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Lyr/Chords Req: The Barleycorn (from The Johnstons

18 Feb 01 - 02:44 PM (#400944)
Subject: barleycorn
From: GUEST,Frippe

Hi! I'm seeking high and low for a lovely tune by the wonderful group The Johnstons. The tune is the Barleycorn. I hope that someone can help me with this one. Thanx!

18 Feb 01 - 03:06 PM (#400957)
Subject: RE: Lyr/Chords Req: barleycorn
From: Jon Freeman

Try herefor the lyrics and some chords.


18 Feb 01 - 03:15 PM (#400965)
Subject: Lyr Add: THE BARLEYCORN
From: Jon Freeman

As I can't find it in the DT, I'll post the lyrics:

THE BARLEYCORN - Traditional

There were three farmers in the north, as they were passin´ by
They swore an oath, a mighty oath, that barleycorn should die
On of them said "we drown him" and the other said "hang him high",
For whoever will stick to the barley grain, a beggin´ he will die.

They put poor barley into a sack of a cold and rainy day,
And they took him off to the cullin´ fields and burnt him in the clay,
The frost and snow began to melt, and the dew began to fall,
The barley grain put up his head and he soon surprised them all.

Bein´ in the summer season and the harvest coming on,
The reaper and the binder came and cut poor barley down,
The farmer came with his pitchfork and pierced me thru´ the heart
Like a thief a rogue or a highwayman they tied me to the cart.

They thrashed me, and they steeped me, and they dried me in the kiln,
They used me ten times worse than that, they ground me in the mill,
They used me in the kitchen, they used me in the hall,
They used me in the parlour among the ladies all.

Oh! the barleycorn is a comical grain, it makes men sigh and moan
But when they drink a glass or two they forget their wives at home.
The drunkard he´s a terrible man he used me worst of all
He drank me up from his dirty paw and pissed me against the wall.

19 Feb 01 - 04:45 AM (#401311)
Subject: RE: Lyr/Chords Req: barleycorn
From: Wolfgang

A useful link to the many versions in Mudcat. I haven't checked all of the links in my link above, but I think the Johnstons version is new (and worth posting).


19 Feb 01 - 05:27 AM (#401317)
Subject: RE: Lyr/Chords Req: barleycorn
From: Jon Freeman

Wolfgang, you may be correct in suggesting it is new(I must admit I wondered) but the source I used quotes it as traditional.

I haven't got the Johnstons' version to hand but the only differences I can remember between that and the one I have posted come in the last verse. Im pretty sure they use "dirty" in place of "terrible" and "threw" instead of "pissed". They of course repeat part of the last line of each verse, together with some ?nonsense? words, e.g. In the first verse, it would be:

"With me fal-de roldity too rye eh, and a beggin he will die" (or something similar).


19 Feb 01 - 05:51 AM (#401320)
Subject: RE: Lyr/Chords Req: barleycorn
From: Wolfgang

Sorry, Jon, I didn't mean 'new' in the sense of 'recently (re)written' but in the sense of 'not posted in Mudcat yet'. I'm glad to see the Johnstons' version here and I'll check it with the record. From memory, it sounds near perfect.


19 Feb 01 - 06:00 AM (#401324)
Subject: RE: Lyr/Chords Req: barleycorn
From: Jon Freeman

Thanks Wolfgang, I love their version.


19 Feb 01 - 05:40 PM (#401742)
Subject: RE: Lyr/Chords Req: barleycorn
From: GUEST,Frippe

Thank you very much for your help Jon! See ya!

20 Feb 01 - 09:28 AM (#402120)
From: UB Ed

Winwood and Traffic did "John Barleycorn". Isn't there something in the trad about the evolution from paganism to Christianity and a human sacrifice in the fall in the hope of a good harvest? Or did I just make that up?


There was three men came out of the west,
Their fortunes for to try,
And these three men made a solemn vow,
John Barleycorn should die.
They ploughed, they sowed, they harrowed him in,
Throwed clods upon his head,
And these three men made a solemn vow,
John Barleycorn was dead.

