The Ballad of Tam Lin

by Molly Pinto Madigan

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1.
Prologue 01:14
Lady Margaret, Lady Margaret was sewing at the seam And she’s put down her thread When the thought came into her head to run in the woods For to pluck the roses red, me boys, For to pluck the roses red.
2.
Forbid 06:09
FORBID (MARGARET/THOMAS) MARGARET: Oh, I forbid you maidens all That wear gold in your hair To come or go by Carter Hall For Thomas Lynn is there. “Oh, why forbid a maiden grown, With wild and curling hair, To come and go all on her own And pluck the roses fair?” The rose, the rose, the heart always knows What it wants when it’s laid bare. With green skirts tucked and wild hair tied Ignoring what was said Young Margaret thought to Carter Hall to ride To pluck the roses red. She hadn’t pulled a double rose, A rose both red and green, When through the briar so thickly grown A young swain she has seen. A double rose, the heart knows What it wants when it is green/keen. THOMAS: “Now, Margaret why cut short the bloom And why the green cane cleave? And why to Carter Hall would you Dare come without my leave?” MARGARET: “Well, Carter Hall, it is my own, My daddy gave it to me So I will come and I will go And ask for no man’s leave.” As she gazed on this handsome rogue The blush in her did rise A finer man she had never known Than him with gray-blue eyes. He took her by her hand so deft And by the grass-green sleeve, He laid her down, wild roses on his breath And never asked her leave. MARGARET and THOMAS: The rose, the rose, the heart always knows How to burn and how to bleed. The double rose, the blooming heart knows How to want when it is free.
3.
How the Wind 01:33
How the wind whistling soft through the pines Seems to clear our Margaret's mind How the summer lingers fragrant and fair On her grass-stained gown and wild tangling hair. How upon her mouth his kiss lingers on Even as she turns and finds he's gone.
4.
LOVE, BE TRUE (MARGARET) Oh, so it’s come to this: one locked-and-loaded kiss -- I think I love you. Lost in those deep eyes of gray, surely a girl could stray In love with you, love with you, love with you. Deep as a starless sky, longer than monarchs fly Is my love for you. So, riddle me something true, some secret no one knew, And I will love you, I will love you, I will love you. Blink! Summer has turned to fall; my heart’s stentorian call Claims love for you, So see now how the barley sways, I could spend all my days, Just loving you, loving you, loving you. Oh, love. Oh, my love. Oh, my love! Were my love lost at sea, he would return for me All painted blue, And I would do the very same, lungs nourished on his name: O, love, be true! Love, be true! Love, be true.
5.
Home 01:46
HOME MARGARET: Four and twenty ladies fair Were playing at the ball When Margaret with her hair untied Came to her father’s hall. Four and twenty ladies fair Were playing at the chess And Margaret stood among them all Her curling hair a mess. KING: Margaret’s father spoke up then To see his girl so wild, “Oh, alas, my daughter dear. I fear you are with child.”
6.
AN EARTHLY KNIGHT (THE KING/MARGARET) KING: The king has been a prisoner And a prisoner to the throne With aching heart he’s looked up now To find his daughter grown. “What ails you, what ails you, my daughter dear? For you look so pale,” he said, “Oh, have you had any sore sickness Or taken a man to your bed? “Cast off, cast off your grass-green gown, And stand naked there before, So I may know you by your shape Whether you be a maiden no more.” MARGARET: “Well, if I pricked my finger on A thorn that bit to bone Would you begrudge the beauty gleaned For one so long alone? “And if I go with child,” she said, “Myself shall bear the blame, There’s not a knight in all your hall, That’ll give the babe his name.” KING: “Oh, was it with a lord or a duke or a knight? Or a man of pedigree? Or was it with one of my serving men? For hanged he shall be.” MARGARET: “Oh would my love were an earthly knight, As he’s an elfin gray. Yet I’d not trade my own true love No matter what you say. “The steed that my fey love rides on Is swifter than the wind. With silver it is shod before, And/with burnished gold behind.” KING: “My dear, in Carter Hall there grows, An herb that spurns the sun. So, Maggie, hasten to the briar, And do what must be done.”
7.
A SHARP-TONGUED KNIGHT (A KNIGHT/MARGARET) KNIGHT: Slung o’er the wall Of her father’s hall When Margaret passed by, A sharp-tongued knight At the first sight Of her smiled. Looking down On her grass-stained gown His gaze did fall, And up spoke he, “Margaret, for thee We will be blamed all. Be blamed all.” MARGARET: “O, hold your tongue, You must be drunk To think I’d let this fly. “And rest assured, You’ve my word, That with you I’d never lie. Never lie.”
8.
