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Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?

DigiTrad:
BARBARA ALLEN
BARBARA ALLEN (2)
BARBARA ALLEN (5)
BARBARA ELLEN (3)
BAWBEE ALLAN


Related threads:
(origins) Info Barbara Allen (49)
(origins) Origins: Sarah Makem's 'Barbara Allan'? (16)
(origins) Origins of: Barbara Allen, is there a story ? (37)
Origins: Barbara Allen (246)
Lyr Req: Barbary Allen #84 (Sheila Kay Adams) (6)
Barbara Allen earliest version? (80)
(origins) ADD: Barb'ry Allen (32)
Lyr Req: 'Barbara Allen' different versions (75)
Lyr Add: Bobby Allen (Afro-American) (3)
Chord Req: Tom Rush's 'Barb'ry Allen' (5)
Lyr Req: 2nd word of Phoebe Smith's barbara Allen (20)
Lyr Req: Bob Dylan's 'Barbara Allen' (3)
Lyr Req: steve tilston's barbry allen (5)
Lyr Req: Barbara Allen (Vic Legg) (2)
Lyr Req: Barbara Allen (from Shirley Collins) (2)
Lyr Req: susan reed's barbara allen #84 (5)
Lyr Req: Barbara Allen (#84, Hedy West) (3)
Lyr Req: Barb'ry Allen (from Tom Rush) (6)
Barbara Allen anomoly (32)
Lyr Req: Barbara Allen (from Jimmy Stewart) (4)
Lyr Req: Fred Jordan's Barbara Allen (5)
Barbara Allen in '30's Film (37)
Lyr Req: Barbara Allen (7)
Barbarra Ellen (15)


Sorcha 02 Feb 00 - 01:19 AM
Bugsy 02 Feb 00 - 01:30 AM
Sorcha 02 Feb 00 - 01:35 AM
GUEST,murray@mpce.mq.edu.au 02 Feb 00 - 02:15 AM
GUEST,Roberto 02 Feb 00 - 08:39 AM
Dave (the ancient mariner) 02 Feb 00 - 08:41 AM
Amos 02 Feb 00 - 08:55 AM
GeorgeH 02 Feb 00 - 09:01 AM
Bert 02 Feb 00 - 10:27 AM
Art Thieme 02 Feb 00 - 12:40 PM
Wesley S 02 Feb 00 - 12:59 PM
DougR 02 Feb 00 - 01:07 PM
Troll 02 Feb 00 - 01:21 PM
GUEST,Arkie 02 Feb 00 - 02:10 PM
katlaughing 02 Feb 00 - 02:14 PM
GUEST,T in Oklahoma (Okiemockbird) 02 Feb 00 - 02:45 PM
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GUEST,falconet 02 Feb 00 - 03:39 PM
Amos 02 Feb 00 - 03:53 PM
Art Thieme 02 Feb 00 - 06:44 PM
GUEST,Bruce O. 02 Feb 00 - 06:59 PM
katlaughing 02 Feb 00 - 08:28 PM
bseed(charleskratz) 02 Feb 00 - 09:16 PM
Sorcha 02 Feb 00 - 09:39 PM
BK 02 Feb 00 - 10:39 PM
M. Ted (inactive) 02 Feb 00 - 10:47 PM
Art Thieme 02 Feb 00 - 11:13 PM
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Uncle_DaveO 03 Feb 00 - 06:33 PM
GUEST,Roberto 04 Feb 00 - 04:34 AM
M. Ted (inactive) 04 Feb 00 - 10:28 AM
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Doctor John 04 Feb 00 - 01:59 PM
katlaughing 06 Feb 00 - 01:18 AM
M. Ted (inactive) 06 Feb 00 - 06:20 PM
GUEST,Roberto 07 Feb 00 - 03:23 AM
katlaughing 07 Feb 00 - 08:49 AM
Amos 07 Feb 00 - 09:14 AM
GUEST,Roberto 07 Feb 00 - 10:52 AM
Amos 07 Feb 00 - 11:06 AM
katlaughing 07 Feb 00 - 11:41 AM
M. Ted (inactive) 07 Feb 00 - 03:46 PM
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katlaughing 07 Feb 00 - 08:20 PM
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Sorcha 15 Jan 02 - 07:47 PM
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RoyH (Burl) 16 Jan 02 - 11:16 AM
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BK 17 Jan 02 - 12:27 AM
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Subject: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: Sorcha
Date: 02 Feb 00 - 01:19 AM

I have wondered this for a long time, and I have gone back and searched the archives, no answer. Does anybody have any idea why Barbie refused to go see Sweet William on his death-bed? A "Child-Addicted" friend said she heard that it was because he bought all the other maids in the pub a round, but refused to buy her one. Any comments?


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: Bugsy
Date: 02 Feb 00 - 01:30 AM

"Don't you remember in yonder town, the place where you were dwelling.

You gave the toast to the ladies all, and slighted Barbara Allan."

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned!

Cheers

bugsy


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: Sorcha
Date: 02 Feb 00 - 01:35 AM

Thanks, never seen that version. Nuff said. S


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: GUEST,murray@mpce.mq.edu.au
Date: 02 Feb 00 - 02:15 AM

As I remember the lyrics, she doesn't refuse to see him. She is just a bit laid-back about the visit and says something like, "Young man I think you're dying."

Murray


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: GUEST,Roberto
Date: 02 Feb 00 - 08:39 AM

"Barbara Allen" is more deep than it seems. The most interesting comment I've read was by Robert Graves, who thought she was a witch. That could explain Barbara Allen's laughter when she sees his corpse. In some versions, she cries, but in others, she wildly laughs. See, for instance, Martin Carthy's version, in his last CD, "Sign of Life", or Jean Redpath's, in "First Flight". When she comes to his death-bed, he shows her things that seem to be tokens ("a basin full of my heart's tears"; a golden watch etc), maybe to soothe her and make her stop the withcraft, that is making him die. It is Barbara Allen, it seems, the cause of Sweet William's misterious illness, but there is something more than just a romantic yearning. She takes her revenge (maybe because she was rejected or neglected, being of low social degree or something), although she knows that the same witchcraft may kill her too...I'LL TRY TO FIND THE COMPLETE ROBERT GRAVES' COMMENT, AND I'LL WRITE IT DOWN FOR YOU. Roberto


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: Dave (the ancient mariner)
Date: 02 Feb 00 - 08:41 AM

Cause the Bastard never paid her mates. Arrghh. Yours,Aye. Dave


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: Amos
Date: 02 Feb 00 - 08:55 AM

She had been slighted by him, she fancied. The dialog I learned to it (as mentioned above) goes:

"Do you recall, in yonder town, when the red wine was a -flowing?
You drank a health to the girls around
But slighted Bar'bra Ellen.

O, I recall, in yonder town, when the red wine was a-flowing.
I gave a health to the girls around, and my love to Bar'bra Ellen"

Had she been a witch, methinks, she would not have been so wholly converted when the bells began to knell.

That said, I have always thought her remarks to the young man were as cruel as young love could get.

A


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: GeorgeH
Date: 02 Feb 00 - 09:01 AM

Indeed, Amos, it was all a tragic misunderstanding . . (as a modern spin-doctor might express it)! A very sad song.

G.


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: Bert
Date: 02 Feb 00 - 10:27 AM

There's gotta be a song here!!!

PMS? - Headache? - Nothing to wear?


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: Art Thieme
Date: 02 Feb 00 - 12:40 PM

Simple failure to communicate.