Then they let him lie for a very long time
Till the rain from heaven did fall,
Then little Sir John sprung up his head,
And soon amazed them all.
They let him stand till midsummer
Till he looked both pale and wan,
And little Sir John he growed a long beard
And so became a man.

They hired men with the scythes so sharp
To cut him off at the knee,
They rolled him and tied him by the waist,
And served him most barbarously.
They hired men with the sharp pitchforks
Who pricked him to the heart,
And the loader he served him worse than that,
For he bound him to the cart.

They wheeled him round and round the field
Till they came unto a barn,
And there they made a solemn mow
of poor John Barleycorn.
They hired men with the crab-tree sticks
To cut him skin from bone,
And the miller he served him worse than that,
For he ground him between two stones.

Here's little Sir John in a nut-brown bowl,
And brandy in a glass;
And little Sir John in the nut-brown bowl
Proved the stronger man at last.
And the huntsman he can't hunt the fox,
Nor so loudly blow his horn,
And the tinker he can't mend kettles or pots
Without a little of Barleycorn.

HTML line breaks added. --JoeClone, 5-Sep-02.

20 Feb 01 - 10:46 AM (#402180)
Subject: RE: Lyr/Chords Req: barleycorn
From: Malcolm Douglas

They got that one straight out of the Penguin Book of English Folk Songs: see the link Wolfgang gave above, where the text and notes are already quoted in full.  The song is an allegory, and probably no more than that, though it certainly is an interesting one.


20 Feb 01 - 12:25 PM (#402252)
Subject: RE: Lyr/Chords Req: barleycorn
From: JohnB

Malcolm did you misspell that, didn't you mean it's an Ale Gory. Or was that an All Gory, certainly parts of it are. JohnB

20 Feb 01 - 07:56 PM (#402555)
Subject: Lyr Add: BARLEY MOW
From: Snuffy

Here's one that seems to be a halfway house between the John Barleycorn cycle and the Nipperkin and the Brown Bowl cycle.


Well, we ploughed the land and we planted it
And we watched the barley grow
We rolled it and we harrowed it
And we cleaned it with a hoe
Then we waited till the farmer said
"It's time for harvest now
Get out your scythes and sharp 'em, boys,
It's time for barley mow"
Well, here's luck to barley mow
And the land that makes it grow
We'll drink to Old John Barleycorn
Here's luck to barley mow.
So fill up all of the glasses lads
And stand them in a row
A gill, a half-a-pint, a pint, a pint and a quart
And here's luck to barley mow.
Well, we went and mowed the barley
And we left it on the ground.
We left it in the sun and rain
Till it was nicely brown.
Then one day off to the maltster then
John Barleycorn did go.
The day he went away we all did say
"Here's luck to barley mow."

Have no fear of young John Barleycorn
When he's as green as grass
But Old John Barleycorn is strong enough
To set you on your ass.
But there's nothing better ever brewed
Than we are drinking now
Fill them up, we'll have another round
Here's luck to barley mow.

"Now if you were in Debenham 'Cherry Tree' about sixty years ago, about nine o'clock on a Saturday night, you'd get Barley Mow. Now if you were down there now and sung it, I don't suppose anybody there would know it."

From Songs sung in Suffolk, Vol 3. Veteran Tapes VT103. (Field recordings 1985-87 by John Howson). Sung by Fred Whiting of Kenton, Suffolk.

21 Feb 01 - 07:44 AM (#402769)
Subject: Lyr Add: JOHN BARLEYCORN(?) (from the Johnstons)
From: Wolfgang

I have listened to the Johnstons version last night and have realised after some time that they sing the version that is printed in Colm O Lochlainn, Irish Street Ballads. I can't follow my own link above at the moment so I don't know whether one of the many versions Malcolm has linked to is the version from the Irish Street Ballads.

However, it is more or less close to the version posted by Jon above except for his verse 3. If you replace Jon's verse three by the following three verses you have an idea what Colm O Lochlainn has printed:

Being in the summer season and the harvest coming on
it's the time he stands up in the field with a beard like any man.
The reaper then came with his hook and used me barbarously,
he caught me by the middle so small and cut me above the knee.

