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Suggested Albums for folk band versions of "Thomas the Rhymer" and "Tam Lin"

FairyLore concerning the Otherworld have always nurtured the folk music ballads, and the characters of Tam Lin and Thomas Rhymer are not excluded.

In the case of Tam Lin I gladly recommend versions from Fairport Convention's "Liege and Lief", featuring the vocals of Sandy Denny w/ arrangement of "Tam Lin" by Dave Swarbrick, and from Steeleye Span's "Tonight's the Night," featuring a rocking version by Maddy Prior.

Regarding "Thomas The Rhymer" I recomend once again the work of Steeleye Span - they have recorded two different versions for the "Now We Are Six album", and Re-recorded (differently) for "Present--The Very Best of Steeleye Span" album.

There is a cute rendering of this ballad under the name of "True Thomas" by my friend Danny Carnahan on his solo album w/Robin Petrie "Journeys of the Heart".

Hereby a quotation of his booklet liner notes and own version for the lyrics:

" I wrote this song around a very old Child ballad based on the 13th century legend of Thomas Rymer of Ercildoun. Thomas was said to have visited the land of Faery and returned with the gift of prophesy and a tongue that could not lie. Most recent versions of the ballad leave off at the point where Thomas is taken to the other world, but one 14th century version in Middle English recounts what happened afterwards and how Thomas returned to earth. I based my lyrics on this older story."

True Thomas

(from “Journeys of the Heart”)


Thomas lay upon the grassy banks

And beheld a lady gay
Come riding o’er so brisk and bold
All on the ferny brae

And her skirt was of the silk so green

And her cloak the velvet fine
And at each toss her horse’s mane
Rang fifty bells and nine

And Thomas did salute her,

Bowing down upon his knee
And he’s said, ‘Well met, enchanting one,
You’re the flow’r of this country’

And as he’s gazed upon her

Oh, so blind with love was he
That he has kissed her ruby lips
All ‘neath the Eildon Tree

‘Oh, now you’ve kissed me, Thomas

You must ride away with me
To serve my will for seven years
Whate’er your chance may be’

And she’s mounted up her snow-white steed

And pulled Thomas up behind
And aye, each time her bridle rang
They flew swift as the wind

And on they road and farther on

Till they spied a garden green
And she’s said, ‘Light down, dear Thomas
For we near my fair country

And take this bread and wine

And lay your head down on my knee
For when your fill you’ve eaten
I will show you fairlies three

See the narrow road to Paradise

How it winds through thorn and tree
The broad road leads to the gates of Hell
Though fair it seems to be

But see you not yon farther road

Winding round the lily lea
That is the road to my fair land
Whence you must go with me

But hold your tongue, dear Thomas

And answer only unto me
For should you speak unto another
Your own home you ne’er will see’

When Thomas came into the hall

Oh, a well-bred man was he
They asked him questions one and all
But not one word spoke he

It’s of woven clouds she’s made the roof

And of flowered vines the walls
And jewels did shower down as rain
That night among them all

And each day brought Thomas wonders

Never seen be mortal eye
And each night brought Thomas wonders
As next the lady he did lie

But she’s rose and said, ‘Dear Thomas,

Now it’s time you were away.
For seven years have passed and gone
Though it seems but seven days’

‘If it’s seven years, my lady,

Since my face on earth was seen,
Pray give to me some token
That I may prove where I have been’

And it’s on they rode and farther on

To the Huntley Banks rode she
And she set him down upon the ground
Beside the Eildon Tree

‘As you’d have a token , Thomas,

A rare token shall it be,
For the gift I give you, Thomas,
Is a tongue that cannot lie’

But he’s cried, ‘I pray you, lady,

And give not this gift to me,
For how may I counsel prince or lord
Or court a fair lady?’

‘Be careful in your silence

As you’re careful what you say,
May your truth outlive them all,’ she said
As she turned and rode away


© 1984 Danny Carnahan/Post-Trad Music

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