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lyric discussion: Thomas The Rhymer

DigiTrad:
THOMAS THE RHYMER
TRUE THOMAS
TRUE THOMAS (2)


Related threads:
Any ideas?? Thomas the Rhymer (18)
Thomas the Rhymer (NOT Steeleye Span) (25)
Lyr Req: True Thomas (14th century version) (13)
happy? - Mar 18 (Thomas Rymer) (1)
Origins: Thomas the Rhymer-seek MacColl Recording (26)
Lyr Add: Thomas Rymer (6)


CapriUni 17 Aug 01 - 01:36 PM
Thomas the Rhymer 17 Aug 01 - 01:56 PM
Noreen 17 Aug 01 - 02:02 PM
CapriUni 17 Aug 01 - 02:05 PM
GUEST,tabbycat 17 Aug 01 - 02:23 PM
CapriUni 17 Aug 01 - 02:25 PM
Malcolm Douglas 17 Aug 01 - 03:50 PM
CapriUni 17 Aug 01 - 04:23 PM
MMario 17 Aug 01 - 04:28 PM
Malcolm Douglas 17 Aug 01 - 04:34 PM
CapriUni 17 Aug 01 - 04:37 PM
CapriUni 17 Aug 01 - 04:40 PM
McGrath of Harlow 17 Aug 01 - 05:21 PM
CapriUni 17 Aug 01 - 06:38 PM
Susan of DT 17 Aug 01 - 07:14 PM
CarolC 17 Aug 01 - 07:19 PM
Kim Hughes 17 Aug 01 - 07:41 PM
Gloredhel 17 Aug 01 - 07:44 PM
Art Thieme 17 Aug 01 - 07:46 PM
Malcolm Douglas 17 Aug 01 - 08:21 PM
SINSULL 17 Aug 01 - 08:35 PM
CapriUni 17 Aug 01 - 09:25 PM
Abby Sale 17 Aug 01 - 09:33 PM
CapriUni 17 Aug 01 - 10:19 PM
sophocleese 17 Aug 01 - 10:28 PM
Thomas the Rhymer 17 Aug 01 - 11:00 PM
toadfrog 18 Aug 01 - 12:02 AM
CapriUni 18 Aug 01 - 01:54 AM
McGrath of Harlow 18 Aug 01 - 08:34 AM
Thomas the Rhymer 18 Aug 01 - 12:42 PM
CapriUni 18 Aug 01 - 01:26 PM
Malcolm Douglas 18 Aug 01 - 01:36 PM
CapriUni 18 Aug 01 - 01:42 PM
Thomas the Rhymer 18 Aug 01 - 02:01 PM
CapriUni 18 Aug 01 - 02:02 PM
Thomas the Rhymer 18 Aug 01 - 02:14 PM
CapriUni 18 Aug 01 - 02:37 PM
Thomas the Rhymer 18 Aug 01 - 02:46 PM
AliUK 18 Aug 01 - 09:33 PM
Thomas the Rhymer 18 Aug 01 - 10:04 PM
Abby Sale 18 Aug 01 - 11:48 PM
CapriUni 04 Sep 01 - 04:23 PM
GUEST,dunlace 02 Mar 08 - 03:11 AM
masato sakurai 02 Mar 08 - 04:39 AM
Malcolm Douglas 02 Mar 08 - 01:57 PM
GUEST,Carole 14 Apr 12 - 09:11 AM
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Subject: lyric discussion: 'Thomas The Rhymer'
From: CapriUni
Date: 17 Aug 01 - 01:36 PM

I'm always fascinated by the different versions of a ballad's lyrics -- they are like different fragments of a picture, each drawn on translucent cels: superimpose them on top of each other, and you get a more detailed picture than you had when you only had one version. Recently, I've been studying different versions of THOMAS THE RHYMER aka TRUE THOMAS (Child Ballad #37). The most striking differences, to my mind, are in the verses relating to the apple tree that Thomas and the Queen of Elfland encounter:

Here are the three basic versions I've found, in the order that I found them:

Version 1:

Then they came to a garden green where wondrous fruits did grow.
True Thomas pulled a green apple among the branches low.
Oh, no True Thomas, she cried, I dare not give you leave.
For that is the fruit that caused the fall of Adam and of Eve

But pluck the fruit that grows so red upon the branches high.
And you shall have a goodly gift the tongue that never can lie.
When you have had your fill lay your head upon my knee.
Before we climb yon high, high hill, I will show you ferlies three

From the Digital Tradition database, file name TOMRHYM2 submitted by AS

[Note, Question and a Comment: DT is the only place where I've found this particular version. Does anyone have any more information on it? The two versions listed next, I've found in other places as well... It certainly is an interesting theological idea: that damnation comes from eating the of Tree of Knowledge when the fruit is *unripe* -- suggesting, perhaps, that Knowledge of Good and Evil must be paired with a mature heart or spirit ] ---

Version 2:

Then they came on to a garden green
And she pulled an apple frae a tree
Take this for thy wages, True Thomas
It will give the tongue that can never lie

From the Digital Tradition database, file name TOMRHYM submitted by SO F

[This is also (more or less) the version that I found when searching Bartleby.com's Verse archives (Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. 1919. The Oxford Book of English Verse: 1250?1900. It's credited to Anonymous, Seventeenth Century). No mention of any distinction between good and bad fruit, here, except that *she* is the one to choose the fruit, and presubably knows enough to pick the right kind)

---

And, lastly, Version 3, which I found at this website: http://www.stepchildcoven.org/thomas.html

O they rade on, and further on,
Until they came to a garden green;
'Light down, light down, you lady free,
Some of that fruit let me pull to thee.'

