The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, by Walter Scott

Thomas the Rhymer.

Part First.

True Thomas lay on Huntlie bank:

A ferlie he spied wi' his ee;

And there he saw a lady bright,

Come riding down by the Eildon Tree.

Her shirt was o' the grass green silk,

Her mantle o' the velvet fyne;

At ilka tett of her horse's mane,

Hang fifty siller bells and nine.

True Thomas, he pull'd aff his cap,

And louted low down to his knee —

—“All hail, thou mighty Queen of Heav'n!

For thy peer on earth I never did see.”—

—“O no, O no, Thomas,” she said;

“That name does not belang to me;

I am but the Queen of 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 danton me.”—

Syne he has kissed 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 mounted on her milk-white steed;

She's ta'en true Thomas up behind;

And aye, whene'er her bridle rung,

The steed flew swifter than the wind.

O they rade on, and further on;

The steed gaed swifter than the wind;

Untill they reached a desart wide,

And living land was left behind.

—“Light down, light down, now, true Thomas,

And lean your head upon my knee:

Abide and rest a little space,

And I will shew you ferlies three.

“O see ye not 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 that lily leven?

That is the path of wickedness,

Tho' some call it the road to heaven.

“And see not ye that 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 maun hold your tongue,

Whatever ye may hear or see;

For, if you speak word in Elflyn land,

Ye'll ne'er get back to your ain countrie.”—

O they rade on, and farther on,

And they waded thro' rivers aboon the knee;

And they saw neither sun nor moon,

But they heard the roaring of the sea.

It was mirk mirk night, and there was nae stern light,

And they waded thro' red blude to the knee;

For a' the blude that's shed on earth,

Rins thro' the springs o' that countrie.

Syne they came on to a garden green,

And she pu'd an apple frae a tree —

—“Take this for thy wages, true Thomas;

It will give the tongue that can never lie.”—

—“My tongue is mine ain,” true Thomas said;

“A gudely gift ye wad gie to me!

I neither dought to buy nor sell,

At fair or tryst where I may be.

“I dought neither speak to prince or peer,

Nor ask of grace from fair ladye.”—

—“Now hold thy peace!” the lady said,

“For, as I say, so must it be.”—

He has gotten a cloth 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.

Part Second.

When seven years were come and gane,

The sun blinked fair on pool and stream;

And Thomas lay on Huntlie bank,

Like one awakened from a dream.

He heard the trampling of a steed;

He saw the flash of armour flee;

And he beheld a gallant knight,

Come riding down by the Eildon Tree.

He was a stalwart knight, and strong;

Of giant make he 'peared to be:

He stirr'd his horse, as he were wode,

Wi' gilded spurs of fashioun free.

Says —“Well met, well met, true Thomas!

Some uncouth ferlies shew to me.”—

Says —“Christ thee save, Corspatrick brave!

Thrice welcome, good Dunbar, to me.

“Light down, light down, Corspatrick brave,

And I will shew thee curses three;

Shall gar fair Scotland greet and grane,

And change the green to the black livery.

“A storm shall roar, this very hour,

From Rosse's Hills to Solway sea.”—

—“Ye lied, ye lied, ye warlock hoar!

For the sun shines sweet on fauld and lea.”—

He put his hand on the Earlie's head;

He shew'd him a rock, beside the sea,

Where a king lay stiff, beneath his steed,

And steel-dight nobles wiped their ee.

—“The neist curse lights on Branxton hills:

By Flodden's high and heathery side,

Shall wave a banner, red as blude,

And chieftains throng wi' meikle pride.

“A Scotish king shall come full keen;

The ruddy lion beareth he:

A feather'd arrow sharp, I ween,

Shall make him wink and warre to see.

“When he is bloody, and all to bledde,

Thus to his men he still shall say —

—“For God's sake, turn ye back again,

And give yon southern folk a fray!

Why should I lose the right is mine?

My doom is not to die this day.”—

“Yet turn ye to the eastern hand,

And woe and wonder ye sall see;

How forty thousand spearmen stand,

Where yon rank river meets the sea.

“There shall the lion lose the gylte,

And the libbards bear it clean away;

At Pinkyn Cleuch there sall be spilt

Much gentil blude that day.”—

—“Enough, enough, of curse and ban;

Some blessing shew thou now to me;

Or, by the faith o' my bodie,” Corspatrick said,

“Ye sall rue the day ye e'er saw me!”—

—“The first of blessings I sall thee shew,

Is by a burn, that's call'd of bread;

Where Saxon men shall tine the bow,

And find their arrows lack the head.

“Beside that brigg, out ower that burn,

Where the water bickereth bright and sheen,

Shall many a falling courser spurn,

And knights shall die in battle keen.

“Beside a headless cross of stone,

The libbards there shall lose the gree;

The raven shall come, the erne shall go,

And drink the Saxon blude sae free.

The cross of stone they shall not know,

So thick the corses there shall be.”—

—“But tell me now,” said brave Dunbar,

“True Thomas, tell now unto me,

What man shall rule the Isle Britain,

Even from the north to the southern sea?”—

—“A French Queen shall bear the son,

Shall rule all Britain to the sea:

He of the Bruce's blude shall come,

As near as in the ninth degree.

“The waters worship shall his race;

Likewise the waves of the farthest sea;

For they shall ride ower ocean wide,

With hempen bridles, and horse of tree.”—

Part Third.