Art


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: Wesley S
Date: 02 Feb 00 - 12:59 PM

This reminds me of Sir Strother Martin in "The Ballad of Lord Cool Hand Luke" who said " What we haveth herein is a falure to communicate"


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: DougR
Date: 02 Feb 00 - 01:07 PM

Art and Wesley have it right, I think, and Strother Martin's line in that movie is one of the best I've ever heard!

DougR


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: Troll
Date: 02 Feb 00 - 01:21 PM

A failure to communicate! And all these years I thought he was an immature idiot who didn't have enough sense to tell her he loved her until she ran out of patience and decided that he had scorned he. And I thought she was just being bitchy and didn't think he would really die. Ah, the wonders of modern ballad analysis.

troll


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: GUEST,Arkie
Date: 02 Feb 00 - 02:10 PM

Barbara tired of Sweet William's whining and became infatuated by a suave chap named Ken. Only after Sweet Williams's fatal heartburst did she realize that she had besmirched her image as the ideal for all pre-teen girls everywhere in the western world and died of shame.


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: katlaughing
Date: 02 Feb 00 - 02:14 PM

Hey, Art, what about in the Cowboy's Barbara Allen? I didn't hear any reasons giving in it? Just curious and STILL loving your rendition of it!

luvyaKat


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: GUEST,T in Oklahoma (Okiemockbird)
Date: 02 Feb 00 - 02:45 PM

She rightly refused to submit to being emotionally blackmailed by a spoiled, childish jerk. The proper question is, "why did she fall for the community's narrow-minded characterization of her as the villainess ?"

T.


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: katlaughing
Date: 02 Feb 00 - 03:00 PM

THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!! Bravo, Tákemus!

katlaughing&cheering!


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: GUEST,falconet
Date: 02 Feb 00 - 03:39 PM

In the version I learned as a kid, it was not drinking but dancing that did it:

"Do you recall the other night, when we were all a-dancing? You gave your hand to the ladies all, and slighted Barbara Allen."

"Yes, I recall the other night, when we were all a-dancing; I gave my hand to the ladies all, and my heart to Barbara Allen."


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: Amos
Date: 02 Feb 00 - 03:53 PM

Well there you go. If the dumb kid had mentioned what he THOUGHT he was doing, the fine lass coulda taught him how to do it right!! No wonder she got ticked at him.

A


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: Art Thieme
Date: 02 Feb 00 - 06:44 PM

Kat,

I left that verse out by mistake when I first recorded it in the '70s. Then I just got used to doing it without that verse. Such are the workings of the oral tradition.

I personally feel that Billy or William or Willy or whatever, once he realized the lights were going out for him, laid the whole thing on Barb 'cause he knew it'd create, promote and accelerate a humongous GUILT TRIP that'd put her into therapy for the rest of her life. Ah, sweet revenge.

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: GUEST,Bruce O.
Date: 02 Feb 00 - 06:59 PM

The question is wrong. The earliest version of "Barbara Allen" is now in Scarce Songs 2 on my website (www.erols.com/olsonw)

Barbara Allen saw his on his death bed, but had never seen him before, and she didn't live in Scarlet town, he did, but he was obviously buried in the town where Barbara Allen lived, wherever that was! The two ballads preceeding "Barbara Allen" on my website are earlier and somewhat less silly versions of the same plot.


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: katlaughing
Date: 02 Feb 00 - 08:28 PM

Art and Bruce, thanks for the *illumination*; love your ways of putting things! Bruce, I will be sure to go read those earlier. Just goes to show how fickle young love can be, eh? Art, I hope ya know the oral trad continues....Betty & I sang your version last summer at the Wyoming Culture Fest. Thankfully nobody asked this question then!**BG**

luvyakat


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: bseed(charleskratz)
Date: 02 Feb 00 - 09:16 PM

There's no question that she came to him, but she was obviously reluctant to do so: "Slowly, slowly got she up/And slowly drew she nigh him..." I think we can assume her reluctance was motivated by the fact that William was such a wuss. How many of you women would be motivated to love a man who--because you had shown no interest--went to bed and determined to die? That was bad enough when Elaine of Astelot did it--a real man would just get drunk and write a song about it. As the lily maid would have done if she were woman enough.

--seed


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: Sorcha
Date: 02 Feb 00 - 09:39 PM

Thanks all, this has been very interesting. I appreciate the time you all took.


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: BK
Date: 02 Feb 00 - 10:39 PM

Great notions; For the most part, I'm kinda w/Troll on this one; But I always think, tho, abt the line where he replies abt giving his "love" to Barbry Allen. In spite of this, he never explains his relationship to those other women... The equivalent of early Soap Opera??

Cheers, BK


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: M. Ted (inactive)
Date: 02 Feb 00 - 10:47 PM

I have no comment, except that I loved this discussion--and am grateful in the extreme for Bruce and his kindred spirits who have spent so much time putting these wonderful texts out there to savor, to sing, and to discuss--

Wait, maybe I do have something--Barbara Allen or Ellen seems to be the most ubiquitous of folk songs, I even saw Daffy Duck singing it in a cartoon last week!!


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: Art Thieme
Date: 02 Feb 00 - 11:13 PM

Church bells? No! Just cows doing their vocal best.

Heifer joke is better than none, I guess.


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: Amos
Date: 02 Feb 00 - 11:49 PM

It gets worse heifer' time!


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 03 Feb 00 - 06:33 PM

No, in our culture the commonest folksong, I'm sure, is "Happy Birthday".

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: GUEST,Roberto
Date: 04 Feb 00 - 04:34 AM

I've found Robert Graves' comment (it is in "English & Scottish Ballads", 1957: "It is clear enough that Sir John Graeme did not die merely of a broken heart. Like Clerk Colvill, he seems to have been a landowner who had an affair with a country girl, but later decided to marry a woman of his own class. When this marriage was announced, the girl avenged herself by bewitching him; the procedure being to model a wax image of the victim, make it more real by adding his own (stolen) hair-trimmings and nail-pairings, and then gradually waste it over a candle, sticking pins into parts that the witch wanted to injure most". I don't know whether Robert Graves is right or not, but somehow we must try to explain Barbara Allen's laughter when she sees his corpse and all the verses about the bloody shirts, the watch, the basin full of tears etc. I've chosen some of these verses from some of the most beautiful versions of the ballad I know:

From Martin Carthy's:

"O look at my bed-head", he cries,
"And there you'll find it ticking,
My gold watch and my gold chain
I bestow to you, my Ellen.

And look at my bed-foot", he cries,
And there you'll find them lyin',
My sheets and bloody shirts,
I sweat them for you, my Ellen."

She walked over yon garden field
She heard the dead-bell knelling
And every stroke that the dead-bell gave
It cried, "Woe be to you now, Ellen."

As she walked over the garden field
She saw his corpse a-comin',
"Lay down, lay down your weary load
Until I get to look upon him."

She lifted the lid from off the corpse,
She bursted out with laughin',
And all of his friends that stood round about
They cried, "Woe be to you now, Ellen."

From Sarah Makem's:

They lifted the lid up off the corpse.
She bursted out with laughing.
And all his wearied friends around cried,
"Hard-hearted Barbara Allen."

From Ewan MacColl's:

"Then pit your hand anienst the wa'
And there ye'll find a token,
Wi' my gold watch and my gold ring
Gie that tae Bawbee Allan.

"Then pit your hand anienst my side
An there ye'll find a warran'
An there ye'll get my blood-red sark
It bled for Bawbee Allan.

From Jean Redpath's:

"It's look ye up at my bed heid
And see what you'll find hangin',
A silver watch and a guinea gold chain
That hangs there for Barbarry Allan,
That hangs there for Barbarry Allan.