'O no, O no, True Thomas,' she says,
'That fruit must not be touched by thee,
For all the plagues that are in hell
Light on the fruit of this country.

'But I have a loaf here in my lap,
Likewise a bottle of claret wine,
And now ere we go farther on,
We'll rest a while, and you may dine.'

[Here, *all* the fruit of the tree is evil, though the image of the Queen of Elfland, with the bread and wine in her lap reminds me of images of Epona, the Gallo-Roman Horse Goddess, who was often shown riding a mare (aside) or on a throne with a cornucopia, bread or corn in her lap.... Epona was also said to hold the keys to the Otherworld]

I've only found one tune for this song, though that one tune doesn't fit all versions of the song, which I find just a tad frustrating. Are there other versions out there that folks sing? If so, do you just make up a whole new tune, or do you have a formula for adapting the one listed by Child?

Anyone care to discuss its metaphorical commentary on the bardic/rhymer/singer's way of life?

Excuse me... I'm just a lifelong English major (doesn''t matter that I left college *years* ago ;-), and I felt the need to burble for a bit...


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Subject: RE: BS: lyric discussion: 'Thomas The Rhymer'
From: Thomas the Rhymer
Date: 17 Aug 01 - 01:56 PM

Nice work capri!I wanted to give my best regards to you for your fine work. You inquire well! I will respond to your querries after a bit... I'm dreadfully behind in my garden stone, and I must lay down the art work for my muscley pay...ttr


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Subject: RE: BS: lyric discussion: 'Thomas The Rhymer'
From: Noreen
Date: 17 Aug 01 - 02:02 PM

Very interesting, though this is not a ballad I know well enough to discuss, I like your explanation about putting together different versions to get the most accurate picture of a song.

I did read it as they are like different fragments of a picture, each drawn on translucent eels... I like that mental image!

Noreen


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Subject: RE: BS: lyric discussion: 'Thomas The Rhymer'
From: CapriUni
Date: 17 Aug 01 - 02:05 PM

:::Bows::: Thank ye, Thomas. There is nothing quite like getting a compliment from the namesake himself -- unless you are the *he* himself (Read through a link posted through this forum somewhere that Cyberspace *is* Tyr Na nOg -- is't true?) ;-).

May the fruits of your labor please you. I look forward to further discussion...

Joys aplenty from a dyed-in-the-wool scholar...


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Subject: RE: BS: lyric discussion: 'Thomas The Rhymer'
From: GUEST,tabbycat
Date: 17 Aug 01 - 02:23 PM

Hi CapriUni,

The only Printed lyrics I have are very cose to our version 2 :

Syne they came on to a garden green,
And she pu'ed an apple frae a tree.
"Take this for thy wages, true Thomas:
It will give thee the tongue that can never lie."

This is in Songs of England, Ireland & Scotland - A Bonnie Bunch of Roses. It gives a source : Sir Walter Scott -Minstrelsy of the scottish Border, gives it as Child Ballad 37. & says Ewan McColl recorded it on The English & Scottish Popular Ballads. The tune given is nothing like the Steeleye Span version - I haven't listened to the words of that closely enough to know if there's a link here offhand.

I agree it's fascinating to find different versions to build a big picture - and to see how different emphais is given in the different versions. Eg in The trees grow tall/The Bonny Lad/The trees are getting high etc The first version I came across (Martin Carthy) gave the ages as: her 21 & him 16 But the songbook 'Miss Broadwood's Delight' has ages as: her 13 & him 12.

Nice thread, lots of food for thought.


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Subject: RE: lyric discussion: Thomas The Rhymer
From: CapriUni
Date: 17 Aug 01 - 02:25 PM

Noreen: I like the image of "translucent eels" too... but I doubt they would hold still long enough for someone to draw on them ;-). Nor, would I imagine, would they apreiciate being superimposed on one another...

(I'll get my coat, now...)


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Subject: RE: lyric discussion: Thomas The Rhymer
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 17 Aug 01 - 03:50 PM

As a rule it's best to keep discussion of a song in one thread, rather than spreading it over two; your previous thread is here:  14th C. version of True Thomas.  Still, since we're here, I can add just a little background.

Whoever originally submitted  TRUE THOMAS (2)  named no source of any kind, so unless and until someone identifies it, we can't be sure that it's genuine.

The Oxford Book of Ballads set is Child's version C, taken from Walter Scott's Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border "from a copy obtained from a lady residing not far from Erceldoune, corrected and enlarged by one in Mrs. Brown's MS."  That is to say that Scott collated two separate versions.  This is the set that Ewan MacColl recorded, as mentioned above.  THOMAS THE RHYMER  in the DT is the same version, from the same source, also with partially modernised spelling.  No source is named for the tune given with it, but it's the one printed in Scott's book (1883).

The only other traditional tune recorded for the ballad at the time Bronson compiled his Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads was a very close variant from the Blaikie MS. in the National Library of Scotland.  This latter is also given in James Kinsley's edition of The Oxford Book of Ballads, which is a considerable improvement on the old Quiller-Couch edition.  The tune was quite widespread in England, and other variants are attached to such songs as Lord Bateman and Searching For Lambs.  So far as I can remember, Steeleye Span made up the tune they used; their text was a shortened, slightly re-written set of the following:

The third set is that given by Child as his version A; it was noted from Mrs. Anna Gordon Brown of Falkirk, Fife, in 1800.  Somebody has modernised some of the spelling.  Stanza 7 was placed immediately before the final stanza in the original manuscript copy.

Child's versions A and C were also posted last year, in this thread:  Thomas Rymer,  and MMario posted them again, together with Child's version B, which came from the Campbell MSS (1830 or earlier) in the thread of two days ago.

