Anonymous (Circa 1388-1401)
Als I me wente this endres daye
Full faste in mynd makand my mone
In a mery mornynge of Maye
By Huntley bankkes myselfe allone,
I herde the jaye and the throstyll cokke;
The mavys menyde hir of hir songe;
The wodewale beryde als a belle,
That alle the wode abowte me ronge.
Allone in longynge thus als I laye
Undyrenethe a semely tree,
Saw I whare a lady gaye
Cam rydyng over a lovely lee.
If I solde sytt to domesdaye,
With my tonge, to wrobbe and wrye,
Certanely that lady gaye,
Never bese scho askryede for mee.
Hir palfraye was a dappill graye;
Swylke one ne saughe I never none.
Als dose the sonne on someres daye,
That faire lady hirselfe scho schone.
Hir selle it was of roelle bone–
Full semely was that syghte to see–
Stefly sett with precyous stones
And compaste all with crapotee,
Stones or oryente, grete plentey.
Hir hare abowte hir hede it hange.
Scho rade over that lovely lee;
A whylle scho blewe, another scho sange.
Hir garthes of nobyll sylke thay were,
The bukylls were of berelle stone;
Hir steraps were of crystalle cleve
And all with perelle over-by-one.
Hir payetrelle was of yral fyne,
Hir cropoure was of orphare;
And als clere golde hir brydill it schone.
One aythir syde hange bellys three.
Scho led three grehoundis in a lesshe,
And sevene raches by hir thay rone.
Scho bare an horne abowte hir halse
And undir hir belte full many a flone.
Thomas laye and sawe that syghe
Undirnethe ane semly tree.
He sayd, “Yone es Marye, moste of myghte,
That bare that Childe that dyede for mee.
Bot if I speke with yone lady bryghte,
I hope myne herte will bryste in three!
Now sall I go with all my myghte,
Hir for to mete at Eldoune Tree.”
Thomas rathely upe he rase,
And he rane over that mountayne hye.
Gyff it be als the storyee says,
He hir mette at Eldone Tree.
He knelyde downe appone his knee
Undirnethe that grenwode spraye
And sayd, “Lufly ladye! rewe one me,
Qwene of Hevene, als thou wele maye!”
Then spake that lady milde of thoghte:
“Thomas, late swylke wordes be.
Qwene of Hevene ne am I noghte,
For I tuke never so heghe degree,
Bote I ame of ane other countree.
If I be payrelde most of prysse,
I ryde aftyre this wylde fee;
My raches rnnys at my devyse.”
“If thou be parelde moste of prysse,
And here rydis thus in thy folye,
Of lufe, lady, als thou erte wysse,
Thou gyffe me leve to lye thee bye.”
Scho sayde, “Thou mane, that ware folye.
I praye thee, Thomas, thou late me bee;
For I saye thee full sekirye,
That synne will fordoo all my beauty.”
“Now, lufly ladye, rewe on mee,
And I will ever more with thee dwelle–
Here my trouthe I will thee plyghte–
Whethir thou will in hevene or helle.”
“Mane of Molde, thou will me marre,
Bot yitt thou sall hafe all thy will;
And trowe it wele, thou chevys the werre,
For alle my beauty will thou spylle.”
Downe thane lyghte that lady bryghte
Undernethe that grenewode spraye;
And als the storye tellis full ryghte,
Sevene sythis by hir he laye.
Scho sayd, “Man, thee lykes thy playe.
Whate byrde in boure maye delle with thee?
Thou merrys me all this longe daye;
I praye thee, Thomas, late me bee!”
Thomas stode upe in that stede,
And he byhelde that lady gaye.
Hir hare it hange all over hir hede;
Hir eghne seme owte that are were graye;
And alle the riche clothynge was awaye
That he byfore sawe in that stede;
Hir a schanke blake, hir other graye,
And all hir body lyke the lede.
Thomas laye and sawe that syghe
Undirnethe that grenewod tree.