It's look ye down at my bedside
And see what you'll find sittin',
A basin full o' my heart's tears
That is there for Barbarry Allan,
That is there for Barbarry Allan."

HTML line breaks added. --JoeClone, 27-Aug-02.


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: M. Ted (inactive)
Date: 04 Feb 00 - 10:28 AM

Dave,

Happy Birthday isn't a folksong--record it, and you must pay royalties!!


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: M. Ted (inactive)
Date: 04 Feb 00 - 10:31 AM

Dave, Happy Birthday isn't a folksong--record it, and you must pay royalties!!


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: Amos
Date: 04 Feb 00 - 11:21 AM

Wow. I'm amazed at the erudition and value of Mudcat threads. This is a onderful additon to the dimensionsof the song, and I had never heard the witchery or the laughter bits before. Many thanks. What a long and interesting history this little tale has had!

A


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: Doctor John
Date: 04 Feb 00 - 01:59 PM

Is "Scarlet Town" a pun for "Reading"? Dr John


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: katlaughing
Date: 06 Feb 00 - 01:18 AM

Just checked in an old gilt-edged book (no copyright date) we picked up back East, the title page of which reads:

The Chandos Poets
The
Legendary Ballads
of
England and Scotland
compiled and edited by
John S. Roberts
(Editor of the Crown Editions of Burns' Works)
with original illustrations and steel portrait.
London
Frederick Warne and Co.
Bedford Street, Covent Garden.
New York, Scribner, Welford and Co.

The author says, "I have collected Ramsay's version of this ballad with that in The Reliques. Professor Aytoun speaks of Percy's version as being inferior to Ramsay's. I must join issue with him here. Besides, he has not printed Ramsay's text faithfully: he makes the dead-bell toll instead of jow, a much less effective word under the circumstances."

As for the original question of this thread, I find no mention of other women in this version. In the particular verse, it seems he bought drinks for everyone but Barbara Allen:

"Remeber ye not in the tavern, sir,
Whan ye the cups were filan,
How ye made the healths gae round and round,
And slighted Barbara Allen?"

Ths thread has been fun and wonderful! Thanks!

katlaughing


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: M. Ted (inactive)
Date: 06 Feb 00 - 06:20 PM

One could interpret that verse as meaning that, while the "healths" ("to the health of....") were being said, he said something that slighted her--


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: GUEST,Roberto
Date: 07 Feb 00 - 03:23 AM

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."


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: katlaughing
Date: 07 Feb 00 - 08:49 AM

Interesting, Roberto, thanks for including it.

Does a woman have to be "frigid or injured" just because she doesn't want a particular man? I would suggest that it merely serves to assuage the man's embarrassment/pain on being rejected, as would the reference to her being a witch.

kat


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: Amos
Date: 07 Feb 00 - 09:14 AM

I don't consider being chilled by someone constitutes being "frigid or injured", but it seems that for some males it "has" to look that way; the alternative would be to introspect, which males in the Western tradition are incapable of.

Instead of insight, the effort produces contortions, clinical apathy, and an excessive dependency on potato chips and football players.:>)...it's a guy thing.

A


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: GUEST,Roberto
Date: 07 Feb 00 - 10:52 AM

The poor sentence about the frigid or injured woman in the comment by Alan Lomax and Pete Kennedy is not what I wanted to stress. I've quoted the comment because of its reference to Robert Graves' interpretation, that I consider very interesting. I think that Barbara Allen wouldn't have been for centuries so important among the folk songs of the English-speaking world were it just a ballad about a broken-hearted lover and an "Eros and Thanatos" tale. Roberto


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: Amos
Date: 07 Feb 00 - 11:06 AM

Roberto:

You are right, of course; Graves' interpretation is fascinating, as is the difference between the Irish, English and later American versions of the song.

I think the elegance of the tale, even only as a love story, is enough to explain it's survival. It has persisted in versions that have no reference to the witchcraft, or the laughing cruelly.

My sense is that it is an archetypal picture of hardheartedness in the face of love (whatever the reasons for it) and that the appeal of that image reaches anyone who has either experienced or engaged in that hardness.

In the final analysis, to my mind, the tale shows the tricky web that gets woven when humans choose not to communicate when they really have something important to say.

A


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: katlaughing
Date: 07 Feb 00 - 11:41 AM

From a woman's point of view, looking back from our times, I see it as surviving in popularity because it is about a woman who did not fall prey to conventions, although in the end she did pay for it with her life. Think of all the women who must've heard this and wished they'd had the wherewithal or gumption to refuse a suitor, even at the expense of their lives, than wind up in the lives they must've done.

But then, perhaps we take it all too seriously and it is just a heartwrenching ballad that makes everyone glad to hear it because of the depth of emotions etc. it portrays? I am just thinking out loud here, guys, forgive me?!

katwhoreallydoesliketosingthissong


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: M. Ted (inactive)
Date: 07 Feb 00 - 03:46 PM

Just happened to be reading Bocaccio's Decameron, and the Eighth story, fourth night, struck and eerily familiar chord--

A young man (but sickly) from a wealthy family and the daughter of a tailor grow up in love with each other--his mother gets the executors of her husbands fortune to send the young man to Paris,on business (but really just to get him away from the girl).

He is there for several years, all the time pining away and thinking of nothing but the girl--.

He finally goes home, only to find her married to a tentmaker. He walks up and down in front of her house, but she either doesn't recognize him or pretends not to recognize him.

He sneaks into the house and when the husband falls asleep, he pops out and declares his love. She replies that he is the one who left and never wrote, so she married someone else. She then says that she intends to forget about him, and asks him to leave.

He realizes his love letters never reached her,and that, since she intends to forget him, he has no reason to continue living, and he dies. She is upset because, even though she is innocent, it looks pretty bad, what with another man being dead in a bed in her house--She decides to wake her husband and tell him the story, but pretend that it happened to someone else-- He laughs, and says that, of course, the woman is not to blame, at which point she says that she is glad thinks so,and shows him the dead man.

He picks the guy up and carries him back home, where he surreptitiously dumps him on the door step and takes off--Whereupon the body is discovered, and everyone is bewildered and scandalixed--

The couple are afraid that gossip might connect them with the death, so they disguise themselves, and go the the church to hear what people are saying. When she sees the body, she is suddenly overcome with long suppressed love, falls on the body, and dies--

At which point, the husband stands up, confesses the whole story, the assembled crowd agrees that it is all a tragic affair, and the two unfullfilled lovers are buried together--

The Decameron was written in about 1350, and there was a popular English translation published(I believe) before 1650, so it is not so far fetched to imagine that it was a source for balladeers--

At any rate, the whole text of the Decameron is here--search for the name "Silvestra" which is the name of the Barbara Allen-like maiden, and it will take you to the first line of the story(this is one of the greatest works of Western Literature, so if you haven't read it, it's worth checking outDecameron


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 07 Feb 00 - 07:14 PM

Over the years I've seen a number of Barbara Allen texts, and I've never in any of them seen anything I'd call suggestive of witchcraft. Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: katlaughing
Date: 07 Feb 00 - 08:20 PM

Well, you know, Dave, back then, any woman who chose to be independent was suspect. I guess maybe she was just lucky not to be burnt for the supposed transgression, eh? (Tongue in cheek.) Really excellent novel about that is The White Witch by Elizabeth Goudge.

katlaughing


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: Amos
Date: 07 Feb 00 - 08:34 PM

Well, if I were looking for a bride I'd look, as I did last time, for one who was not only independent but was also smart enough not to get burned by flaming a-holes. I beleve there was a thread on that topic a while back (the flaming part, I mean).