There is an entry at  The Traditional Ballad Index:

Thomas Rymer [Child 37]

Child pointed out considerable similarities between Thomas Rhymer and the late 12th century French romance of Ogier le Danois, in which Ogier is taken to Avalon for two hundred years by Morgan la Fée; he considered it to be the probable source of the ballad.


Ballad Index entry:

Thomas Rymer [Child 37]

DESCRIPTION: Thomas the Rhymer of Ercildoune meets the Queen of Elfland. She takes him away from earth for seven years, putting him through various rituals which no doubt instill his prophetic powers.
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1800
KEYWORDS: magic prophecy abduction
FOUND IN: Britain(Scotland) US(SE)
REFERENCES (14 citations):
Child 37, "Thomas Rymer" (3 texts)
Bronson 37, "Thomas Rymer" (2 versions)
BrownII 10, "Thomas Rhymer" (1 text)
Leach, pp. 131-135, "Thomas Rhymer" (2 texts)
OBB 1, "Thomas the Rhymer" (1 text)
Friedman, p. 39, "Thomas Rymer" (1 text)
PBB 22, "Thomas Rhymer" (1 text)
Gummere, pp. 290-292+361-362, "Thomas Rymer" (1 text)
Hodgart, p. 127, "Thomas Rymer" (1 text)
DBuchan 6, "Thomas Rymer" (1 text)
TBB 35, "Thomas Rymer" (1 text)
Ord, pp. 422-425, "Sir John Gordon" (1 text, a truly curious version which retains the plot and lyrics of this song so closely that it cannot be called anything else, but with a different and inexplicable name for the hero)
HarvClass-EP1, pp. 76-78, "Thomas Rymer and the Queen of Elfland" (1 text)
DT 37, TOMRHYM* TOMRHYM2 TRUTOMAS

Roud #219
ALTERNATE TITLES:
True Thomas
Notes: Very many of Thomas of Ercildoune's (True Thomas's) predictions are in circulation, though only a few are precisely dated or can be tied to specific events.
Perhaps the most famous prophecy dates from 1286, the year Alexander III of Scotland died. The day before Alexander's death, he had forecast that "before the next day at noon, such a tempest shall blow as Scotland has not felt for many years." When the next day proved clear, Thomas was taunted, but his forecast proved true -- Scotland would not again see peace until after the battle of Bannockburn in 1314.
Real and verifiable facts about Thomas are far fewer, but he does appear to have been a real person. "Thomas of Ercildoune" is a witness to a charter of c. 1265 (about the Haigs of Bemerside, also the subject of one of his couplets), and another Thomas, the son of "Thomas the Rhymer of Ercildoune," was an adult transacting in property in 1294.
Thomas's prophecies, however, were not "collected" until 1603; it would be difficult to prove the authenticity of most of these. - RBW
File: C037

Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Instructions

The Ballad Index Copyright 2004 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.


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Subject: RE: lyric discussion: Thomas The Rhymer
From: CapriUni
Date: 17 Aug 01 - 04:23 PM

From Malcom Douglas:

[As a rule it's best to keep discussion of a song in one thread, rather than spreading it over two; your previous thread is here: 14th C. version of True Thomas.]

:::Sigh::: I know, but for some reason, the thread disappeared somewhere between the Forum and my 'puter. Wouldn't even come up in searches of "True Thomas". So after a day of frustration, I threw up my perverbial hands and decided to start fresh.

Thanks for the link again! Now the question is, should we move this discussion over there, or stay here?

As for the version in DT "TRUE THOMAS 2"


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Subject: RE: lyric discussion: Thomas The Rhymer
From: MMario
Date: 17 Aug 01 - 04:28 PM

Capri? do you know how to set the forum title filter for longer periods? When you KNOW it's been around recently - that's the easiest way to find something.


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Subject: RE: lyric discussion: Thomas The Rhymer
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 17 Aug 01 - 04:34 PM

Alternatively, just click on your user name as it appears at the head of one of your posts, and you'll get a list of all the posts you've made under that name.  Might as well keep the discussion here, I'd say.


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Subject: RE: lyric discussion: Thomas The Rhymer
From: CapriUni
Date: 17 Aug 01 - 04:37 PM

::ARghhh!::: the last message sent when I hit the space bar in the middle of a sentance ... must have accidently hit a tab key...

As I was saying:

As for the version in DT "TRUE THOMAS 2", I realize it can't be authenticated, but I mentioned it in hopes that the person who submitted it (or someone who knows answers at least) would come forward and either give his or her sources or, if it is a new version give his or her reasons for writing those particular lyrics.

Folk music is a living art -- constantly changing. Just because a version is new doesn't mean that it's not as valid. But if they are new lyrics, I'd rather give credit where credit is due...

There! Now I am ready to send! ;-)


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Subject: RE: lyric discussion: Thomas The Rhymer
From: CapriUni
Date: 17 Aug 01 - 04:40 PM

To MMario and Malcom: I tried both setting the filter, and checking my personal page for threads I'd contributed to, and came up with nada both times... It was a real head-scratcher... Still is, for that matter... ;-)


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Subject: RE: lyric discussion: Thomas The Rhymer
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 17 Aug 01 - 05:21 PM

There's a version of True Thomas told by the great traveller storyteller Duncan Williamson which brings together various strands - it's included in "The Thorn in the King's Foot, Stories of the Scottish Travelling People", by Duncan and Linda Williamson, published 1987 by Penguin.Out of print, but there are copies in libraries.

