The song also known as “Fair Phoebe and her Dark-Eyed Sailor” originally from England, and is dated to a good approximation at the end of the nineteenth century. It is classified as a reily ballad or broken token ballad (because of the love pledge exchanged between the two lovers) on the model of a “return song” that was already the most popular in Classical times: in most of these ballads the man returns home after many years of absence at sea (war), and, not recognized by the woman, he puts her loyalty to the test. The girl, as a serious girl, refuses his courting because she has already been promised. The man so reassured, reveals himself to the woman and the two crown their love with marriage.
The ballad recalls the archetypal figures of Ulysses and Penelope, when Ulysses, returned twenty years after the war (and his vicissitudes in the seas) to his Ithaca in disguise, is not recognized by his wife.
Collected in England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland and North America according to A.L. Lloyd all versions have a common matrix in the ballad published on a broadside printed by James Catnach (London 1813-1838) Flanders in “The New Green Mountain Songster” observes”The air to which it is almost universally sung, both in the old-country and American tradition, belongs to another ballad, “The Female Smuggler“.
Steeleye Span from “Hark! The Village Wait” (1970)
Christy Moore from Prosperus 1972
Quilty ( I, II, IV, VI, VII)
Olivia Chaney live The Mark Radcliffe Folk Sessions
As I went a walking (roved out ) one evening fair,
it being the summer(time) to take the air/I spied a female (maiden) with a sailor boy/and I stood to listen, I stood to listen/to hear what they might say.
He said “Young maiden (fair lady)
now why do you roam
all along by yonder Lee?”
She heaved a sigh and the tears they did roll, / “For my dark eyed sailor,
he ploughs the stormy seas.”
“‘Tis seven long years(1) since he left this land,
A ring he took from off his lily-white hand.(2)
One half of the ring is still here with me,
But the other’s rollin’
at the bottom of the sea.”
He said “You can drive him from your mind/for another young man you surely will find.
Love turns a sight and it soon grows cold/ Like a winter’s morning
the hills are white with snow.”
She said “I’ll never forsake my dear
Although we’re parted this many a year/ Genteel(3) he was and a rake(4) like you/ To induce a maiden
to slight the jacket blue(5).”
One half of the ring did young William show
She ran distracted in grief and woe
Sayin’ “William, William, I have gold in store(6)/ For my dark-eyed sailor
has proved his honour long”
There is a cottage by yonder Lee,
the couple live there and do agree.
So maids be true when your lover’s at sea,
For a stormy morning
brings on a sunny day.
1) Seven is a recurring number in ballads to indicate the duration of a separation. The reference to the number seven is not accidental: it is a magic or symbolic number linked to death or change. If a husband left for the war and did not return within seven years, the wife could remarry.
2) in this kind of ballads often appears an object through which the two lovers are recognized, either a gift exchanged or a ring broken in half as in this case
3) for gentle
4) A “rake” was a charming young lover of women, of songs, dedicated to gambling and alcohol, but also a lifestyle of fashion among the English nobles during the 17th century. And yet it is also a term used in a positive sense
5) wearing the blue jacket of the British sailor’s uniform
6) in other versions”I’ve lands and gold For my dark-eyed sailor so manly, true and bold
The time of the wheat harvest varies according to the latitudes: in the South as for example in southern Italy it starts to harvest already in June, while in Piedmont in July and in the Northern countries as for the Islands of Great Britain, in August.
Once the harvest season could last about a month with the laborers that moved on foot, from farm to farm with tools for their work on their shoulders and a little bundle with their few things: they went in groups for little family, men and women, and for many girls that was the occasion to make new friends and maybe find the lover.
Harvest songs are common throughout Europe and are mostly religious-ritualistic, but the songs have disappeared because with the mechanization (and the chemistry) of agriculture the peasant world has thinned out: today in the countryside it is no longer sung!
The song of the harvest I have chosen today, titled “Reaphook and Sickle“, comes from the English tradition: it is a “jolly” song that paints in exciting tones and describes what was actually a hard work as if it were a dance tour. Other times and resources, other mentality, but in my opinion it is important to restore dignity to the work of the earth, as a true vocation, in which one lives in close contact with nature and its times.
No longer isolated and bounded in its own field as in the past, taking advantage of traditional methods or natural “philosophies” such as what is now called synergistic agriculture, that anyone with a little land available can experiment to make a synergetic vegetable garden ( it seems a paradox of terms to talk about natural agriculture but it works great) .. and find a bit of “jollyness” ..
Eliza Carthy from Holy Heathens and the Old Green Man 2007 ♪
Come you lads and lasses,
together we will go
All in the golden cornfield
our courage for to show.
With the reaping hook and sickle
so well we clear the land,
And the farmer says,
“Hoorah, me boys,
here’s liquor at your command.”
It’s in the time of haying
our partners we do take,
Along with lads and lasses
the hay timing to make.
There’s joining round in harmony
and roundness to be seen,
And when it’s gone
we’ll take your girls
to dance Jack on the green(1).
It’s in the time of harvest
so cheerfully we’ll go,
Then some we’ll reap
and some we’ll sickle
and some we’ll size to mow.
But now at end
we’re free for home,
we haven’t far to go,
We’re on our way to Robin Hood’s Bay (2) to welcome harvest home.
Now harvest’s done and ended
and the corn all safe from harm,
And all that’s left to do, me boys,
is thresh it in the barn.
Here’s a health to all the farmers, likewise the women and men,
And we wish you health and happiness till harvest comes again.
1)Jack in the Green was a popular mask of the English May, from the Middle Ages and until the Victorian era, which fell into disuse at the end of the nineteenth century.
2) Robin Hood’s Bay is a county in North Yorkshire, England.
Albion Country Band from Battle of the Field 1976
Now come all you lads and lasses
and together let us go
Into some pleasant cornfield
our courage for to show. CHORUS
With the good old leathern bottle and the beer it shall be brown. We’ll reap and scrape together until Bright Phoebus does go down.
With the reaphook and the sickle,
oh so well we clear the land,
And the farmer cries,
“Well done, my lads,
here’s liquor at your command.”
Now by daybreak in the morning
when the larks begin to sing
And the echo of the harmony
make all the crows to ring
Then in comes lovely Nancy
the corn all for to lay,
She is a charming creature
and I must begin her praise:
For she gathers it, she binds it,
and she rolls it in her arms,
She carries it to the waggoners
to fill the farmer’s barns.
