Breedloves's Folk Songs



“The Wind That Shakes the Barley” is an Irish ballad written by Robert Dwyer Joyce
(1836-1883), a Limerick-born poet and professor of English literature. The song is
written from the perspective of a doomed young Wexford rebel who is about to sacrifice
his relationship with his loved one and plunge into the cauldron of violence associated
with the 1798 rebellion in Ireland. The references to barley in the song derive from the
fact that the rebels often carried barley oats in their pockets as provisions for when on the
march. This gave rise to the post-rebellion phenomenon of barley growing and marking
the croppy-holes”, mass unmarked graves which slain rebels were thrown into,
symbolizing the regenerative nature of Irish resistance to British rule.
I sat within the valley green, I sat me with my true love
My sad heart strove the two between, the old love and the new love
The old for her, the new that made me think on Ireland dearly
While soft the wind blew down the glen and shook the golden barley
‘Twas hard the woeful words to frame to break the ties that bound us
But harder still to bear the shame of foreign chains around us
And so I said, “The mountain glen I’ll seek at morning early
And join the bold united men, while soft winds shake the barley”
While sad I kissed away her tears, my fond arms round her flinging
The foeman’s shot burst on our ears from out the wildwood ringing
A bullet pierced my true love’s side in life’s young spring so early
And on my breast in blood she died while soft winds shook the barley
But blood for blood without remorse I’ve taken at Oulart Hollow
And laid my true love’s clay cold corpse where I full soon may follow
As round her grave I wander drear, noon, night and morning early
With breaking heart when e’er I hear the wind that shakes the barley


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