> Sandy Denny > Songs > Tam Lin
> Anne Briggs > Songs > Young Tambling
> A.L. Lloyd > Songs > Tamlyn
> Mike Waterson > Songs > Tamlyn

Tam Lin

[ Roud 35 ; Child 39 ; G/D 2:330 ; Ballad Index C039 ; trad.]

For much more information about this ballad than can be shown here, see Abigail Acland's comprehensive Tam Lin web pages.

This is a truly magical ballad. It was first mentioned in The Complaynt of Scotland in 1549 but no words were published until Herd put a fragment into his Ancient and Modern Scots Songs in 1769. It never seems to have been collected outside Scotland, though a possible relative of Tam's, Brian O'Lynn (who may be a burlesqued son of the Irish god-mother Danu) crops up in comic songs in Ireland, Scotland and America, and the first printed version of Brian's song in 1568, called him Tom a Lin.

Janet is a puzzle; on the one hand she is clearly a virgin, by virtue of the gold she wears in her hair, and the threat in the first verse is like the warning to the maiden in the analogous Broomfield Wager. But like that maiden, she may have had magical powers herself to deal with the Fairy Queen, for more than half the convicted witches in Scotland in 1590 and 1697 were called Janet.

Carterhaugh is near Selkirk in Scotland, and it is said the three rings where grass will not grow mark the spot where three containers of magic milk or water stood, into which, in one old version of the ballad, Janet dipped her protean lover to change him back to human shape.

Betsy Johnson of Glasgow and Willie Whyte of Aberdeen sang Tam Lin in field recordings made by Hamish Henderson in 1956 on the anthology The Muckle Sangs (Scottish Tradition 5; Tangent 1975; Greentrax 1992).

Eddie Butcher of Magilligan, Co. Londonderry, sang The Bride Stolen by Fairies (Tam Lin) on July 6, 1968 to Hugh Shields. This recording was included in 1975 on the Leader album of Folk Ballads from Donegal and Derry collected by Shields.

Fairport Convention recorded Tam Lin with Sandy Denny singing on October 29, 1968. The band play rhythm games on this song, which is mainly in 3/4 time, with the odd bar of 4/4 appearing now and then. The recording originally appeared on Liege and Lief, and made later appearances on the double CD compilation Meet on the Ledge: The Classic Years 1967-1975, on the famous anthology The Electric Muse, and on the Sandy Denny compilations Who Knows Where the Time Goes?, The Best of Sandy Denny, and A Boxful of Treasures.

An early version, taken at a quicker pace, was recorded by Fairport live on September 23, 1969 in in Studio 4, Maida Vale, for the Top Gear / John Peel radio show and broadcast on September 27, 1969 with a repeat on December 13, 1969. This version is much closer to the way the band would have performed the song live. For ten years, this recording was available on the 1992 semi-bootleg From Past Archives only, but then in 2002, it was suddenly reissued three (!) times: on Ashley Hutchings' CD 5 from the Guv'nor series, on the Island CD re-release of Heyday and on the Fairport unConventioNal 4CD set.

More live versions: Dave Swarbrick sang Tam Lin on Fairport's Stockholm gig in 1971; this was included in the Dave Swarbrick anthology Swarb! in 2003. Tam Lin also appears on Fairport's cassette The Boot: 1983 Fairport Reunion and, with the near-original lineup (Vikki Clayton replaces Sandy Denny), on their CD 25th Anniversary Concert. This video shows them at Cropredy 2007 in their original 1969 line-up with Chris While filling in for Sandy Denny:

Dave and Tony Arthur sang Tam Lin in 1970 on their Trailer album Hearken to the Witches Rune.

In 1971, Anne Briggs sang this ballad as Young Tambling unaccompanied on her first solo album Anne Briggs. This recording was reissued on her Fellside and Topic compilation CDs, Classic Anne Briggs and A Collection. A.L. Lloyd wrote in the original album's sleeve notes:

Better known through Child's English and Scottish Popular Ballads as Tam Lin. It was thought to have disappeared from tradition but of recent years a number of versions, mostly fragmentary, have turned up among country singers, particularly Scottish travelling people. I cobbled this set together, in part from Child, in part from recent collection; the tune is derived from one used for this ballad by travellers. Many consider it the best of all English-language ballad stories.

A.L. Lloyd sang Tamlyn (Young Tambling) live at the Top Lock Folk Club, Runcorn, on November 5, 1972. This recording is on his anthology Classic A.L. Lloyd and on the 2010 CD An Evening with A.L. Lloyd.

Mike Waterson sang Tamlyn unaccompanied on his 1977 album Mike Waterson. It was added to the Watersons' 1993 CD reissue of For Pence and Spicy Ale and in 2004 to the Watersons' 4CD anthology Mighty River of Song. A.L. Lloyd commented in the original recording's sleeve notes:

We haven't all that many fairy ballads, and this is by far the finest. It's fairly venerable, it was already printed on a broadside in 1558, and it wasn't new then. It seems to be uniquely Scottish, though there are international folk tales that come near its story; a Greek tale considerably more than two thousand years old tells how Peleus, wanting to marry the sea-nymph Thetis, lay in wait for her in a cave and seized here as she came riding in naked on a harnessed dolphin. She turned herself successively into fire, water, a lion, a snake, even to an ink-squirting cuttlefish, but Peleus “held her tight and feared not”, and in the end she gave in and the Olympian gods all came to the wedding. Tamlyn is a long ballad but the story moves swiftly. Mike says that he got his version “from A. L. Lloyd and Child”. So be it.

Steeleye Span recorded Tam Lin live during their 1991 tour. This recording was released on their CD Tonight's the Night... Live. Another live recording from St. David's Hall, Cardiff on December 6, 1994 was included on the video 25 Live: The Classic Twenty Fifth Anniversary Tour Concert.

A reel of this name, Tam Lin, which was written by Davey Arthur, can be found on Steeleye Span's album Time.

