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Wiltshire Community History

Folk Song Information

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Book TitleAuthorDateNotes
Song TitleJohn Barleycorn
Roud No.164
Collected FromUnknown
LocationLechlade
CountyGloucestershire
Collected ByWilliams, Alfred
Alternative Title
Tune
Date
Source PrimaryWSRO: 2598/36 Packet 4 - Wiltshire: Williams, A: MS collection No Wt 404
Source SecondaryUnpublished
Recording
 
Song Lyrics
Verse 1

There came three men out of the West,
Their scheming for to try,
And they have sworn a solemn oath,
John Barleycorn should die.

Verse 2

They ploughed him in the earth so deep,
Put clots upon his head,
Then these three men they did conclude,
John Barley corn was dead.

Verse 3

They let him stay a whole fortnight,
Till rain from heaven did fall,
John Barleycorn sprang a green blade,
Which quite amazed them all.

Verse 4

They let him stay Midsummer,
Till he grew pale and wan,
And Barleycorn had a long beard,
Much like unto a man.

Verse 5

They hired men with scythes so sharp,
To cut him off at the knee,
See how they served poor Barleycorn,
They served him bitterly.

Verse 6

They hired men with forks and rakes,
To stab him through the heart,
But the carter served him worse than that,
For he bound him to a cart.

Verse 7

They drove him round and round again,
Till they came to a barn,
And there they made a barley mow -
A mow of John Barleycorn.

Verse 8

They hired men with crab tree sticks,
To beat him, skin from bone,
And the miller served him worse than that,
For he ground him between two stones.

Verse 9

They flung him in a cistern deep,
And drowned him in water clear,
The brewer served him worse than that,
For he brewed him into beer.

Verse 10

Put white wine in a bottle
And cider in a can,
John Barleycorn, in a brown bowl,
Will prove the stronger man.
 
Print Song Lyrics
 
Notes
Alfred Williams - 'John Barleycorn is another ballad that exists in a variety of forms. It is undoubtedly of English origin. The poet Burns gave it a Scotch cast and is said to have improved it, but it will not require a very astute critic to perceive that the English versions, with all their rudeness are much better than the one penned by Burns: they are more pointed, simpler, stronger and truer than his. This ballad was extremely popular in the South, especially at harvest homes. I have given two versions, both current around Highworth and Lechlade. Obtained of Elijah Iles, Inglesham.'

Transcribed and edited by Chris Wildridge, 2007.

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