There was three men came out of the west,
Their fortunes for to try,
And these three men made a solemn vow,
John Barleycorn should die.
They ploughed, they sowed, they harrowed him in,
Throwed clods upon his head,
And these three men made a solenm vow,
John Barleycorn was dead.
Then they let him lie for a very long time
Till the rain from heaven did fall,
Then little Sir John sprung up his head,
And soon amazed them all.
They let him stand till midsummer
Till he looked both pale and wan,
And little Sir John he growed a long beard
And so became a man.
They hired men with the scythes so sharp
To cut him off at the knee,
They rolled him and tied him by the waist,
And served him most barbarously.
They hired men with the sharp pitchforks
Who pricked him to the heart,
And the loader he served him worse than that,
For he bound him to the cart.
They wheeled him round and round the field
Till they came unto a barn,
And there they made a solemn mow
Of poor John Barleycorn.
They hired men with the crab-tree sticks
To cut him skin from bone,
And the miller he served him worse than that,
For he ground him between two stones.
Here's little Sir John in a nut-brown bowl,
And brandy in a glass;
And little Sir John in the nut-brown bowl
Proved the stronger man at last.
And the huntsman he can't hunt the fox,
Nor so loudly blow his horn,
And the tinker he can't mend kettles or pots
Without a little of Barleycorn.
abc | midi | pdf
Source: Vaughan Williams, R & Lloyd, A.L. (eds) (1959), The Pengiun Book of English Folk Songs, London. Penguin
Sung by 'Shepherd' Haden, Bampton, Oxon. (C.J.S. 1909)
From the Penguin book:
This ballad is rather a mystery. Is it an unusually coherent folklore survival of the ancient myth of the slain and resurrected Corn-God, or is it the creation of an antiquarian revivalist, which has passed into the popular currency and become "folklorized"? It is in any case an old song, of which an elaborate form was printed in the reign of James I. It was widespread over the English and Scottish countryside, and Burns re-wrote a well-known version. During the present century, versions have been collected in Sussex (FSJ vol.I [issue 3] p.81), Hampshire (FSJ vol.III [issue 13] pp.255-6), Surrey (FSJ vol.VI [issue 21] pp.27-8), Somerset (Folk Songs From Somerset, Cecil Sharp, 1904-9, vol.III p.9 and vol.IV p.32) and Wiltshire (Folk Songs of the Upper Thames, Alfred Williams, 1923, p.246). The tune is a variant of that usually associated with the carol, Dives and Lazarus
Roud: 164 (Search Roud index at VWML) Take Six