Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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Poem: "Come Midwinter at Carterhall"

You folks get a double treat today, courtesy of new prompter dormouse_in_tea who hit upon one of my favorite folk songs, performed here in a bonny rendition I've not heard before. Since the following poem is based on a traditional source, I choose to make it freely available so that people may sing it if they wish. It ought to scan to the original tune, since the old verses wander all over in syllable count anyhow.

Now look at the "Tam Lin" lyrics, by which we may deduce:

  1. Fair Janet is not what might be delicately termed a "good girl." Note how quickly everyone spots that she's pregnant, and how widely her father ranges for possible fathers.

  2. Tam Lin boffs (or simply robs) everything with long hair that comes his way. Nor does he seem overburdened with with wits.

  3. Interestingly, both Janet and Tam Lin are fair of coloring. This leaves room for some bardic mischief.
  4. This relationship is doomed with a mighty doom, making the Faerie Queen's curses utterly redundant. (What, she thought Tam Lin was monogamous?)


So herein the tale resumes, a couple months after Samhain...


Come Midwinter at Carterhall


Oh, who forbids the maidens all
Who free their long and lovely hair
To go by way of Carterhall
Lest they should meet Tam Lin out there?


Fair Janet’s tied her kirtle green
Above the knee her boots to show
And she’s gone out to Carterhall
All through the soft Midwinter snow.

Fair Janet’s wrapped her cloak around
And fastened on her hood so red
But still the playful winter wind
Plucks free the hair upon her head.

Fair Janet’s bundled up her babe
With eyes of bright and bonny brown
Not mother’s green nor father’s blue
But like that strong young smith in town.

Oh, who forbids the maidens all
Who free their long and lovely hair
To go by way of Carterhall
Lest they should meet Tam Lin out there?


She plucked a dagger of the ice
And lapped the water as it fell.
Tam Lin appeared to her and said,
“My dear, why do you come, pray tell?”

“Oh, could it be you’ve missed me so?
Or mayhap not recalled the date?
For it is nigh Midwinter Feast –
I fear my invitation’s late.”

“Oh no, Tam Lin, I’ve missed you not;
The date I surely know, at least;
Your invitation is not late –
You’re not invited to the Feast.”

“I’ve heard a tale from my handmaid,
Another from the kitchen girl,
And three – yes, three – from Richard’s wife.
I’m sending you away, you churl!”

Oh, who forbids the maidens all
Who free their long and lovely hair
To go by way of Carterhall
Lest they should meet Tam Lin out there?


“Fair Janet, wait, you cannot go,”
Tam Lin said, “nor send me away!
How could you do this to our babe
Before her very first birth-day?”

Fair Janet laughed and said, “Tam Lin,
She is no get of yours, I swear!
It’s never from yourself or me
She got such deep brown eyes and hair.”

Tam Lin just frowned and said, “My dear,
It’s sure I am you must be wrong.
For here we met and here we loved
And here we lay the whole night long!”

Fair Janet shook her golden head.
“Oh no, Tam Lin, she came too soon.
I was no maiden on that day …
And I can count by yonder Moon.”

Oh, who forbids the maidens all
Who free their long and lovely hair
To go by way of Carterhall
Lest they should meet Tam Lin out there?


“Then why come here at all?” he said,
“Or save me from the Faerie Queen?
And tease me with your golden hair
Upon your kirtle soft and green?”

“You were fine sport, it’s sure to say.
I might have kept you if you’d stayed
As true to me as you once swore –
And not a month before you strayed!”

“They came to me, as you once came,
And so the same to them befell,”
Tam Lin said – but she said to him,
“I’ve since had other loves as well.”

Fair Janet’s sent Tam Lin away
And turned her back on Carterhall.
She’s brought her young smith to the Feast
And danced him dizzy at the Ball.

Oh, I give leave to maidens all
Who free their long and lovely hair
To go by way of Carterhall –
I wish them luck of Tam Lin there!
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fishbowl, history, music, poem, poetry, reading, writing
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