Then said Thomas, “Allas! Allas!
In faythe this es a dullfull syghte.
How arte thou fadyde thus in the face,
That schane byfore als the sonne so bryghte!”
Scho sayd, “Thomas, take leve at sonne and mone
And als at lefe that grewes on tree.
This twelmoneth sall thou with me gone,
And medill-erthe sall thou none see.”
He knelyd downe appone his knee
Undirnethe that grenewod spraye
And sayd, “Lufly lady, rewe on mee,
Mylde qwene of Hevene, als thou beste maye.
Allas,” he sayd, “and wa es mee!
I trowe my dedis wyll wirke me care;
My saullle, Jhesu, byteche I thee,
Whedir-some that ever my banes sall fare.”
Scho ledde hym in at Eldone Hill
Undernithe a derne lee
Whare it was dirke als mydnyght myrke,
And ever the water till his knee.
The montenans of dayes three
He herd bot swoghynge of the flode.
At the laste, he sayde, “Full was es mee!
Almaste I dye, for fawte of fode.”
Scho lede hym intill a faire herbere,
Whare frwte was growand gret plentee:
Pere and appill, bothe ryppe thay were,
The date, and als the damasee;
The fygge, and alsso the wyneberye;
The nyghtgales byggande on thair neste.
The papejoyes faste abowte gane flye,
And throstylles sange wolde hafe no rest.
He pressede to pulle frowyte with his hande,
Als mane for fude that was nere faynt.
Scho sayd, “Thomas, thou late thame stande,
Or elels the fende thee will atteynt.
If thou it plokk, sothely to saye,
Thi saule gose to the fyre of helle.
It commes never owte or domesdaye,
Bot ther in payne ay for to dwelle.
Thomas, sothely, I thee hyghte,
Come lygge thne hede downe on my knee,
And thou sall se the fayreste syghte
That ever sawe mane of thi contree.”
He did in hye als scho hym badde.
Appone hir knee his hede he layde,
For hir to paye he was full glade.
And thane that lady to hym sayde:
“Seese thou nowe yone faire waye
That lygges over yone heghe mountayne?
Yone es the waye to hevene for aye,
Whene synfull sawles are passede ther payne.
“Seese thou yitt yone other waye,
That lygges lawe bynethe yone rysse?
Yone es the waye, the sothe to saye,
Unto the joye of paradyse.
“Seese tou yitt yone thirde waye
That ligges undir yone grene playne?
Yone es the waye, with tene and traye,
Where synfull saulis suffiris thaire payne.
“Bot seese thou nowe yone ferthe waye
That legges over yone depe delle?
Yone es the waye, so waylawaye,
Unto the birnande fyre of helle.
“Seese thou yitt yone faire castelle
That standis over yone heghe hill?
Of towne and towre, it beris the belle;
In erthe es none lyke it untill.
Forsothe, Thomas, yone es myne awenne,
And the kynges of this countree.
Bot me ware lever be hanged and drawene
Or that he wyste thou laye me by.
When thou commes to yone castelle gaye,
Ip pray thee curtase mane to bee.
And whate-so any many to thee saye,
Luke thou answere none bott me.
My lordes es sevrede at ylk a mese
With thritty knyghttis faire and free.
I sall saye, syttande at the desse,
I tuke thi speche byyone the see.”
Thomas still als stane he stude,
And he byhelde that lady gaye.
Scho come agayne als faire and gude
And also ryche one hir palfraye,
Hir grewehoundis fillide with dere blode,
Hir raches couplede, by my faye.
Scho blewe hir horne with mayne and mode;
Unto the castelle scho tuke the waye.
Into the haulle sothely scho went.
Thomas folowed at hir hande.
Than ladyes come, both faire and gent,
With curassye to hir knelande.
Harpe and fethill both thay fande,
Gettern, and alsso the sawtry,
Lutte and rybyby both gangande,
And all manere of mynstralsye.