FORTUNE’S FOOL/HIS NAME (MARGARET) O a day, a day in the merry month of May, I went out on a day. Fortune’s fool, I went out though I didn’t know the way, I didn’t know the way. Ooooh. Where’s he gone? My love with the eyes of blue and gray. He’s gone out on a day. Seasons come and seasons so quickly blow away, I cannot make them stay. Ooooh. I’m untried, I know not of men and their cruel ways, Or how to make them stay, How to love, my fingers all slick with slipping days, I cannot, cannot make them stay. Ooooh. O, a moment – my heart leapt, I blushed to meet his gaze. Now everything has changed. The hemlocks shiver, the cold scotch broom, it bends and waves, And I don’t know his name. His name! O, his smile – and I thought, sure, to have one taste, But twice the pledge was paid. When I awoke and turned for to ask of my love his name, I found the forest changed. The forest changed! Still sweet blooms the hawthorn, and sweet still, O the gorse does remain. It’s only I have changed. Still sweet sings the woodlark. More sweet, still, the nightingale’s refrain, And I have ears in vain. Ears in vain!
9.
A DOUBLE ROSE (MARGARET) All the flowers of the field fade As we age, they say But this fire, kindled in the briar – His eyes blue-gray. Oh, the blush from the bloom falls All too soon, so they say, And the wild love of childhood Slips away. With the love of a gold knight, Every cold night would burn (on and on) And the flush of the rose’s touch Could return. Sure, the nightingale’s sweet song Is all but gone by now. But I heard something of the bird When he lay me down. If my love were an earthly knight In his armor gray, shining silver day, If he rode on a stallion white I would never stray if I knew he’d stay If the truth of his touch were right Flowers fade, they say, eyes of blue and gray, I would hold him all through the night Bathed in brimming day – my heart he’ll betray. If my love were an earthly knight, Eyes of blue and gray; it will fade they say. With his shield and his claymore bright I would make him stay past the dawning day. All the flowers of the field fade As we age, it’s true. And the prick of the rose bleeds quick But when it’s through, it fades too.
10.
Nightingale 02:42
NIGHTINGALE (A Nightingale) I have heard you sigh with love and grief -- A willowisp, your breath is wandering palely in the eaves. I have seen his heart weighed down with weeds, With strangled love for her who holds the cards and all the keys. He is not for you, it’s not to be. He isn’t free. The path to him is fraught, he isn’t free. oooooo Tangled is the web we tend to weave, The lovely, gilded, longing lies we make ourselves believe. He’d love you well if only he were free; he isn’t free. The path is clogged with thorns, it’s not to be. His heart’s not free.
11.
Forbid #2 00:49
FORBID #2 (MARGARET) With green skirts tucked and wild hair tied Young Margaret did speed Into the briar to find among the thorns An herb to make her bleed.
12.
Wormwood 04:33
WORMWOOD (MARGARET) O, it’s bitter grows the wormwood gray And cheerless is the springing thyme For my own true love came home today Home to a bed that isn’t mine. O the wormwood grows a bitter silver-gray But bitterer am I O I would I could make my love stay With poses sweet and garlands fine But the lily blooms but for a day So too did his brief love decline O the wormwood grows a bitter silver-gray But bitterer am I O he swore he never would betray Me when he kissed me in the thyme But the truth’s a bed wherein I cannot lay He’s someone’s love but he’s not mine. O the wormwood grows a bitter silver-gray But bitterer am I So it’s fare thee well, love, and a day My heart remains among the thyme For my own true love came home today To arms he loves far more than mine. O the wormwood grows a bitter silver-gray But bitterer am I.
13.
Forbid #3 01:58
FORBID #3 THOMAS: She had not pulled a double rose Her fingers thorn-picked sore ‘Til Thomas Lin in on the west wind blows, Saying, “Maggie, pull no more. “Oh, why do you uproot the roses still And why the green cane break, And why come you to Carter Hall to kill The baby we did make?” MARGARET: “Oh, tell me, Tom, and tell me true If mortal man you be. For something in your eyes of mingled blue Strikes fear inside of me.”
14.
Rhymer 03:17
RHYMER (THOMAS) Oh, Margaret, Margaret, don’t turn away, Though strange is my tale to tell. As I rode out on the First of May, It’s from my own spooked horse I fell. Her mantle was of the velvet deep, Her skirts of the greenest silk, The Queen of Faerie, she caught me, In arms as smooth and as white as milk. “Harp and carp, Thomas Lynn,” she bade, “Oh, harp and carp,” said she. “And if you dare to kiss my lips, Your body hale shall belong to me.” Oh, Maggie, I kissed her bitter lips, All under the grafted tree. With sharpened smile she did sigh and say, “True Thomas, now you must go with me.” As she mounted her palfrey As she reached for me How could I turn away? As she said, “True Thomas, this Is the price for one kiss: Seven years away. All under the elf tree. Seven sweet years in Faerie Sour now, so tear me Down from my horse of white. As we troop through the briar, Halloween’s thirst requires Blood sacrifice. At the mirk and midnight hour At the height of their power The folk will ride. Those that would their true love win At Miles Cross hidden In the brambles must bide. All under the elf tree. Hold me tight.