A


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: Metchosin
Date: 07 Feb 00 - 09:09 PM

I recall a documentary a number of years ago, regarding the position of women in society in the British Isles around the time of the intoduction of Cathoicism. If my memory serves me correctly, primogenature re: the eldest son, was not the dominant thought, as it was generally regarded among the Brits and Celts, that a father could not be certain if his son was truly his son, but the mother certainly knew.

As a consequence, women wielded considerable economic power and control of land. The Church, and other powers that be of the time, put considerable effort into divesting them of their power and the accusation of witchcraft was one of the methods. In fact there was a vote amongst a Synod of Bishops, or some such thing, around that time, to determine if women could be considered as beings in possession of a soul. The vote narrowly passed and only through support of Bishops from the far western fringes of Europe.

If anyone with a better memory or knowledge of history would care to add more, please do.


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: GUEST,Terry
Date: 08 Feb 00 - 01:13 AM

When I first learned the song (approx 50 years ago) it said "Young Jemmy Grove on his death bed lay, for love of Barbara Allen" so on hearing Baez sing of Sweet William (which I know to be a flower) I just assumed it was an Americanisation. But with nearly 50 inputs to this thread and still no mention of poor Jemmy, maybe mine was a local version?


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: sophocleese
Date: 08 Feb 00 - 07:49 AM

Actually Terry you just reminded me that that is how I first heard it and when I sing it I use Jemmy Grove. I think I got the words years ago out of a book of folk songs for the recorder.


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: Troll
Date: 08 Feb 00 - 08:09 AM

Barbry Allen was probably the first traditional song I ever learned. My Grandfather in the mountains of NC sang it and many other "old songs". I have sung the song for over 50 years and it remains one of my favorites. I always looked at it as a love story with a tragic ending. Having had a few blighted love affairs myself, I can sympathise with William to some extent but agree that he needed to get a life. Of coures if he had, we wouldn't have the song, so well done William and Barbry.

troll


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: Jon W.
Date: 08 Feb 00 - 11:01 AM

No one has mentioned Barbara's parent's role in this. From the version I know best (Johnny Moynihan when he was with De Dannaan):

Get up, get up, her father said
Get up and go and see him
O father dear do ye not mind the time
You told me how to shun him?

Get up, get up, her mother said
Get up and go and see him
O mother dear do ye not mind the time
You told me how to slight him?


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: GUEST,Arkie
Date: 09 Feb 00 - 10:22 AM

This thread wandered through some interesting places. Isn't it just a little amazing that a song over 600 years old can still catch people's attention. There are probably a hundred reasons why people still have an interest in Barbara Allen, but one has to be that the story leaves out enough details to allow the imagination to complete the story. It certainly suggests many elements, depending upon one's perspective: a weak male, a cheating male, a devoted one, etc.; a hard-hearted woman, a slighted woman, a maligned woman, etc; a lover's quarrel that ended tragically; and the final, eternal reunion of two lovers as the red rose and the briar tied the knot, to name a few.

A storyteller, told the story of Barbara Allen, did not sing, but told the story at an Ozark Folk Center concert one night. After the show a dozen people were looking for a recording of the song. People still respond to the story.

As I said in the beginning this thread has wandered through some interesting places. I've enjoyed the trip.

A.


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: SINSULL
Date: 27 Apr 00 - 05:19 PM

I took a course in Folk Music 101 years ago and was told by the learned professor that all the clues point to Barbara's poisoning Willie and then herself. He slighted her in a bar. She was humiliated and furious. And his last words are "Be kind to Barbara Allan" in other words a warning, "Stay on her good side." It made no sense to me - why then did the rose and the briar grow together in true love? Then again, why would two healthy young people suddenly take to their beds and die?

I needed at least a C to pass the course so I fed it back to him on the final. The professor BTW did not know that "Follow The Drinking Gourd" was used by slaves to plan an escape. Don't think Folk Music was his specialty.


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: GUEST,Kim C
Date: 27 Apr 00 - 05:51 PM

Maybe she wanted to marry the house carpenter instead.


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: Abby Sale
Date: 27 Apr 00 - 08:27 PM

k/k: It's a rip-off from Thomson's Select Collection of Original Scottish Airs, vol 3 (1803) p 130. I agree it's more clear than most. Here he is named as Sir John Græm (Graem) in the west country.

"...ye made the healths gae round and round, / And slighted..."

seems clear to me...he offered individual toasts round the room but omitted her. This is somewhate different than the usual "You drank a health to the ladies all, / But slighted..."

She, likely 15 years old like most lovers, was insulted.


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: GUEST,player
Date: 15 Jan 02 - 07:36 PM

I just want to sing and play the song does anyone have the guitar chords?


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: Sorcha
Date: 15 Jan 02 - 07:47 PM

Chords here, transpose to suit yourself.


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: GUEST,jayohjo
Date: 15 Jan 02 - 08:43 PM

The version I sing, it seems to be quite simple:
"Do you remember last Saturday night, in the alehouse you were drinking? / You took a strange girl on your knee, and daunted Barbara Allen"
She loves him, he loves her but doesn't like to show it, he cheats (who knows to what extent...), she is broken-hearted but still proud, he dies, then she dies of remorse. Easy-peasy! jayohjo xx


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: GUEST,Jon G. Bartlett
Date: 16 Jan 02 - 03:22 AM

A great thread - thanks to all. I thought I'd pass on the verse I end the song on:

"The cock it crows at break of day/Just as the sun was rising/but ne'er a note will Barbara hear/for deeps the grave she lies in/For deep's the grave she lies in."

Isn't that nice? I prefer it to the "rose & briar" theme. It was made by Kirstie Shoolbraid, now of Saltspring Is., BC. The version I sing is from Murray Shoolbraid and it's essentially the Ransay "Tea Table Miscellany" version (with the repeating last line). Our aural ballad collection here (Vancouver Ballad Group) has dubbed 18 versions: quite a few, except whern you remember that Bronson found (and printed) 198 versions. Without actually doing any thinking about it, I've always assumed that the "bloody sark" of Ewan and others is evidence of his having, and dying from, TB. I can't say I'm attracted to the Graves witch idea: I think it raises more questions than it answers. I'm off right now to read what the estimable Bruce O. has on his always fascinating site.


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: GUEST,Jon G. Bartlett
Date: 16 Jan 02 - 03:25 AM

And what is this "guest" thing? I thought I'd fixed that! Is there some place to "sign in" that I'm missing?


