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John Barleycorn: A Ballad Analysis



Author: Poetry of Robert Burns Type: Poetry Views: 333

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There was three kings unto the east,

Three kings both great and high,

And they hae sworn a solemn oath

John Barleycorn should die.



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.



But the cheerful Spring came kindly on,

And show'rs began to fall;

John Barleycorn got up again,

And sore surpris'd them all.



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.



The sober Autumn enter'd mild,

When he grew wan and pale;

His bending joints and drooping head

Show'd he bagan to fail.



His colour sicken'd more and more,

He faded into age;

And then his enemies began

To show their deadly rage.



They've taen a weapon, long and sharp,

And cut him by the knee;

Then tied him fast upon a cart,

Like a rogue for forgerie.



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.



They filled up a darksome pit

With water to the brim;

They heaved in John Barleycorn,

There let him sink or swim.



They laid him out upon the floor,

To work him further woe;

And still, as signs of life appear'd,

They toss'd him to and fro.



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.



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.



John Barleycorn was a hero bold,

Of noble enterprise;

For if you do but taste his blood,

'Twill make your courage rise.



'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.



Then let us toast John Barleycorn,

Each man a glass in hand;

And may his great posterity

Ne'er fail in old Scotland!








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||| Analysis | Critique | Overview Below |||

.: John Barlecorn :.

Although the language (as must be expected in the 1700's) is dated the poem itself is exciting in that it shows the relavent history of prohibition even in that early time. History is revealed here in Brownings art. Also as my Song writing instructor has described to me, a drinking song (by the last stanza) is always popular. Note the differences also in the modern Traffic version where the different tools are delineated clearly which are used to torture the grain. One of my favorite traditional songs to perform.

| Posted on 2008-05-20 | by a guest




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