This is one of the Child Ballads (#39), originating in the Scottish Borders. It’s definitely one of the “big” songs.
The story revolves around the rescue of Tam Lin by his true love from the Queen of the Fairies. While this ballad is specific to Scotland, the motif of capturing a person by holding him through all forms of transformation is found throughout Europe in folktales. – Wikipedia
Here’s a great contemporary version from Anaïs Mitchell and Jefferson Hamer.
Janet sits in her lonely room
Sewing a silken seam
And looking out on Carterhaugh
Among the roses green
And Janet sits in her lonely bower
Sewing a silken thread
And longed to be in Carterhaugh
Among the roses red
View from the Blackhill of Cowdenknowes.
The great Archie Fisher singing another song from the Scottish Borders. This one comes from Berwickshire and a place called Cowdenknowes. It’s one of the many Scottish songs recorded in the Child Ballads compiled by Francis James Child in the 18th century. Cowdenknowes means “Hazel Hill.” “Broom” refers to the yellow blooming flower founded in the countryside.
There are many variations, but the plot remain consistent in all. The shepardess and stranger fall in love and have an affair. When she becomes pregnant, she is banished from her country. She seeks out her lover, finding him to now be a wealthy lord. They marry, but she is never truly happy away from her own country, and she pines for “the bonnie bonnie broom”.
The Broom o’ the Cowdenknowes
How blithe each morn was I tae see
My lass came o’er the hill
She skipped the burn and ran tae me
I met her with good will.
O the broom, the bonnie, bonnie broom
The broom o the Cowdenknowes
Fain would I be in the north country
Herding her father’s ewes
We neither herded ewes nor lamb
While the flock near us lay
She gathered in the sheep at night
And cheered me all the day