Well now harvest’s done and ended
and the corn secure from harm,
Before it goes to market, lads,
we must thresh it in the barn.
Now here’s a health to all you farmers
and likewise to all you men,
I wish you health and happiness
till harvest comes again.
The George Aloe and the Sweepstake o (The Coasts of) High Barbary is considered both a sea shanty and a ballad (Child ballad # 285) and certainly its original version is very old and probably from the 16th century. So ‘in the seventeenth-century comedy “The Two Noble Kinsmen” we read: “The George Alow came from the south, From the coast of Barbary-a; And there he met with brave gallants of war, By one, by two, by three-a. Well hail’d, well hail’d, you jolly gallants! And whither now are you bound-a? O let me have your company”
The Muslim pirates of the African coasts came from what the Europeans called Barbary or Algeria Tunisia, Libya, Morocco (and more precisely the city-states of Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli, but also the ports of Salé and Tetuan).
The most correct definition is barbarian pirates because they attacked only the ships of Christian Europe (also doing raids in the Christian countries of the Atlantic coast and the Mediterranean to get slaves or to get the best redemptions). The term included Arabs, Berbers, Turks as well as European renegades.
In the affair there were also for good measure the Christian corsairs, which carried out the same raids along the coasts of Barbary (mainly the orders of chivalry of the Knights of Malta and the Knights of St. Stephen, but obviously in these cases it was a matter of “crusade” and not piracy !!
Although pirate activities were endemic in the Mediterranean Sea, the period of maximum activity of the barbarian pirates was the first half of the 1600s.
FIRST VERSION: a forebitter
Stan Hugill in his bible “Shanties From The Seven Seas” shows two melodies: one more ancient when the song was a forebitter and a faster one as a capstan chantey.
The oldest version of the ballad tells of two merchant ships The George Aloe, and The Sweepstake with George Aloe who avenges the sinking of the second ship using the same “courtesy” to the crew of the French pirate ship who had thrown into the sea the Sweepstake crew. Pete Seeger
There were two lofty ships
From old England came Blow high, blow low And so sail we
One was the Prince of Luther
The other Prince of Wales All a-cruisin’ down the coast Of High Barbary
“Aloft there, aloft there”
Our jolly bosun cried
“Look ahead, look astern,
Look to weather an’ a-lee”
“There’s naught upon the stern, sir
There’s naught upon our lee
But there’s a lofty ship to wind’ard
An’ she’s sailin’ fast and free”
“Oh hail her, oh hail her”
Our gallant captain cried
“Are you a man-o-war
Or a privateer?” cried he
“Oh, I’m not a man-o-war
Nor privateer,” said he
“But I am salt sea pirate
All a-looking for me fee”
For Broadside, for broadside
A long time we lay
‘Til at last the Prince of Luther
Shot the pirate’s mast away
“Oh quarter, oh quarter”
Those pirates they did cry
But the quarter that we gave them
Was we sank ‘em in the sea
SECOND VERSION: a sea shanty
The ballad resumed popularity in the years between 1795 and 1815 in conjunction with the attacks of Barbary pirates to American ships.
Tom Kines from “Songs from Shakespeare´s Plays and Songs of His Time”,1960
a version of how it was sung in the Elizabethan era
“Look ahead, look-astern
Look the weather in the lee!” Blow high! Blow low!
And so sailed we.
“I see a wreck to windward,
And a lofty ship to lee! A-sailing down along The coast of High Barbary”
“O, are you a pirate
Or a man o’ war?” cried we.
“O no! I’m not a pirate
But a man-o-war,” cried he.
“We’ll back up our topsails
And heave vessel to.
For we have got some letters
To be carried home by you”.
For broadside, for broadside
They fought all on the main;
Until at last the frigate
Shot the pirate’s mast away.
“For quarter, for quarter”,
the saucy pirates cried
But the quarter that we showed them
was to sink them in the tide
With cutlass and gun,
O we fought for hours three;
The ship it was their coffin
And their grave it was the sea
But O! ‘Twas a cruel sight,
and grieved us, full sore,
To see them all a drownin’
as they tried to swim to shore
Corn Rigs (Rigs o’Barley) was written entirely by Robert Burns in 1782 adapting it to an old Scottish dance air entitled “Corn Rigs are bonnie“. It seems to be particularly dear to the poet: it tells of the night of love with a beautiful girl among the sheaves of wheat, a magical full moon night…
The Annie of the song has been identified in Anne Rankie, the youngest daughter of a tenant farmer, John Rankine of Adamhill, of the farm that was a short distance from the Burns in Lochlea. In 1782, in September, the woman married a innkeeper, John Merry of Cumnock, so some doubt that in August she was among the sheaves of barley with the handsome Robert; others, however, point out that after 4 years (and once again in August) the poet, being in the neighborhood, was staying right at the inn of the two!
Burns gave Anne Rankie a lock of his hair and his portrait, which she kept together with the song.
Very bravely Burns, however, is silent on the identity of the beautiful Annie.
The analysis of the text unravels the dynamics of the relationship between the two lovers (according to my point of view): the night of Lammas, as usual in the Celtic tradition, is the night of August 1, a day of celebration for the farmers of the Scotland, day of rest and party before the beginning of the harvest.
Among the young it was customary to spend the night in the fields of wheat (or barley) but our Robert at first keeps away from such custom, the beautiful Annie is promised to another …
However, the youthful ardor finally wins and even the girl (without even being asked too much, reveals the bard) consents: the two meet in the fields of barley, at dusk, on a warm summer evening with the moon full to illuminate the night, and what a “happy night”!
The final verse takes up a concept dear to the poet: the best time is spent to love! And on that magical night it seems that the young Robert did it three times!
Ossian from Seal Song 1981 with the traditional Corn Rigs Are Bonnie melody, the video is very well done with the scrolling text, movies and vintage photos as well as “portraits” of the bard, all well structured in the evocation for images of the text
Paul Giovanni from The Wicker Man but with another melody
It was upon a Lammas(1) night,
When the corn rigs(2) were bonnie,
Beneath the moon’s unclouded light,
I held awa’ to Annie;
The time flew by wi’ tentless heed,
‘Til ‘tween the late and early,
Wi’ small persuasion she agreed
To see me thro’ the barley. chorus Corn Rigs and barley rigs, Corn rigs are bonny: I’ll ne’eer forget that happy night, Amang the rigs wi’ Annie.