Here is what Hamish Henderson wrote in his introduction to the book (this is included in an anthology of Hamish Henderson's writings). I think it's relevant here, because it throws a light on what it means to say a version and a variant is authentic:

Both these ballads (Tam Lin and True Thomas)are now very rarer, and both (in Duncan's narrations) are wonderful examples of an "internal" collaboration of re-collection and re-forming in the mind and on the lips of the singer; together with an "external" searching for the missing parts of the narrative he did not hear until in later life, in his mid-fifties, from older traveller relations. Duncan's balladry is re-creative folk art in a quite astonishing individual manifestation. We are privileged to be in on the same process that in earlier centuries must have produced many now standard versions of the great classical ballads.

I haven't got the book with his True Thomas here, I'm afraid - but here is another story by Duncan Williamson, from a site designed to provide material for "teachers wishing to incorporate aspects of Traveller culture into the Literacy Hour" - The Traveller woman who looked back"


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Subject: RE: lyric discussion: Thomas The Rhymer
From: CapriUni
Date: 17 Aug 01 - 06:38 PM

Thanks for "The Traveller Woman Who Looked Back", McGrath. I am sure I will enjoy reading it.

I will also look for *The Thorn in the King's Foot". I don't remember seeing it at my library (often park myself in the folklore section, I do ;-)), but maybe there's a copy in Amazon auctions (or Mudcat)


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Subject: RE: lyric discussion: Thomas The Rhymer
From: Susan of DT
Date: 17 Aug 01 - 07:14 PM

The version I (SOF) put in seems to be version C from Child, which he took from Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border. I will e-mail the person who submitted the other one - he doesn't visit mudcat too often to see whether he wishes to join this discussion.


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Subject: RE: lyric discussion: Thomas The Rhymer
From: CarolC
Date: 17 Aug 01 - 07:19 PM

Hi CapriUni.

The reason you couldn't find your posts to the other thread is because you posted them as a guest, and they are in two other posting histories. One as GUEST,CapriUni, and the other as GUEST,CapriUni(and your e-mail address).

If you go to the other thread using Malcolm's link, you can click on each name you posted under if you want to see the posting history of that name.


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Subject: RE: lyric discussion: Thomas The Rhymer
From: Kim Hughes
Date: 17 Aug 01 - 07:41 PM

Duncan's book, "The Thorn in the King's Foot," appears to be available at amazon.co.uk for about 7 pounds, and another 4 or so for air mail postage to the US.

regards, Kim


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Subject: RE: lyric discussion: Thomas The Rhymer
From: Gloredhel
Date: 17 Aug 01 - 07:44 PM

Before reading this discussion, I'd never seen this song, (I'm new around here) but reading the lyrics (thanks for the links!) I see a lot of nice familiar themes all going at once--the underworld or elfland, though it's more usual to request that the stranger not eat anything rather than not speak, and the apple, the temptress, I like this song! Anyway, since I'm new, I aplologize if this is a repeated question in the forum, but what does "harp and carp" mean? (Fifth stanza, Thomas the Rhymer on DT)


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Subject: RE: lyric discussion: Thomas The Rhymer
From: Art Thieme
Date: 17 Aug 01 - 07:46 PM

Just one guy's opinion but it's nice to see this thread.

Art


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Subject: RE: lyric discussion: Thomas The Rhymer
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 17 Aug 01 - 08:21 PM

Child's glossary: "In harp and (or) carp... carp seems to mean tell tales, probably sing or chant tales (ballads) to the harp."

The Scots Dialect Dictionary (Alexander Warrack, 2000) defines carp as "to talk; to recite as a minstrel; sing."


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Subject: RE: lyric discussion: Thomas The Rhymer
From: SINSULL
Date: 17 Aug 01 - 08:35 PM

CapriUni,
If you haven't already, visit Bruce Olson's website. There is a link from Mudcat. Or write him at olsonw@erols.com with a request for information.


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Subject: RE: lyric discussion: Thomas The Rhymer
From: CapriUni
Date: 17 Aug 01 - 09:25 PM

CarolC -- [re: not being able to find the previous thread, because I posted them as Guest(s)] But would that account for why the thread wouldn't show up in a forum search?

Susan of DT -- Thank you for the offer to email AS. I would like to hear his viewpoint.

Kim Hughes -- thanks for the heads-up about Amazon.co.uk. I'll check it out.

Gloredhel -- this song is relatively new to me, too. I found it by doing a lyric search for "bard" and "storyteller". "Storyteller" came up empty, but when I did another search, using "Rhymer" as a synonym for bard, this song popped up (one reason I love the DigiTrad search feature!). As for the geis (aka taboo / fate)placed on Thomas, I think that silence was chosen because that is the most diffecult for *him*. As someone who lives by speech, and prides himself on glibness, speaking would be a harder temptation to resist than eating. Just a thought. In the longer version (#37b), if I recall correctly, the queen says he may speak only unto her... so he isn't bound by completely silence for 7 years. And the discipline of keeping quiet probably *did* help a lot when he got back to earth unable to lie! ;-)

Malcolm Douglas -- [Re: "harp and carp"] yet more evidence that the line between stories and songs is a lot sharper today than it was in ages past. I wonder if it is our modern assumtion that "stories" are things that are printed in books that has led to the sharpening of this distinction...


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Subject: RE: lyric discussion: Thomas The Rhymer
From: Abby Sale
Date: 17 Aug 01 - 09:33 PM

Hi, folks & Susan. I pass by Mudcat nearly daily, actually, but don't post all that much. Please forgive my delay here but I've been at the hospital with the spouse EMTed over there, having a heart "event." Likely come home tomorrow or the next day & we'll never know what the cause was so not to worry. Sorry for the personal stuff, it's conceivable I'm experiencing some stress. I'll get over it.