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: RoyH (Burl)
Date: 16 Jan 02 - 11:16 AM

What a great thread this is. I have known the Barbara Allan ballad since I was a child. My dear Auntie Nellie, 100 years old last November, used to sing it. It has always been one of my favourite songs. I have sung it hundreds of times and watched it work it's magic on all kinds of audiences. Not because of anything special about my singing but because of something intrinsic within the song that calls to people and makes them respond. I have often wondered why. I have even asked audiences what they see in a song where the heroine is snooty, the hero is a wimp, and they both die in the end? Nobody knows! And yet this song has lasted for centuries, spread wherever the English have taken their language. Samuel Pepys knew it, and my Auntie Nellie knew it. I know it, in several versions, and I LOVE it. WHY? I cannot give you a definite answer, but let me tell you this: Some years ago I had a most unusual gig. It was to sing at the annual dinner of a businesswomen's association, rather like the Rotary. They had grown tired of the usual speakers, hairdressers and floral arrangers etc, and thought a folksinger 'might make a nice change'. I know this because Madame Chairman told me so. They were a trifle surprised that I sang without any instrument, but listened attentively and seemed happy. At one point in the evening I decided to sing Barbara Allan, which went down very well. There was that wonderful moment of silence after the last line, as if everyone drew breath at the same time, followed by the best applause of the night. 'Oh, you liked that', I said. 'Yes'was the answer. I then said 'Why?....going into my bit about wimps and dying. 'It's beautiful' said one woman. I agreed, but said 'It's about dying for love. That's a bit silly isn't it. Would you die for love?' There was a general shaking of heads and murmurs of 'No'. Then one woman said 'Maybe not, but when a love thing breaks down, sometimes you feel as though you're dying, or for a while you wish you could die' This drew a murmur of assent from all around. I thought about that for a long time. I've never forgotten it although it was over twenty years ago. Maybe the reason for Barbara Allan's universal appeal is that it evokes memories of ones own rejections and hopeless love affairs? Perhaps it recalls that bitter-sweet feeling when someone you wish to love you will only kiss your cheek? Maybe? I can only speculate. There's no question though that Barbara Allan is very special song, that comes with some exquisite melodies. Did I tell you I loved it? I really do. Burl.


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: Art Thieme
Date: 16 Jan 02 - 11:31 AM

The "rose wound 'round the briar" has always been an obvious explanation of a very simple fact. Ever after, this is WHY THE ROSE HAS A THORN !

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: mack/misophist
Date: 16 Jan 02 - 11:56 AM

Any number here have wondered at the popularity of this song, why it has survived so long, and suchlike. I am ashamed of you all! This is one of the most beautiful melodies in all of folk. Surely that has some signifigance.


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: Don Firth
Date: 16 Jan 02 - 01:11 PM

You're on the money, burl. It's a classic ballad, almost all of which contain a bit of hyperbole (such as dying for love).

Two young people in love with each other but too shy to say anything, a glitch in communication, hurt pride carried a bit too far, then tragedy. That's it.

Witches? Feminist interpretations? Nah! Sometimes things are really pretty straightforward, and over-interpreting them just muddies the water.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: BK
Date: 17 Jan 02 - 12:27 AM

I love it too, for some reason haven't sung it in quite some time; have to remidy that.

Cheers, BK


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: GUEST,Boab
Date: 17 Jan 02 - 01:17 AM

-----"O' 'twasna this the tither day, doon in yon tavern drinkin'--ye bade the healths gang roond an' roond, while Barbara Allen slichtin". Sir John Graeme o' the West countrie was the fella on the deathbed. Samuel Pepys, the English diarist, mentions having heard the song in Scotland.The origins of the song are nevertheless obscure--certainly some where on the British islands----even if the reasons for the lassie's "refusal" aren't! [One of the best renditions I have heard was by Nic Jones, 'way back in the sixties.]


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: GUEST,GrammarPolice
Date: 17 Jan 02 - 01:26 AM

hair-trimmings and nail-pairings, and then gradually waste it over a candle, sticking pins into parts that the witch wanted to injure most". I don't know whether Robert Graves is right or not, [Roberto]
BUT I'm sure that Graves never said "nail pairings" ~ here's the folk trad @ work.
Of course Graves said parings.
th[schwa]GrammarCops


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: SharonA
Date: 17 Jan 02 - 05:13 PM

*warning: thread creep ahead*

Grammar Cops theme song: "What are you going to do? What are you going to do when they come for you, naughty boys, naughty boys?" ;^)


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: lamarca
Date: 17 Jan 02 - 05:55 PM

I once read a story where the author conflated Barbara Allen with The Brown Girl ("I am as brown as brown can be", in the DT here) as being the the same story told from two different points of view. In The Brown Girl, the young man initially scorns her because she is "too brown" ie, is tanned from doing manual labor, and therefore of a lower class than him. By the time he realizes his mistake, she wants nothing to do with him and scorns him on his death bed.

There are some who hypothesize that "Barb'ry" = Barbary, or a dark-complected woman; if Barbara Allen was a Romany, it adds a twist to the story. Martin Carthy talks a bit about this in the liner notes for the "Waterson:Carthy" album, Broken Ground.

It was an interesting theory, as the stories do mesh well. I like Frankie Armstrong's version of The Brown Girl, and my favorite version of Barbara Allen is the one sung by Caroline Paton, which she taught to KathWestra - "It was in and about the Martinmas time..." - although Art's cowboy version with its image of Barbara making "all the boys ride saddle sore" is a close second...


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: Matthew Edwards
Date: 18 Jan 02 - 08:52 AM

Burl, thank you for that tale which goes some way to explaining the reason for the enduring popularity of this ballad. It does seem to me as well that a lot of the power of the song comes from its obscurity - not everything is explained clearly - so that it has a richness that allows many different interpretations, while still keeping an air of mystery about it.

However I'd like to pay a belated tribute to one of the finest singers of this song: Phoebe Smith, the Traveller singer from Woodbridge in Suffolk. She died, aged 88, on 8 November 2001 and with her death passed a great tradition of singing. Her voice can be heard on some of the Topic Voice of the People series of CDs, but for a spell-binding 11 minute rendition of Barbara Allen, listen to the Veteran CD VT136CD The Yellow Handkerchief.


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: rea
Date: 18 Jan 02 - 09:49 AM

You know, this has no root in the historical, but about 5-6 years ago Charles Vess (an artist) did a series of comics call "Book of Ballads and Sagas." In it, it was William who had been bewitched, and the only was to save him and ensure he wasn't damned forever was for Barbry to deny him her love - even tho she really loved him. Once she had saved him, she herself died, from a broken heart and the emotional strain. There's nothing in the song to suggest it, but I like this version best. If you sing it "Out of ONE grave grew a red red rose, and out of the OTHER a briar" it leaves it open as to who was the false love and who the true.


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: RoyH (Burl)
Date: 18 Jan 02 - 09:50 AM

Matthew, you're right. Sad about Phoebe. I recommend her singing to anybody. Her Barbara Allan was indeed a highlight. BTW let me say a word of praise here for Veteran and their wonderful catalogue of genuine traditional music. Check them out on www.veteran.co.uk


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: Tig
Date: 18 Jan 02 - 12:20 PM

I am sorry but since her stroke last June my mother's speech has been too bad to give the definative answer to this question. However I would like to report she has now been happily married to my father for over 50 years - so she found a good man without any ill feeling for NOT visiting sick beds in time.

(Mum's maiden name was Barbara Allen!!!!)


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: GUEST,chrisfullerton1974@yahoo.com
Date: 18 Jan 02 - 11:11 PM

OK, I'm not sure if this fits the thread subect, but I'm in a folk music class, and I heard a version of this song by Emma Dusenbury, and there is a line that is to the effect of "he might have lived if I had shown him my endeavour" At least that's what it sounds like. The problem is that line doesn't make sense to anyone in the class, and I can't find that verse in any lyrics on the web, so if any of you have any ideas about the line, e-mail me at chrisfullerton1974@yahoo.com THANKS!


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: toadfrog
Date: 18 Jan 02 - 11:43 PM

Bronson wrote an essay on Barbara Allen, which I'm inclined to believe. (I anticipate Malcom will tell me I'm wrong, as usual) It puts quite a different slant on the question.

According to Bronson, the earliest known version was reported by Pepys, who heard a Scots woman sing it. That would make it, not 600, but maybe 360 years old. According to his account, in the earliest version Barbara had no motivation whatsoever, including not jealousy. John, or William, or whoever, was dying, she went slowly to his bedside, he died, she saw his corpse, and laughed. She also then died.