The sky was blue (3), the wind was still,
The moon was shining clearly;
I set her down wi’ right good will,
Amang the rigs o’ barley:
I ken’t(4) her heart, was a’ my ain(5);
I loved her most sincerely;
I kissed her o’er and o’er again,
Amang the rigs o’ barley.
I locked her in my fond embrace;
Her heart was beatin’ rarely:
My blessing on that happy place,
Amang the rigs o’ barley!
But by the moon and stars so bright,
That shone that hour so clearly!
She aye shall bless that happy night
Amang the rigs of barley.
I hae been blythe(6) wi’ comrades dear;
I hae been merry drinking;
I hae been joyful gath’rin’ gear(7);
I hae been happy thinking:
But a’ the pleasures e’er I saw,
Tho’ three times doubled fairly,
That happy night was worth them a’,
Amang the rigs wi’ Annie.
1) Lammas is the harvest festival that is celebrated on the first of August, whose origins date back to the Celtic festival of Lugnasad, a festival that marks the beginning of the first harvest (wheat and barley). In the Scottish country tradition it is like our day in San Martino, when the land is rented and the contracts are renewed.(see more)
2) The term Rigs describes an old cultivation technique that involves working the land in long and narrow strips of raised land (the traditional drainage system of the past): the fields were divided into earthen banks raised, so that the excess water drained further down the deep side furrows.
3) the indicated hour is that of twilight
7) earning money
Alasdair Fraser · Paul Machlis · Barry Phillips · Martin Hayes
SCOTTISH COUNTRY DANCE
This song is best known with the title of Corn Rigs or Corn Rigs Are Bonnie and it is also a scottish country dance (see more) taken from the old traditions. During the harvest it was customary to dance among the sheaves of wheat, as shown in this vintage movie by the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society. VIDEO
TITLES: Caroline and Her Young Sailor Bold, Groline and Her Young Sailor Bold, The Young Sailor Bold, The Nobleman ‘s Daughter, Caroline and Her Young Sailor Boy, A Rich Nobleman’s Daughter’, Young Caroline and The Sailor
A love story between a young girl who denies her noble and wealthy family and her wealthy life for the love of a young and handsome sailor. For fear he forgets her, she embarks on the ship disguised as a sailor. When their ship returns to the port of London, the girl goes to her parents to request consent to their marriage.
The theme was very popular among the nineteenth-century broadside and the ballad was popularized by the popular tradition of England, Ireland, Scotland and North America. The melody combined with the text is not unique, here are reported only two: fromJoe Heaney (Rosin The Beau) and from Sara Makem (recorded by Bill Leader at the home of Sara, Keady, County of Armagh in 1967).
The cross-dressing ballads decline the theme of the disguise often combined with the sailor’s (sometimes soldier) farewell with the woman who begs him to take her with him, willing to dress up as a man to stand beside him; the image of a woman-warrior and strong, supported by the power of love and therefore willing to go against her family and social conventions is more a story from a novel than an actual chronicle, the women in those times were subdued to the father first and to the husband later, and very few could win the economic independence (there were then the poor ones who did not care about anyone and who ended up badly in the middle of a street, making all kind of work to barely manage to feed the children). These were the times of marriages combined by families and were based on appropriate alliances and young women were not allowed to fall in love with a handsome black-eyed sailor!
There lived a rich Nobleman’s daughter/
Caroline is her name we are told/
One day from her drawing room window
She admired a young sailor bold
She cried – “I’m a Nobleman’s daughter
My income’s five thousand in gold
I forsake both my father and mother
And I’ll marry young sailor bold”
Says William- “Fair lady remember
Your parents you are bound to mind
In sailors there is no dependence
For they leave their true lovers behind”
And she says – “There’s no one could prevent me/
One moment to alter my mind/
In the ships I’ll be off with my true love/
He never will leave me behind”
Three years and a half on the ocean
And she always proved loyal and true
Her duty she did like a sailor
Dressed up in her jacket of blue
When at last they arrived back in England
Straightway to her father she went
“Oh father dear father forgive me
Deprive me forever of gold
Just grant me one favor I ask you
To marry a young sailor bold”
Her father looked upon young William
And love and in sweet unity
“If I be spared till Tomorrow
It’s married this couple shall be”.
The lea-rig (The Meadow-ridge) is a traditional Scottish song rewritten by Robert Burns in 1792 under the title “I’ll Meet Thee On The Lea Rig“.
The term Rigs describes an old cultivation technique that involves working the land in long and narrow strips of raised land (the traditional drainage system of the past): the fields were divided into earthen banks raised, so that the excess water drained further down the deep side furrows. These bumps could reach up to the knee and hand sowing was greatly facilitated: the grass grew in the lea rigs.
We find the beautiful melody in many eighteenth-century manuscripts, known by various names such as An Oidhche A Bha Bhainis Ann, The Caledonian Laddy, I’ll Meet Thee On The Lea-rig, The Lea Rigg, The Lea Rigges, My Ain Kind Dearie, My Ain Kind Deary O
Tony McManus, Alasdair Fraser & Jody Stecher in Driven Bow 1988
Julian Lloyd Webber
A “romantic” meeting in the summer camps declined in many text versions with a single melody (albeit with many different arrangements) that has known, like so many other Scottish eighteenth-century songs, a notable fame among the musicians of German romanticism and in good living rooms over England, France and Germany.
The oldest text can be found in the manuscript of Thomas D’Urfey, “Wit and Mirth, or Pills to Purge Melancholy” 1698, by anonymous author who starts like this: I’ll lay(rowe) thee o’er the lea rig,
My ain kind dearie O.