The next came was the binder and look'd on me with a frown
but in the middle there was a thistle that pulled his courage down.
The farmer came with his pitchfork and pierced me to the heart
like a thief, a rogue or a highwayman they tied me to the cart.

The thresher came with his big flail and soon he broke my bones,
'twould grieve the heart of any man to hear my sighs and groans,
the next thing that they done to me they steep'd me in a well
they left me there for a day and a night until I began to swell.

The next thing that they done to me they dried me in a kiln...(and then go on with Jon's version, verse 4, line 2)


21 Feb 01 - 12:41 PM (#402858)
Subject: RE: Lyr/Chords Req: barleycorn
From: Jon Freeman

Thanks Wolfgang. Isn't memory a funny thing? I have listened to the Johnston's sing this song MANY times and I would have sworn that what I had posted was complete until you posted that!

Irish Street Ballads... I must invest in another copy sometime as I have lost mine (presumably I lent it to someone) and I thought it was an excellent book.


22 Feb 01 - 03:10 AM (#403524)
Subject: RE: Lyr/Chords Req: barleycorn
From: Wolfgang

your version sounded very good to me and I also have played the Johnstons many times. I'm doing research as a job and one of my areas of research is memory and especially faulty memory. Your performance above is just a typical example for memory errors in normal adults (outside of a clinical context). Errors like this happen to everybody (not necessarily daily but more often than we wish for).

The typical pattern is that the errors are much more likely errors of omission (leaving out something) then of commission (inventing something which was not there). The only few inventions come from a kind of smoothing process (called: constructive memory) necessary to make the memory production consistent with expectation or story line. For instance, look at your line 1 in verse 4 (They thrashed me, and they steeped me, and they dried me in the kiln). It is nothing but a very creative 'invention' to make good for the lost verses in your recollection. The respective line from Colm (The next thing that they done to me they dried me in a kiln) would have made little sense in the context of your recollection. And that the confidence in memory productions is nearly always too high is so well known that rather the absence of overconfidence should make one worry.

You should praise your memory for the near perfect production of 4 verses (you have one or two words 'wrong' in each of the correct verses and not a single of these words matters).


22 Feb 01 - 04:41 AM (#403543)
Subject: RE: Lyr/Chords Req: barleycorn
From: GUEST,Adolfo

Has anybody mentioned John Reinbourn's version?

07 Aug 16 - 07:15 AM (#3804007)
Subject: RE: John Barleycorn
From: Felipa

Leigh Anne Hussey's interpretation (poetic and dramatic)

                                copyright ©1995, Leigh Ann Hussey

Sower (P)        Reaper (Ps)        Carter (P)        Thresher (P)
Miller (P)        Malter (Ps)        Alewife (Ps)        Narrator

And, in the part of The Estimable J. Barleycorn, Esq., Everybody Else.

Props: boffer flail, scythe, pitchfork, flagstone, cauldron of water, a
"nut-brown bowl", an urn-shaped "lota bowl" (from a magic store), enough
bread and beer for everybody, something to make heat (a solar reflector?),
enough stalks of grain for everybody.
Before starting, the lota bowl should be filled with beer.

NARRATOR        Awake and hear, my gentle guests,
                How three men came out of the west,
                That they would never wait nor rest
                        Their oath was sworn
                Until they all had sore oppressed
                        John Barleycorn.

SOWER                Now here come I, a sower strong,
                Upon my body, it is wrong
                That Barleycorn should live so long
                        And so reknowned.
                I'll harrow him where he belongs,
                        Beneath the ground.

[Sower, Carter and Thresher position everyone in rows, then sit them
down (and throw a big sheet or parachute or something over them?).]

NARRATOR        And so in Earth Sir John did lie
                Unseen by any under sky
                Until the Waters from on high
                        Did wet him there
                And so he rose, death to defy
                        In living Air.

[(The sheet is removed.) Reaper, Malter and Alewife mist everyone
with water from spray bottles and hand each person a stalk of grain.]

WOMEN                Rise up, rise up, Barleycorn,
                All that dies shall be reborn.
[or something like that]

NARRATOR        The Fiery Sun so burned him gold
                And in due time Sir John grew old
                Indeed, his strength it grew tenfold,
                        He flourished so.
                And all resolved, when they were told,
                        To work him woe.

