Thomas-the-rhymer-Thomas Canty

                    Thomas the Rhymer.

TRUE Thomas lay on a 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 0` the velvet fyne;

               At ilka tett 0` 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.”

               “O no, O 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 kiss`d 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, when`er her bridle rang,

               The steed gaed swifter than the wind.

O they rade on, and further on,

The steed gaed swifter than the wind;

Until they reach`d 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.”

“O 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 young 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.”

O 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 thro` 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 doubt to buy or sell

               At fair or tryst where I might be.”

“I doubt 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.

Queen Kate

Whether you believe a supra natural being is responsible for our existence or not, there can be no doubt that we have no life without our planet Earth. Pre-industrial and Enlightenment society was much closer to the rhythms of Mother Earth than we are, cocooned within the embrace of modern technology; past times relied upon the seeming whims and vagaries of the seasons to bring bounty, or famine. The implacable forces of nature needed to be understood, and through the attempt at understanding came that very human resource used to order and explain natural events – the story. From Gilgamesh, the Bible, through to the present day when modern science has taken on the mantle of encyclopedic Oracle, humanity has struggled to place “happenings” in the greater scheme of things.

Thomas the Rhymer was not only one of a long line of story tellers and spinners of tales which stretched back to the crack of doom, but he was a real person. Do you believe in faeries? Well, at the time of Thomas the Rhymer on the wild borderlands between England and Scotland in the 13th century, they certainly did. 

Thomas lived from 1220-1297 and came from Ercildoune (later to become Earlston), and loved to go and lie on the river bank, soak up the warm sun and let his imagination wander. One day, he saw the Queen of the Elves who lived in the Eildon Hills come riding past on her snow white horse upon whose mane hung fifty nine silver bells which sang like a choir of Cherubin and Seraphim, wearing her dress of green silk and velvet.

Thomas fell inescapably under her enchanted spell, and journeyed deep within the hollow Eildon Hills to the “Faerie Otherworld”, where Thomas is given a traditional Faerie example of initiation and exposition; they are called the Path of Wickedness, the Path of Righteousness, and the Path to Elfland.


They represent:

1. Humanity.

2. Living Creatures.

3. The Faerie races, represented as paths of consciousness.

Humanity represents the Wicked Path ( or the modernism of today perhaps)

Righteousness is the innocence of Living Creatures without the compulsion of avarice and ego.

The Path to Elfland is called The Bonny Way, or the Path of Inner Light and Understanding.

While in the Faerie Otherworld, Thomas was given the gift of prophecy, and found that when he returned to the mortal world he could not tell a lie, and so became known as “True Thomas”.

It`s said that Thomas predicted the death of King Alexander III, on a suitably wild, and stormy night, 18th March, 1286 – the very  night before Alexander died. His other predictions are said to include the Battle of Bannockburn, the Jacobite uprisings, and the union of the crowns of England and Scotland, among a myriad others.

Whatever, The Ballad of Thomas the Rhymer is firmly placed within the tender and loving bosom of a poetic folklore which has always been used to weave a deep fabric of imaginings, to make sense of a seemingly senseless world, and create some sort of order out of chaos in an entertaining and imaginative way.



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