JOHN BARLYCORN

Posted on Posted in Breedloves's Folk Songs
  • “John Barleycorn” is an English folksong. The character “John Barleycorn” in the song is
    a personification of the important cereal crop barley, and of the alcoholic beverages made
    from it, beer and whisky. Barleycorn, the personification of the barley, encounters great
    suffering before succumbing to an unpleasant death. However, as a result of this death
    bread can be produced; therefore, Barleycorn dies so that others may live. Finally his
    body will be eaten as the bread. Compare this with the Christian concepts of the
    Sacrament and of Transubstantiation and it is not difficult to imagine how the song might
    have been beneficial to Christianity.
    There were three men come from the West
    Their fortunes for to try,
    And these three made a solemn vow:
    “John Barleycorn must die.”
    They plowed, they sowed, they harrowed him in,
    Threw clods upon his head,
    ‘Til these three men were satisfied
    John Barleycorn was dead.
    They let him lie for a very long time,
    ‘Til the rains from heaven did fall,
    When little Sir John raised up his head
    And so amazed them all.
    They let him stand ’til Mid-Summer’s Day
    When he looked both pale and wan;
    Then little Sir John grew a long, long beard
    And so became a man.
    They hired men with their scythes so sharp
    To cut him off at the knee;
    They rolled him and tied him around the waist,
    And served him barbarously.
    They hired men with their sharp pitchforks
    To pierce him to the heart,
    But the loader did serve him worse than that,
    For he bound him to the cart.
    They wheeled him ’round and around the field
    ‘Til they came unto a barn,
    And there they took a solemn oath
    On poor John Barleycorn.

    They hired men with their crab-tree sticks

  • To split him skin from bone,
    But the miller did serve him worse than that,
    For he ground him between two stones.
    There’s little Sir John in the nut-brown bowl,
    And there’s brandy in the glass,
    And little Sir John in the nut-brown bowl
    Proved the strongest man at last.
    The huntsman cannot hunt the fox
    Nor loudly blow his horn
    And the tinker cannot mend his pots
    Without John Barleycorn