Frankie Armstrong's several version of Tam Lin can be found on the 1976 LP Here's a Health to the Man and the Maid, on her 1984 albums I Heard a Woman Singing and Tam Lin, and in 1997 on the Fellside anthology Ballads. Paul Adams commented in the latter album's notes:

Tam Lin has been Frankie's tour-de-force for several years now. Her stunning performance here, full of passion and drama, clearly illustrates why she is a ballad singer par excellence. This is the classic “Elfland” ballad and contains a considerable amount of ancient folklore: Tam Lin is a human abducted by the elves and when he returns to the human world at the end the Elf Queen's wish that she had “put out his eyes” is not borne out of vindictiveness, but because he has seen the secrets of Elfland and will take them to the human world.

Frankie notes: “Given that I've sung this more than any other ballad, that it is the most requested and consistently touches me to the core, it's strange that I find it difficult to know what to say about it. There are scholarly things that can be said—they are interesting but do not illuminate the story or its effect. At its heart there is a mystery and I have no desire to analyse this away—even were it possible—I simply know that its power lies somewhere in the glorious weaving of words, images, story and tune an in something magical about tales of transformation. This song has lived with me for thirty years now and inspired the song-cycle based on the themes and characters that I devised and recorded with Brian Person in the early eighties. Singing it still thrills me.”

Kirsten Easdale sang Oh I Forbid You in 2002 on the anthology The Complete Songs of Robert Burns Volume 11.

Geordie McIntyre sang Tam Lin in 2003 on Alison McMorland's and his Tradition Bearers CD Ballad Tree.

Benjamin Zephaniah and Eliza Carthy sang Tam Lyn Retold in 2007 on The Imagined Village.

Jon Boden sang Tam Lin quite close to Anne Briggs' version in October 2010 as the Halloween entry of his project A Folk Song a Day.

James Findlay sang Tam Lin in 2011 on his Fellside CD Sport and Play.

Anaïs Mitchell and Jefferson Hamer sang Tam Lin in 2013 oh their CD Child Ballads. This video shows them at Folk Alliance International in Toronto, Ontario, in February 2013:

The Macmath Collective sang Queen of the Fairies on their 2015 CD Macmath: The Silent Page. They noted:

This variant of the great ballad Tam Lin is unique to the Macmath collection. The song was learnt by Alexander Kirk around 7850 from David Rae of Barclay, Balmaclennan and recited to Macmath in 7886.

Lyrics

Fairport Convention sing Tam Lin

[The words are different from the original (Child) version but this is a very close approximation of the song as performed by Sandy Denny.]

  1. “I forbid you maidens all that wear gold in your hair
    To travel to Carterhaugh, for young Tam Lin is there

  2. None that go by Carterhaugh but they leave him a pledge
    Either their mantles of green or else their maidenhead”

  3. Janet tied her kirtle green a bit above her knee
    And she's gone to Carterhaugh as fast as go can she

  4. She'd not pulled a double rose, a rose but only two
    When up then came young Tam Lin, says,“Lady, pull no more”

  5. “And why come you to Carterhaugh without command from me?”
    “I'll come and go,” young Janet said, “and ask no leave of thee”

  6. Janet tied her kirtle green a bit above her knee
    And she's gone to her father as fast as go can she

  7. Well, up then spoke her father dear and he spoke meek and mild
    “Oh, and alas, Janet,” he said, “I think you go with child”

  8. “Well, if that be so,” Janet said, “myself shall bear the blame
    There's not a knight in all your hall shall get the baby's name

  9. For if my love were an earthly knight, as he is an elfin grey
    I'd not change my own true love for any knight you have”

  10. So Janet tied her kirtle green a bit above her knee
    And she's gone to Carterhaugh as fast as go can she

  11. “Oh, tell to me, Tam Lin,” she said, “why came you here to dwell?”
    “The Queen of Fairies caught me when from my horse I fell

  12. And at the end of seven years she pays a tithe to hell
    I so fair and full of flesh and fear it be myself

  13. But tonight is Halloween and the fairy folk ride
    Those that would let true love win at Mile's Cross they must bide

  14. So first let pass the horses black and then let pass the brown
    Quickly run to the white steed and pull the rider down

  15. For I'll ride on the white steed, the nearest to the town
    For I was an earthly knight, they give me that renown

  16. Oh, they will turn me in your arms to a newt or a snake
    But hold me tight and fear not, I am your baby's father

  17. And they will turn me in your arms into a lion bold
    But hold me tight and fear not and you will love your child

  18. And they will turn me in your arms into a naked knight
    But cloak me in your mantle and keep me out of sight”

  19. In the middle of the night she heard the bridle ring
    She heeded what he did say and young Tam Lin did win

  20. Then up spoke the Fairy Queen, an angry queen was she
    Woe betide her ill-far'd face, an ill death may she die

  21. “Oh, had I known, Tam Lin,” she said, “what this night I did see
    I'd have looked him in the eyes and turned him to a tree”

Dave & Toni Arthur sing Tam Lin

  1. Fair Margaret ran in the merry green wood
    And pulled a flower but one
    When at her side stood young Tam-a-Lin,
    Saying, “Margaret, leave it alone.

  2. “How dare you pull my flowers, madam?
    How dare you break my tree?
    How dare you run in these green woods
    Without the leave of me?”

  3. “Oh this green wood it is my own,
    My father gave it me.
    And I can pluck myself a flower
    Without the leave of thee.”

  4. He took her by the milk-white hand
    And by the grass-green sleeve
    And laid her low down on the flowers
    And asked of her no leave.

  5. And when he'd had his will of her
    Young Margaret she felt shame,
    Says, “If you are a gentleman
    Pray tell to me your name.”

  6. “Oh Tam-a-Lin is the name,” he said,
    “The Elf Queen gave to me.
    And long I've haunted these green woods
    All for your fair body.

  7. “So do not pluck that herb, Margaret,
    That herb that grows so grey,
    For that would kill the little babe
    That we've got in our play.

  8. ”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 company.

  9. “Oh drowsy, drowsy as I was,
    Dead sleep upon me fell,
    And the Queen of Elfin she rode by
    And took me for herself.

  10. “Tonight it is good Hallowe'en,
    The Elfin court will ride.
    And they that would their true love win
    At the crossroads they must hide.

  11. “The second court that comes along
    Is clad in robes of green.
    It is the head court of them all
    For in it rides the Queen

  12. “And I upon a milk-white steed
    With a gold star in my crown,
    And I do ride beside the Queen
    And you must pull me down.

