Barbro Allen, song

Charlie Somers, singing in English
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Lyrics

Early early in the spring
When flowers they were blooming
It’s a young man fell bad in love,
I hear he’s just a-dying.

2
He sent a page to his love’s house,
A page unto her dwelling,
– My master wants one word of you
If you be Barbro Allen.

3
– One word of me he shall not get
If he was just a-dying,
Nor the better of me he never shall be
If I saw his heart’s blood flying.

4
– Arise, arise, her mother says,
Arise and go and see him.
– Oh mother, don’t you mind the time
You told me to forget him?

5
– Arise, arise, her father says,
Arise and go and see him.
– Oh father, don’t you mind the time
You told me to forget him?

6
Slowly slowly she arose
And slowly she put on her
And slowly to her true lover’s house,
– I hear, young man, you’re lying.

7
– Oh yes, my love, I’m very bad
And death is in my dwelling,
But one sweet kiss’ll make me well
If you be Barbro Allen.

8
– Oh, one sweet kiss you shall not get
If you were just a-dying,
Nor the better of me you never shall be
If I saw your heart’s blood flying.

9
Oh love, look down at my bed head
And there you’ll find them hanging,
A gay gold watch and a diamond ring
I bought for Barbro Allen.

10
– I won’t look down at your bed head
Nor I shall not find them hanging
For a gay gold watch and a diamond ring
Was ne’er bought for Barbro Allen.

11
Oh love, oh love, don’t you mind the time
When in yon garden walking
You pulled a flower to each fair maid
But none to Barbro Allen?

12
– Yes, my love, I mind the time
When in yon garden walking
I pulled a flower to every fair maid
And a rose to Barbro Allen.

13
– Oh love, oh love, don’t you mind the time
When in yon tavern drinking
You drank a health to every fair maid
But none to Barbro Allen?

14
– Oh yes, my love, I mind the time
When in yon tavern drinking
I drank a health to every fair maid
And a toast to Barbro Allen?

15
As she went o’er her father’s stile
She heard the death bell toning
And every tone it seemed to say
– Hard-hearted Barbro Allen.

16
As she went o’er her father’s stile
She saw the funeral coming,
– Leave him down, leave him down, till I see him once more.
– Hard-hearted Barbro Allen.

17
– Oh mother, mother, make my bed,
It’s make it long and narrow;
My true love died for me today,
I’ll die for him tomorrow.

18
– Oh father, father, dig my grave,
It’s dig it long and narrow;
My true love died for me today,
I’ll die for him tomorrow.

19
The one was buried in the church-yard
And the other in the bower
And out of the one grew a red red rose
And out of the other grew a briar.

20
Oh, they grew, they grew and they twisted through
Till they could grow no higher
And they both grew intill a true-lover’s knot
And there remains (spoken) forever.

Notes

Charlie sang ‘on demand’ during a pause from haymaking when I called on him on a sunny afternoon with Eddie Butcher. His ‘Barbara Allen’, learnt from his mother, is equalled in length by only one I know (F). It introduces an unusual dialogue between the girl and her parents, v. 4–5, implying a history of domestic misunderstanding; only three other Ulster versions and one American one with Irish ancestry show something similar (FOW; Flanders II 285–7). Remarkable too for their effect are the lover’s replies to Barbara’s reproaches, v. 12, 14; the garden scene, though commonplace in Ireland, has come to my notice elsewhere only in one or two Scots versions. These features contribute to a well-ordered story of love turned tragic through misunderstanding, estrangement and lost opportunity, correcting the tendencies, for which this ballad has been criticised, to degenerate into absurdity or parody