The most mervelle that Thomas thoghte
When that he stode appone the flore,
For feftty hertis in were broghte
That were bothe grete and store.
Raches laye lapande in the blode.
Cokes come with dryssynge knyfe;
Thay brittened thame als thay were wode.
Revelle amanges thame was full ryfe.
Knyghtis dawnsede by three and three.
There was revelle, gamene, and playe,
Lufly ladyes faire and fre
That satte and sange one riche araye.
Thomas dwellide in that solace
More than I yowe saye, parde,
Till one a daye, so hafe I grace,
My lufly lady sayde to mee:
“Do buske thee, Thomas. The buse agayne,
For thou may here no lengare be.
Hye thee faste with myghte and mayne.
I sall thee brynge till Eldone Tree.”
Thomas sayde thane with hevy chere,
“Lufly lady, nowe late me bee,
For certis, lady, I hafe bene here
Noghte bot the space of dayes three!”
“Forsothe, Thomas, als I thee telle,
Thou hase bene here thre yere and more,
Bot langere here thou may noghte dwelle.
That skylle I sall thee telle wharefore.
Tomorne of helle the foulle fende
Amange this folke will feche his fee;
And thou arte mekill mane and hende;
I trowe full wele he wolde chese thee.
For alle the gold that ever may bee
Fro hethyne unto the worldis ende,
Thou bese never betrayede for mee.
Therefore with me I rede thou wende.”
Scho broghte hym agayne to Eldone Tree
Undirnethe that grenewode spraye.
In Huntlee bannkes es mery to bee,
Wharte fowles synges bothe nyght and daye.
“Ferre owtt in yone mountane graye,
Thomas, my fawkone bygges a nest.
A fawconnes es an erlis praye;
For-thi in na place may he rest.
Fare wele, Thomas, I wend my waye,
For me byhoves over yon benttis browne.”
Loo here a fytt. More es to say,
All of Thomas of Erselldowne.
Thomas the Rhymer appears to have been an actual person, living in the 13th Century. Various of his prophecies have been preserved, along with the verses of the early 15th century song which bears his name, and recount his adventures in Elfhame. The ballad is collected as Child #37. Recent versions of the “Thomas the Rhymer” ballad include renditions by British folk rock act Steeleye Span which recorded two different versions for their 1974 album Now We Are Six and another for Present–The Very Best of Steeleye Span, released in 2002. Singer Ewan MacColl has also recorded his version of the ballad.
Sir Thomas de Ercildoun, better remembered as Thomas the Rhymer (fl. c. 1220 – 1298), also known as Thomas of Learmont or True Thomas, was a Scottish laird and reputed prophet from Earlston (then called “Erceldoune”) in the Borders. Thomas’ gift of prophecy is linked to his poetic ability. It is not clear if the name Rhymer was his actual surname or merely a sobriquet. He is often cited as the author of the English Sir Tristrem, a version of the Tristram legend, and some lines in Robert Mannyng’s Chronicle may be the source of this association.
In literature, he appears as the protagonist in the tale about Thomas the Rhymer carried off by the “Queen of Elfland” and returned having gained the gift of prophecy, as well as the inability to tell a lie. The tale survives in a medieval verse romance in five manuscripts, as well as in the popular ballad “Thomas Rhymer” (Child Ballad number 37). The ballad also occurs as “Thomas off Ersseldoune” in the Lincoln Thornton Manuscript.
The original romance ca. 1400 was probably condensed into ballad form ca. 1700, though there are dissenting views on this. Walter Scott expanded the ballad into three parts, adding a sequel which incorporated the prophecies ascribed to Thomas, and an epilogue where Thomas is summoned back to Elfland after the appearance of a sign, in the form of the milk-white hart and hind. Numerous prose retellings of the tale of Thomas the Rhymer have been undertaken, and included in fairy tale or folk-tale anthologies; these often incorporate the return to Fairyland episode that Scott reported to have learned from local legend. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_the_Rhymer]