  13. “Then I will grow in your two arms
    Like a savage creature wild.
    But hold me fast, let me not go,
    I'm the father of your child.”

  14. She took her petticoats in her hand,
    Her mantle on her arm,
    Unto the crossroads she's away
    As fast as she could run.

  15. The first court it came riding by,
    She heard the bridles ring.
    And the second court all dressed in green
    And Tam Lin like a king.

  16. She pulled him from his milk-white steed,
    He on the ground did lay.
    And the Elf Queen gave a shrieking cry,
    ”Young Tam-a-Lin's away, my boys!
    Young Tam-a-Lin's away!”

  17. And then they turned him in her arms
    To a wolf and to an adder.
    She held him fast in every shape
    To be her baby's father.

  18. They shaped him in her arms at last
    A mother-naked man.
    She wrapped him in her mantle green
    And saw her true love won.

  19. Out then cried the Elfin Queen
    And an angry woman was she,
    Said, “You've stolen away the very best knight
    In all my company.

  20. “Oh had I known, Tam-a-Lin,” she says,
    “What now this night I see,
    I would have burned out your two grey eyes
    And put in two from a tree, Tam-a-Lin,
    And put in two from a tree.”

Anne Briggs sings Young Tambling

  1. Lady Margaret, Lady Margaret, was sewing at her seam
    And she's all dressed in black.
    And the thought come in her head to run in the wood
    to pull flowers to flower her hat, me boys,
    to pull flowers to flower her hat.

  2. So she hoisted up her petticoats a bit above the knee
    And so nimbly she'd run o'er the ground.
    And when she come in the merry greenwood,
    Well, she pulled them branches down, me boys,
    Well, she pulled them branches down.

  3. Suddenly she spied a fine young man,
    He's standing by a tree.
    He says, “How dare you pull them branches down
    Without the leave of me, my dear,
    Without the leave of me?”

  4. Well, she says, “This little wood, oh, it is me very own,
    Me father gave it to me.
    I can pull these branches down
    Without the leave of thee, young man,
    Oh, without the leave of thee.”

  5. And he took her by the milk-white hand
    And by the grass-green sleeve,
    He pulled her down at the foot of a bush,
    And he never once asked her leave, me boys,
    No, he never once asked her leave.

  6. And when it was done she twist about
    To ask her true-love's name.
    But she nothing heard and she nothing saw
    And all the woods grew dim, grew dim,
    And all the woods grew dim.

  7. There's four and twenty ladies all in the land
    and they're all playing at chess.
    Except it was the Lady Margaret
    And she's green as any glass, me boys,
    Oh, she's green as any glass.

  8. And there's four and twenty ladies all in the land
    Grow as red as any rose.
    Except it was the Lady Margaret,
    She's pale and wan, me boys,
    Oh, pale and wan she goes.

  9. Up then spoke the little servant girl,
    She lift her hand and smiled,
    Says, “I think my lady has loved too long
    And now she goes with child, me dears,
    Oh, and now she goes with child.”

  10. Up then spoke the second serving girl
    “Oh, ever and alas,” said she,
    “But I think I know a herb in the merry greenwood,
    It'll twine thy baby from thee, madam,
    It'll twine thy baby from thee.”

  11. So Lady Margaret she got her silver comb,
    Made haste to comb her hair,
    And then she's away to the merry greenwood
    As fast as she can tear, me boys,
    Oh, as fast as she can tear.

  12. And she hadn't pulled in the merry greenwood
    A herb but barely one
    When by her stood the young Tambling,
    He says, “Margaret, leave it alone,
    Oh Margaret, leave it alone.”

  13. “Why d'you pull that bitter little herb,
    The herb that grows so grey,
    For to destroy that fine young babe
    That we got in our play, my dear,
    That we got in our play?”

  14. “Well, come tell me now, young Tambling,” she says,
    “If an earthly man you be.”
    “I'll tell you no lies,” says young Tambling,
    “I was christened as good as thee, me dear,
    I was christened as good as thee.”

  15. “But as I rode a-hunting on a bitter, bitter night,
    It was from my horse I fell,
    And the Queen of Elfland she caught me
    In yonder green hill to dwell, to dwell,
    Oh, in yonder green hill to dwell.”

  16. “But tonight is Halloween, lady,
    The Elven Court will ride.
    And if you would your true love win,
    By the mill bridge you must hide, me dear,
    By the mill bridge you must hide.”

  17. “And first will run the black horse and then will run the brown,
    And then race by the white.
    You hold him fast and you fear him not,
    For he's the father of your child, my love,
    Oh, he's the father of your child.”

  18. “They'll turn me all in your arms, lady,
    Into many's the beasts so wild.
    But you'll hold on fast and you fear no ill,
    For it's the father of your child, my love,
    It's the father of your child.”

  19. So Lady Margaret she got her silver comb,
    She made haste to comb her hair.
    Then she's away to the old mill-bridge
    As fast as she could tear, me boys,
    Oh, as fast as she could tear.

  20. And about the dead hour of the night
    She heard the bridles ring.
    And oh, me boys, it chilled her heart
    More than any earthly thing it did,
    More than any earthly thing.

  21. And first run the black horse and then run the brown
    And then race by the white.
    Well, she hold it fast and feared it not,
    For it's the father of her child,
    Oh, it's the father of her child.

  22. The thunder rolled across the sky,
    The stars blazed bright as day.
    The Queen of Elven gave a thrilling cry,
    “Young Tambling's away, brave boys,
    Young Tambling's away.”

  23. And the very first thing they turned him into
    Was a lion that runs so wild.
    But she held him fast, she feared him not,
    For he's the father of her child, me boys,
    Oh, he's father of her child.

  24. And the very next thing they turned him into,
    It was a loathsome snake.
    He says, “Hold me fast and fear me not,
    For I'm one of God's own make, my love,
    Oh, I'm one one of God's own make.”

  25. And again they changed him all in her arms
    To a red hot bar of iron.
    But she held it fast, she feared it not,
    And it did to her no harm, no harm,
    And it did to her no harm.

  26. And the very last thing they changed him into
    Was like any naked man.
    She flung her mantle over him,
    She cried, “Me love I've won, I've won,”
    Oh, she cried, “Me love I've won.”

