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Thomas the Rhymer (simple ballad style)

When Rhymer Thomas strode the bank
Of Castle Huntlie’s stream,
A lady neared upon a horse
In early morning’s gleam.

The mount she rode was purest white,
Its mane was braided well,
And pendent from each braid there gleamed
A tinkling silver bell.

Now Tom the Rhymer bared his head;
He knelt, and then spoke he:
“The Heaven’s Queen, I’m sure you are—
A mortal you can’t be.”

“Tom, I shall tell you who I am,”
She said with friendly mien:
“The Queen of Heaven I am not;
In Elfinland I’m queen.

“Now take your harp and play for me;
Your love songs I must hear,
But if you dare to kiss my lips,
You’ll serve me seven year’.”

“To linger in sweet servitude,
How could such frighten me?”
He kissed her lips and she kissed his
Beneath the Eildon tree.

“Now you are bound to ride with me,”
She said and stroked his hair.
As they set out for Elfinland,
His heart beat free of care.”

And, at the foot of Eildon Hills,
There lay a cave ahead,
Through which a blood-filled river flowed,
Life’s sap of men long dead.

This was the blood that had been shed
For honor, greed, or fame;
Man’s warlike heart shall always bleed
When folly has a name.

Its way the fairy knew quite well;
No moon by which to see,
Her horse strode on in steady beat
Till sunlight set them free.

They left a world of utter gloom
And flew at tempest’s speed
Into a hot and barren land
Devoid of all but weed.

“Good Tom, my dear, we cannot rest
On this so weary day,
For ride we must, oh, mortal man—
Before I fade away.”

At last they reached the shady woods,
Rode on through greening dells;
And when she gently touched the reins,
Then tinkled all the bells.

“Now, Thomas, we will stop a while
Beneath this apple tree,
But do not touch the fruit that tempts—
You’ll lose your soul and me.”

She took from her own silken cape
Some earthly bread and wine;
He ate and drank, admired her face—
Her beauty was divine.

Restored, she pointed at the fork
Where one road branched to three.
“Which one of these would you now choose?”
Tom looked up from her knee:

“It seems that I have heard, the path
Of righteousness is rough
And most beset with thorns and stones,
Avoided oft enough.”

“Well said, my clever Rhymer Tom;
But there, that pleasant way,
That is the path to wickedness,
Which leads the weak astray.

“Now straight ahead, there lies the road
That leads to Elfinland;
It is the one that we will take,
But first hear my demand:

“Beyond that stream, there lies my world.
Once there, you must not speak
To anyone but me, your queen;
Your words great harm could wreak.

“Your way back home you would not find,
Unless you harp and sing,
Yet never speak in Elfinland;
I bind you with this ring.”

And Tom saw many wondrous things
When they reached her domain;
Her clan inquired about his world,
Their queries were in vain.

Attiring Tom in fairy clothes,
She bade him sing out loud
His songs of love and tragedy
Before the Elfin crowd.

He often filled the castle halls
With song from dusk to dawn;
It seemed as though the seven year’—
In seven days had gone.

“You served me well; take this reward:
The gift to speak the truth,
And when grim death does come, dear Tom,
Then we shall meet, forsooth.”

The Rhymer ‘neath the hawthorn lay,
The fabled Eildon tree;
All dressed in finest Elfin clothes
And velvet shoes was he.

He’d left his songs in Elfinland;
To kings he prophesied,
For such her parting gift had been;
His harp he set aside.

Renowned for his true prophesies,
The Ryhmer reached his fame:
True Thomas, Tom of Ercledoune,
Became a household name.

Part 2

His hair turned gray and somewhat thin;
Time took its constant toll,
Aged bones, once strong, began to ache
As he strode up the knoll.

He turned the elf queen’s finger ring,
The one that sealed his tongue
While he had served in Elfinland,
When he was strong and young.

At ev’ry turn he thought he heard
The silver bells' faint call;
He took up his neglected harp
One morn in early fall.

Then, as he neared the river bank,
He found the fairy there;
Her steed shook fifty and nine bells,
Their chimes removed his care.

True Thomas knelt as best he could;
She stroked his hair: “It’s time,
Dear Tom, that we should ride on home
To silv’ry bells’ bright chime.”

They rode on to the hawthorn tree,
The cave near Eildon Hill,
Through which the blood-filled river ran,
For men were warring still.

Through desert land, then fruit tree groves,
They flew at dazzling speed,
And as they reached the queen’s domain,
Old Tom turned young, indeed.

Again he tuned his faithful harp,
Then played a melody,
And when he rhymed of lasting love,
A bird sang in its tree.

In our own world he was not seen;
His queen fluffed up their bed—
Its curtain drew the Rhymer shut . . . .
The rest is best unsaid.

Style / type: 
Structured: Western
Review Request (Direction): 
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How was the beginning/ending of the poem?
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you leave me with a nice one. I love ballads and this is perfect! Not a flaw that I can see. ~ Geez.

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today is my big day, 10 a.m. to be precise, which gives me 4 hours time. Btw, this ballad was written about 2 years ago, and posted once before on another forum (Mosaic Musings), but I wanted to leave you with something out of the ordinary, rather than my usual tripe. So, I'll be "seeing" you--soon. Jerry

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