Tuesday, November 01, 2005

# Posted 6:01 AM by Patrick Belton  

MY GOD, THEY'RE EVERYWHERE WATCH: This just in from OxBlog's Samhain and Scottish stuff correspondent Alex Massie,

Splendid stuff, as always.

You probably know that in plenty of the old Scottish fairy tales the fairies are far from the kindly, cute, little things popularly imagined today. On the contrary, they are malevolent, troublesome, vindictive creatures best avoided. [We call them yobs - pb]

Tonight they appear from that crack in time you refer to at Carterhaugh, the narrow plain at the confluence of the Ettrick and Yarrow rivers, just outside Selkirk in the Scottish Borders where they will dance for the Fairy Queen herself. (Caterhaugh is half a mile down the hill from where I grew up and does, at night, have an oddly eery feel to it. so I declare an interest here.)

She's a tough mistress as the final verses from the ballad of Tam Lin (as collected in the Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border by Sir Walter Scott - a must read, incidentally) make clear. Janet has returned to Caterhaugh to wait for her lover Tam Lin to reappear. The Queen is not amused:

52. Up then spake the Queen o Fairies,
Out o a bush o broom:
She that has borrowd young Tamlane
Has gotten a stately groom.,

53. Up then spake the Queen o Fairies,
Out o a bush o rye :
She's taen awa the bonniest knight
In a' my cumpanie.

54. But had I kennd, Tamlane,' she says,
A lady wad borrowd thee
I wad taen out thy twa grey een,
Put in twa een o tree.

55. Had I but kennd, Tamlane,' she says,
Before ye came frae hame,
I wad taen out your heart o flesh,
Put in a heart o stane.

56. Had I but had the wit yestreen
That I hae coft the day,
I'd paid my kane seven times to bell
Ere you'd been won away.'

Whole thing here:


Anyway, trust all is well with you and that you enjoy yourself this evening.

yours aye

Alex Massie
Many thanks Alex, tapadh leat!
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