  27. And the Queen of Elven she called from a bush,
    She's red as any blood.
    “I should have tore out your eyes, Tambling,
    And put in two eyes of wood, of wood,
    And put in two eyes of wood.”

Mike Waterson sings Tamlyn

  1. Come all you maids, and you very pretty maids
    And a warning take by me
    Don't go down to the Chaser's wood
    If a maid you want to return and return
    If a maid you want to return.

  2. Lady Margaret, Lady Margaret, she was sitting in her bower
    She was red as any rose
    But she longed to go the Chaser's woods
    To pull them flowers that grows and grows
    Oh, to pull the flowers that grows

  3. And she taken out her silver comb
    Made in haste to comb her hair
    Then she away to the Chaser's wood
    As fast as she could tear and could tear
    Aye, as fast as she could tear

  4. And she hadn't pulled but the one red rose
    The rose that grows there in the green
    When a voice said, “Lady, how dare you pull a rose
    Without no leave of me, and of me,
    Aye, without no leave of me?”

  5. “This little wood,” she says “it is me very own
    Me father he given it to me.
    I will pull, pluck, break, I'll bend the branch
    And I won't ask leave of thee, and of thee,
    No I won't ask leave of thee.”

  6. Oh, he's taken her by the middle so small
    Down to where the grass it grows so green
    And what they've done, well I just couldn't say
    Oh, the green grass grew between and between
    Aye, the green grass grew between

  7. Aye, he's taken her by the lily-white hand
    Down to where the grass it grows so green
    And it's what they done, well I just couldn't say
    But he never once asked her leave, her leave
    No he never once asked her leave.

  8. It's four and twenty ladies, they're all sitting in the hall
    Playing at the chess
    All except for young Margaret
    She's green as any grass, any grass,
    And she's green as any grass.

  9. Aye, there's four and twenty ladies, they're all sitting in the hall
    All as red as the rose
    All except for young Margaret
    And pale and wan she goes, and she goes
    Aye, pale and wan she goes.

  10. Up there spake one of them little girls
    And on her face there was a smile
    She says, “I think my lady's loved a little long
    And now she goes with child, and with child
    Aye, and now she goes with child.”

  11. Up there spake another of them girls
    A pretty little girl was she
    She says, “I know a herb growing in the Chaser's woods
    As'll twine the babe from thee, and from thee
    As'll twine the babe from thee.”

  12. Lady Margaret, she picked up her silver comb
    Made in haste to comb her hair
    Then she away to the Chaser's wood
    As fast as she could tear, and could tear
    Aye, as fast as she could tear.

  13. And she hadn't pulled but the one bit of herb
    The herb that grows there in the loam
    When up there spake young Tam o' the Lyn
    Saying, “Margaret, leave it alone
    Oh, sweetheart, Margaret, leave it alone.”

  14. “Why do you want that bitter, bitter herb
    The herb that grows so grey
    Except for to twine away the pretty little baby
    We got in our play, our play,
    Mark, we got in our play.”

  15. “Oh tell me this, young Tam-'o-Lyn,” she says
    “If a mortal man you be.”
    “Well, I'll tell you truth without a word of a lie
    I got christened as good as thee, as thee
    I got christened as good as thee.”

  16. “But as I rode out on a bitter, bitter day
    'Twas from me horse I fell
    And the Queen of the Elvens did take me
    In yonder greenwood for to dwell, and to dwell
    Aye, in yonder greenwood for to dwell.”

  17. “And it's every seventh seventh year
    We pay a toll to hell
    And the last one here is the first to go.
    And I fear the toll, it's meself, it's meself
    Aye, I fear the toll's meself.”

  18. “Oh, tonight it is the Halloween
    When the Elven Court shall ride
    If you would your true lover save
    By the old mill-bridge you must hide, you must hide
    By the old mill bridge you must hide.”

  19. “And it's first there'll come this black horse
    And it's then there'll come the brown
    And they're both raced by the white
    You must throw your arms up around my neck
    And I will not you afright, and afright
    No, I will not you afright.”

  20. “And they'll change me then, and it's all in your arms
    Into many's the beast so wild
    You must hold me tight, you must fear me not
    I'm the father of your child,
    Oh you know that I'm the father of your child.”

  21. And the woods grew dark, and the woods grew dim
    Tam o' the Lyn was gone.
    She picked up her lily-white feet
    And to the mill-bridge run, now she run
    Aye, and to the mill-bridge run.

  22. She looked high, and she looked low
    She encompassed all around
    But she nothing saw, she nothing heard
    She heard no mortal sound, no sound
    No, she heard no mortal sound.

  23. Till about the dead hour of the night
    She heard them bridles ring
    It chilled her heart, it's given her a start
    More than any mortal thing, any thing
    More than any mortal thing.

  24. Then it's first there come this black horse,
    and it's then there come the brown
    They both raced by the white
    And she's thrown her arms up 'round his neck
    And he didn't her afright, and afright
    No, he didn't her afright.

  25. And the thunder roared across the sky
    And the stars they burned as bright as day
    And the Queen of the Elvens give a stunning ? cry,
    Saying, “Young Tam-a-Lyn is away, is away
    Aye, Young Tam-a-Lyn is away.”

  26. And they changed him then—it were all in her arms
    To a lion roaring so wild
    But she held him tight and she feared him not
    He was the father of her child, oh she knew he was
    The father of her child.

  27. Soon they changed him again—it were all in her arms
    To a big black hissing snake
    But she held him tight and she feared him not
    He was one of God's own make, oh she knew that he
    Was one of God's own make.

  28. And they changed him again—it were all in her arms
    To a big black dog to bite
    But she held him tight and she feared him not
    He didn't her afright, and afright
    No, he didn't her afright.

  29. So they changed him again—it were all in her arms
    To a white-hot bar of iron
    But she held him tight and she feared him not
    He'd done to her no harm, no harm
    No, he'd done to her no harm.

  30. Then they changed him again—it were all in her arms
    To a mother-naked man
    And she throwed her cloak up around his shoulders,
    Saying, “Tam o' the Lyn, we've won, oh, we've won,”
    Saying, “Tam o' the Lyn, we've won.”

