I've found another interesting comment, in the liner notes of the "The Child Ballads N.1", Topic, LP, by Alan Lomax and Peter Kennedy assisted by Shirley Collins, edited by A.L.Lloyd: "The story could not be simpler. A young man is dying of love. He calls for the girl and asks forgiveness and mercy. She scorns and leaves him and he dies. When she hears of his death, she dies of remorse-and in America,so does her mother. The most obvious interpretation here is the most cogent: that is,the revenge and subsequent guilt of a proud and probably frigid,or injured,woman,which would be felt in different ways by male and female listeners. This explanation fits the history of the sexual pattern in recent times in the English-speaking world. Robert Graves proposes an idea which may account for the origin of the song. He sees Barbara Allen as a witch who is killing a man by magic. He begs for mercy, but she persists in her cruelty and then,as often transpires in witch tales,is killed by her own wickedness. In this version,the offer of gifts to Barbara and the lines from Ireland that have her laughing when she sees the corpse suggest that Graves may be right."