All among the barley

Leggi in italiano

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) 

Solstice Assembly with the title “The Ripe and Bearded Barley” from Some Assembly Required 1992

Paddy Tutty from Prairie Druid 1992


All among the barley,
who would not be blithe?
When the ripe and bearded barley
is smiling on the scythe.
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)


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