If you are reading this page using a screenreader, we support ARIA landmarks for quick navigation too

Wiltshire Community History

Folk Song Information

There were 1 items found.

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



This website

Contact details

Contact Wiltshire Council

Write to us or call us

Wiltshire Council
County Hall
Bythesea Road
BA14 8JN