  31. Then the Queen of the Elvens, how she cursed young Tambalyn
    Oh, well she cursed him good
    She said, “I should have torn out your eyes young Tam-a-Lyn
    I should have put in two eyes of wood, of wood
    I should have put in two eyes of wood.”

  32. “And it's curses on you, Tam-a-Lyn,” she says
    “You once was my very own.
    And when you was, I should have torn out your heart
    And put in a heart of stone, cold stone
    I should have put in a heart of stone.”

Steeleye Span's Tam Lin

  1. Oh, I forbid you maidens all
    That wear gold in your hair
    To come or go by Carterhaugh
    For young Tam Lin is there.

  2. If you go by Carterhaugh
    You must leave him a ward:
    Either your rings or green mantle
    Or else your maidenhead.

  3. She's away o'er gravel green
    And o'er the gravel brown;
    She's away to Carterhaugh
    To flower herself a gown.

  4. She had not pulled a rosy rose,
    A rose but barely one,
    When by came this brisk young man,
    Says, “Lady, let alone.

  5. How dare you pull my rose, Madam?
    How dare you break my tree?
    How dare you come to Carterhaugh
    Without the leave of me?”

  6. “Well may I pull the rose,” she said,
    “Well may I break the tree.
    For Carterhaugh it my father's,
    I'll ask no leave of thee.”

    Oh, in Carterhaugh, in Carterhaugh
    Oh, in Carterhaugh, in Carterhaugh

  7. He's taken her by the milk-white hand
    And there he's laid her down,
    And there he asked no leave of her
    As she lay on the ground.

  8. “Oh tell me, tell me,” then she said,
    “Oh tell me who art thee?”
    “My name it is Tam Lin,” he said,
    “And this is my story:

  9. As it fell out upon a day,
    A-hunting I did ride;
    There came a wind out of the north
    And woe it did betide.

  10. And drowsy, drowsy as I was,
    The sleep upon me fell;
    The Queen of Fairies she was there,
    And took me to herself.

    Oh, in Carterhaugh, in Carterhaugh
    Oh, in Carterhaugh, in Carterhaugh

  11. At the end of every seven years
    They pay a tithe to Hell;
    And I'm so fain and full of flesh,
    I fear 't will be myself.

  12. Tonight it is good Halloween,
    The fairy court will ride;
    And if you would your true love win,
    At Mile's Cross, you must bide.”

    Oh, in Carterhaugh, in Carterhaugh
    Oh, in Carterhaugh, in Carterhaugh

  13. Gloomy was the night
    And eerie was the way;
    This lady in her green mantle
    To Mile's Cross she did go.

  14. With the holy water in her hand
    She cast the compass round;
    At twelve o'clock the fairy court
    Came riding o'er the bound.

  15. First came by the black steed
    And then came by the brown,
    Then Tam Lin on a milk-white steed
    With a gold star in his crown.

  16. She's pulled him down into her arms
    And let the bridle fall;
    The Queen of Fairies she cried out,
    “Young Tam Lin is awa.”

  17. They've shaped him in her arms,
    An adder or a snake;
    She's held him fast and feared him not
    To be her earthly mate.

  18. They've shaped him in her arms again
    To fire burning bold;
    She's held him fast and feared him not
    Till he was iron cold.

  19. They've shaped him in her arms
    To a wood black dog so wild;
    She's held him fast and feared him not,
    The father of her child.

  20. They've shaped him in her arms at last
    Into a naked man;
    She's wrapped him in the green mantle
    And knew that she had him won.

  21. The Queen of Fairies she cried out,
    “Young Tam Lin is awa.

  22. Had I known, had I known, Tam Lin,
    Long before, long before you came from home,
    Had I known, I would have taken out your heart
    And put in a heart of stone.

  23. Had I known, had I known, Tam Lin,
    That a lady, a lady would steal thee,
    Had I known, I would have taken out your eyes
    And put in two from a tree.

  24. Had I known, had I known, Tam Lin,
    That I would lose, that I would lose the day,
    Had I known, I would have paid my tithe to hell
    Before you'd been won away.”

Jon Boden sings Tam Lin

  1. Lady Margaret, Lady Margaret, was sewing of her seam
    And she's all dressed in black.
    When a thought came to her head to go into the wood
    To pull flowers to flower her hat, my boys,
    To pull flowers to flower her hat.

  2. And she hoisted up her petticoat a bit above her knee
    And so nimbly she's tripped o'er the plain.
    Until when she came in the merry greenwood,
    And she pulled those branches down,
    She has pulled those branches down.

  3. And suddenly she spied a fine young man,
    Stood underneath a tree.
    Saying, “How dare you pull those branches down
    Without the leave of me, lady,
    Without the leave of me?”

  4. Well, she says, “This little wood, it is my very own,
    My father gave it me.
    And I can pull those branches down
    Without the leave of thee, young man,
    Without the leave of thee.”

  5. Well, he's taken her by the lily-white hand
    And by the grass-green sleeve,
    And he has laid her down at the foot of an oak,
    And he's never once asked her leave, my boys,
    He has never once asked her leave.

  6. And when it was done she has turned herself about
    For to ask her true-love's name.
    But she nothing saw and nothing heard
    And all the woods grew dim, my boys,
    And all the woods grew dim.

  7. Well there's four and twenty ladies all playing at the ball
    Grown red as any rose.
    Excepting for Lady Margaret,
    As green as glass she goes, she goes,
    As green as glass she goes.

  8. Oh up and then spoke the first serving maid,
    She lifted her head and smiled,
    She said, “I think our lady has loved too long
    And now she goes with child, with child,
    And now she goes with child.”

  9. Oh up and then spoke the second serving maid,
    “Oh, ever and alas,” cried she,
    “But I think I know a herb in the merry greenwood,
    That'll twine thy babe from thee, lady,
    That will twine thy babe from thee.”

  10. Lady Margaret's taken out her silver comb,
    She's made haste to comb her hair,
    And then she's away to the merry greenwood
    As fast as she could tear, my boys,
    As fast as she could tear.

  11. But she hadn't pulled a herb in the merry greenwood
    A herb but barely one
    When up and spoke Young Tambling,
    He says, “Margaret, leave it alone, alone,”
    He says, “Margaret, leave it alone.”

