Thomas the Rhymer

This is from Highways & Byways in The Border, in which Thomas Spottiswood:

…wrote of him early in the 17th century: “Sure it is that he did divine and answer true of many things to come.” Fact regarding the Rhymer is so vague, and so beautifully blended with fiction that I doubt if most Borderers do not more than half persuade themselves still to accept as fact much of he fiction the they learned of him in childhood. To Border children, not so long ago, nothing was more real than the existence of a tree, still alive and growing somewhere about the enchanted land of Eildon, which must necessarily be the Eildon Tree:

“Syne he has kissed her rosy ls

all underneath the Eildon Tree;”

Nothing was more certain than that True Thomas, at the call of the Queen of Faery, rose and obediently followed the hart and the hind into the forest, and returned no more.

“First he woxe pale, and then woxe red,

Never a word he space but three;-

‘My sand is run,my thread is spun,

This sign regardeth me.’”

No spot was looked on, in early youth with ore awe than that Bogle Burn whose stony bed crossed over the St. Boswells and Melrose road in the cheerless hollow beside a gloomy wood; it was here that True Thomas beheld things unseen by mere mortal eye. Who could doubt? Was there not still standing in earls ton the remains of his old tower to confute all scoffers!

“The hare all kittle on my hearth stane,

And there never will be a Laird Learmont again.”

And, a hundred years ago and ore, did to a hare actually produce its young on the shattered grass-grown hearth-stone of the Rhymer’s dwelling? So everybody believed. But if doubt yet lingered anywhere regarding some portion of True Thomas’s story, it was easily set at rest by the words cut on that goldstone built into the wall of the church at Earlston.

“Auld Rymer’s race

Lyes in this place.”

it says; and somehow it gave one a peg to hang one’s faith upon. The whole, or at least a sufficient part of it, is quite real win that the countryside by he Rhymer’s Glen where True Thomas lay “on Huntlie bank’ and where flourished the Eildon Tree; and that true Thomas’s still unfinished prophesies will yet one day come to pass is a sound article of belief. Though how the ruthless prediction is to come about regarding the house of Cowdenknowes, (which is not far removed from the rhymer’s old tower,) one dies not quire see. But it was once a doom pronounced against a pitiless Home who there “had since commanding.” and the Homes are gone.

“Vengeance! Vengeance! when and where?

On the house of Coldingknow, now and ever mair!”

Perhaps too tat was not of True Thomas’s foretelling. One prefers rather to think of Cowdenknowes in connection with the ballad:

“O the broom and the bonny,bonny broom,

And the broom of the Cowdenknowes!

And aye sae sweet as the lassie sang

I’ the bught, milking the ewes!” 

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