Apparently people were not pleased, because motives creep in in later versions. She is jealous. He drank to other women. And in later versions, she becomes remorseful. But not in the original one. And apparently the original one does not say "witch," either.

But Mudcatters were not the first to worry about the motivation; that's been around from day one. I think the real mystery is in accounting for the popularity of the song.


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 19 Jan 02 - 01:16 AM

Bronson's analysis (part of his essay All This for a Song? 1962) is, as Toadfrog says, sensible and well-informed; unlike Robert Graves' fanciful imaginings which, like most of his comments on traditional song, appear to owe as much to herbal tea as they do to scholarship.

I don't know if Mrs. Knipp the actress, from whom Pepys heard the song, was herself Scottish; he said "...in perfect pleasure I was to hear her sing, and especially her little Scotch song of Barbary Allen."  This (1666) is the earliest known reference to the song; as Bronson points out, it is unlikely to be older than the mid 17th century, and likely gained greater currency through stage performance, and through the printing of a Scottish text in Ramsay's Tea-Table Miscellany of 1723/4, and of that text and another from an (earlier) English broadside of Pepys' time in Thomas Percy's immensely popular Reliques of Ancient English Poetry ( 1765).  It continued to circulate on broadsides, in reasonably consistent forms, until the final years of the 19th century.

As Toadfrog says, the earliest known version of the song does not speculate on motivation, though later versions introduce it.  Traditional song tends not to examine underlying motive, being concerned primarily with pure narrative, and it's usually a mistake to try to impose modern sensibilities upon such things; they should really be accepted for what they appear to be at face value.  Of course, the obsession with unearthing "deeper" meanings is not new, but it has always led to more misunderstandings than revelations.

Bruce Olson has the early text at his website, as he mentioned long ago when this thread was young:  Barbara Allen's cruelty,  and a later, very close, broadside text can be seen at  :

Barbara Allen's cruelty: or the Young man's tragedy  Printed in Newcastle; date and printer unknown.

There are of course many other broadside examples at the Bodleian site, mostly 19th century.


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 19 Jan 02 - 09:34 AM

I'm not sure who first said it, but the subtile should be: "The Bitch and the Wimp"


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: Coyote Breath
Date: 19 Jan 02 - 11:41 AM

I just started reading this wonderful thread!

I can't add to the general discussion but this:

Many years ago I heard a truly intense version of this song by Billy Chips (Chippet, I think) Art Thieme should know him. so if Art can check THIS out:

Didn't BC record this back in the early 60's, possibly over at the Folk Center?

In any case Barbara Allen has been a favorite since I first heard Burl Ives do it back when I was ten years old or so. My folks gave me a "Little Golden Record" of American folk music. I don't care for Burl Ives' voice EXCEPT on that song!

CB


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: GUEST,Desdemona
Date: 19 Jan 02 - 07:23 PM

What an excellent thread! I've often wondered why Barbara Allen wouldn't give Sweet William the time of day, as well, and then laughs at his corpse in front of the whole village!

I've loved the song all my life, but never heard the verse about him buying all the other girls pints (or red wine!) and slighting her; now I'm surprised she didn't just kill him right there in the pub! ;~)


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: toadfrog
Date: 19 Jan 02 - 10:20 PM

I recall, back in the 50's Pogo Possum, together with the porcupine, and I think Owl or Albert, singing (with the song baloon edged in Deepest Black):

As she walked up yon high, high hill,
She heard the dead-bell ringing
And ilka jow the dead-bell gi'ed,
It cry'd WOE to Barbara Allen!


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: michaelr
Date: 20 Jan 02 - 03:10 PM

Thread creep alert! I happened to see Charles Vess mentioned above, which sent me to dig in my bookshelf. I would like to direct peoples' attention to a wonderful fairy tale he illustrated (the story is by Neil Gaiman) called STARDUST. (Young Tristran Thorn has sworn an oath: to fetch a fallen star for the most beautiful girl in his village. The star he seeks has fallen far past his home into the neighboring land of Faerie...)

This is a series of 4 slender volumes, published in 1997 by DC Comics - an absolutely lovely story, with tons of gorgeous illustrations in the vein of Victorian childrens' books. Highly recommended!

Love, Michael


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: GUEST,somebody
Date: 08 Mar 04 - 06:59 PM

haha


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: GUEST,Lori
Date: 31 Dec 04 - 03:53 AM

It never really mattered to me,though I did wonder. I never heard the version about witches,laughing,or pubs More importanty though, was that in the version I learned,the red rose grew ROUND the brier-true love doesn't get any more devoted than that-not till death do us part,but for time and all eternity! As a preteen I could only dream of someone loving me that much-and so very unconditionally. Who knew that other people obsess over lifes little questions as much as we do. We have loved browsing through this thread. I have been singing this song since 5th grade music class-1976. Also that year I did some chores for a realtor who paid me $5.00 and a box full of old records. One of them had a recording of Barbara Allen. When my son was born 14 years ago, I sang it to him as a lullaby. I had forgotten some of the words,but not the tune nor the concept. For years we have vowed to locate the words or a recording. For some unknown reason my son decided to look it up tonight. We have been up late for hours reading,laughing,crying,and singing together...Thank you for creating a memory for us that will last forever just as this song has! Further comments can be directed to my email if so desired-LDSANDASPIEMOM@yahoo.com


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: GUEST
Date: 31 Dec 04 - 08:55 AM

On 2nd March 2004 9.09 pm I posted about this on the subject "Origins of: Barbara Allen, is there a story?"

Perhaps I can be forgiven for repeating one parargraph:

"The last word on someone dying for love was possibly said by George Bernard Shaw. When a friend asked him if he knew of a case of someone dying for love, he replied that he had known a man who was deeply in love with a girl, and was rejected by her. His friend said "And did he die of it?" Shaw replied, "Yes, he did - fifty years later". (Probably an apocryphal story in my opinion)."

Perhaps we are in danger of taking this all a bit too seriously; after all it is an old folksong which even if based on an actual event has probably been greatly embellished or exaggerated. In the Peggy Seeger version (my favourite, though to be honest I have heard very few others) the man/wimp ("Sweet William") denies he slighted Barbar(y) Allen as he says "I drank a toast to the ladies round, and my love to Barbary Allen". Perhaps Barbara (aka "The Bitch") was too busy gossipping to hear. As this apparently happened "last Saturday night" he seems to have taken to his bed and pined away pretty quickly.

When over 100,000 people have died recently as a result of the tsunami in Asia, we should get a sense of perspective on these things.


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 31 Dec 04 - 09:39 AM

GUEST John G. Bartlett said, in part:

Without actually doing any thinking about it, I've always assumed that the "bloody sark" of Ewan and others is evidence of his having, and dying from, TB.

For my part, without actually doing any thinking about it, I've taken the "bloody sark" to mean that he stabbed himself.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: Charley Noble
Date: 31 Dec 04 - 12:02 PM

Perhaps C. Fox Smith was thinking of this ballad when she composed her sailortown poem "Limehouse Reach":

So, 'tis a long good-bye to Limehouse Reach,
And a last good-bye to you;
A feller's a fool to die for love,
Which I don't mean to do;
There's girls as sharp in every port
From here to Cal-la-o:
But I would have loved you so, my dear,
I would have loved you so!

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: Joybell
Date: 31 Dec 04 - 05:41 PM

This is such a long and interesting thread. I may have missed it but I sing a couple of lines in the death bed scene that add to the confusion. Can't remember where I picked them up but it was over 40 years ago, before I was serious about studying the songs I sing. I believe they turned up in Australia.

