Ian, Anne & Shelley - additional vocals
Ian - English Concertina
James - Mandolin,
Brian - Sousaphone, Pocket Cornet and E-flat Horn
As a child, whenever we went on a journey in
the car or on a train in the South of England
we would came across huge signs in fields
announcing “You are now entering the Strong
Country” this being the local Strongs Brewery
of Romsey; one of their beers was
“Barleycorn” and this was my first encounter
with the word, and I think about that every
time I hear this song. I also love the way the
song describes the production of beer as the
life and death of a man.
This song was collected throughout Hampshire
& Dorset by the Hammonds and Gardiner and
is even common in North America.
My text is from Mr. Miller of Wootton Fitzpaine,
Dorset, via Frank Purslow's book “The Constant
Lovers,” but my tune is probably influenced by
a Roy Bailey version.
Two hired men came from the north, their victory to try
And they did make a solemn vow John Barleycorn should die.
To me rite fol dol the diddle lol the day
To me rite fol the diddle dol the dey.
They ploughed the ground & harrowed him in, threw clods upon his head
Then they did both rejoice & sing, John Barleycorn is dead.
There he lay all underground, till rain on him did fall
Then Barleycorn sprung up again & so he done 'em all.
There he stood till midsummer, till he grew pale & wan
And Barleycorn he grew a long beard & so became a man.
They hired men with scythes so sharp to cut him off at knee
And the women with their forks & rakes they used him bitterly.
They hired men with prongs so sharp to stab him to the heart,
And like a thief or felon, they did bind him to a cart.
They wheeled him round & round the fields till they came to a barn
And there they made a mow of him to keep him from all harm.
Then hired men with long staffs came To beat him skin from bone,
But the miller he served him worst than that
For he ground him between two stones.
Put brandy in a keg, me boys, put cider in a can,
But Barleycorn in an old brown bowl will floor the strongest man.
He'll turn your gold to silver, your silver into brass,
He'll make a boy become a man, and a man become an ass.