  12. “Oh how can you pull that bitter little herb,
    That herb that grows so grey,
    For to take away that young baby
    That we got in our play, lady,
    That we got in our play?”

  13. “Oh, tell me true, young Tambling,” she said,
    “If a mortal man you be.”
    “Well, I'll tell you no lies, Lady Margaret,
    I was christened as same as thee, lady,
    I was christened as same as thee.”

  14. “But as I rode out on a cold and bitter night,
    From off my horse I fell,
    And the Queen of Elfland she took me
    Into yonder hill to dwell, to dwell,
    Into yonder hill to dwell.”

  15. “And this night it is the Hallowe'en
    And the Elven Court shall ride.
    And if you would your true love gain,
    By the old mill bridge you must bide, my love,
    By the old mill bridge you must bide.”

  16. “And first will run the black horse and then will run the brown,
    And then chase by the white.
    You must hold them fast and fear them not,
    And they will not you afright, my love,
    They will not you afright.”

  17. “And they will change me all in your arms
    Into many a beast so wild.
    You must hold me fast and fear me not,
    I'm the father of your child, you know,
    I am the father of your child.”

  18. Lady Margaret's taken out her silver comb,
    She's made haste to comb her hair.
    And then she's away to the old mill bridge
    As fast as she could tear, my boys,
    As fast as she could tear.

  19. And in the dead hour of the night
    She's heard the harness ring.
    And oh, my boys, it chilled her heart
    More than any a mortal thing it did,
    More than any a mortal thing.

  20. And first rode by the black horse and then rode by the brown,
    And then chased by the white.
    And she hold them fast and she feared them not,
    They did not her afright, my boys,
    They did not her afright.

  21. And the thunder rolled across the sky
    And the stars shone bright as day.
    And the Queen of Elfland she gave a thrilling cry,
    “Young Tam Lin is away, away!
    Young Tam Lin is away!”

  22. And then they have changed him all in her arms
    Into a lion that roars so wild.
    And she held him fast and she feared him not,
    He was the father of her child, she knew,
    He was the father of her child.

  23. And next they've changed him all in her arms
    Into a poisonous snake.
    But she held him fast and she feared him not,
    He was one of God's own make, she knew,
    He was one of God's own make.

  24. And next they have changed him all in her arms
    To a red hot bar of iron.
    But she held him fast and she feared him not,
    And he did to her no harm, my boys,
    He did to her no harm.

  25. And last they have changed him all in her arms
    'Twas into a naked man.
    And she threw her mantle over him,
    Crying, “Oh, my love I've won, I've won,”
    Crying, “Oh, my love I've won.”

  26. And up and then spoke the Queen of Elfin Land
    From the bush wherein she stood,
    Saying, “I should have taken out your eyes, Tam Lin,
    And put in two eyes of wood, of wood,
    And put in two eyes of wood.”

The Macmath Collective sing Queen of the Fairies

  1. The maid that sits in Katherine's Hall
    Clad in her robes so black,
    She has tae yon garden gone
    For flowers tae flower her hat.
    She had not pulled the red, red rose
    A double rose but three
    When up there starts a gentleman
    Just at this lady's knee.

  2. Says, “Who's this pulls the red, red rose,
    Breaks branches off the tree
    An' who's this treads my garden grass
    Without the leave of me?”
    “Yes, I will pull the red, red rose
    Break branches off the tree
    This garden in Moorcartney Wood
    Without the leave o' thee.”

  3. Well he took her by the milk white hand
    And he gently laid her down,
    Just in below some shady trees
    Where the green leaves they hung down.
    “Come tell to me kind sir,” she said,
    “What before you never told.
    Are you an earthly man,” said she,
    “A knight or a baron bold?”

  4. “Ill tell to you, fair lady,” he said,
    “What before I ne'er did tell.
    I'm the second son o' Earl Douglas,
    With the Queen of the Fairies I dwell
    When riding through yon forest wood
    And by yon grass green well.
    A sudden sleep me overtook
    And off my steed I fell.”

  5. “The Queen of the Fairies being there
    Made me with her to dwell,
    And still once in each seven years
    We pay a tithe to hell.
    And because I am an earthly man,
    Myself does greatly fear,
    For the cleverest man in all our train
    To Pluto must go this year.”

  6. “This night is a Hallow e'en, lady,
    And the fairies they will ride.
    The maid that will her true love win
    At Miles Cross, she maun bide.”
    “But how will I thee ken though, Sir?
    How will I thee know
    Amang a pack o' hellish wraiths
    Before I never saw?”

  7. “Some rides upon a black horse, lady,
    And some upon a brown.
    And I myself on a milk white steed
    And aye nearest the town.
    My right hand shall be covered, lady,
    My left hand shall be bare.
    And that's a token good enough
    That you will find me there.”

  8. “Take the Bible in your right hand,
    With God to be your guide,
    Take holy water in your left
    And throw it on every side.”
    She's ta'en her mantle her about
    A cane into her hand
    And she has unto Miles Cross gane
    As hard as she could gang.

  9. First she's letten the black pass by
    And then she's letten the brown.
    She's taken a hold o' the milk white steed
    And she's pulled Earl Thomas down.
    The Queen o' the Fairies being there
    Sae loud she's letten a cry,
    The maid that sits in Katherine's Hall
    This night has gotten her prey.

  10. “But hadst thou waited. fair lady,
    Until this time the morn,
    He would have been as far from thee
    As the wind that blew when he was born.”
    They turned him in this lady's arms
    Like the adder and the snake,
    She held him fast, why should she not?
    Though her poor heart it would break.

  11. They turned him in this lady's arms
    Like two red gads of airn,
    She held him fast, why should she not?
    She knew they could do her no harm.
    They turned him in this lady's arms
    Like to all things that was vile,
    She held him fast. why should she not?
    He was the father o' her child.

  12. Then they turned him in this lady's arms
    Like to a naked knight,
    She's ta'en him hame to her ain bower
    And clothed him in armour bright.
    She held him fast, why should she not?
    He was the father o' her child.

Music Transcription

Fairport Convention: Tam Lin

Transcription by Dino Agate.

