Mudcat Café message #3242466 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #87026   Message #3242466
Posted By: Lighter
21-Oct-11 - 10:14 AM
Thread Name: Barbara Allen earliest version?
Subject: RE: Barbara Allen earliest version?
By sheer coincidence, I just picked up a book commenting on Dante's Inferno, and this sentence immediately ccaught my eye:

"All sin arises from a disorder in the affections and proceeds to a disorder in the will."

That observation too might have "explained" "Barbara Allen" - to a 17th C. theologian. Jemmy's obsessive, self-destructive love for Barbara has sinfully replaced the proper focus of his devotion, which is toward God. He should have focused his conscious intentions (his "will") heavenward, particularly if he was dying. That sufficiently explains his situation. Barbara's affections are likewise disordered: she refuesd to show Christian charity to the dying. Her repentance is thus the key that allows the souls to be united after death, with the rose and briar as miraculous evidence of God's benevolence and forgiveness.

It all seems plausible to me as a contemporaneous interpretation. That does *not* mean, though, that it's the "real meaning" of the ballad, or that anybody but a theologian would have thought of it in those terms even in 1666. Nor that the balladist was thinking precisely that way (though the more I consider it, the better I like it....It could all have been unconscious....).

The ballad's "real meaning" unfortunately disappeared with the balladist. The words and the melody and the emotion the singer puts into them and how we feel about it all are the only meanings left.