John Barleycorn (II) (The Little Barleycorn)
DESCRIPTION: Barleycorn is the greatest of alchemists and the best medicine. It drives away fear and grief. It works wonders. "Theres life in it... Take your liquor and doe not spare.... let no man takt in scorne, That I the vertues do proclaime."
EARLIEST DATE: 1618-1658 (Roxburghe 1.214-215)
LONG DESCRIPTION: [Part 1] A cup of Barleycorn will show you the truth, evening, morning, and Christmas too. He is the best of alchemists and he can change you faster than hocus-pocus: he changes your gold to silver and silver to brass; he can change a boy into a man, and a man into an ass. The poor man that hangs Barleycorn's sign at his shop will become rich, and those who patronize his shop may become poor. He leaves the lawyer speechless, makes an old man older, makes young women dance naked with strangers. But it can make a man jealous of his wife and curse the crescent moon for making the horns sign to taunt him. But there is life in the cup: drink it. [Part 2] In moderation, ale is the best medicine to cure illness. It makes fear disappear, makes time pass, makes the weeping widow laugh and "incline to pleasure," and makes an old man put away his cane. It makes the drinker think he is as good as any man, and good enough for any woman. Young girls "fall and rise again the quicker." It has the power "to change our nature." Don't scorn the singer who proclaims its virtues.
REFERENCES (3 citations):
ADDITIONAL: Robert Jamieson, Popular Ballads and Songs (Edinburgh: Archibald Constable and Co, 1806 ("Digitized by Google"))")), Vol.II, pp. 258-260, "The Little Barly-Corne" (1 text)
William Chappell, The Roxburghe Ballads (Hertford: The Ballad Society, 1874 ("Digitized by Microsoft")), Vol.II, pp. 29-31, "The Little Barly-Corne" (1 text)
Thomas Evans and R.H. Evans, Old Ballads Historical and Narrative (London: R.H. Evans, 1810 ("Digitized by Microsoft")), Vol. I, #37 pp. 156-161, "The Little Barley-Corn" (1 text)
EngBdsdBA 30154, BritLib Roxburghe 1.214-215, "The Little Barly-Corne" ("Come, and doe not musing stand, if thou the truth discerne"), E.B. (London), 1618-1658
cf. "John Barleycorn (I)" (theme: the tale of brewing) and references there
cf. "Stingo," i.e. "Mowing the Barley (Cold and Raw)" (tune)
NOTES [78 words]: I know of only one version of this song. I have included the additional references, and especially Jamieson -- who is analyzing Alan o' Maut and John Barleycorn songs -- for their notes.
John Barleycorn (II) is different in tone than the three Allan o' Maut songs and John Barleycorn (III). Here he is not an antagonist. There are no challengers against him. He is presented as a master alchemist ands a cure for physical and mental ailments, taken in moderation. - BS
Last updated in version 3.5
Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List
Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography
The Ballad Index Copyright 2021 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.