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Wiltshire Community History

Folk Song Information

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Book TitleAuthorDateNotes
Song TitleBarbara Allen
Roud No.54
Collected FromMills, James
LocationSouth Cerney
Collected ByWilliams, Alfred
Alternative TitleChild No 084
Source PrimaryWSRO: 2598/36 Packet 2 - Gloucestershire: Williams, A: MS collection No Gl 155
Source SecondaryWilts and Gloucestershire Standard, 13th November, 1915, p 2, Part 7 No. 1
Song Lyrics
Verse 1

In Reading town, where I was born,
A fair maid there was dwelling,
I picked her out to be my wife,
And her name was Barbara Allen.

Verse 2

Twas in the merry month of May,
When green leaves they were springing,
A young man on his deathbed lay,
For the love of Barbara Allen.

Verse 3

He sent to her a servant man,
To the place where she was dwelling,
Saying - "Fair maid, to my master you must go,
If your name is Barbara Allen."

Verse 4

So slowly, slowly she walked in,
So slowly she went to him,
And when she got to his bedside,
She said - "Young man, you're dying.

Verse 5

Nothing but Death's print on thy cheeks,
All joys they are fled from thee,
I cannot save thee from the grave,
So farewell, my dearest Johnny!"

Verse 6

As she was walking in the fields,
She heard the bells a-ringing,
And as they rang they seemed to say -
"Hard hearted Barbara Allen."

Verse 7

"Hard hearted creature, sure, I was,
To one that loved me so dearly;
I wish I had more kinder been,
In the time of life, when he was near me."

Verse 8

Twas he that died on one good day,
And she that died the morrow;
Twas only he that died of love,
And she that died for sorrow.
Print Song Lyrics
Williams, Alfred: Ms / WGS: 'Barbara Allen dates from at least the opening years of the seventeenth century. It is claimed as a Scotch song, and such indeed it may be, though I am of the opinion that more than one of the songs generally accepted as Scotch have had an English origin. The references to Reading Town and Newbury Town may be merely local import, though in a 'Bundle of Ballads' published in 1891 by Henry Morley, LLD, Professor of English Language and Literature at University College, London, the opening line has 'In Scarlet Town' which is obviously Reading Town disguised. The piece was very popular in the Thames Valley and occurs in several forms. As an illustration of the manner in which a piece may vary in one locality I am printing three versions procured within a space of twenty five miles. It is difficult to say which is the oldest and mist nearly original form. Obtained of J Mills, South Cerney and Latton.'

Note 2

In Verse 2 Line 2 the original text read:

When green leaves were swelling

In Verse 6 the original text read:

As she was walking o'er the fields,
She heard the bells a-tolling,
And as they tolled they seemed to say -
'Hard hearted Barbara Allen.'

Transcribed and edited by Chris Wildridge, 2010.



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