Yes, I am "AS" but these were almost all redone as "AJS" since "AS" can be hard to search on.

Not much help for you on this, I'm afraid, Capri. I got the song years ago from the songbook (mostly ballads) of "Ciorst" of the SCA. (Society for Creative Anachronism) None of the songs have any attribution at all. I'm not even sure that "Ciorst" is the exact spelling. Joe Bethancourt of Arizona would certainly know this person.

I cannot find this verson anywhere, either - there doesn't seem to be any version in Herd or Greig from the NorthEast. BUT, I don't think it's made up either. Child's notes don't help but in a much earlier (warm-up, I guess) book set, English and Scottish Ballads of 1857 there are some interesting notes. {BTW, just to keep this personal, this particular book was nefariously donated to me by a very, very old friend in 1959 - I haven't used it much but it just shows to go.}

He gives the Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, Mrs Brown version in Vol 1, p229. He then gives: The traditional commentary upon this ballad informs us, that the apple was the produce of the fatal Tree of Knowledge, and that the garden ws the terrestrial paradise. The repugnance of Thomas to be debarred the use of falsehood, when he might find it convenient, has a comic effect.
Scott


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Subject: RE: lyric discussion: Thomas The Rhymer
From: CapriUni
Date: 17 Aug 01 - 10:19 PM

Greetings, Abby!

Good wishes to you and spouse, and peace and strength to you both to help you through your stressful time.

As to the "warm-up" version of Child's collection, sometimes the rough draft is more interesting than the finished product, or at least, it's more enlightening when shown in contrast to the finished product... I know that is the case with many of the Grimms' tales (but that's a discussion for another thread).

From what you've quoted in Child's commentary, it does sound to me that, even if your source for the distinction between the ripe and unripe fruit *is* modern, the lyrics are "authentic" in the sense that they bridge the contradictions between versions a, b, and c -- they weren't simply arrived at by whim.

On the one hand, when Thomas rushes to pick an apple, the queen warns him off, but on the other, she gives him an apple herself, as payment. Taken on face value that this is the same tree referred to in all three versions, it's natural to assume that some apples must curse and others bless -- another common motif in folklore. And it's equally logical that eating the Fruit of Knowledge would give you the gift of prophecy.

As to the "Comic effect" mentioned by Child, I was chatting online with a friend (while doing a web/Google search for the long version 37b), and gave a brief synopsis of the plot. His response was along the lines of: "Just like Jim Carey's character in 'Liar, Liar!'" ;-)


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Subject: RE: lyric discussion: Thomas The Rhymer
From: sophocleese
Date: 17 Aug 01 - 10:28 PM

CapriUni, just as a side note about the ballad. Diana Wynne Jones has written a book called Fire and Hemlock which makes use of both the Thomas the Rhymer Ballad and part of Tamlin.

I'm enjoying reading this thread even if I can't say much useful in it.


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Subject: RE: lyric discussion: Thomas The Rhymer
From: Thomas the Rhymer
Date: 17 Aug 01 - 11:00 PM

I am flustered and bemused by my own ineptness on this topic. I am fascinated by the songs we are discussing, and the Ballad form is so intriguing to me too. I have a fondness for the 'Child' ballads that seems to have begun at a fairly young age, and my love of fairport's "Tam Lin" was instantanious and permenent (If I could only play the fiddle tune...bg:)).

Thomas of Erceldoun was a real person, if what I have read is correct, and he did disappear from those who knew him for seven years... Although he returned a prophet to some, he also had a bit of a rough go of it after he returned... as anyone might guess...

For me, the apple is perplexing... not just because of the seemingly diametrically opposed meanings, but also, because the different meanings may NOT be so different after all. Poison from the tree of knoledge, The gift of truthful-ness (and the misery it can bring, the otherness in general existing in the "elfland"... All these point in a simalar direction, though I do not have it in any concrete opinion to express...

I personally can't understand the old English version well enough to find it's magical inferrences, but I can see that they are there... can anyone lead us to an accurate translation? Seems that these 'newer' versions have been somewhat recapitulated from more 'origonal',ie. ancient, songs.

I must add, that I just love the illusionary quality that these ballads have, and that they end mystically... which as you all know, is far from commonplace in the 'Child Ballads".ttr


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Subject: RE: lyric discussion: Thomas The Rhymer
From: toadfrog
Date: 18 Aug 01 - 12:02 AM

I have not had access to a Bronson in a very long time, but I seem to recall his commenting on the verse after the one with the apple:

My toung is mine ain, True Thomas said,
A guidly gift you would gie to me [Etc.]

as an odd piece of irony which did not really belong in a folk ballad. I'm v. curious whether anyone knows more about that aspect; is it a question that much gets discussed?


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Subject: RE: lyric discussion: Thomas The Rhymer
From: CapriUni
Date: 18 Aug 01 - 01:54 AM

Sophocleese -- thanks for the heads up regarding the novel Fire and Hemlock.

In my searches for "Thomas Rhymer" on Google, I've found quite a few essays linking this song with "Tam Lin", (Child #39) though, frankly, I don't see much similarity between the two.

Yes, they are both about young men who live with the Faery for 7 years, and then eventually come home. But for the most part, the similarities end there (except for the milk white steed that is shod with silver and gold).

Tam Lin had a spell put on him and was kidnapped. Furthermore, he was kidnapped, it seems, for the sole purpose of being the Faeries' human sacraficial victim to the Devil, and is therefore in need of rescuing. And most importantly, IMNSHO, is the point of view of the story -- it's told from the perspective of Margaret, the lady whom Tam Lin impregnates. It's basically *her* story -- of how she made her choice in Tam Lin, and fought to keep that choicee.

