Complete Songs Of Robert Burns - online book

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IX. MISCELLANEOUS
493
Tarn Lin, and not even naming him, was previously printed in Herd's Scots Songs, 1769,^00, under the title of Kertonha'; or the fairy Court. It begins:—
' She's prickt hersell and prin'd hersell
By the ae light o' the moon, And she's awa to Kertonha'
As fast as she can gang. ' What gars ye pu' the rose, Jennet ?
What gars ye break the tree? What gars ye gang to Kertonha'
Without the leave 0' me?'
Few of our ballads have earlier or more historical references. The tale of the young Tamlene, and a dance Thorn of Lyn are named in the Complaynt of Scotland, 1549. In 1558 a licence to print A ballet of Thomalyn was granted to Master John Wallye and Mistress Toye, but no copy is known. Drayton, in Nymphidia, or the Court of Fairy, 1627, introduces Oberon king of the fairies and Tomalin, his relation, as fighting with Tom Thumb. The Queen having given to both combatants a cup of Lethe water; this occurs :—
/ Tom Thumb had got a little sup,, And Tomalin scarce kiss'd the cup, Yet had their brains so sure lock'd up That they remembered nothing.'
The popularity of Tom Lin caused it to be parodied, for in Wager's Commedia,
c- I575i we nave :—
' Tom a lin and his wife, and wife's mother, They went over a bridge all three together, The bridge was broken, and they fell in,— " The devil go with all," quoth Tom-a-lin.'
a- further development occurs in the modern song—' Tommy Lin is a Scotchman born.' In Forbes's Cantus, 1666, is a reminiscence of the ballad, thus:—
' The pyper's drone was out of tune,
Sing, Young Thomlin: Be meirie, be merrie, and twice so merrie,
With the light of the moon.'
These verses were interpolated about 1620 into Wood's Musical MS. of the sixteenth century.
For the long period of nearly 250 years, between the first notice in the Complaynt of Scotland, 1549, and 1796, when Burns's original version was published, nothing was known, except by oral tradition, of the story of Tarn Lin. The few stanzas in Herd's collection do not even name the hero; and the corrupted Kertonha', and the omission of Milescross tend to conceal any connexion. At what time Tarn Lin of the text was composed must be left to the imagination, and from its character it is one of the oldest of its kind. It is specifically Scottish, no counterpart of it is known abroad and no legend outside of the island has been discovered. The earliest copy is in the Glenriddell MS. 1789, and again in 1791. Burns went to Ellisland in the summer of 1788, and immediately formed a close friendship with Robert Riddell of Glenriddell, a noted and enthusiastic antiquarian. I have not ascertained whether Burns communicated to Riddell the ballad of Tarn Lin, or vice versa. The fact that the Museum copy was not in print before 1796 goes for nothing, because many of Burns's songs sent before 1789 to Johnson were not published until 1796 and 1803. Professor Child remarks that both Burns and Riddell may have obtained the ballad from the same source. The first twenty-two stanzas of Glenriddell's copy differ from the corresponding Burns (one to twenty-three, omitting stanza sixteen) by only a few words; after that there are considerable verbal differences,