Although the night were ne’er sae wat,
And I were ne’er sae weary, O,
I’ll rowe thee o’er the lea-rig,
My ain kind dearie, O;
With the title “My Ain Kind Dearie O” it is published later in the Scots Musical Museum vol I (1787) (see here) on Robert Burns’ dispatch to James Johnson with the note that it was the version originally written by the edinburgh poet Robert Fergusson ( 1750-74). ‘Will ye gang o’er the leerigg, my ain kind deary-o! And cuddle there sae kindly wi’ me, my kind deary-o! Robert Fergusson died only 24 years old in the grip of madness while he was hospitalized in the Edinburgh Asylum because subject to a strong existential depression (and yet there are those who insinuate it was syphilis); he had just enough time to write about eighty poems (published between 1771 and 1773) and was the first poet to use the Scottish dialect as a poetic language; he lived for the most part a bohemian life, sharing the intellectual ferment of Edinburgh in the period known as the Scottish Enlightenment, always in contact with musicians, actors and editors; in 1772 it joined the “Edinburgh Cape Club”, not a Masonic lodge but a club for men only for convivial purposes (in which tables were laid out with tasty dishes and above all large drinks); for Robert Burns he was ‘my elder brother in Misfortune, By far my elder brother in the muse’.
Burn rewrote the poem in October 1792 for the publisher George Thomson, to be published in the “Selected Collection of Original Scottish Air” (in what will be the most commonly known version of The Lea Rig) published with the musical arrangement of Joseph Haydn (who also arranged the traditional My Ain Kind Deary version); and he also wrote a more bawdy version published in “The Merry Muses of Caledonia” (1799) under the title My Ain Kind Deary (page 98) (text here) I’ll lay thee o’er the lea rig, Lovely Mary, deary O
Andy M. Stewart 1991, live
Paul McKenna Band
and in the classic version on arrangement by Joseph Haydn ASCOLTAJamie MacDougall & Haydn Eisenstadt Trio JHW. XXXII/5 no. 372, Hob. XXXIa no. 31ter
When o’er the hill the eastern star(1)
Tells bughtin time(2) is near, my jo,
And owsen frae the furrow’d field
Return sae dowf and weary, O,
Down by the burn, where scented birks(3)
Wi’ dew are hangin clear, my jo,
I’ll meet thee on the lea-rig,
My ain kind dearie, O.
At midnight hour in mirkest glen
I’d rove, and ne’er be eerie(4), O,
If thro’ that glen I gaed to thee,
My ain kind dearie, O!
Altho’ the night were ne’er sae wild(5),
And I were ne’er sae weary, O,
I’ll(6) meet thee on the lea-rig,
My ain kind dearie, O.
The hunter lo’es the morning sun
To rouse the mountain deer, my jo;
At noon the fisher takes the glen
Adown the burn to steer, my jo:
Gie me the hour o’ gloamin grey –
It maks my heart sae cheery, O,
To meet thee on the lea-rig,
My ain kind dearie, O.
When over the hill the eastern star
Tells the time of milking the ewes is near, my dear,
And oxes from the furrowed field
Return so lethargic and weary O:
Down by the burn where scented birch trees
With dew are hanging clear, my dear, I’ll meet thee on the grassy ridge, My own kind dear, O!
At midnight hour, in darkest glen,
I’d rove and never be frightened O, If thro’ that glen I go to thee,
My own kind dear, O:
Altho’ the night were never so wild,
And I were never so weary O,
I’ll meet thee on the grassy ridge, My own kind dear, O!
The hunter loves the morning sun,
To rouse the mountain deer, my dear,
At noon the fisher takes the glen,
down the burn to steer, my dear;
Give me the hour o’ gloamin grey,
It maks my heart so cheary O
on the grassy ridge, My own kind dear, O!
1) the morning star
2) milking time is early in the morning
3) or “birken buds”
4) or irie
5) in the copy sent to Thomson Robert Burns wrote “wet” then corrected with wild: a summer night with severe air with lightning in the distance
6) or “I’d”
Compare with the version attributed to the poet Robert Fergusson
‘Will ye gang o’er the leerigg(1),
my ain kind deary-o!
And cuddle there sae kindly
wi’ me, my kind deary-o!
At thornie dike(2), and birken tree,
we’ll daff(3), and ne’er be weary-o;
They’ll scug(4) ill een(5) frae you and me,
mine ain kind deary o!’
Nae herds, wi’ kent(6) or colly(7) there,
shall ever come to fear ye, O!
But lav’rocks(8), whistling in the air,
shall woo, like me, their deary, O!
While others herd their lambs and ewes,
and toil for warld’s gear(9), my jo(10),
Upon the lee my pleasure grows,
wi’ you, my kind deary, O!
Will you go the over the lea rigg,
My own kind dear, O
And cuddle there so kindly
with me, my kind deary-o!
At thorn dry-stone wall and birche tree,
we will make merry, and never be weary-o;
They’ll screen unfriendly eyes from you and me,
My own kind dear, O!
No herds, with sheep-dogs there,
shall ever come to fear ye, O!
But larks whistling in the air,
shall woo, like me, their deary, O!
While others herd their lambs and ewes,
and toil for world’s riches, my sweetheart,
Upon the lee my pleasure grows,
with you, my kind deary, O!
1) lea rigg = grassy ridge
2) thornie-dike= a thorn-fenced dike along the stream below the ridge
3) Daff = Make merry
4) ‘Scug’ is to shelter or take refuge. It can also refer to crouching or stooping to avoid being seen.
5) Een = evil eyes
6) Kent = sheperd’s crook
7) Colly = Schottisch sheep-dog
8) Lav’rocks =larks
9) Gear = riches, goods of any kind
10) Jo = sweetheart, my dear
Scottish country dance: “My own kind deary”
The Scottish Country dance entitled “My own kind deary” with music and dance instructions appears in John Walsh’s Caledonian Country Dances (vol I 1735)
John Barleycorn (in Italian Giovanni Chicco d’Orzo) is a traditional song spread in England and Scotland, focused on this popular character, embodiment of the spirit of beer and whiskey. (see)
There are several text versions collected at different times; the oldest known is from 1460.
As often happens with the most popular ballads we talk about family in reference to a set of texts and melodies connected to each other or related.
The plot traced by Pete Wood is well documented and we refer you to his John Barleycorn revisited for the deepening: the first ballad that identifies a man as the spirit of barley is Allan-a-Maut (Allan del Malto) and it comes from Scotland .
The first ballad that bears the name John Barleycorn is instead of 1624, printed in London “A Pleasant new Ballad.To be sung evening and morn, of the bloody murder of Sir John Barleycorn” shortened in The Pleasant Ballad: as Pete Wood points out, all the elements that characterize the current version of the ballad are already present, the oath of the knights to kill John, the rain that quenches him, and the sun that warms him to give him energy, the miller who grinds him between two stones.