In "Thomas the Rhymer" the Queen of Elfland warns him ahead of time: "If you kiss me, you will be mine for seven years." And Thomas says, in effect, "Well, I don't care -- I'm going to kiss you anyway!" He makes his choice of his own free will, and if I remember the longer version, the Queen sends him home at the end of seven years over Thomas's complaints. This is clearly Thomas Rhymer's story.

And lastly, there is the theological difference between the two songs: In "Tam Lin" the Fairies pay a tythe to Hell; in other words, they are linked to hell. In "Thomas The Rhymer", Elfland is disticntly seperate from Hell -- there is the broad and easy road to hell, the narrow, thorny road of righteousnes, and a *third* road, that winds through the ferny woods (?) to Elfland... I could try to be more clear, but My eyes are closing... more tomoorow, I think....


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Subject: RE: lyric discussion: Thomas The Rhymer
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 18 Aug 01 - 08:34 AM

There's nothing inconsistent in stopping someone take something you own for themselves withoutb your by and leave, and then being willing to let them have it from your own hand. Happens all the time.


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Subject: RE: lyric discussion: Thomas The Rhymer
From: Thomas the Rhymer
Date: 18 Aug 01 - 12:42 PM

Taken in the spirit of it, I'd say there are many cultural 'coincidences' between Tam Lin and Thomas Rymer, and yet still, they are plentifully distinct. Aside from the obvious drama, there is in both instances, glorious allusions and metaphor into human nature, and the magical beliefs of the times. Great stories, Mythology, Adventure, and Romance... heck, if there isn't spirituality too.

Blessings, and G'day,ttr


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Subject: RE: lyric discussion: Thomas The Rhymer
From: CapriUni
Date: 18 Aug 01 - 01:26 PM

(Tried to send this reply earlier, but I got booted offline while in the middle of composing it, so am trying again)

McGrath --

I agree, there is no inherent contradiction in warning someone not to *take* something of yours, and deciding to give it to them freely. As a matter of fact, Joseph Campbell goes into great detail on the this subject (especially as it refers to the frult of the Tree of Knowledge) in volume 3 of his series /The Masks of God/ --"Occidental Mythology", chapter one.

The contradiction I was referring to between versions 37a, b, and c, was the differences in the nature of the fruit itself: In versions a and b, the fruit is filled with the plauges of hell, and in version c, the fruit is goodly -- giving the gift of prophecy. It is this contradiction that I believe that the version posted by Abby Sale bridges.

It's easy to visualize (for me, at least) the distinction between the unripe, "evil" fruit growing on the lower branches and the gift giving fruit of the higher branches if we "superimpose" versions a and versions c. In the first version, Thomas dismounts, and runs up to pick an apple (because he wants to give *her* a gift, btw.). Naturally, he would reach for the fruit in the lower branches. But in version c, *she* pulls an apple for him; assuming that she does so as they ride past, she'd be able to reach the apples that grow higher up... That's why I said that that the version posted by Abby Sale struck me as being "authentic" even if it were modern, because it's an interpretation that is supported by the more established versions. It may be that that those verses were composed for the sake of a modern audience's sensibilities, but it isn't (imo) *arbitrarily* PC... But your milage may vary.

If I ever have an oportunity to sing this ballad, I will probably choose to combine version c, in which she picks the apple, and version b, which shows what the realm of Elfland is like... Which leads me to thoughts on other verses in the song, but I'll save that for another post (don't want to get booted again ;-))


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Subject: RE: lyric discussion: Thomas The Rhymer
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 18 Aug 01 - 01:36 PM

The comment about the two penultimate stanzas referred to earlier was made not by Bronson, but by Child: "...it is an entirely popular ballad as to style,* and must be of considerable age, though the earliest version (A) can be traced at furthest only into the first half of the last [i.e. 18th] century. "  [Footnote:] * "Excepting the two satirical stanzas with which Scott's version (C) concludes. The repugnance of Thomas to be debarred the use of falsehood when he should find it convenient, may have, as Scott says, a comic effect, but is, for a ballad, a miserable conceit.  Both ballad and romance are serious."

Although the tributary link with Hell is absent in the traditional ballad, it is worth mentioning that it was present in the earlier verse romance, and was the reason for Thomas' return to the world.  Though over three years have passed, it seems to him but three days when the Lady tells him that he must return to Eldone, and he protests; she explains (Fytt I: 57-58):

"To morne of helle þe foulle fende
Amange this folke will feche his fee;
And þou arte mekill mane and hende;
I trowe full wele he wolde chese the.

Ffor alle þe gold þat euer may bee,
Ffro hethyne vn-to þe worldis ende,
Þou bese neuer be-trayede for mee;
Þerefore with me I rede thou wende."
Roughly:  Tomorrow the foul fiend of hell will fetch his tribute from among this folk; and you are a great and handsome man; I am sure that he will want to chose you.  For all the gold that ever may be, from now to the world's end, you will not be betrayed if I have anything to do with it; therefore I advise you to go with me.

The fruit episode goes as follows.  They are in an orchard where many varieties of fruit are growing.  (Fytt I:34-35)

He pressede to pulle frowte with his hande,
Als mane for fude þat was nere faynt;
Scho sayd, Thomas, þou late þame stande,
Or ells þe fende the will atteynt.

