John Barleycorn (III) (The Bloody Murder of Sir John Barleycorn)
DESCRIPTION: John Barleycorn fights and defeats two nobles. For revenge they bury him. When he is reborn the following year they cut him down, torture him, and drink his blood. His relative pays back his killers leaving them unconscious in the mire.
EARLIEST DATE: before 1646? (Roxburghe 1.343)
LONG DESCRIPTION: John Barleycorn fights and defeats two nobles. They would have him killed for revenge. They bury -- that is, plant -- him and celebrate his death. However, after the spring rains he sprouts -- which frightens them -- and, by midsummer, he becomes a man again and grows a beard. They would try to kill him again. Men cut him down with hooks and sickles, bind him into stacks, beat him with holly clubs, sift him, steep him in fat and then lay him out to dry. Then they dry him again in a kiln, crush him in a mill, apply yeast and tunn him in a barrel. Finally they set a tap to the barrel and drain every drop of his blood, and that does kill him. His relative, John Goodale, pays back his killers, leaving them bloody and unconscious in the mire, so they can not even remember what they had done. The singer blesses the good wives that brew good ale from John Barleycorn's injury but damns the eyes of those that overwater their ale.
KEYWORDS: battle nobility burial drink
REFERENCES (3 citations):
ADDITIONAL: Robert Jamieson, Popular Ballads and Songs (Edinburgh: Archibald Constable and Co, 1806 ("Digitized by Google"))), Vol.II, pp. 251-258, "Sir John Barleycorn" (1 text)
William Chappell, The Roxburghe Ballads (Hertford: The Ballad Society, 1874 ("Digitized by Microsoft")), Vol.II, pp. 373-378, "A pleasant new Ballad to sing both Even and Morne, Of the bloody Murther of Sir John Barley-corne" (1 text)
Thomas Evans and R.H. Evans, Old Ballads Historical and Narrative (London: R.H. Evans, 1810 ("Digitized by Microsoft")), Vol. IV, #34 pp. 214-220, "Sir John Barley-Corn" (1 text) [John Wright: Printing dates: 1634 -1658, per Street Literature Printers' register at http://www.vwml.org/record/RoudBSPrinters/PR494, accessed 19 Nov 2013]
Bodleian, Douce Ballads 3(83a), "A pleasant new ballad to sing ev'ning and morn, of The Bloody Murder of Sir John Barley corn" ("As I went through the North country"), unknown, no date, accessed 13 Nov 2013.
EngBdsdBA 20199, Pepys 4.126, "A pleasant new Ballad to sing both Euen and Morne, Of the bloody murther of Sir John Barley-corne" ("As I went through the North Country"), H.G[osson] (London), 1601-1640?, accessed 20 Nov 2013.
EngBdsdBA 20220, Pepys 1.470, "A pleasant new Ballad to sing both Euen and Morne Of the bloody murther of Sir John Barley-corne" ("As I went through the North Country"), J Clarke, W Thackeray and T Passinger (London), 1684-1686, accessed 17 Nov 2013.
EngBdsdBA 30234, BritLib Roxburghe 1.343, "A Pleasant New Ballad to sing Even and morne, Of the Bloody murther of Sir John Barley-corne." ("As I went through the North Countrey I heard a merry meeting"), John Wright, 1602-1646?[see Notes re the dates], accessed 19 Nov 2013.
EngBdsdBA 31895, UGlasgowLib Euing 281, "A Pleasant new Ballad, to sing Evening and Morn, Of the bloody Murder of Sir John Barlycorn" ("As I went through the North Country I heard a merry meeting"), unknown 1641-1700?, accessed 17 Nov 2013.
EngBdsdBA 31896, UGlasgowLib Euing 282, "A Pleasant New Ballad to sing Evening and morn, Of the Bloody murder of Sir John Barley-corn." ("As I went through the North Country I heard a merry meeting"), F. Coles, T. Vere, J. Wright and T. Clarke (London), 1674-1679?, accessed 17 Nov 2013.