THE DEATH-REBIRTH OF KING BARLEY
It is narrated the death of the King of Barley according to myths and beliefs that date back to the beginning of the peasant culture, customs that were followed in England in these forms until the early decades of the ‘900.
According to James George Frazier in “The Golden Bough“, anciently “John” was chosen among the youth of the tribe and treated like a king for a year; at the appointed time, however, he was killed, following a macabre ritual: his body was dragged across the fields so that the blood soaked the earth and fed the barley.
More recently in the Celtic peasant tradition the spirit of the wheat entered the reaper who cut the last sheaf (who symbolically killed the god) and he had to be sacrificed just as described in the song (or at least figuratively and symbolically). see more
However, the spirit of the Wheat-Barley never dies because it is reborn the following year with the new crop, its strength and its ardor are contained in the whiskey that is obtained from the distillation of barley malt!
“The Pleasant ballad” was set to the tune “Shall I Lie Beyond Thee?” on the broadside.63 This tune is quoted by a number of sources by a variety of very similar titles, including “Lie Lulling Beyond Thee” . It is this writer’s belief from a variety of considerations, including Simpson 64 that these are one and the same tune. There has been some confusion regarding the use of the tune “Stingo” for various members of the family. Several publications say that John Barleycorn should be sung to this tune, (including Dixon), and some people have assumed this was the tune for “The Pleasant Ballad.” These impressions seem to have originated from Chappell 65, who meant that “Stingo” was the tune for another member of the family “The Little Barleycorne”, a view which accords with his own comments on the version in the Roxburghe Ballads 66, with Simpson, and Baring-Gould who says ‘[Stingo] is not the air used in the broadsides nor in the west of England’ 67. Two further tunes, “The Friar & the Nun” and “Twas when the seas were roaring”, are mentioned by Simpson. Mas Mault has been suggested to be set to the tune “Triumph and Joy”, the original title of “Greensleeves”. 68 (Pete Wood)
In fact, as many as 45 different melodies have been used for centuries for this ballad, and Pete Wood analyzes the four most common melodies.
The 1906 version of John Stafford published by Sharp in English Folk Songs is probably the melody that comes closest to the time of James I The Young Tradition
MELODY DIVES AND LAZARUS
The Shepherd Haden version became “standard” for being included in The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs.T
Traffic (Learned by Mike Waterson)
There was three men come out of the West
Their fortunes for to try
And these three men made a solemn vow
John Barleycorn(1) must die.
They ploughed, they sowed, they harrowed him in
Throwing clods all on his head
And these three men made a solemn vow
John barleycorn was Dead.
They’ve left him in the ground for a very long time
Till the rains from heaven did fall
Then little Sir John’s sprung up his head
And so amazed them all
They’ve left him in the ground till the Midsummer
Till he’s grown both pale and wan
Then little Sir John’s grown a long, long beard
And so become a man.
They hire’d men with their scythes so sharp
To cut him off at the knee.
They’ve bound him and tied him around the waist
Serving him most barb’rously
They hire’d men with their sharp pitch-forks
To prick him to the heart
But the drover he served him worse than that
For he’s bound him to the cart.
They’ve rolled him around and around the field
Till they came unto a barn
And there they made a solemn mow
Of Little Sir John Barleycorn
They’ve hire’d men with their crab-tree sticks
To strip him skin from bone
But the miller, he served him worse than that,
For he’s ground him between two stones.
Here’s Little sir John in the nut-brown bowl(2)
And brandy in the glass
But Little Sir John in the nut-brown bowl’s
Proved the stronger man at last
For the hunts man 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 Sir John Barleycorn.
1) the spirit of beer and whiskey
2) The cask of walnut or oak used today to age the whiskey
Jetro Tull live
Damh The Bard from The Hills They Are Hollow
JOHN BARLEYCORN, MELODY 3
The version of Robert Pope taken by Vaughan Williams in his Folk Song Suite
version for choir and orchestra
JOHN BARLEYCORN, MELODY 4
from Shropshire Fred Jordan live
JOHN BARLEYCORN BY ROBERT BURNS
The version published by Robert Burns in 1782, reworks the ancient folk song and becomes the basis of subsequent versions
The first 3 stanzas are similar to the standard version, apart from the three kings coming from the east to make the solemn oath to kill John Barleycorn, in fact in the English version the three men arrive from the West: to me personally the hypothesis that Burnes he wanted to point out the 3 Magi Kings … it does not seem pertinent to the deep pagan substratum of history: Christianity (or the cult of the God of Light) doesnt want to kill the King of the Wheat, unless you identify the king of the Grain with the Christ (a “blasphemous” comparison that was immediately removed from subsequent versions).
History is the detailed transformation of the grain spirit, grown strong and healthy during the summer, reaped and threshed as soon as autumn arrives, and turned into alcohol; and the much more detailed description (always compared to the standard version) of the pleasures that it provides to men, so that they can draw from the drink, intoxication and inspiration. Burns was notoriously a great connoisseur of whiskey and the last verse is right in his style!
The indicated melody is Lull [e] Me Beyond Thee; other melodies that fit the lyrics are “Stingo” (John Playford, 1650) and “Up in the Morning Early”
The version of the Tickawinda takes up part of the text by singing the stanzas I, II, III, V, VII, XV
Robert Burns I There was three kings into the east,
Three kings both great and high,
And they hae sworn a solemn oath
John Barleycorn should die.
II They took a plough and plough’d him down,
Put clods upon his head,
And they hae sworn a solemn oath
John Barleycorn was dead
III But the cheerful Spring came kindly on,
And show’rs began to fall;
John Barleycorn got up again,
And sore surpris’d them all IV The sultry suns of Summer came,
And he grew thick and strong,
His head weel arm’d wi’ pointed spears,
That no one should him wrong. V The sober Autumn enter’d mild,
When he grew wan and pale;
His bending joints and drooping head
Show’d he began to fail. VI His coulour sicken’d more and more,
He faded into age;
And then his enemies began
To show their deadly rage. VII They’ve taen a weapon, long and sharp,
And cut him by the knee;
Then ty’d him fast upon a cart,
Like a rogue for forgerie(1). VIII They laid him down upon his back,
And cudgell’d him full sore;
They hung him up before the storm,
And turn’d him o’er and o’er. IX They filled up a darksome pit
With water to the brim,
They heaved in John Barleycorn,
There let him sink or swim X They laid him out upon the floor,
To work him farther woe,
And still, as signs of life appear’d,
They toss’d him to and fro. XI They wasted, o’er a scorching flame,
The marrow of his bones;
But a Miller us’d him worst of all,
For he crush’d him between two stones. XII And they hae taen his very heart’s blood,
And drank it round and round;
And still the more and more they drank,
Their joy did more abound. XIII John Barleycorn was a hero bold,
Of noble enterprise,
For if you do but taste his blood,
‘Twill make your courage rise. XIV ‘Twill make a man forget his woe;
‘Twill heighten all his joy:
‘Twill make the widow’s heart to sing,
Tho’ the tear were in her eye. XV Then let us toast John Barleycorn,
Each man a glass in hand;
And may his great posterity
Ne’er fail in old Scotland!