If þou it plokke, sothely to saye,
Thi saule gose to þe fyre of helle;
It commes neuer owte or domesdaye,
Bot þer in payne ay for to duelle.
Again, roughly:  He hurried to pick fruit with his hand, like a man that was near faint for food; she said, Thomas, you let them be, or else the Fiend will take you.  If you pluck it, truly to tell, Your soul will go to the fires of Hell; it will never come out ere Doomsday, but will dwell there in pain forever.  It is worth mentioning that no particular fruit is specified; to eat of any of them would presumably attract the same fate.

There is no suggestion of any link between the eating of fairy food and the gift of prophesy, or of truth-telling.  When the Lady has returned Thomas to Eldone, their conversation goes (Fytt II:1-3):

"Fare wele, Thomas, I wend my waye,
I may no lengare stande with the:"
"Gyff me a tokynge, lady gaye,
That I may saye I spake with the."

"To harpe or carpe, whare-so þou gose,
Thomas, þou sall hafe þe chose sothely:"
And he saide, Harpynge kene I none,
Ffor tonge es chefe of mynstralsye.

"If þou will spelle, or elles telle,
Thomas, þou sall neuer lesynge lye;
Whare euer þou fare, by frythe or felle,
I praye the speke none euyll of me."
Roughly:  Farewell, Thomas, I depart, I may no longer stay with you.  Give me a token, lady gay, so that I may say I spoke with you.  You shall truly have the choice, Thomas, to harp or sing wherever you go.  And he said, I know nothing of harping, for the tongue is the most important part of minstrelsy.  If you wish to say or tell, Thomas, you shall never lie; wherever you go, by woodland or fell, I pray you speak no evil of me.

Spelle and telle were terms used both of ordinary speaking, and of storytelling.  Thomas asks her to tell him some marvels before she goes, and the romance continues with a long list of prophesies which Child does not quote.


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Subject: RE: lyric discussion: Thomas The Rhymer
From: CapriUni
Date: 18 Aug 01 - 01:42 PM

Toadfrog:

I have not read any Bronson, but based on your citation, I would have to disagree with his assessment that the ironic/satiric sentiment .

It's been years since I've read Chaucer, who wrote toward the end of the 14th century (a couple of generations prior to the composition of the earliest forms of this poem/ballad), and his work is filled with all sorts of satirical/ironic commentary on the different aspects/members of society. This was a time of great social upheaval, when the culture was beginning to shift from an agricultural/fuedal system to an urban/captitalist one, and therefore, satire was flourishing. Remember that the one of main roles of court jester was to be critic of the king.

But that's just me... Anyone else?


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Subject: RE: lyric discussion: Thomas The Rhymer
From: Thomas the Rhymer
Date: 18 Aug 01 - 02:01 PM

CapriUni... I am afraid you are intellectualising a bit more than I care to. The qualities that you are imposing upon/into the Ballad you are inspecting, may or may not be there. My impression is that the instigation of meaning and feelings, lies in different realms when we create song with intence poetry like this, and that this search for meanings that you are on is overwrought with personal suplication. I do love your ideas and such, but I think you might want to appreciate each version for what it is... savor each one individually. Draw your conclusions on the instalment plan...

I think this is especially true of these older ballads that one has never heard done... As any thing of beauty requires, the sum of the parts is not as great as the whole.

I am not trying to dissuade you from reaching, stretching, and grasping at the meanings... By all means this must be done as the mystical meanings dance before our very eyes! But lo... the meanings change with the lessons we are learning, and the reification of magical moments makes but a picture-album of what life really is...

Isn't this a magical journey we are on?
I sing the "C" version, with the "A" melody. I have assigned some chords of my own to the melody, and though they are indisputably "incorrect" in strict 'trad' thinking, I like them. I have been working on it for over a year, and my phrasing is still not quite right. First things first!ttr


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Subject: RE: lyric discussion: Thomas The Rhymer
From: CapriUni
Date: 18 Aug 01 - 02:02 PM

Malcolm --

Thank you for this early version -- and its translation! Although there is no link in *this* version between eating Elfin food and prophecy, it appeared somewhere between this and Child's version 37a (the apples remain the Devil's, but she feeds him with the bread and wine instead, which bestows the "gift" -- or curse, depending on your point of view).

It may be impossible to *know* whether this earliest version was sung or spoken, of course, but, using melody of the DigiTrad tunefile TOMRHYM, I *can* hear these lines fit to the music...


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Subject: RE: lyric discussion: Thomas The Rhymer
From: Thomas the Rhymer
Date: 18 Aug 01 - 02:14 PM

Thank you Malcolm... The historical progression is a little less misty for me... Can you read the old English as you go, or do you have to look up words? I get (or think I'm getting) about half, and the rest I find utterly confusing... Again, Thanks for your translation and input!ttr


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Subject: RE: lyric discussion: Thomas The Rhymer
From: CapriUni
Date: 18 Aug 01 - 02:37 PM

TtR --

Yes. I do tend intellectualize things a lot. It's been my mode of working for as long as I can remember.

Um... do you mean "overwrought with personal [supplication]" or "personal *supposition*"? (The former means a form of prayer, the latter means making assumptions about things).

No matter, either way you may be right. I've had very intense dreams with the White Mare Goddess recently, and I may be searching her out in my waking time where she doesn't walk.

But that is why there are scholars *and* singers in this world. Reminds me of an Irish proverb I came across on the Web:

"There are two versions to every story, twelve arrangements to every song, and twenty-two exceptions to every rule of grammar!" ;-)


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Subject: RE: lyric discussion: Thomas The Rhymer
From: Thomas the Rhymer
Date: 18 Aug 01 - 02:46 PM

Hiya Capri...

I was thinking 'supplicate' in the meaning of pleading or prayer like this; 'I will think I might understand what something means, and then suppplicate that it be so'...

