[“Under the Eildon tree Thomas met the Lady” – “illustration by Katherine Cameron from Thomas the Rhymer (retold by Mary MacGregor, 1908)]
AG: “Thomas the Rhymer” is a very famous one. The first line is… (It) sort of echoes – “True Thomas lay o’er yon grassy bank” – you know that phrase? – “True Thomas..”? – That’s come through some kind of cultural unconscious, from this ballad, “Thomas the Rhymer”. “O..” – and, in that, there’s several great lines. He’s going.. He’s going to Elfland. He’s being conjured, and tells what.., or seduced into Elfland – ““O see not ye yon narrow road,/So thick beset wi’ thorns and briers?/That is the path of righteousness,/Tho after it but few enquires./“And see not ye that braid braid road,/That lies across yon lillie leven/That is the path of wickedness,/Tho some call it the road to heaven./“And see not ye that bonnie road,/Which winds about the fernie brae?/That is the road to fair Elfland/ Whe’r you and I this night maun gae” – “But Thomas, ye maun hold your tongue,/ Whatever you may hear or see,/For gin ae word you should chance to speak/ You will neer get back to your ain country” – “He has gotten a coat of the even cloth,/And a pair of shoes of velvet green,/And till seven years were gane and past/True Thomas on earth was never seen.”
So he went to Elfland for seven years. But, to get to Elfland, you had to wade for forty days and forty nights, with red blood up to the knee! – That’s a great sort of.. little great movie, that little piece of it. – “For forty days and forty nights/ He waded through blood above the knee/And he was neither sun nor moon,/But heard the roaring of the sea.”
“Tam Lin” – I won’t go through, but you might check that out, if you ever get the chance to read more ballads – “The Ballad of Tam Lin” was Helen Adam‘s favorite (I refer to her because she’s maybe the greatest living ballad-maker among the poet-poets – aside from singers).
[Helen Adam (1909-1993)]
to be continued
[Audio for the above can be heard here beginning at approximately forty-two-and-a-half-minutes in and concluding at approximately forty-four-and-a-half minutes in]