Child's Ballads

Week 12: England - Assignments - Reading - Resources - Images


Barbry Allen (Child 84)

Listening time: (12 minutes)

CHILD 84 versions A-C. The story of Barbry Allen (or Bonny Barbry Allen) is another one of the most popular folksongs recorded by Child. In this song, there is a woman who scorns the passionate devotion of her lover. This, of course, is a big mistake. He dies of grief - and what do you think happens to Bonny Barbry Allen?

AUDIO RECORDING (version 1)

VERSE 1
In younder town where I was born
There was a fair maid dwell'n
Made every youth cry well away
Her name was Bar-bry Ellen

VERSE 2
Was in th merry month of May
When greenbuds they were swell'n
Sweet William come from th western state
An' courted Bar-bry Ellen

VERSE 3
Was all in the month o' June
When everything was blooming
Sweet William on his death bed lay
For th love of Bar-bry Ellen

AUDIO RECORDING (version 2)

VERSE 1
Down in Scarlet town where I was born
There was this fair maid a dwell'in
And all th youths cried well away
Her name was Barbra Allen

VERSE 2
T'was all in th merry month of May
Green buds all a swell'in
When young Sir James, on a death bed lay
With love for Barbra Allen

 

VERSE 4
He sent his servant to th town
Where Barbry was a dwell'n
Saying, my Master's sick an' sent for you
If your name be Bar-bry Ellen

VERSE 5
He is sick an' very sick
An' death on him is dwell'n
So hasten away to comfert him
O, lovely Bar-bry Ellen

VERSE 3
He sent his man unto her then
To his town were she was'a dwell'in
Said, my Master's sick an' he sent for you
If your name is Barbra Allen

 

VERSE 6
Slowly, slowly she got up
An' slowly she cam nigh him
An' all she said, when she got there
Young man I think you're dying

VERSE 7
O yes, I'm sick, an' very sick
An' death on me is dwell'n
No better, no better, I never will be
If I cain't get Bar-bry Ellen

VERSE 8
O yes, you're sick an' very sick
An' death on you is dwell'n
No better, no better, you never will be
For you cain't get Bar-bry Ellen

VERSE 9
Don't you remember in yonder town
When we were at the tavern
You drank a health, to th ladies all around
An' slighted Bar-bry Ellen

VERSE 10
O yes, I remember in yonder town
In yonders town a drinking
I give a health to th ladies all around
But my heart to Bar-bry Ellen

 

VERSE 4
So slowly, slowly, rose she up
So slowly she came a nigh him
When she got there all she said,
W's young man I think you dying

VERSE 5
He turned his pale face to 'er full
Death was on it a dwell'in'
O, pity me my pretty maid
I'm on my death bed lying

VERSE 6
If on your death bed, you be Sir
Then death be in you a dwellin'
Better I'm sure you never will be
For you can't have Barbra Allen

VERSE 7
Do you remember in yonder town
O, th wine was freely a flow'in
You toasted fair maids all around
But ya slighted Barbra Allen

VERSE 8
I do remember in yonder town
When th wine was freely a flow'in
When I toasted ladies all around
But I still loved Barbra Allen

VERSE 9
Then he turned his pale face to th wall
Death was with 'im now deal'in
Adieu, adieu my kind friends all
Adieu, O Barbra Allen

VERSE 11
As she was on her highway home
Th birds kept a singing
They sang so clear, did seem to say
Hard hearted Bar-bry Ellen

VERSE 12
As she was walk'n o'er th field
She heard his death bell ringing
And every stroke did seem to say
Hard hearted Bar-bry Ellen

VERSE 13
She looked to th east and she looked to th west
She saw his corpse a coming
Lay down, lay down, that corpse of clay
That I may look upon 'im

VERSE 14
Th more she looked, th more she mourned
Till she bursted out to crying
Saying, pick me up an' carry me home
For I feel like I am dying

VERSE 10
While she was walk'in across th field
She spied the hearse a coming
Let down, let down, she cried to them,
That I may look upon 'im

VERSE 11
She looked upon th pale dead face
Then her cheeks with laughter a swell'in
Til even her friends, cried, O, away
T'is unworthy Barbra Allen

 

VERSE 15
O, Mother, O, Mother, go make my bed
Go make it long an' narrow
Cause, Sweet William, died for pure, pure love
And I shall die for sorrow

VERSE 16
O, Father, O Father, go dig my grave
Go dig it long an' narrow
Sweet William died for me today
I'll die for him tomorrow

VERSE 17
They buried Sweet William in th ole church yard
An' Barbry in th new one
A rose sprung from Sweet William's grave
An' a brier from Bar-bry Ellen

VERSE 18
They grew an' they grew to th top of th wall
An' could not grow, no higher
They let them tied in a true loves knot
An' th rose run around th brier

VERSE 12
But on her death bed, when she lay
She asked to be buried a nigh him
Thus regretted, that in her lie
She ever had denied him

VERSE 13
Sir James he died, on a Saturday night
An' Barbra died on Sunday
And th Mother died with grief for both
She died on Easter Monday


Questions. Make sure you can answer these questions about what you just read:

  • what was William dying of?
  • why did Barbara Allen refuse him?
  • what happened to Barbara Allen in the end?

Source: From The Max Hunter Folksong Archive (weblink) and Lesley Nelson's Child Ballad website (weblink). See also Francis James Child, The English and Scottish Popular Ballads (1882-1898). Weblink.


Modern Languages / Anthropology 3043: Folklore & Mythology. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. You must give the original author credit. You may not use this work for commercial purposes. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one.
Page last updated: October 9, 2004 12:52 PM