This song is based on two parts: a little instrumental bridge (in 3/4 time, usually two measures long) and a verse (whose eight measures are 3/4 3/4 4/4 3/4 and again the same time progression); this “pattern” (bridge+verse) is repeated throughout the song (except for three instrumental solos).

Bridges' chords are Em and D, while guitar's lines, although very alike, are almost all different, so I wrote the tablature for each. All these “bridges” could be useful to some bands; a single guitar player would probably repeat the first or second bridge or play the following to join chords and melody:

E --0--------!-------------
B --0--3--0--!-----0--2----
G --0--------!--2----------
D --2--------!--0----------
A --2--------!-------------
E --0--------!-------------

The verse's chord progression is very simple, but the guitar strummings are very peculiar. There are three kinds of guitar strummings and the main one is the following (related to the movement's measures of the verse):

1   2   3     1   2   3     1   2   3   4     1   2   3
Em            D             G   Em            D

The second strumming has the same accents as the first, but each chord is doubled (each strum is a quaver of the same movement) and it is played in verses 5 and 14:

1   2   3     1   2   3     1   2   3   4     1   2   3
Em/           D/            G/  Em/           D/

Last strumming is played only in verse 18:

1   2   3     1   2   3     1   2   3   4     1   2   3
Em            D       D     G   Em      Em    D       D

1   2   3     1   2   3     1   2   3   4     1   2   3
Em      Em    D       D     G/  Em/           D/

If the song is played with a guitar only, it will of course sound better if some more strumming is added to these main accents. In verses 12 and 13, a guitar plays a melody instead of playing chords (tablatures are under those verses).

Three guitars are played on this song (as far as I can hear): a clean electric guitar on the left channel (the violin is on the left channel too, starting from the 6th verse), a distorted and an acoustic guitar on the right.

The clean guitar (left) plays the following bridge (except where otherwise indicated):

E ------------!-------------
B ------------!-------------
G ------------!-------------
D ---2--0-----!-------------
A ---------2--!--0----------
E ------------!-----3--2----

All right channel guitar's bridges are shown after each verse.

Besides this, the guitars play “sharp” or “loose” (I mean the strings are stopped soon after they've been strum or they vibrate until the other chord is played) or “stopped” (only the lower strings are strum, almost muted). As each guitar plays differently, I indicated the “mood” that mainly stands out in each verse.

No panic, please. All you need to know to play this song is written above; the other details I wrote about are in the following lines.

It is interesting to notice how arrangements turns delicate or hard according to the meaning of the verse's words. H and P in the tablature are for hammer on and pull off.

Intro (repeat twice)

E--------------!-------------
B--------------!-------------
G--------------!-------------
D---2--2P0-----!----------0--
A-----------2--!--0--0H2-----
E--------------!-------------

1. “I forbid you maidens all that wear gold in your hair
To travel to Carterhaugh for young Tam Lin is there.

RHYTHM GUITAR SHARP

Bridge as Intro

2. None that go by Carterhaugh but they leave him a pledge
Either their mantles of green or else their maidenhead.”

SHARP

E------------!-------------
B---5--3-----!----------3--
G---------4--!--2--2P4-----
D------------!-------------
A------------!-------------
E------------!-------------

3. Janet tied her kirtle green a bit above her knee
And she's gone to Carterhaugh as fast as go can she.

LOOSE

E------------!-------------
B------------!-------------
G---------0--!--2--2P0-----
D---2--4-----!----------4--
A------------!-------------
E------------!-------------

4. She'd not pulled a double rose, a rose but only two
When up then came young Tam Lin says “Lady pull no more”

STOPPED

(muted notes):                        Left guitar bridge:

E-----------------!----------------   E-----------!-----------
B-----------------!----------------   B-----------!--------3--
G-----------------!----------------   G-----------!--2--4-----
D-----------------!----------------   D--2--4--5--!-----------
A-----------------!----------------   A-----------!-----------
E--0-0--0-0--0-0--!--0-0--0-0--0-0-   E-----------!-----------

5. “And why come you to Carterhaugh without command from me?”
“I'll come and go,” young Janet said “And ask no leave of thee”.

SHARP (double chords)

Guitar solo - 16 measures in 3/4 time (rhythm guitar Em7 - EM6):

E-------------!---------------!--------!---------------!---------------!
B-------------!---------------!--------!---------------!---------------!
G-------------!---------------!--------!--4--4P2--0H2--!--2P0----------!
D--2--2P0-----!----------0H2--!--2--2--!---------------!-------4--0H2--!
A----------2--!--0--0H2-------!--------!---------------!---------------!
E-------------!---------------!--------!---------------!---------------!


E---------!----0------------2P0--!--------------------!--------------------!
B------3-3P2------3P2P0--2-------!--3--2H3P2P0--2-----!--------------------!
G---------!----------------------!-----------------2--!--2--0--------------!
D--2------!----------------------!--------------------!--------4--0--2--4--!
A---------!----------------------!--------------------!--------------------!
E---------!----------------------!--------------------!--------------------!


E-----------!-----------------!--------------------!-----------!
B-----------!-----------------!--------------------!-----------!
G-----------!-----------------!--------------------!-----------!
D-----------!-----------------!--------------------!-----------!
A--2--2--0--!-----------------!-----0--2--0-----0--!--2--2--0--!
E-----------!--3--0--0--0--2--!--3-----------3-----!-----------!


E--------------------!-------------!-----------------!-------------!
B--------------------!-------------!-----------------!-------------!
G--------------------!-------------!-----------------!-------------!
D-----------------0--!-------------!--0H2--2H4--2H4--!--2--0--0H2--!
A--2--4--0--2--4-----!--2--0--0H2--!-----------------!-------------!
E--------------------!-------------!-----------------!-------------!


E-----------------!-------------!-------------!-------------!-------------!
B-----------------!-------------!-------------!-------------!-------------!
G-------2P0-------!-------------!-------------!-------------!-------------!
D--2H4-------2H4--!--2--2P0-----!----------0--!--0H2--0-----!----------0--!
A-----------------!----------2--!--0--0H2-----!----------2--!--0--0H2-----!
E-----------------!-------------!-------------!-------------!-------------!

