods extorted, bear like sway.

All such as study fraud, and practise evil, Do only starve themselves to plumpe the devill. Hierarchie of the Blessed Angels, p. 577.

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