Thomas The Rhymer

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Thomas The Rhymer

True Thomas sat on Huntley bank,
And he beheld a lady gay;
A lady that was brisk and bold,
Come riding o'er the ferny brae.
Her skirt was of the grass green silk,
Her mantle of the velvet fine;
At every lock of her horse's mane,
Hung fifty silver bells and nine.
True Thomas, he pulled off his cap,
And bowed him low down to his knee'
"All hail, thou mighty Queen of Heaven
Your like on earth I ne'er did see."
"No, no Thomas," she said,
"That name does not belong to me,
I am the queen of fair Elfland,
And I have come to visit thee."
"You must go with me Thomas," she said,
True Thomas you must go with me;
And must serve me seven years,
Through well or woe, as chance may be."

Hark and come, come along with me,
Thomas the Rhymer;
Hark and come, come along with me,
Thomas the Rhymer;
Hark and come, come along with me,
Thomas the Rhymer;
Hark and come, come along with me,
Thomas the Rhymer.
She turned about her milk white steed,
And took Thomas up behind;
And aye whenever her bridle rang,
Her steed flew swifter than the wind.
For forty days and forty nights,
They rode through red blood to the knee;
And they saw neither sun nor moon,
But heard the roaring of the sea.
And they rode on and further on,
Further and swifter than the wind;
Until they came to a desert wide,
And living land was left behind.
"Don't you see yon narrow, narrow road,
So thick beset with thorns and briars?
That is the road to righteousness,
Though after it but few enquire."
"Don't you see yon broad, broad road,
Lying lies across the lily leaven?
That is the road to wickedness,
Though some call it the road to heaven."
"Don't you see yon bonnie, bonnie road,
Lying across the ferny brae?
That is the road to fair Elfland,
Where you and I this night must go."
Hark and come, come along with me,
Thomas the Rhymer;
Hark and come, come along with me,
Thomas the Rhymer;
Hark and come, come along with me,
Thomas the Rhymer;
Hark and come, come along with me,
Thomas the Rhymer.

[trad. arr. Steeleye Span]

Thomas the Rhymer cover [click for larger image]

Thomas the Rhymer (also Thomas Rhymer or Thomas Rymer) is the better-known name of Thomas Learmonth of Erceldoune, a 13th century Scottish soothsayer. Many people have encountered him in fictional form as the protagonist in the ballad Thomas the Rhymer (Child Ballad number 37).Thomas was born in Erceldoune (also spelt Ercildoune - presently Earlston), Scottish Borders, sometime in the 13th century, and has a reputation as the author of many prophetic verses. Little is known for certain of his life but two charters from 1260-80 and 1294 mention him, the latter referring to the "Thomas de Ercildounson son and heir of Thome Rymour de Ercildoun.

Popular esteem of Thomas lived on for centuries after his death,
to the extent that several people have fabricated Thomas' "prophecies"
in order to further the cause of Scottish independence. His reputation for supernatural powers for a time rivalled that of Merlin. Thomas became
known as "True Thomas" because he could not tell a lie. Popular lore
recounts how prophesied many great events in Scottish history including

Thomas the Rhymer [click for larger image]

Musicologists have traced the ballad Thomas the Rhymer back at least as far as the 13th century. It deals with the supernatural subject matter of fairy-folk. The theme of this song also closely relates to another song, that of Tam Lin, which follows the same general topical lines. Its more general theme relates to temptation and mortal pleasures. There is also a 14th century romance "Thomas of Erceldoune", with accompanying prophecies, which clearly relates to the ballad, though the exact nature of the relationship is not clear

 illustrations Thomas Canty.
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