6. Janet tied her kirtle green a bit above her knee
And she's gone to her father as fast as go can she.

SHARP

Bridge as Intro

7. Well up then spoke her father dear and he spoke meek and mild
“Oh and alas Janet” he said “I think you go with child.”

SHARP

E------------!-------------
B---5--3-----!-------------
G---------4--!--4P2--0-----
D------------!----------4--
A------------!-------------
E------------!-------------

8. “Well if that be so” Janet said “Myself shall bear the blame
There's not a knight in all your hall shall get the baby's name.

SHARP

Bridge as Intro

9. For if my love were an earthly knight as he is an elfin grey
I'd not change my own true love for any knight you have.”

LOOSE

E--------------!-------------
B--------------!-------------
G------4--4P2--!--2P0--------
D---2----------!-------4--0--
A--------------!-------------
E--------------!-------------

(Violin solo - 12 measures in 3/4 time)

E--------------!---------------!-------------!----------
B--------------!---------------!-------------!----------
G--------------!---------------!-------------!----------
D---2--2P0-----!------------0--!--2--2P0-----!----------
A-----------2--!--2H0--0H2-----!----------2--!--0-------
E--------------!---------------!-------------!-----3--2-

Left guitar bridge:

E------------!-----------!-----------!------------
B------------!-----------!-----------!--------3---
G------------!-----------!-----------!--2--4------
D---2--0-----!--------0--!--2--4--5--!------------
A---------2--!--0--2-----!-----------!------------
E------------!-----------!-----------!------------

10. So Janet tied her kirtle green a bit above her knee
And she's gone to Carterhaugh as fast as go can she.

LOOSE

Bridge as 4-5. (Left guitar bridge: standard)

11. “Oh tell to me Tam Lin” she said “Why came you here to dwell?”
“The Queen of Fairies caught me when from my horse I fell

STOPPED

E-------------!---------------!
B-------------!---------------!
G-------------!---------------!
D--2--2P0-----!----------0H2--!
A----------2--!--0--0H2-------!
E-------------!---------------!

12. And at the end of seven years she pays a tithe to hell
I so fair and full of flesh and feared it be myself

SHARP

Right guitar plays the following twice:

E-----!-------------!-----------------!---------------!
B-----!-------------!-----------------!---------------!
G-----!-------------!-----------------!---------------!
D-----!-------------!-----------------!-------0--2H4--!
A--2--!--4H5--4--0--!--0H2--0H2--0H2--!--0H2----------!
E-----!-------------!-----------------!---------------!

Bridge as the last one

13. But tonight is Halloween and the fairy folk ride,
Those that would their true love win at Mile's Cross they must bide.

LOOSE

Right guitar plays the same melody as last verse.

Bridge as Intro

14. First let pass the horses black and then let pass the brown
Quickly run to the white steed and pull the rider down,

SHARP (double chords)

E------------------!-----------------
B------------------!-----------------
G------------------!-----------------
D---2-2--2-2--2-2--!--2-2--2-2--2-2--
A------------------!-----------------
E------------------!-----------------

15. For I'll ride on the white steed, the nearest to the town
For I was an earthly knight, they give me that renown.

SHARP

E--------------!-----------------
B--------------!-----------------
G---4--4P2--0--!-----2P0---------
D--------------!--4-------4P2P0--
A--------------!-----------------
E--------------!-----------------

16. Oh they will turn me in your arms to a newt or a snake
But hold me tight and fear not, I am your baby's father.

LOOSE

Right guitar doesn't play this bridge

17. And they will turn me in your arms into a lion bold
But hold me tight and fear not and you will love your child,

SHARP

E---------------!----------------------
B------3--------!--3--3P0--------------
G---4-----4--4--!----------2P0---------
D---------------!---------------4P2P0--
A---------------!----------------------
E---------------!----------------------

18. And they will turn me in your arms into a naked knight
But cloak me in your mantle and keep me out of sight”.

STOPPED (other strumming)

Bridge as 2-3

(Guitar-violin solo - 16 measures in 3/4 time)

Bridge as before verse 10

Left guitar bridge:

E------------!-----------!-----------!----------
B------------!-----------!-----------!----------
G------------!-----------!-----------!----------
D---2--0-----!--------0--!--2--0-----!----------
A---------2--!--0--2-----!--------2--!--0-------
E------------!-----------!-----------!-----3--2-

19. In the middle of the night she heard the bridle ring
She heeded what he did say and young Tam Lin did win.

SHARP

Bridge: guitar strums on Em.

Left guitar bridge:

E------------!-----------
B------------!-----------
G------------!-----0--2--
D---2--0-----!--4--------
A---------2--!-----------
E------------!-----------

20. Then up spoke the Fairy Queen, an angry Queen was she
“Woe betide her ill-fared face, an ill death may she die

SHARP

Bridge as Intro

21. Oh had I known, Tam Lin” she said “What this night I did see
I'd have looked him in the eyes and turned him to a tree.”

LOOSE

Ending

E--------------!-------------!-----------!-------------!
B--------------!-------------!-----------!-------------!
G--------------!-------------!--------0--!--2--2P0-----!
D---2--2P0-----!----------0--!--2--4-----!----------4--!
A-----------2--!--0--0H2-----!-----------!-------------!
E--------------!-------------!-----------!-------------!


E----------------------!----------------------!
B---3--3P0-------------!----------------------!
G-----------2--0--2P0--!-----0-----------2P0--!
D----------------------!--4-----0--2--4-------!
A----------------------!----------------------!
E----------------------!----------------------!


E------------!----------------------!-----------!-----------!--0-
B------------!----------------------!-----------!-----------!--0-
G------------!----------------0--2--!-----------!-----------!--0-
D---2--0-----!-------0--2--4--------!--2--0-----!--------0--!--2-
A---------2--!--0P2-----------------!--------2--!--0--2-----!--2-
E------------!----------------------!-----------!-----------!--0-

Acknowledgements and Links

Garry Gillard thanks Jesse Kirchner for the Mike Waterson transcription. Tamlyn's name is spelt differently on this page in an attempt to represent the different ways Mike Waterson sings it on his recording, not out of carelessness (I hope).

See also the Mudcat Café thread Tam Lyn: any 'source singer' recordings?.