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Ballad #4 Thomas The Rhymer

Updated: Dec 14, 2019

Thomas the Rhymer, or True Thomas, was a real person -- Thomas of Ercildoune, who lived probably between 1210 and 1297.

Thomas was supposed to have the power to see into the future. This power was given to him by the Fairy Queen, during his 7 year stay in the Fairy World. The story about his meeting with the Fairy Queen was believed by the Scottish peasants for many centuries. 


True Thomas lay on Huntlie bank;

A ferlie he spied wi' his e'e,

And there he saw a ladye bright

Come riding down by the Eildon Tree.

Her skirt was o' the grass-green silk,

Her mantle o' the velvet fyne;

At ilka tett o' her horse's mane,

Hung fifty siller bells and nine.

True Thomas he pu'd aff his cap,

And louted low down on his knee

"Hail to thee Mary, Queen of Heaven!

For thy peer on earth could never be."

"Oh no, Oh no, Thomas" she said,

"That name does not belang to me.

I'm but the Queen o' fair Elfland,

That am hither come to visit thee".

"Harp and carp, Thomas" she said;

"Harp and carp along wi' me,

And if ye dare to kiss my lips

Sure of your bodie I will be".

"Betide me weal, betide me woe,

That weird shall never daunten me."

Syne he has kissed her rosy lips,

All underneath the Eildon Tree.

"Now ye maun go wi' me" she said,

"True Thomas, ye maun go wi' me,

And ye maun serve me seven years,

Thro' weal or woe as may chance to be".

She's mounted on her milk-white steed,

She's ta'en true Thomas up behind,

And aye, whene'er her bridle rang

The steed gaed swifter than the wind.

Oh, they rade on, and farther 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 your head upon my knee.

Abide ye there a little space

And I will show you ferlies three.

"Oh see ye not yon narrow road,

So thick beset wi' thorns and briers?

That is the Path of Righteousness,

Though after it but few inquires.

"And see ye not yon braid, braid road,

That lies across the lily leven?

That is the Path of Wickedness,

Though some call it the Road to Heaven.

"And see ye not yon bonny road

That winds about the fernie brae?

That is the Road to fair Elfland

Where thou and I this night maun gae.

"But, Thomas, ye sall haud your tongue,

Whatever ye may hear or see,

For speak ye word in Elfin-land,

Ye'll ne'er win back to your ain countrie."

Oh they rade on, and farther on,

And they waded rivers abune the knee,

And they saw neither sun nor moon,

But they heard the roaring of the sea.

It was mirk, mirk night, there was nae starlight,

They waded through red blude to the knee.

For a' the blude that's shed on the earth

Rins through the springs o' that countrie.

Syne they came to a garden green

And she pu'd an apple frae a tree.

"Take this for thy wages, true Thomas.

It will give thee the tongue that can never lee."

"My tongue is my ain" true Thomas he said,

"A gudely gift ye wad gie to me.

I neither dought to buy or sell

At fair or tryst where I might be.

"I dought neither speak to prince or peer,

Nor ask of grace from fair ladye".

"Now haud thy peace, Thomas" she said,

"For as I say, so must it be".

He has gotten a coat of the even cloth,

And a pair o' shoon of the velvet green.

And till seven years were gane and past

True Thomas on earth was never seen.


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