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Why Did Barbara Allen Refuse?

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


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(origins) ADD: Barb'ry Allen (34)
(origins) Info Barbara Allen (49)
(origins) Origins: Barbara Allan (Sarah Makem) (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)
Lyr Req: Barbara Allen (different versions) (75)
Lyr Add: Bobby Allen (Afro-American) (3)
Chord Req: Barb'ry Allen (Tom Rush) (5)
Lyr Req: Barbara Allen (from Phoebe Smith) (20)
Lyr Req: Barbara Allen (from Bob Dylan) (3)
Lyr Req: Barbry Allen (from Steve Tilston) (5)
Lyr Req: Barbara Allen (from Vic Legg) (2)
Lyr Req: Barbara Allen (from Shirley Collins) (2)
Lyr Req: Barbara Allen (from Susan Reed) (5)
Lyr Req: Barbara Allen (from Hedy West) (3)
Lyr Req: Barb'ry Allen (from Tom Rush) (6)
Barbara Allen anomaly (32)
Lyr Req: Barbara Allen (from Jimmy Stewart) (4)
Lyr Req: Barbara Allen (from Fred Jordan) (5)
Barbara Allen in '30's Film (37)
Lyr Req: Barbara Allen (7)
Lyr Req: Barbara Ellen / Barbara Allen (15)


GUEST,Guest DTM 14 Sep 12 - 07:27 AM
GUEST,Wizo1945 14 Sep 12 - 06:24 AM
GUEST,Volgadon 11 Oct 08 - 06:30 PM
Joe_F 29 Apr 08 - 09:44 PM
GUEST,Suffolk Miracle 29 Apr 08 - 07:15 AM
The Sandman 28 Apr 08 - 01:50 PM
GUEST 28 Apr 08 - 12:44 PM
GUEST 28 Apr 08 - 12:43 PM
BB 17 Apr 08 - 02:53 PM
GUEST,Wondering myself 17 Apr 08 - 11:31 AM
Don Firth 04 Apr 08 - 06:55 PM
GUEST,Eli 04 Apr 08 - 06:23 PM
BB 10 Apr 07 - 03:12 PM
Richard Bridge 10 Apr 07 - 12:12 PM
GUEST,meself 10 Apr 07 - 11:34 AM
Scoville 10 Apr 07 - 11:13 AM
GUEST,meself 10 Apr 07 - 11:10 AM
John MacKenzie 10 Apr 07 - 11:03 AM
Scoville 10 Apr 07 - 10:58 AM
GUEST,meself 10 Apr 07 - 09:47 AM
John MacKenzie 10 Apr 07 - 09:24 AM
Megan L 10 Apr 07 - 09:17 AM
Joybell 01 Jan 05 - 04:53 PM
kytrad (Jean Ritchie) 01 Jan 05 - 03:40 PM
Uncle_DaveO 31 Dec 04 - 08:10 PM
belter 31 Dec 04 - 06:38 PM
Joybell 31 Dec 04 - 05:41 PM
Charley Noble 31 Dec 04 - 12:02 PM
Uncle_DaveO 31 Dec 04 - 09:39 AM
GUEST 31 Dec 04 - 08:55 AM
GUEST,Lori 31 Dec 04 - 03:53 AM
GUEST,somebody 08 Mar 04 - 06:59 PM
michaelr 20 Jan 02 - 03:10 PM
toadfrog 19 Jan 02 - 10:20 PM
GUEST,Desdemona 19 Jan 02 - 07:23 PM
Coyote Breath 19 Jan 02 - 11:41 AM
dick greenhaus 19 Jan 02 - 09:34 AM
Malcolm Douglas 19 Jan 02 - 01:16 AM
toadfrog 18 Jan 02 - 11:43 PM
GUEST,chrisfullerton1974@yahoo.com 18 Jan 02 - 11:11 PM
Tig 18 Jan 02 - 12:20 PM
RoyH (Burl) 18 Jan 02 - 09:50 AM
rea 18 Jan 02 - 09:49 AM
Matthew Edwards 18 Jan 02 - 08:52 AM
lamarca 17 Jan 02 - 05:55 PM
SharonA 17 Jan 02 - 05:13 PM
GUEST,GrammarPolice 17 Jan 02 - 01:26 AM
GUEST,Boab 17 Jan 02 - 01:17 AM
BK 17 Jan 02 - 12:27 AM
Don Firth 16 Jan 02 - 01:11 PM
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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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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,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: 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,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: 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
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: 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: 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,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: 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,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: 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: Richard Bridge
Date: 10 Apr 07 - 12:12 PM

100


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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: 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 - 11:10 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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,somebody
Date: 08 Mar 04 - 06:59 PM

haha


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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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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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