Thursday Night. My friend Terry comes over , and we go to explore a semi-new Organic Brewery, “Roots” down on 7th off of Hawthorne. Tasty IPA, nice crowd, Reggae Music, Dance Hall and some Dub pounding out of the door.
After 2 IPAs’ we head up the street to Caer Llwydd, settle back and crack open the Absinthe and settle in, listening to XM channel 100 (The French Channel)… Conversations dance in and out of some 40 years, touching on the latest screw-ups in Iraq to our dear Ann Coulters latest verbal car-wrecks…
The evening moves on, from 7:30, and now at 12:46 Friday morning, we talk about the failures of the education system for most of the kids…
A nice night, good music, good friendship…. 8o)
On the Menu…
Article: Scotland’s Nostradamus and the Queen of the Fairies
The Ballads in two different Versions: “True Thomas”
True Thomas sat on Huntley bank,
And he beheld a lady gay;
A lady that was brisk and bold,
Come riding oer the ferny brae.
Her skirt was of the grass green silk,
Her mantle of the velvet fine;
At every lock of her horses mane,
Hung fifty silver bells and nine.
SO BEGINS the ballad of the quaint 13th-century figure known as Scotland’s Nostradamus and his enchantment by the Queen of the Fairies. Thomas of Ercildoune – more commonly known as Thomas the Rhymer – was a soothsayer of such repute that for a time his fame rivalled that of the Arthurian magician Merlin.
The accuracy of what happened to Thomas and how he gained his supernatural powers has become confused over the centuries, but there are common threads running through every variation of the story. It is, in essence, a fairy story but one which seeks to explain how Thomas was able to predict some of the most important events in Scottish history, including the defeat by the English at the Battle of Flodden and the Union of the Crowns of Scotland and England.
Very few “fairy stories” are given such credence as that of Thomas and his dalliance with the Queen of Elfland. After all, he was no fairy. He was a real person and his predictions which were written down – were treated so seriously that they were consulted before both the two Jacobite rebellions.
So who was Thomas and why was he singled out for mystical powers? Born around 1220, he lived in Learmont Tower, near Ercildoune, now Earlston in Berwickshire. Close by there stood a grove of hardwood trees on the banks of Huntly Burn and as a youngster Thomas had a favourite tree under which he used to lie.
The story goes that as he lay there one day he saw the beautiful Queen of the Fairies approaching on her graceful white horse. She was wearing green silk and velvet and on her horse’s mane there hung 59 silver bells. Thomas was entranced by her beauty and readily complied when the Queen asked him to kiss her underneath his favourite tree. He then agreed to accompany her, and the two rode off into the Eildon Hills where Thomas spent seven years as the Queen’s lover in her fairy home in Elfland.
The years seemed only a few minutes to Thomas. But when the time came for the Queen to return him to mortal land, she made him promise never to speak of what he had seen. He agreed and she gave him an apple and said: “Take this for thy wages Thomas, it will give thee a tongue that can never lie.”
From then on he was known as “True Thomas”. The Queen also conferred on him the gift of prophecy.
He used his new powers to prophesy several significant historical events including the death of King Alexander lll; the succession of Robert the Bruce to the throne of Scotland; the defeat of the Scots at the Battle of Flodden; the defeat of Mary, Queen of Scots’ forces at the Battle of Pinkie in 1567; and the Union of the Crowns in 1603.
He is also said to have predicted the Scottish success at the Battle of Bannockburn and the Jacobite uprisings of 1715 and 1745.
The story of Thomas is told in the ballad Thomas the Rhymer, which was included by Sir Walter Scott in his work, Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border. In recent years recordings of the ballad have been made by the folk-rock band Steeleye Span and Scottish folk musician Ewan MacColl.
Thomas himself was a noted poet and is supposed to be the author of one of the oldest-known surviving Scottish stories, Sir Tristrem, also edited by Sir Walter himself.
There is one final twist to the saga of Thomas the Rhymer. One day, many years after returning from Elfland, he walked out of his house to his favourite tree under which he had first met the Queen. He has never returned and has not been seen since.
According to legend he will return one day to help Scotland in her hour of greatest need. Some might say that time is not far off.
Two Ballad Versions of the Tale:
Campbell HISS, II, 83
As Thomas lay on Huntlie banks –
A wat a weel bred man was he
And there he spied a lady fair,
Coming riding down by the Eildon tree.
The horse she rode on was dapple gray,
And in her hand she held bells nine;
I thought I heard this fair lady say
These fair siller bells they should a’ be mine.
It’s Thomas even forward went,
And lootit low down on his knee
‘ Weed met thee save, my lady fair,
For thou’rt the flower o this countrie.’
O no, O no, Thomas,’ she says,
‘O no, O no, that can never be,
For I’m but a lady of an unto land.
Comd out a hunting, as ye may see.
O harp and carp, Thomas,’ she says,
‘O harp and carp, and go wi me;
It’s be seven years, Thomas, and a day.
Or you see man or woman in your am countrie.’
It’s she has rode, and Thomas ran.
Until they cam to yon water clear ;
He’s coosten off his hose and shon,
And he’s wooden the water up to the knee.
It’s she has rode, and Thomas ran,
Until they cam to yon garden green ;
He’s put up his hand for to pull down ane,
For the lack o food he was like to tyne.
‘Hold your hand, Thomas,’ she says,
‘Hold your hand, that must not be;
It was a’ that cursed fruit o thine
Beggared man and woman in your countrie
‘ But I have a loaf and a soup o wine,
And ye shall go and dine wi me;
And lay yer head down in my lap,
And, I will tell ye farlies three.
‘It ‘s dont ye see yon broad broad way,
That leadeth down by yon skerry fell?
It’s ill’s the man that dothe thereon gang,
For it leadeth him straight to the gates o hell.
It’s dont ye see yon narrow way,
That leadeth down by yon lillie lea?
It’s weel’s the man that doth therein gang,
For it leads him straight to the heaven hie.’
It’s when she cam into the hall
I wat a weel bred man was he –
They’ve asked him question[s], one and all,
But he answered none but that fair ladie.
O they speerd at her where she did him get,
And she told them at the Eildon tree;
Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, II, 251, ed. 1802
TRUE Thomas lay on Huntlie bank,
A ferlie he spied wi’ his ee,
And there be 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 pulld aff his cap,
And louted low down to his knee
‘All hail, thou mighty Queen of Heaven!
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 daunton 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 no 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 taen True Thomas up behind,
And aye wheneer her bridle rung,
The steed flew swifter than the wind.
O they rade on, and farther 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.
see ye not yon narrow road,
So thick beset with 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’Il neer get back to your ain countrie.’
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 blade 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,’ Tree 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 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.
A. 7 stands 15 in the MS
82. golden green if only my copy is right.
112,3are 112,3 in the MS: the order of words is still not simple enough for a ballad.
Jamison has a few variations, which I suppose to be his own.
11, oer yonder bank. 34. your like. 44. And I am come here to. 64. her steed. 82. garden, rightly. 102. clarry. 112. Lay your head. 121. see you not. 124. there’s few. 13. see ye not yon. 141. see ye yon. 142. which winds.
B. 32. her knee. 38. thou save.
121. MS perhaps unto.
131,2 follows st. 12 without separation.
C. 201. a cloth