15.
Oh, Thomas Lynn, Thomas Lynn, Thomas Lynn...
16.
I Remember 03:23
I REMEMBER (THOMAS/MARGARET) MARGARET: I recall the pull of your dark gaze, and I recall the scrape of callused palm on mine. Oh, it’s a long time. I recall your lazy sun-soaked smile, and I recall your kisses sweet as Muscat wine. Oh, it’s a long time. THOMAS: I recall the feathered hemlock shade, and I recall your close breath quickening with mine. Lo, it’s a long time. MARGARET: I recall the whispering beechen green, The swoon, the fall, the crushed perfume of eglantine. Love, it’s a long time. THOMAS: And I remember, the way the loosetrife waved in Flushed September, the days diffused with sweet Scotch pine. Love, it’s a long time.
17.
Threnody 04:08
THRENODY (THOMAS) All the flowers of the fringed field fade But could a dwindling rose be saved For a winter? Blinking poppies beat their last hurrah, Their roots kissed in the pale scrimshaw Of the weevils But they will love. Slain, the ivy reaching for the sky Whose sinew will mollify The moths of winter. Soiled, the promise shivers on its stalk The impulse flickers and is lost. Oh, it’s lost. But I will love. Sweet, the honeysuckle’s fragrant swoon, The dogwood days of guileless June Pleasure fleeting. Yet the woodlark’s warbling threnody Cuts me deep but cannot be A true parting. For we will love. And as the summer’s breathless cavalcade Sweeps by, could a rose be saved For a moment?
18.
LADY MARGARET’S DREAM Lady Margaret, Lady Margaret was sewing at the seam And she’s all dressed in black When the thought came into her head to run into the woods To pull flowers to flower her hat So she hoisted up her petticoats a bit above her knee And so nimbly she’s run o’er the ground Until she came to the merry green woods And she’s pulled the branches down, down Oh, she’s pulled those branches down Wake up, wake up, the night is Halloween And the Elfin Court does ride And if you would your true love win At Miles Cross you must bide
19.
A Cold Bed 04:09
A COLD BED (MARGARET) How the night seems so wide And he’s out there without me Would he were by my side On my neck, stirring breath -- How the night moves like ink Is he drowning in the shadows? And would I with him sink? Oh, I dare not to think – How the night’s painted red, How it reeks of his roses, Turning o’er all he said Tossing in my/a cold bed How the nights tastes of rot. I can feel him beside me In the briar where he caught Caught my cold mouth with his.
20.
HALLOWEEN INTRO It’s on the night of Halloween The faery folk do ride And she that would her true love win At Miles Cross she must bide. It’s at the mirk and midnight hour She heard the bridles ring And Margaret was as glad at that As any earthly thing, my love. O as any earthly thing. First let past the horses black And then the horses brown She bolted to the milk-white steed And pulled young Thomas down, my love. Oh, she pulled young Thomas down.
21.
Halloween 03:35
HALLOWEEN (Margaret) Oh, God, he’s handsome, you know. Yeah, you’re stricken. No, hold him fast, don’t let go, Feel him quicken. And his hand on my – Yes, feel him shift, here’s the test: Trousers tattered. Press, hip-to-hip, chest-to-chest, Heartbeats scatter, shard and shatter. And the pines shiver slow, But they won’t let him go, No they won’t let him go. There, feel his skin sprout with hair, Haunches rippling, Your fear crippling. Bare, scaled skin snake-smooth, a dare: Fingers slipping, Oh, he’s slipping . . . And the pines shiver slow But I can’t let him go, No, I can’t let him go. Turn, as his skin smokes and burns, Your hands blacken But don’t slacken. Churn, as your lover returns In the bracken, In the bracken. Oh, the pines shiver slow, But I won’t let him go, No, I won’t let him go!
22.
Forbid #4 01:21
FORBID #4 MARGARET: And when they turned him in her arms To her dear Thomas Lynn She cloaked him in her green mantle To shield him from the wind. QUEENE: Up then spoke the Faerie Queen With fire on her breath, “May she who stole my Thomas Lynn Meet an untimely death!”
23.
Queene 03:17
QUEENE (Faerie Queene) Woe upon you, usurper-bride Some ill-death may you face; You’ve robbed me of my brightest knight And flaunted your disgrace. Had I but known, Thomas Lynn, my love, That what she did, she could, I would have taken out your eyes And put in eyes of wood. Had I but known, Thomas Lynn, my pain, Before I journeyed home, I would have taken out your heart And put in one of stone.
24.
Never Loved 03:59
NEVER LOVED MARGARET: So, the wind turns bad, I bow and break with each whisper -- O, but you. I have never loved you More than I do tonight. THOMAS: So, the world’s gone mad – This bitter taste – but there’s beauty Sown with rue. I have never loved you More than I do tonight. BOTH: Hold on to love. Hold on to what is right, what is right. Hold on, my love, tonight, tonight, tonight. MARGARET: How can one be sad, When all it takes is one fevered Glance from you? I have never loved you More than I do tonight, tonight, tonight.
25.
Oh, Thomas Lynn, Thomas Lynn, Thomas Lynn...