1) the condemned to death were transported to the place of the gallows on a cart for the public mockery
Steeleye Span from Below the Salt 1972
There were three men
Came from the west
Their fortunes for to tell,
And the life of John Barleycorn as well.
They laid him in three furrows deep,
Laid clods upon his head,
Then these three man made a solemn vow
John Barleycorn was dead.
The let him die for a very long time
Till the rain from heaven did fall,
Then little Sir John sprang up his head
And he did amaze them all.
They let him stand till the midsummer day,
Till he looked both pale and wan.
The little Sir John he grew a long beard
And so became a man. CHORUS: Fa la la la, it’s a lovely day Fa la la la lay o Fa la la la, it’s a lovely day Sing fa la la la lay
They have hired men with the scythes so sharp,
To cut him off at the knee,
The rolled him and they tied him around the waist,
They served him barbarously.
They have hired men with the crab-tree sticks,
To cut him skin from bone,
And the miller has served him worse than that,
For he’s ground him between two stones.
They’ve wheeled him here,
they’ve wheeled him there,
They’ve wheeled him to a barn,
And thy have served him worse than that,
They’ve bunged him in a vat.
They have worked their will on John Barleycorn
But he lived to tell the tale,
For they pour him out of an old brown jug
And they call him home brewed ale(1).
1) The oldest drink in the world obtained from the fermentation of various cereals. The beer originally was classified out as “beer” (with hops) and “ale” (without hops) . Its processing processes start with a spontaneous fermentation of the starch (ie the sugar) that is the main component in cereals, when they come into contact with water, due to wild yeasts contained in the air. And just as in bread, female food, EARTH, WATER, AIR and FIRE combine magically to give life to a divine food that strengthens and inebriates.
The English term of homebrewing or the art of home-made beer translates into Italian with an abstruse word: domozimurgia and domozimurgo is the producer of homemade beer in which domo, is the Latin root for “home”; zimurgo is the one who practices “zimurgy”, or the science of fermentation processes. The domozimurgo is therefore the one who, within his own home, studies, applies and experiments the alchemy of fermentation. Making beer for your own consumption (including that of the inevitable friends and relatives) is absolutely legal as well as fun and relatively simple although you never stop learning through the exchange of experiences and experimentation see more
And finally the COLLAGE of the versions of Tickawinda, Avalon Rising, John Renbourn, Lanterna Lucis Viriditatis, Xenis Emputae, Travelling Band, Louis Killen, Traffic
The eternal dance of the seasons, a hymn to party toasting with the “barley juice” !! “All among the barley” is a hymn to agriculture for the processing of a cereal at the base of nutrition, but above all because of its fermentation you get two of the favorite drinks from the Irish: beer and whiskey!
The origin of this song is uncertain, the musical arrangement is by Elizabeth Stirling that on 1849 wins a prize offered by Novello for publication on the Part-Song Book. Elizabeth Stirling (1819 – 1895) studied music in Oxford at a time when women were not allowed to take a degree and she is famous for having played the ballad in question. The attribution of the composer of the text “Ripe And Bearded Barley” which is referred to as A. T. remains open.
The song is mostly performed by choirs with arrangements for three or four voices Singing Milkmaids from On the Wash 2005
But there is no shortage of folk versions with vocals and instruments
Helena Ward 2018 ( II and III) for Melissa Harrison‘s book All Among the Barley (see)
Spring Barley 2017
Katriona Gilmore & Jamie Roberts from Shadows & Half Light 2008 (fiddle and voice) ♪
All among the barley,
who would not be blithe?
When the ripe and bearded barley
is smiling on the scythe. I
Now is come September,
the hunter’s moon(1) begun,
And through the wheaten stubble
is heard the frequent gun.
The leaves are pale and yellow,
and kindling into red,
And the ripe and bearded barley
is hanging down its head.
The spring is like a young man
who does not know his mind.
The summer is a tyrant
of most ungracious kind.
The autumn’s like an old friend,
who loves one all she can,
And she brings the bearded barley
to glad the heart of man.
The wheat is like a rich man,
it’s sleek and well-to-do.
The oats are like a pack of girls, laughing and dancing, too.
The rye is like a miser,
it’s sulky, lean and small,
And the ripe and bearded barley
is monarch(2) of them all.
IV (additional verse Tinkers Bag)
Now in comes Old Man Winter,
with frost and wind and rain
The snow upon the hanging bough, and ice out in the lane.
And we around the fire sit,
while bitter winds do wail
And drink to old John Barleycorn(3), his own good nut brown ale.
1) In the Anglo-Saxon countries there is the habit of giving a name to every full moon of the month. Generally the full moon of September is called “harvest” (or full moon of wheat or barley) the one closest to the equinox. But here as in Italy too it is called the hunter’s moon. In America, on the other hand, the moon of the hunter or of the blood is the full moon of October.
2) beer and whiskey are made from the barley !!
3) the personification of the spirit of the wheat (see)
A popular drinking song from rural England, Ireland and Scotland (and the Americas) that could not miss after the “crying of the neck” or during a “Harvest supper“; this auspicious song is also a tavern game: the most common form of the game sees only one singer, while the audience lifts the glass to drink twice in the refrain responding to the auspicious verse with a joyful “Good luck!”; in the second version a soloist intones the first stanza and all the participants sing in chorus the progressive refrain, whom that mistakes the words, or takes a breath to sing, must drink. Obviously the goal of the game is to drink more and more, as you make mistakes!
