Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Fair Janet The Young Tamlane and the Fairy Queen

The Fair Janet The Young Tamlane and the Fairy Queen
"He's ta'en her by the milk-white hand,
Among the leaves so green."
This tale belongs to the romantic side of the Border minstrelsy, and illustrates some of the common superstitions of olden times concerning elves and fairies. The scene is laid in the Selkirk or Ettrick Forest, a mountainous tract covered with the remains of the old Caledonian Forest. About a mile above Selkirk is a plain called Carterhaugh, and here may still be seen those fairy rings of which it was believed that anyone sleeping upon one will wake in a fairy city. And here was, and perhaps still is, an ancient well. The ballad opens by telling how all young maids were forbidden to come or go by way of Carterhaugh, "for young Tamlane (or Thomalin) is there," and every one going by Carterhaugh is obliged to leave him something in pledge. But the Lady Janet, the fairest of the Selkirk lasses, was obstinate, and declared that she would come or go to Carterhaugh, as she pleased, "and ask no leave of him," since the land there belonged to her by hereditary right. She kilted her green mantle above her knee, and braided her yellow hair above her brow, and off she went to Carterhaugh. When she got to the well, she found the steed of the elfin knight Tamlane standing there, but he himself was away.
"She hadna pu'd a red, red rose,
A rose but barely three;
Till up and starts a wee, wee man
At Lady Janet's knee.
Says—'Why pu' ye the rose, Janet?
What gars (makes) ye break the tree?
Or why come ye to Carterhaugh,
Withouten leave of me?'
Says—'Carterhaugh it is mine ain;
My daddy gave it me:
I'll come and gang to Carterhaugh,
And ask nae leave o' thee.'"
But Tamlane took her by the hand and worked upon her his spells, which no maiden might resist, however proud she might be.
When she came back to her father's hall, she looked pale and wan; and it seemed that she had some sore sickness. She ceased to take any pleasure in combing her yellow hair, and everything she ate seemed like to be her death. When her ladies played at ball, she, once the strongest player, was now the faintest. One day her father spoke out, and said he, "Full well I know that you must have some lover." She said:—
"'If my love were an earthly knight,
As he's an elfin grey,
I wouldna give my own true love
For no lord that ye hae.'"
Then she prinked herself, and preened herself, all by the light of the moon alone, and went away to Carterhaugh, to speak with Tamlane. When she got to the well, she found the steed standing, but Tamlane was away. She had barely pulled a double rose, when up started the elf.
"Why pull ye the rose, Janet?" says he; "why pull ye the rose within this garden green?" "The truth ye'll tell me, Tamlane; were ye ever in holy chapel, or received into the Christian Church?" "The truth I'll tell thee, Janet; a knight was my father, and a lady was my mother, like your own parents. Randolph, Earl Moray, was my sire; Dunbar, Earl March, is thine. We loved when we were children, which yet you may remember. When I was a boy just turned nine, my uncle sent for me to hunt, and hawk, and ride with him, and keep him company. There came a wind out of the north, a deep sleep came over me, and I fell from my horse. The queen of the fairies took me off to yon green hill, and now I'm a fairy, lithe and limber. In Fairyland we know neither sickness nor pain. We quit our body, or repair unto them, when we please. We can inhabit, earth, or air, as we will. Our shapes and size we can convert to either large or small. We sleep in rose-buds, revel in the stream, wanton lightly on the wind, or glide on a sunbeam. I would never tire, Janet, to dwell in Elfland, were it not that every seven years a tithe is paid to hell, and I am so fair of flesh, I fear 'twill be myself. If you dare to win your true love, you have no time to lose. To-night is Hallowe'en, and the fairy folk ride. If you would win your true love, bide at Miles Cross." Miles Cross is about half a mile from Carterhaugh, and Janet asked how she should know Tamlane among so many unearthly knights. "The first company that passes by, let them go. The next company that passes by, let them go. The third company that passes by, I'll be one of those. First let pass the black steed, Janet, then let pass the brown; but grip the milk-white steed, and pull down the rider—
"For I ride on the milk-white steed,
And aye nearest the town;
Because I was a christened knight,
They gave me that renown."
Tamlane went on to explain that his fairy comrades would make every effort to disgust her with her captive. They would turn him in her very arms into an adder; they would change him into a burning faggot, into a red-hot iron goad, but she must hold him fast. In order to remove the enchantment, she must dip him in a churn of milk, and then in a barrel of water. She must still persevere, for they would shape him in her arms into a badger, eel, dove, swan, and, last of all, into a naked man, but
"Cast your green mantle over me,
I'll be myself again."
So fair Janet in her green mantle went that gloomy night to Miles Cross. The heavens were black, the place was inexpressibly dreary, a north wind raged; but there she stood, eagerly wishing to embrace her lover. Between the hours of twelve and one she heard strange eldrich sounds and the ringing of elfin bridles, which gladdened her heart. The oaten pipes of the faires grew shrill, the hemlock blew clear. The fairies cannot bear solemn sounds or sober thoughts; they sing like skylarks, inspired by love and joy. Fair Janet stood upon the dreary heath, and the sounds waxed louder as the fairy train came riding on. Will o' the Wisp shone out as a twinkling light before them, and soon she saw the fairy bands passing. She let the black steed go by, and then the brown. But she gripped fast the milk-white steed, and pulled down the rider. Then up rose an eldrich cry, "He's won among us all!" As Janet grasped him in her arms the fairies changed him into a newt, an adder, and many other fantastic and terrifying shapes. She held him fast in every shape. They turned him at last into a naked man in her arms, but she wrapped him in her green mantle. At last her stedfast courage was rewarded, she redeemed the fairies' captive, and by so doing won his true love! Then up spoke the Queen of Fairies, "She that has borrowed young Tamlane has got a stately groom! She's taken the bonniest knight in all my company! But had I known, Tamlane," said the fairy queen, "had I known that a lady would borrow thee, I would have taken out thy two grey eyes, and put in wooden eyes. I would have taken out thy heart of flesh, Tamlane, and put in a heart of stone. I would have paid my tithe seven times to hell ere I would have let her win you away."

 Compiled From Sources In The Public Domain.

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Smiles & Good Fortune,
It is not wealth one asks for, but just enough to preserve one’s dignity, to work unhampered, to be generous, frank and independent. W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) Of Human Bondage, 1915

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