John Barleycorn

John Barleycorn

There were three men came out the West
Their fortune for to try
And these three men made a solemn vow:
John Barleycorn should die
They ploughed, they sowed, they harrowed him in
Threw clods upon his head
And these made a solemn vow:
John Barleycorn was dead

They let him lie for a very long time
Til rain from heaven did fall
Then little sir John raised up his head
And he soon amazed them all
They let him lie until the long midsummer
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 scythes so sharp
To cut him off, down by the knee
They rolled and tied him around the waist
Served him most barbarously
They hired men with sharp pitchforks
To pierce him to the heart
But the loader, he served him worst than that,
For he bound him to the cart

They rolled him around and around the field
Til they came into a barn
And there they made a solemn mow
Of poor John Barleycorn
They hired men with crab tree sticks
To cut him skin from bone
But the miller, he served him worst than that,
For he ground him between two stones

Here’s little sir John in a nut brown bowl
And brandy in a glass
But little sir John in the nut brown bowl
Proved the stronger man at last
For the hunter, he can’t hunt the fox
Nor loudly blow his horn
And the tinker he can’t mend his kettles or pots
Without a little bit of John Barleycorn


Trad, arr T Ashworth