REAPER                My brother failed the task he planned,
                So here come I, with scythe in hand,
                A reaper fit to clear the land
                        Of all that grows,
                And Barleycorn shall never stand
                        Against my blows!

[Reaper "cuts" everyone down with the scythe.]

CARTER                Now here come I to play my part --
                My fork is keen to pierce his heart,
                And then I'll bind him to my cart
                        And bear him hence,
                Where crabtree sticks shall make him smart
                        For his offense!

[Carter pokes everyone gently with the pitchfork.]

THRESHER        Indeed you shall not work alone,
                For here come I, a thresher known;
                My flail shall flay him skin from bone
                        With goodly speed,
                And then beneath the miller's stone
                        He'll die indeed!

[Thresher walks about and gives everybody a smack with the boffer flail.]

MALTER                But first I'll make him suffer sore;
                Upon my drafty malting floor
                I'll make him lie, and furthermore
                        For our delight,
                I'll throw him through my oven door
                        And roast him right!

[Malter carries the heating source around and gives everyone a dose.]

MILLER                I am the miller, as they said,
                Who Barleycorn may rightly dread.
                I'll lay the millstone on his head
                        And crush him well,
                And then he surely will be dead
                        As all can tell.

[Miller carries the flagstone about and lays it once on everyone's head.]

ALEWIFE                Now I, the alewife, join the plot:
                I'll catch his blood into my pot,
                And bones and blood and skin the lot,
                        I'll boil them fair,
                So certainly his death is wrought,
                        That I do swear.

[She walks about with the cauldron and the lota bowl. We'll need a shill
or two to start everybody, but the idea is that everyone dips their
stalk in the cauldron and sprinkles water into the lota bowl.]

[At this point, Alewife sets the cauldron aside, the nut-brown bowl is
brought out and the contents of the lota bowl poured into it -- there's
little enough water that, with a dark enough beer, it shouldn't be
particularly noticable, and the effect of the emptying and magically
refilling vessel is really impressive.]

[The bowl and the (covered) bread are brought to the center and the
players make a circle around them.]

[Elton & Leigh Ann perform "Corn that Springeth Green".]

NARRATOR:        Behold what mystery is there,
                For twice do Earth and Water fair,
                And twice do Fire and sweet Air,
                        Transmute Sir John.
                Now taste and know as I declare
                        That he lives on!

[Beer and bread are passed around. Leigh Ann sings "Regulus":]


Long the Plough in nightly circle
carved its furrow in the sky;
now the Sun will grip the sickle
curved around the Lion's eye.
Mill of heaven, every hour
grinding seasons out as flour
high above the harvest plain,
turns in beauty, never slowing
as the rigs of corn are growing
tawny as a lion's mane.

        And life shall triumph as the barley is cut down,
        and the night dissolve inside the cup we pass around.
        Ale is flowing and bestowing
        wonder and delight on us.
        Leo rises and advises
        Sol now rules through Regulus.


Slashed and broken, burned and boiled,
Barley dies four times in all.
Yet is death's dominion foiled
when it's drowned in alcohol.
Barley's blood is joy in measure,
first-fruits are the Lion's treasure,
drunkenness the Lion's price.
Who accepts the Lion's ration
knows full well the pain and passion
in the barley's sacrifice.

        And life shall triumph...
Furze is blooming in the meadow
luring bees to their desire;
gold becrowns both sun and furrow,
splendid with the Lion's fire.
We will dance to pipe and tambour,
deep we'll drink in gold and amber,
drench our limbs in Eros' brine.
Warm hearts in the Lion's favor
shall the dregs of summer savor
heady-sweet as honey wine.

        And life shall triumph...

NARRATOR:        Let barley bless both great and small
                That all so rise that erst did fall.
                Good fortune be to some and all
                        And everyone;
                Now heed the groaning table's call:
                        This play is done!

07 Aug 16 - 07:29 AM (#3804010)
Subject: RE: John Barleycorn
From: Felipa

UB Ed's post above, Winwood and Traffic version, is the version I learned from the singing of John Roberts and Tony Barrand