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Thomas the Rhymer

Thomas the Rhymer: Sir Thomas de Ercildoun was a Scottish prophet from the 1200s, also known as “True Thomas”. While asleep on Huntly Bank near the Eildon Hills he encountered the queen of the fairies, a beautiful woman who kissed him on the lips—and she took him away to the other world for 7 years, though to him it seemed like no time had passed at all (his story later being used by Washington Irving as inspiration for Rip van Winkle—great sleeper).

Thomas was shown three paths—the green and easy path to hell, the thorny and difficult path to heaven, and the velvet-purple path to fairyland.

The fairy queen also offered him a gift, to “harpe or carpe” (to play the harp or to “carp on”, to be a prophet). Thomas chose to carpe (carpe diem) and so found that he could not tell a lie—and this granted him the powers of poetry and prophecy, these being the same thing.

That is all poetry is—not to tell a lie.

Hence envious philosophers, like Plato, say that the poets are liars and must be banned from their republic, for the truth is so outrageous nobody believes it and thinks it is insanity or a joke. Baron Munchausen had the same problem—he was very deadpan and matter-of-fact about what he saw and experienced, yet everybody thought he lied.

And so “True Thomas” made many prophecies as regards Scotland’s fate—all of which came true. I am the same, since my first name is the same—and I also fell asleep on a bank in Scotland among the fairies.

Further, it is said that when Thomas fell asleep first a hart then a hind passed behind him—just as a hart passed behind me as I fell asleep that first night at Hartsfell and just as a hind passed behind me when I slept at the same spot on my second visit.

I choose neither heaven nor hell, but fairyland.



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