They are:
"Put your hand unto my side
It's there you'll find a warrant
It's there you'll find my blood-red shirt
I die for Barb'ry Allen."

Warrant? What warrant? What does it say? Has the poor man been stabbed? In a duel? By his own hand? Was he not a wimp after all, but a wounded and bleeding man?
Sorry if I'm just covering old ground. Maybe these lines are quite common. Great discussion. Cheers, Joy


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: belter
Date: 31 Dec 04 - 06:38 PM

In an anthropology class, I had to read an African folk tale that resembled the story of Barbara Allen. I wondered if there was any relation. My fuzzy memory seams to recall that it involve a young warrior and maid from enemy tribes dieing in an attempt be together. They are buried miles apart, and plants growing from their graves form a bridge between them. In that tale the deaths were by natural causes.
In some cultures such mysterious deaths as in most versions of Barbara Allen would be seen as a sure sign of magic at work. I always thought she poisoned him and committed suicide. Sometimes I think his friends were unfair to her seeing as how she's willing or at least expecting to die for him as well. Other times I think that if she murdered him, that isn't very romantic, and she got what she deserved.


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 31 Dec 04 - 08:10 PM

Joybell, I interpret the "warrant" to be his will.   And I believe he stabbed himself over her.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: kytrad (Jean Ritchie)
Date: 01 Jan 05 - 03:40 PM

Desdemona, you have not 'read with understanding!' The verse says,

You drank the health of the ladies all round,
And you slighted Barbara Allen.

The imagined SLIGHT was why she refused. Simple! The old "woman scorned" feeling.


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: Joybell
Date: 01 Jan 05 - 04:53 PM

Uncle Dave-O, Of course. A will would make sense. And stabbing himself would be a manly way to go.

I can't help always hearing similarities with the girl in the "Ale House in Yonders Town"/"Tavern in the Town" and many other connecting songs of the "Died for Love" type. In that one verse about the "slight". It's a popular idea. Cheers, Joy


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: Megan L
Date: 10 Apr 07 - 09:17 AM

tosh and fiddle sticks poor babs was visited the next evening by one of Sweet Williams (Does this not give you a clue folks) pals she honestly thought he was trying to woo her when he suggested he cook supper.

The moral is lassies diny let a man cook ye a mushroom omlette fur supper. especially no if he's cried Sweet fitswilliam.

She wis done in poor lass


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: John MacKenzie
Date: 10 Apr 07 - 09:24 AM

She didn't like young Willie's?
G.


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: GUEST,meself
Date: 10 Apr 07 - 09:47 AM

A grade 10 student of mine last year suggested that the young man had not deliberately "slighted" Barbara Allen; rather, he was too shy to toast her because of his love for her, and she misinterpreted this as a slight. Needless to say, I join enthusiastically in the group contempt for this thoroughly contemptible young man.

Continuing on the theme of misinterpretation, I only recently heard the version in which Barb laughs at the corpse - my take on it is that she was shocked and distraught, and this expressed itself in a kind of hysterical, thoroughly-inappropriate manner: laughter. This was taken of course as evidence of her hard-heartedness. (See what I mean about the theme of misinterpretation ... !).

On another note: I have a thoroughy academic interest in sex. Here's another bit of text that needs some interpretation: "This explanation fits the history of the sexual pattern in recent times in the English-speaking world." That's from Lomax/Kennedy, above. What the heck is it supposed to mean?


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: Scoville
Date: 10 Apr 07 - 10:58 AM

A grade 10 student of mine last year suggested that the young man had not deliberately "slighted" Barbara Allen; rather, he was too shy to toast her because of his love for her, and she misinterpreted this as a slight. Needless to say, I join enthusiastically in the group contempt for this thoroughly contemptible young man.

I always assumed that was the case and thought that the misunderstanding was fairly explicit in the lyrics. I never thought he was contemptible, though (somewhat wussy, maybe). My impression was that she was the local belle and perhaps had a reputation for being haughty and contemptuous since she more or less had her pick of the local men, and then got taken down a peg.


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: John MacKenzie
Date: 10 Apr 07 - 11:03 AM

BTW, my next door neighbour is Barbara Allen.
G


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: GUEST,meself
Date: 10 Apr 07 - 11:10 AM

"I always assumed that was the case and thought that the misunderstanding was fairly explicit in the lyrics."

Of course, there seem to be so many different versions floating around that it's hard to say if we're talking about the same lyrics - but I don't see that it's "explicit" in the versions that have her saying that she was "slighted" when he was toasting the ladies, and then give no further comment on that bit of business. Seems to me that's wide open to all kinds of interpretation ... No doubt I'm quite thick-headed, but I find the interpretation in question, whether on the part of my student or yourself, to be rather subtle.


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: Scoville
Date: 10 Apr 07 - 11:13 AM

I didn't say it wasn't open to interpretation, only that I thought (my interpretation) that that was the most obvious situation.


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: GUEST,meself
Date: 10 Apr 07 - 11:34 AM

Well, at the risk of nit-picking, belabouring a point, and flogging a life-challenged horse, you did use the word 'explicit', which would suggest to me that it was your opinion that the interpretation in question was the one intended by the anonymous author.

By the way, when I say "rather subtle", I don't mean TOO subtle. On the contrary, I find what I take to be the subtlety of that interpretation appealing. I'm just surprised that someone else would find it "explicit" and "obvious", since it had never occurred to ME before ...


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 10 Apr 07 - 12:12 PM

100


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: BB
Date: 10 Apr 07 - 03:12 PM

The version I sing has a further verse after she states that she was slighted - he says, 'I made the health to the ladies go round, but my heart was for Barbara Allen.' After saying a fair bit more, he dies, after which she feels remorse. No hysterical laughter in mine - she bursts out crying rather than laughing.

It seems to me that the whole thing is a case of misunderstanding, which, when people have strong emotions, can happen all too easily.

Barbara


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: GUEST,Eli
Date: 04 Apr 08 - 06:23 PM

this is the one most like a sad ballad that explains it all

In Scarlet Town where I was born
there was a fair maid dwelling,
and her name was known both far and near,
and they called her Barbara Allen.

T'was in the merry month of may
the green buds they were swelling,
sweet William on his death bed lay
for the love of Barbara Allen.

He sent his man down to town
to the place where she was dwelling,
saying: master bids your company
if your name be Barbara Allen.

Slowly slowly she got up
to the place where he was lying,
and when she pulled the curtain back,
said: young man, I believe you're dying.

Oh yes oh yes I'm very sick
and I shall not be better
unless I have the love of one,
the love of Barbara Allen.

Don't you remember that night ago
that night down in the tavern,
you gave a toast to all the ladies there
but you slighted Barbara Allen.

Oh yes oh yes I remember it well
that night down in the tavern.
I gave a toast to the ladies there
but I gave my heart to Barbara Allen.

As she was walking in yonder field
She could hear them death-bells knellin'
And every toll seemed to say:
Hard-hearted Barbara Allen

The more they tolled the more she wept
til her heart was filled with sorrow
She said: "sweet William died for me today,
I will die for him tomorrow."

They buried her in the old churchyard,
they buried him beside her.
And from her heart grew a red red rose
and from his heart a brier.

They grew they grew so awfully high
till they could grow no higher,
and there they tied a lover's knot,
the red rose and the brier.


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: Don Firth
Date: 04 Apr 08 - 06:55 PM

In the version that I first heard (and the version I sing), the rose grew out of William's grave because his was the love that was true. The briar grew out of Barbara's grave because her stiff-necked pride had blighted the course of true love.

