Mudcat Café message #3242161 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #87026   Message #3242161
Posted By: Mick Pearce (MCP)
20-Oct-11 - 06:37 PM
Thread Name: Barbara Allen earliest version?
Subject: RE: Barbara Allen earliest version?
(Sorry accidentally posted)

I think he could be characterised as spineless.

Even in the broadside version (linked above) he seems to have taken to his bed and pined to death for her (on his Death bed lay For love of Barbara Allen). In Child 84A (Tea-Table Miscellany, 1740, from ed of 1763), he (named as Sir John Graeme, here) fell in love with BA and got his men to go and fetch her but before they return with her he seems to have taken to his bed pining for her (even though his men haven't even returned). Similar story in Child 84B (Roxburghe, 1765) and similar, but with more interaction between them before the pining in Child 84C (Motherwell, 1825).

I think the spineless comes from him taking to his bed and pining to death (no recourse to any external influence) for want of a woman who may not even know he exits (though in 84A, she does say that he had previously slighted her).


She could probably be described as spirited for refusing to take him as lover/husband just to save him from pining to death. Is that heartless?


To me, it's only her going to her death afterwards that strikes a false note. In the broadside it's others saying unworthy Barbara Allen that seems to propel her in that direction, similarly in 84A and 84B; in 84C she doesn't die at all.

I haven't looked through the nearly 200 versions in Bronson (not all with a complete story!), but maybe when I've a bit of free time I'll check some more.

I think this puts me in the he's a wimp gang, but not necessarily in the she's a bitch group.

Mick