GIVE US ONCE A DRINKE
The song is very ancient as the rituals inherent to the harvest of wheat / barley are ancient (see traditional methods); the first known publication dates back to 1609, in the Deuteromelia by Thomas Ravenscroft, with the title “Give Us Once A Drinke” is transcribed as it was sung in the Elizabethan taverns.
The song started with: “Give us once a drink for and the black bole(1)
Sing gentle Butler(2) “balla moy”(3)
For and the black bole,
Sing gentle Butler balla moy” and it ended with: “Give us once a drink for and the tunne
Sing gentle Butler balla moy
The tunne, the butt The pipe, the hogshead The barrel, the kilderkin The verkin, the gallon pot The pottle pot, the quart pot, The pint pot,
for and the black bole
Sing gentle Butler balla moy”
1) What were the beer glass like in medieval taverns? The three most common materials at the time were metal (pewter), glass and ceramics. In Italy in the fourteenth century, for example in the taverns, glass was more common. Here we quote a black bowl that makes one think more properly of a dark bowl or cup, perhaps made of wood? In the wassaling songs, which are also very old, the material of the toast cups carved in the wood is often described. Later, the use of pewter is more likely.
3) the scholars believe it could be for ‘Bell Ami’, only later the song became part of the songs during the Harvest festival and the verse was changed to ‘Barley Mow’, others believe that it is a Mondegreen.
Over time, new strophes have been added and especially in the nineteenth century there are many transcriptions in the collections of old traditional songs such as in “Songs of the Peasantry of England”, by Robert Bell 1857 : This song is sung at country meetings in Devon and Cornwall, particularly on completing the carrying of the barley, when the rick, or mow of barley, is finished. On putting up the last sheaf, which is called the craw (or crow) sheaf, the man who has it cries out ‘I have it, I have it, I have it;’ another demands, ‘What have ’ee, what have ’ee, what have ’ee?’ and the answer is, ‘A craw! a craw! a craw!’ upon which there is some cheering,& c., and a supper afterwards. The effect of the Barley-mow Song cannot be given in words; it should be heard, to be appreciated properly, – particularly with the West-country dialect.”
Robert Bell transcribes the widespread version in West England and also the variant sung in Suffolk
Here’s a health to the barley mow!
Here’s a health to the man
Who very well can
Both harrow and plow and sow!
When it is well sown
See it is well mown,
Both raked and gavelled clean,
And a barn to lay it in.
He’s a health to the man
Who very well can
Both thrash (1) and fan it clean!
1) in the Middle Ages there were two ways to separate the wheat grains from the ear: the farmer beat the sheaves with a stick or a whip or they were trampled by the draft animals.
The sifting: wheat and chaff were separated first by placing them in a sieve and then throwing them in the air (it must of course be a breezy day) the chaff flew away and the grain returned to the sieve.
The Barley Mow is one of the best-known cumulative songs from the English folk repertoire and was usually sung at harvest suppers, often as a test of sobriety. Alfred Williams, who noted a splendid set in the Wiltshire village of Inglesham some time prior to the Great War, wrote that he was “unable to fix its age, or even to suggest it, though doubtless the piece has existed for several centuries.” Robert Bell found the song being sung in Devon and Cornwall during the middle part of the 19th century, especially after “completing the carrying of the barley, when the rick, or mow, of barley is finished.” Bell’s comment that “the effect of The Barley Mow cannot be given in words; it should be heard, to be appreciated properly” is certainly true, and most singers who know the song pride themselves on being able to get through it without making a mistake.(Mike Yates)
So we toast to all the dimensions in which beer is marketed (and are indicated in all the existing measures in the past times from the barrel to the “bowl” and to the health of all those who “manipulate” the beer and of all the “merry brigade” who drinks it!
Here’s good luck to the pint pot, good luck to the barley mow, (1)
Jolly good luck to the pint pot, good luck to the barley mow; Oh, the pint pot, half a pint, gill, (2) half a gill, quarter gill Nipperkin (3) and a round bowl(4) Here’s good luck, (5) good luck, good luck to the barley mow.
Here’s good luck to the half gallon, good luck to the barley mow,
Jolly good luck to the half gallon, good luck to the barley mow;
Oh, the half gallon, pint pot, half a pint, gill, half a gill …
Here’s good luck to the gallon,
Here’s good luck to the half barrel,
Here’s good luck to the barrel,
Here’s good luck to the daughter(6),
Here’s good luck to the landlord,
Here’s good luck to the landlady,
Jolly good luck to the landlady,
Jolly good luck to the brewer, (7)
Here’s good luck to the company, good luck to the barley mow,
Jolly good luck to the company,
good luck to the barley mow;
Oh, the company, brewer, landlady, landlord, daughter, barrel,
Half barrel, gallon, half gallon, pint pot, half a pint, gill,
Half a gill, quarter gill, nipperkin and a round bowl,
Here’s good luck, good luck,
good luck to the barley mow.
1) [shout GOOD LUCK and drink a sip!]
2) they are all units of measure ordered by the largest (barrel) to the smallest (round bowl).
But as for all units of measurement of the peasant tradition there are local differences in the measured quantity
“a gill is a half-pint in a northern pub, but a quarter-pint down south“.
3) “The nipperkin is a unit of measurement of volume, equal to one-half of a quarter-gill, one-eighth of a gill, or one thirty-second of an English pint.
In other estimations, one nip (an abbreviation that originated in 1796) is either one-third of a pint, or any amount less than or equal to half a pint“.[wiki] “A nip was also used by brewers to refer to a small bottle of ale (usually a strong one such as Barley Wine or Russian Stout) which was sold in 1/3 pint bottles“.
4) “The round bowl” sometimes also “hand-around bowl”, “brown bowl” or “bonny bowl” could be the typical cup with which toasted in the wassailing evidently a unit of measure that has been lost over time.
5) [shout GOOD LUCK, drinking is optional!]
6) the daughter of the tavern owner or more generally she is a waitress serving at the tables
7) there are those who add “the slavey” and “the drayer” to the list; “slavery” means a servant and “the draye” is the one who pulls (or guides) the cart that is the man of deliveries that in fact supplies the tavern with beer. The name derives from the fact that once such a cart was wheelless and was dragged like a sled.