No real meaning to my input though, cause you are following what is important to you, and that is rich with insight... even I can see that!

Good on ya! ttr


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Subject: RE: lyric discussion: Thomas The Rhymer
From: AliUK
Date: 18 Aug 01 - 09:33 PM

Just to put in my two penny'orth. The themes of Thomas run through much of northern mythology and into our own times. Sometimes watered down ( or popularised,) such as in the Irish Tales of the good folk taking farmers into their Rades, threough to such modern(ish) masters of phantasie such as Dunsany ( The King of Elfland's Daughter) and C.S. Lewis ( The Silver Chair). Sometimes the Fairy protagenist is good, sometimes bad, sometimes indifferent. Thomas picks up on some of the many stories that were floating around at the time and used by singers, balladeers and such as they saw fit. this is a great thread, I'm off to look through my Bumper Book of Celtic Myths and Legends.


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Subject: RE: lyric discussion: Thomas The Rhymer
From: Thomas the Rhymer
Date: 18 Aug 01 - 10:04 PM

Also, in my 1929 Encyclopedia Britannica, is the following excerpt:

"In the folklore of Scotland his name is associated with numerous fragments of verse of a gnomic and prophetic character. The romance of Thomas and the elf-queen was attributed to Erceldoune by Robert Mannyng de Brunne, but the earliest text, in the Auchinleck ms. in the Advocates' library, Edinburgh, is in a dialect showing southern forms, and dates from the beginning of the 14th century. It may be based on a geniune work of Thomas, a version by him of the widely diffused Tristan Saga. The most widely accepted opinion is that it is a translation of a French origional."

I am unaware of several things here...Robert Mannyng de Brunne, Auchinleck ms., and the Advocates' library. Anyone out there with a clue?ttr


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Subject: RE: lyric discussion: Thomas The Rhymer
From: Abby Sale
Date: 18 Aug 01 - 11:48 PM

ttr: You shouldn't be stressed re confusion between Rhymer & Tam Lin. There are many similar elements and cross-over is not unusual. Amusingly, the only version I've found so far this weekend from the N.E. of Scotland is called "True Tammas" but is absolutely a pretty full version of "Tam Lin" with no cross-over from the other at all!

Toad: Thomas is receiving the gift of prophacy but he has the ability to use it or not as he chooses. He can still lie when he chooses.

It may not be such a jump between the bad apples - noting that the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge was fatal (Adam & Eve die) and the "poisoned" apple is also fatal.

Yiz may wish to have a look at Oral footnotes


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Subject: RE: lyric discussion: Thomas The Rhymer
From: CapriUni
Date: 04 Sep 01 - 04:23 PM

Sorry it's taken me so long to get back to this thread -- lightning zapped my modem on the night of August 18th, and I just got a new modem installed today -- it's been a frustrating 2 1/2 weeks!

Malcolm --

re: "Tomorrow the foul fiend of hell will fetch his tribute from among this folk; and you are a great and handsome man; I am sure that he will want to chose you. For all the gold that ever may be, from now to the world's end, you will not be betrayed if I have anything to do with it; therefore I advise you to go with me."

and the similarity with the story of Tam Lin regarding the sacrifice to the Devil every seven years reminds me of the ancient pagan practice in Ulster Ireland (If I'm remembering correctly... If I'm not, someone please correct me) Where the king to be was ritually united to the earth through the 'marrying' and sacrifice of a white mare, then after seven years, the king himself was sacrificed and a new king chosen. After a while, a commoner was chosen as a surrogate for the king, while his sovereignty was "renewed". Eventually (I believe -- again, if I'm wrong, correct me), I think the sacrifice was done entirely in effigy.

In any case, this practice may have remained in Christian memory long after it had ceased to exist in fact as the citizens of Elfland sacrificing a human to the Devil every seven years...

I wonder if the "milk white (or dapple grey) steed" that the queen of Elfland rides represents the white mare that the ancient kings of Ulster mated with.

... just a thought...


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Subject: RE: lyric discussion: Thomas The Rhymer
From: GUEST,dunlace
Date: 02 Mar 08 - 03:11 AM

Hi Malcolm, it's very late to be replying to your 1971 post but I just came upon it this morning. Re: Thomas and the harping, I checked my copy of Murray (Thomas of Erceldoune printed fom 5 mss, 1875) and found that four of the five 15th c. mss have 'harping kepe I none' - not 'ken' - the fourth, Lansdowne, has 'wyll I none' - so they all give Thomas's rejection of the harp a different meaning from the one that your spelling suggests: it's not that he doesn't play the harp, but he prefers to have a magically assisted voice, rather than have his harping enhanced, because he reckons the voice is a better instrument. Where did you get your text?

All the best,
Dunlace


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Subject: RE: lyric discussion: Thomas The Rhymer
From: masato sakurai
Date: 02 Mar 08 - 04:39 AM

The romance and prophecies of Thomas of Erceldoune : printed from five manuscripts, with illustrations from the prophetic literature of the 15th and 16th centuries, edited by James A.H. Murray (EETS, 1875), is at Internet Archive.


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Subject: RE: lyric discussion: Thomas The Rhymer
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 02 Mar 08 - 01:57 PM

I used the text quoted by Child (ESPB I, 326-329) from Murray: 'kene' was, however, a mis-typing by me of the correct 'kepe'. An unfortunate error since, as you point out, it alters the meaning of the line: rather than saying that he knows nothing of harping, Thomas is really saying that he has no wish to harp.


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Subject: RE: lyric discussion: Thomas The Rhymer
From: GUEST,Carole
Date: 14 Apr 12 - 09:11 AM

Steeleye span do an excellent version of this song if anyone is interested.


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