JOHN BARLEYCORN: A BALLAD


There was three kings into 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 began 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 ty'd 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 fillèd up a darksome pit
  With water to the brim,
They heavèd 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 !

Robert Burns



Taken from "The Poetical works of Robert Burns" (London & Glasgow Collins' Clear-Type Press)
with the inscription "This Volume is Dedicated by kind permission to the
Greenock Burns Club (instituted 1802) The oldest Burns club in existence."


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