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Barbara Allen [key: D]
Scotland, Samuel Pepys sang it for friends New Year’s Eve, 1665. Performed by
traveling troubadours since the Middle Ages. Came to America at least by 1836.
Kind of hard to understand why it has lasted so well, and been so popular, for so
It’s a story of a wealthy young man (has a servant), who was evidently something
of a rounder, flirting with every girl in the tavern, but now is on his deathbed -
from what? Surely not merely from love, but that’s what he claims when the girl he
has rather imperiously called to his bedside. She is a bit haughty herself, spurns
him and leaves. But then she sees his coffin, has second thoughts, seems to almost
will her own dying.
Only after they are both dead do we get a touching love note, as the rose entwines
with the briar into a lasting and charming lovers’ knot.
[After singing] Do any of you have an idea as to why this little song has
lasted so long and so well?
Twas in the merry month of May
When green buds all were swelling,
Sweet William on his death bed lay
For the love of Barbara Allen.
He sent his servant to the town
To the place where she was dwelling,
Saying you must come, to my master dear
If your name be Barbara Allen.
So slowly, slowly she got up
And slowly she drew nigh him,
And the only words to him did say
Young man I think you're dying.
He turned his face unto the wall
And death was in him welling,
Good-bye, good-bye, to my friends all
Be kind to Barbara Allen.
When he was dead and laid in grave
She heard the death bells knelling
And every stroke to her did say
Hard hearted Barbara Allen.
Oh father, oh father, go dig my grave
Make it both long and narrow,
Sweet William died of love for me
I’ll die for him tomorrow.
Barbara Allen was buried in the old churchyard
Sweet William was buried beside her,
From William's heart, there grew a rose
From Barbara Allen's, there grew a briar.
They grew and grew in the old churchyard
Till they could grow no higher
And there they formed a true lover's knot
As the rose grew round the briar.