Verse > Anthologies > Robert Bridges, ed. > The Spirit of Man: An Anthology

Robert Bridges, ed. (1844–1930).  The Spirit of Man: An Anthology.  1916.
True Thomas

TRUE 1 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 skirt was o’ the grass-green silk,        5
  Her mantle of the velvet fine;
At ilka tett of her horse’s mane,
  Hung fifty siller bells and nine.
True Thomas he pu’d aff his cap
  And louted low down to his knee:        10
‘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’m but the Queen o’ fair Elfland,        15
  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.’—        20
‘Betide me weal, betide me woe,
  That weird shall never daunten me.’
Syne he has kiss’d her rosy lips,
  All underneath the Eildon Tree.
‘Now ye maun go wi’ me (she said),        25
  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:        30
And aye, whene’er her bridle rang,
  The steed flew swifter than the wind.
O they rade on, and farther on,
  The steed gaed swifter than the wind:
Until they reach’d a desert wide,        35
  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 show you ferlies three.        40
‘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 ye not that braid, braid road,        45
  That lies across yon lily leven?
That is the Path of Wickedness,
  Tho’ some call it the Road to Heaven.
‘And see ye not that bonny road
  That winds about the fernie brae?        50
That is the Road to fair Elfland,
  Where thou and I this night maun gae.
‘But, Thomas, ye sall haud your tongue,
  Whatever ye may hear or see:
For if ye speak word in Elflyn-land,        55
  Ye’ll ne’er get back to your ain countrie.’
O they rade on, and farther on,
  And they waded thro’ rivers abune the knee:
And they saw neither sun nor mune,
  But they heard the roaring of the sea.        60
It was mirk mirk night, there was nae sternlight,
  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 to a garden green,        65
  And she pu’d an apple frae a tree:
‘Take this for thy wages, true Thomas;
  It will give the tongue that can never lee’—
‘My tongue is mine ain (true Thomas said):
  A gudely gift ye wad gie to me!        70
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, Thomas (she said),        75
  For as I say, so must it be.’
He has gotten a coat of the even cloth
  And a pair o’ shoon of velvet green:
And till seven years were gane and past,
  True Thomas on earth was never seen.        80
Note 1. Unknown. True Thomas. My text mainly follows Sir Walter Scott. ‘Minstrelsy of the Scottish border.’ 1802. Vol. ii, p. 244. Any slight differences are due to collation with other original sources. [back]

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