Website of the Grove of Manannan Mac Lir of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids

Ballad of Thomas the Rhymer

(Note: in this text some of the Scottish dialect words have been Anglicized for the general reader. Detailed texts in the Scottish vernacular are found in F.J.Child's collection The English and Scottish Ballads.)


True Thomas lay on a grassy bank,

And he beheld a lady gay,

A lady that was brisk and bold,

To come riding o'er the ferny brae.


Her skirt was of the grass-green silk,

Her mantle of the velvet fine,

And on every lock of her horse's mane,

Hung fifty silver bells and nine.


True Thomas he took off his hat,

And bowed low down to his knee,

"All hail thou virgin, Queen of Heaven,

For your like on Earth I ne'er did see,"


"Oh no, oh no True Thomas" she said,

"That name does not belong to me;

I am but the Queen of Fair Elfland

That has come for to visit her with thee"


"And you must go with me now, Thomas,

True Thomas you must go with me,

And you must serve me seven years,

Through good or ill as may chance to be"


She turned about her milk white steed

And took True Thomas up behind,

And aye whene'er the bridle rang,

The steed flew faster than the wind.


For forty days and forty nights

They wade through red blood to the knee,

And he was neither sun nor moon,

But heard the roaring of the sea.


Oh they rode on and further on,

Until they came to a garden tree,

"Light down, light down, you lady fair,

And I'll pull of that fruit for thee"


"Oh no, Oh no True Thomas" she says,

"That fruit may not be touched by thee,

For all the plagues that are in hell

Are upon the fruit of this country"


"But I have bread here in my lap,

Likewise a bottle of red wine,

And before that we go further on,

We shall rest, and you may dine,"


When he had eaten and drunk his fill,

She said "Lay you head down on my knee,

And before we climb yon high high hill,

I will show you wonders three,"


"Oh do you see that broad broad road

That lies by the lily leven?

Oh that is the road of wickedness,

Though some call it the road to Heaven"


And do you see that narrow narrow road

All beset with thorns and briars?

Oh that is the way of righteousness,

Though after it few enquires."


And do you see that bonny bonny road

Which winds about the ferny brae?

Oh that is the road to Fair Elfland,

And together there you and I will go"


"But Thomas you must hold your tongue

Whatever you may hear or see´┐Ż

For if one word you chance to speak,

You will never get back to your own country."


And he has gotten a coat of woven cloth,

Likewise the shoes of velvet green,

And till seven years were past and gone,

True Thomas ne'er on earth was seen.

* The text in this document comes from R.J.Stewart's, The Living World of Faery, (1995,1999) Mercury Publishing Inc. Lake Toxaway, NC 28747

All rights reserved. No part of this may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or Transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronically or mechanically, known or unknown without written permission by RJ Stewart or Mercury Publishing.