EngBdsdBA 31897, UGlasgowLib Euing 283, "A Pleasant New Ballad On Sir John Barley-Corn" ("As I went through the North Country I heard a merry meeting"), unknown 1670-1700?, accessed 17 Nov 2013.
cf. "John Barleycorn (I)" (theme: the tale of brewing) and references there
cf. "Shall I Lye Beyond Thee" (tune)
NOTES: Wood makes more sense of the battle at the beginning of the song than I can: "[John Barleycorn (III)] has four knights, three of whom, Sir Richard Beere, Sir Thomas Good Ale, and Sir William White Wine, swear to kill the fourth, Sir John Barleycorn. This has a clear logic: all of them need 'dead' barley for their creation, assuming the wine is barley wine of course" [Peter Wood, "John Barleycorn: The Evolution of a Folk-Song Family," Folk Music Journal, Vol. 8, No. 4, 2004, pp. 450-451.].
Chappell is a duplicate of Roxburghe 1.343. The imprint is, according to Evans and the EBBA citation: "London printed for John Wright and are to be sold at his shop in Guilt-spurre street at the signe of the Bible." When I look at the imprint I cannot tell whether the name is Iohn or John. You will see that that is significant.
The EBBA estimate of the date for Roxburghe 1.343 is "1602-1646?" I posted a request to the Tradsong group for information on John Wright at that address. On 20-21 November 2013, Steve Gardham replied: "There were at least 2 John Wrights, father and son printing at that address. It must be JW the elder who died in 1658. The younger goes on to 1690 at least. The spelling you have of the address I have items recorded 1624 to 27. I have notes of his printing from 1605 onwards but the first reference to that address I have is 1624. Also some printings give the J in an I format so we get IW c1628-32. Most of my dates come from Roxburghe and Pepys and are based on political pieces which are often dated or can easily be ascribed a rough date. ...[T]o be safe I add in a few qualifiers. The 1624-7 dates don't mean that this address wasn't being used in this spelling before or after these, only that these are dates I have evidence for, likewise 1628-32." As a best bet I am using dates 1624-1628?.
There are three sets of texts.
Pepys 4.126 (1601-1640) and Roxburghe 1.343 (1624-1628?) seems to be the oldest set.
The newest set is Euing 281 (1641-1700?), Euing 282 (1674-1679?), Euing 283 (1670-1700?), Douce Ballads 3(83a) and Pepys 1.470 (1684-1686).
From the its content, Evans (1634-1658) seems to have been printed between the other sets.
Jamieson, who is analyzing Alan o' Maut and John Barleycorn songs notes where his source, Pepys 1.470, text varies significantly from Pepys 1.426; Jamieson seems imperfectly transcribed (for example, he his lines 9-10 and 92 seem to be from Pepys 1.426).
All of the sets are 136 lines, like the older set of Allan o Maut (II), with which this song, John Barleycorn (III) was frequently printed. However, where the variations between older and newer sets of Allan o Maut (II) often covered up to eight lines, the differences in John Barleycorn (III) were usually just one or two words in a line, or, perhaps, the sequence of words in a line.
Here are is an example from John Barleycorn lines 93-94.
Oldest set illustrated by Pepys 4.126.
The Malt-man swore that he should die
his body he would burne.
Newest set illustrated by Pepys 1.470.
The Mault-man likewise vows his death,
his body should be sure.
Evans splits the difference:
The mault-man likewise vows his death,
his body he would burn.
A warning regarding Evans's transcriptions, from Chappell (writing about John Barleycorn (II)): "Evans reprinted from it [Roxburghe], but carelessly, as usual" (William Chappell, The Roxburghe Ballads (Hertford: The Ballad Society, 1874 ("Digitized by Microsoft")), Vol.II, p. 28). - BS
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