When seven years more had come and gone,

Was war thro' Scotland spread;

And Ruberslaw shew'd high Dunyon,

His beacon blazing red.

Then all by bonny Coldingknow,

Pitched palliouns took their room;

And crested helms, and spears a rowe,

Glanced gaily thro' the broom.

The Leader, rolling to the Tweed,

Resounds the ensenzie;

They roused the deer from Caddenhead,

To distant Torwoodlee.

The feast was spread in Erceldoune,

In Learmont's high and ancient hall;

And there were knights of great renown,

And ladies laced in pall.

Nor lacked they, while they sat at dine,

The music, nor the tale;

Nor goblets of the blood-red wine,

Nor mantling quaighs of ale.

True Thomas rose, with harp in hand,

When as the feast was done;

(In minstrel strife, in Fairy Land,

The elfin harp he won.)

Hush'd were the throng, both limb and tongue,

And harpers for envy pale;

And armed lords lean'd on their swords,

And hearken'd to the tale.

In numbers high, the witching tale

The prophet pour'd along;

No after bard might e'er avail

Those numbers to prolong.

Yet fragments of the lofty strain

Float down the tide of years;

As, buoyant on the stormy main,

A parted wreck appears.

He sung King Arthur's table round:

The warrior of the lake;

How courteous Gawaine met the wound,

And bled for ladie's sake.

But chief, in gentle Tristrem's praise,

The notes melodious swell;

Was none excell'd, in Arthur's days,

The Knight of Lionelle.

For Marke, his cowardly uncle's right,

A venom'd wound he bore;

When fierce Morholde he slew in fight,

Upon the Irish shore.

No art the poison might withstand;

No medicine could be found,

Till lovely Isolde's lilye hand

Had probed the rankling wound.

With gentle hand and soothing tongue,

She bore the leech's part:

And, while she o'er his sick-bed hung,

He paid her with his heart.

O fatal was the gift, I ween!

For, doom'd in evil tide,

The maid must be rude Cornwall's Queen,

His cowardly uncle's bride.

Their loves, their woes, the gifted bard

In fairy tissue wove;

Where lords, and knights, and ladies bright,

In gay confusion strove.

The Garde Joyeuese, amid the tale,

High rear'd its glittering head;

And Avalon's enchanted vale

In all its wonders spread.

Brangwain was there, and Segramore,

And fiend-born Merlin's gramarye;

Of that fam'd wizzard's mighty lore,

O who could sing but he?

Thro' many a maze the winning song

In changeful passion led,

Till bent at length the listening throng

O'er Tristrem's dying bed.

His ancient wounds their scars expand;

With agony his heart is wrung:

O where is Isolde's lilye hand,

And where her soothing tongue?

She comes! she comes! like flash of flame

Can lovers' footsteps fly:

She comes! she comes! — she only came

To see her Tristrem die.

She saw him die: her latest sigh

Joined in a kiss his parting breath:

The gentlest pair that Britain bare,

United are in death.

There paused the harp:— its lingering sound

Died slowly on the ear;

The silent guests still bent around,

For still they seem'd to hear.

Then woe broke forth in murmurs weak;

Nor ladies heaved alone the sigh;

But, half ashamed, the rugged cheek

Did many a gauntlet dry.

On Leader's stream, and Learmont's tower,

The mists of evening close;

In camp, in castle, or in bower,

Each warrior sought repose.

Lord Douglas, in his lofty tent,

Dreamed o'er the woeful tale;

When footsteps light, across the bent,

The warrior's ears assail.

He starts, he wakes:—“What, Richard, ho!

Arise, my page, arise!

What venturous wight, at dead of night,

Dare step where Douglas lies!”—

Then forth they rush'd: by Leader's tide,

A selcouth sight they see —

A hart and hind pace side by side,

As white as snow on Fairnalie.

Beneath the moon, with gesture proud,

They stately move and slow;

Nor scare they at the gathering crowd,

Who marvel as they go.

To Learmont's tower a message sped,

As fast as page might run;

And Thomas started from his bed,

And soon his cloaths did on.

First he woxe pale, and then woxe red;

Never a word he spake but three:

—“My sand is run; my thread is spun;

This sign regardeth me.”—

The elfin harp his neck around,

In minstrel guise he hung;

And on the wind, in doleful sound,

Its dying accents rung.

Then forth he went; yet turned him oft

To view his ancient hall;

On the grey tower, in lustre soft,

The autumn moonbeams fall.

And Leader's waves, like silver sheen,

Danced shimmering in the ray;

In deepening mass, at distance seen,

Broad Soltra's mountains lay.

—“Farewell, my father's ancient tower!

A long farewell,” said he:

“The scene of pleasure, pomp, or power,

Thou never more shalt be.

“To Learmont's name no foot of earth

Shall here again belong;

And, on thy hospitable hearth,

The hare shall leave her young.

“Adieu! Adieu!” again he cried;

All as he turned him roun'—

—“Farewell to Leader's silver tide!

Farewell to Erceldoune!”—

The hart and hind approached the place,

As lingering yet he stood;

And there, before Lord Douglas' face,

With them he cross'd the flood.

Lord Douglas leaped on his berry-brown steed,

And spurr'd him the Leader o'er;

But, tho' he rode with lightning speed,

He never saw them more.

Some sayd to hill, and some to glen,

Their wond'rous course had been;

But ne'er in haunts of living men

Again was Thomas seen.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00