The draft beer is marketed in the Anglo-Saxon countries starting from the pint that in England and Ireland corresponds to 20 ounces (568 ml ie roughly 50cl). The American pint instead corresponds to 16 ounces; so the standard glass for beer contains exactly a pint (as we call Italian “big beer”); the shapes vary according to the time and the fashions, but the capacity of the glass is always a pint! A law by the British parliament in 1698 stated that “ale and beer” (ie beer without hops and beer with hops) must be served in public only in “pints, full quarts (two pints) * or multiples thereof”. The rule was further reiterated in 1824 by imposing the imperial unit as a unit of measure for all beverages. * The glass that contains 2 imperial pints (1.14 liters) is the yard or a narrow and long glass just a yard. Today with the adaptation to European regulations the British government has “restricted” the pint to “schooner” (as it is called in Australia, but we are still waiting for the nickname that will be given in England to the new measure!) The glass equal to 2/3 pint (400 ml)
THE BARLEY MOW (ROUD 10722)
A variant always from Suffolk
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.(1)
Then we waited ‘til the farmer said,
“It’s time for harvest now.
Get out your axes and sharpen, boys,
it’s time for barley mow.” Chorus Well, here’s luck to barley mow and the land that makes it grow. We’ll drink to old John Barleycorn(2), here’s luck to barley mow. So fill up all 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 ‘til it was nicely brown.
Then one day off to the maltsters,
then John Barleycorn did go.
The day he went away, we all did say,
“Here’s luck to barley mow.”
Have no fear of old John Barleycorn
when he’s as green as grass.
But old John Barleycorn is strong enough
to sit you on your arse.
But there’s nothing better ever brewed
than we are drinking now,
Fill them up: we’ll have another round,
here’s good luck to barley mow.
Under the heading Codefish shanty we have two versions, one of Cape Cod and the other of South Australia: the titles are “Cape Cod girls” and “Rolling King” or “Bound for South Australia” (or simply “South Australia”).
Which of the two versions was born before is not certain, we can only detect a great variety of texts and also the combination with different melodies. At the beginning probably a “going-away song”, one of those songs that the sailors sang only for special occasions ie when they were on the route of the return journey.
SOUTH AUSTRALIA VERSION
“As an original worksong it was sung in a variety of trades, including being used by the wool and later the wheat traders who worked the clipper ships between Australian ports and London. In adapted form, it is now a very popular song among folk music performers that is recorded by many artists and is present in many of today’s song books.In the days of sail, South Australia was a familiar going-away song, sung as the men trudged round the capstan to heave up the heavy anchor. Some say the song originated on wool-clippers, others say it was first heard on the emigrant ships. There is no special evidence to support either belief; it was sung just as readily aboard Western Ocean ships as in those of the Australian run. Laura Smith, a remarkable Victorian Lady, obtained a 14-stanza version of South Australia from a coloured seaman in the Sailors’ Home at Newcastle-on-Tyne, in the early 1880’s. The song’s first appearance in print was in Miss Smith’s Music of the Waters. Later, it was often used as a forebitter, sung off-watch, merely for fun, with any instrumentalist joining in. It is recorded in this latter-day form. The present version was learnt from an old sailing-ship sailor, Ted Howard of Barry, in South Wales. Ted told how he and a number of shellbacks were gathered round the bed of a former shipmate. The dying man remarked: “Blimey, I think I’m slipping my cable. Strike up South Australia, lads, and let me go happy.” (A.L. Lloyd in Across the Western Plains from here)
This kind of songs were a mixture of improvised verses and a series of typical verses, but generally the refrain of the chorus was standardized and univocal (even for the obvious reason that it had to be sung by sailors coming from all the countries).
The length of the song depended on the type of work to be done and could reach several strophes. The song then took on its own life as a popular song in the folk repertoire.
The first appearance in collections on sea shanties dates back to 1881.
The Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem 1962 the version that has been the model in the folk environment
Let’s see them in a pirate version in the TV adaptation of the “Treasure Island”
Johnny Collins, from “Shanties & Songs of the Sea” 1996
Gaelic Storm from Herding Cats (1999) they recall the version of the Pogues. It is interesting to compare the same group that has also tried with the arrangement of Cape Code Girls.
In South Australia(1) I was born! Heave away! Haul away!
South Australia round Cape Horn(2)! We’re bound for South Australia! Heave away, you rolling king(3), Heave away! Haul away! All the way you’ll hear me sing We’re bound for South Australia!
As I walked out one morning fair,
It’s there I met Miss Nancy Blair.
I shook her up, I shook her down,
I shook her round and round the town.
There ain’t but one thing grieves my mind,
It’s to leave Miss Nancy Blair behind.
And as you wallop round Cape Horn,
You’ll wish to God you’d never been born!
I wish I was on Australia’s strand
With a bottle of whiskey in my hand
1) Land of gentlemen and not deportees, the state is considered a “province” of Great Britain
2) the ships at the time of sailing followed the oceanic routes, that is those of winds and currents: so to go to Australia starting from America it was necessary to dub Africa, but what a trip!!
3) Another reasonable explanation fromMudcat “The chanteyman seems to be calling the sailors rolling kings rather that refering to any piece of equipment. And given that “rolling” seems to be a common metaphor for “sailing” (cf. Rolling down to old Maui, Roll the woodpile down, Roll the old chariot along, etc.) I would guess that he is calling them “sailing kings” i.e. great sailors. There are a number of chanteys which have lines expressing the idea of “What a great crew we are.” and I think this falls into that category.” (here)
Moreover every sailor fantasized about the meaning of the word, for example Russel Slye writes ” When I was in Perth (about 1970) I met an old sailor in a bar. I found he had sailed on the Moshulu (4 masted barque moored in Philly now) during the grain trade. I asked him about Rolling Kings. His reply (abridged): “We went ashore in India and other places, and heard about a wheel-rolling-king who was a big boss of everything. Well, when the crew was working hauling, those who wasn’t pulling too hard were called rolling kings because they was acting high and mighty.” So, it is a derogatory term for slackers. (from here).
And yet without going to bother ghostly Kings (in the wake of the medieval myth of King John and the fountain of eternal youth) the word could very well be a corruption of “rollikins” an old English term for “drunk”.
Among the many hilarious hypotheses this (for mockery) of Charley Noble: it could be a reference to Elvis Prisley!
There is also a MORRIS DANCE version confirming the popularity of the song