Although a rose is actually a kind of briar because, botanically speaking, a briar is characterized by having a thorny stem.

Also, far be it from me to quibble with Robert Graves, but in almost all versions I've heard, the witch idea just doesn't cut it. She and William are buried beside each other "in the old church yard," and as I understand it, you can't bury a witch in consecrated ground.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: GUEST,Wondering myself
Date: 17 Apr 08 - 11:31 AM

After finding many versions of this song, and seeing that it was first obtained in 1665, I have come to believe that a lot of different people have added to this song.

I came across a verse that reads.....
"Oh mother dear, you caused all this
You would not let me have him
I might have saved this young man's life
And kept him from hard dying."

Back then it was a lady's honor and her family's reputation that something like that would have hurt. A Mother would have persuaded her daughter that he was not good for them.

As for the unknown verses, it was comman to add to a song you learned. When it changed languages and origins, verses and words changed. If a tune was catching, but someone didn't know all of the words, then they may have added or changed words.

Best way to find out, is to research scottish archives.


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: BB
Date: 17 Apr 08 - 02:53 PM

I find the verse about the mother's attitude quite interesting. The version I have goes:

'Rise up, rise up,' her mother did say,
'Rise up and go and see him.'
'Oh mother, oh mother, d'you mind the day
When you told me for to shun him?'

In the next verse:

'Rise up, rise up,' her father did say,
'Rise up and go and see him.'
'Oh father, oh father, d'you mind the day
When you were going to shoot him?'

Barbara


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: GUEST
Date: 28 Apr 08 - 12:43 PM

i must say, i have enjoyed reading this thread.
i found it by chance while looking for the version of this song that i most enjoy. since there are so many variations i don't think it matters so much which is perfectly original. as it has become a song that has been changed and modified over hundreds of years to suit the tale teller.

i have a particular interest in the song because my grandma sang it to me all the time when i was a child. her name is Barbara Ellen and her dad sang it to her. and i was named after her, my middle name is Barbara-Ellen (yes, with a hyphen). also, while reading online exerts from the diary of Samuel Pepys i saw the piece about his dear Mrs. Knipp, whom he so fondly referred to.

"Mrs. Knipp"



Seems like if she was a "Mrs" she had to have been married to a "Mr" and she had a little something going on the side there with Mr. Pepys. i thought that was kind of funny. but mostly i was shocked that he would refer to the song and to a Mrs. Knipp in the same paragraph, Not only for the Barbara Ellen (Allen) reference, but because Knipp is also a family name for me. My grandmother's maiden name was Barbara Ellen Knipp.

Ellen is a family name passed down also.. (likewise, "ALLEN" is also a family name that has carried on my father's side of the family and my husband's family also. but not so much as a surname)
Anyway, The eldest daughter of the eldest daughter, etc. has always been given the name Ellen in some sort of arrangement. If the eldest daughter had no daughters then the second-eldest daughter, or son if a lack for more daughters, carried on the name. I personally think that this had something to do with the reference in an above post regarding the power women held in old scots society. celt and pictish women were allowed more power than other women in other societies, and that was undermined, overthrown and revoked with the corruption and invasion of the roman catholic empire.

Also, in that part of my family (the Knipps, also very scot/irish with other euro influences e.g. german), 9 out of 10 women are the "boss". maybe a coincidence, but seems like a generational trait that has carried on.

i found much useful information here. as well as a few laughs... which i really needed. and if anyone has light to shed on the "Knipp's" I would love to hear it, as there is not a lot of recorded information on my own Knipp roots. mostly stories handed down from relatives that are gone now.


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: GUEST
Date: 28 Apr 08 - 12:44 PM

By the way, email me if you have info on the Knipp's

minizntwnz@yahoo.com

Brandy <3


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: The Sandman
Date: 28 Apr 08 - 01:50 PM

http://ie.youtube.com/watch?v=V_PoPY-mDpA
hope you like it.Dick Miles


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: GUEST,Suffolk Miracle
Date: 29 Apr 08 - 07:15 AM

The non-drinkers/non-toasters might prefer this version - from Packie I think:

BA: Do you remember the other day
In the gardens at Glenwellyn
You picked a flower for all fair maids
But none for Barbara Allen

YW: I well remember the other day
In the gardens at Glenwellyn
I picked a flower for all fair maids
And the rose for Barbara Allen


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: Joe_F
Date: 29 Apr 08 - 09:44 PM

If GBS said the last word on men dying for love, WS must have said the first:

Men have died from time to time, and worms have eaten them, but not for love.


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: GUEST,Volgadon
Date: 11 Oct 08 - 06:30 PM

A flight of fancy, if ever there was one. Probably as valid as claiming that it is a parable of how church and state depend on each other.

I can see three probable explanations for the laughter.

1) BA is the most callous and cruel creature in balladry.
2) BA is demented.
3) BA suffered a nervous breakdown.

#3 makes the most sense to me, personally.

As for the bloody shirts, an allusion to the Gospel of Luke is a more reasonable assumption. 22:44 "And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great droops of blood falling down to the ground."
If one prefers a medical to poetical explanation, then what about bleeding ulcers or vomiting blood? Admittedly, I'm not a doctor, so could be wrong.

I've found Robert Graves' comment (it is in "English & Scottish Ballads", 1957: "It is clear enough that Sir John Graeme did not die merely of a broken heart. Like Clerk Colvill, he seems to have been a landowner who had an affair with a country girl, but later decided to marry a woman of his own class. When this marriage was announced, the girl avenged herself by bewitching him; the procedure being to model a wax image of the victim, make it more real by adding his own (stolen) hair-trimmings and nail-pairings, and then gradually waste it over a candle, sticking pins into parts that the witch wanted to injure most". I don't know whether Robert Graves is right or not, but somehow we must try to explain Barbara Allen's laughter when she sees his corpse and all the verses about the bloody shirts, the watch, the basin full of tears etc. I've chosen some of these verses from some of the most beautiful versions of the ballad I know:
From Martin Carthy's:

And look at my bed-foot", he cries,
And there you'll find them lyin',
My sheets and bloody shirts,
I sweat them for you, my Ellen."

She walked over yon garden field
She heard the dead-bell knelling
And every stroke that the dead-bell gave
It cried, "Woe be to you now, Ellen."

As she walked over the garden field
She saw his corpse a-comin',
"Lay down, lay down your weary load
Until I get to look upon him."

She lifted the lid from off the corpse,
She bursted out with laughin',
And all of his friends that stood round about
They cried, "Woe be to you now, Ellen."


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: GUEST,Wizo1945
Date: 14 Sep 12 - 06:24 AM

I always assumed (because ballads were often cleaned up) that he thought she had given him the pox (STD), and then she had to laugh because there was nothing else to do. ('put a brave face on it') Then of course she died of it as well, later, full of regrets. I am not putting this forward as a new explanation, but I would like it to be eliminated. It was also a common belief that a virgin could cure STD.

These Willie/William and Graham/Graeme names are common in southern Scotland, see Frazer's book 'The Steel Bonnets'. This book is concerned with the history of the same period.

Some versions that I have seen refer to him travelling to study. A southern Scots young gentleman could have gone/been sent to Reading to study, and there done what students commonly do (go a bit wild).


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Subject: RE: Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?
From: GUEST,Guest DTM
Date: 14 Sep 12 - 07:27 AM

This is a perfect example of a song that gives you the skeleton of a plot and lets you fill in the fleshy parts as you see fit.

Akin to little girls dressing up Barbie (oh the irony) and Ken in different clothes.


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