credits

released July 3, 2020

© & ℗ 2020 Molly Pinto Madigan.

All songs by Molly Pinto Madigan, with some reverent borrowing from the ballad tradition (particularly "Tam Lin," "Thomas the Rhymer," and "Willie O'Winsbury").

Recorded and mixed by Sam Margolis at Riverview Sound in Waltham, MA. Mastered by Tom Waltz at Waltz Mastering. A Nine Athens Music production. Funded in part by Club Passim. Album artwork and design by Adam Gurczak.

THE CAST (in order of appearance)

Margaret – Molly Pinto Madigan
Thomas Lynn – Alec Hutson
The King – Vance Gilbert
A Knight – Mark Erelli
The Faerie Queene/A Nightingale – Jenee Halstead

THE PLAYERS
Molly Pinto Madigan – Voice, acoustic guitar, keys, bodhran, zils, shaman shell-belt, and toy piano
Lyle Brewer – Acoustic and electric guitars
Eva Walsh – Violin and cello
James Heazlewood-Dale – Bass
Julian Loida – Percussion
Sam Margolis – Guitar, bass, pad, and percussion
Kevin Barry – Guitar and lapsteel on “Wormwood”
Barry Gross – Bass on “Wormwood”
Dylan Sevey – Percussion on “Wormwood”
Jay Psaros – Acoustic guitar and backing vocals on “Rhymer”

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Molly Pinto Madigan Salem, Massachusetts

Singer. Songstress. Poet. Novelist. Lover of roses, ballads, ballroom dancing, and beaches, where she spends her time indulging her mermaid nature.

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