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Origins: Meaning of John Barleycorn

DigiTrad:
JOHN BARLEYCORN
JOHN BARLEYCORN (2)
JOHN BARLEYCORN, MY JO
JOHN BARLEYCORN: A BALLAD


Related threads:
Twisted roots of John Barleycorn... (10)
Tune Req: John Barleycorn - John Renbourn Group (2)
Idiot's lyric Q: TYT's 'John Barleycorn' (3)
(origins) Origins: John Barleycorn - But collected from Who (16)
(origins) Origins: John Barleycorn by Gordon Bok (2)
John Barleycorn Recipe (7)
Obit: John Barleycorn (34)
Lyr/Chords Req: The Barleycorn (from The Johnstons (18)
Lyr Add: John Barleycorn (Jon Berger, Stan Rogers) (9)
Tune Req: The Barleycorn (Ron Kavana) (17)
Tune Req: Hey John Barleycorn (Davey Arthur?) (3)
John Barleycorn 'Two Brothers' version (5)
(origins) Origins: John Barleycorn Must Die (27)
Lyr Req: Barleycorn (Songwainers) (31)
John Barleycorn in USA? (6)
Folklore: Odd Minstrel Song = John Barleycorn (?) (7)
Lyr Req: J. Barleycorn/Weploughthefields&scatter (4)
Lyr Req: John Barleycorn (13)
Illustrated John BarleyCorn (3)
Chords Req: John Barleycorn (32)
Lyr Req: John Barleycorn (3) (closed)
Penguin: John Barleycorn (15)
Tune Req: The Barleycorn (Ron Kavana) (14)
Tune Req: John Barleycorn (from Traffic) (11)
John Barleycorn (11)


Les in Chorlton 28 Apr 12 - 12:40 PM
Dave Hanson 28 Apr 12 - 03:12 AM
GUEST,bluegreydude4 28 Apr 12 - 02:27 AM
Artful Codger 31 May 11 - 04:17 PM
Jack Campin 30 May 11 - 05:35 PM
Les in Chorlton 30 May 11 - 12:41 PM
GUEST 02 May 11 - 04:05 AM
GUEST,glyng 01 May 11 - 03:07 PM
GUEST,glyng 01 May 11 - 01:00 PM
GUEST,The Truth 27 Aug 10 - 01:50 PM
Les in Chorlton 22 Jul 10 - 09:43 AM
mattkeen 22 Jul 10 - 08:47 AM
mattkeen 22 Jul 10 - 08:43 AM
Jack Campin 21 Jul 10 - 09:41 AM
GUEST,PlayingWithTraffic 21 Jul 10 - 09:10 AM
IanC 17 May 10 - 10:54 AM
MMario 17 May 10 - 10:35 AM
GUEST,Heather 17 May 10 - 08:28 AM
GUEST,the ancient eskymo 12 Apr 10 - 11:28 AM
kendall 05 Apr 10 - 11:31 AM
Jack Campin 05 Apr 10 - 07:25 AM
GUEST 05 Apr 10 - 07:07 AM
Jack Campin 04 Apr 10 - 07:14 PM
Phil Edwards 04 Apr 10 - 06:58 PM
Bounty Hound 04 Apr 10 - 06:50 PM
GUEST 04 Apr 10 - 06:38 PM
GUEST 13 Feb 10 - 06:35 AM
GUEST 15 Dec 09 - 06:56 AM
GUEST,squeezeboxhp on laptop 10 Mar 09 - 06:08 PM
Malcolm Douglas 10 Mar 09 - 01:16 PM
Jim Carroll 10 Mar 09 - 03:26 AM
GUEST,TampaSteve 09 Mar 09 - 06:58 PM
GUEST,JohnChop 07 Dec 07 - 12:46 PM
GUEST,JC 05 Dec 07 - 02:23 PM
mattkeen 05 Dec 07 - 08:16 AM
GUEST,PMB 05 Dec 07 - 03:36 AM
GUEST,Jim Carroll 05 Dec 07 - 03:08 AM
Herga Kitty 04 Dec 07 - 05:13 PM
theleveller 04 Dec 07 - 08:50 AM
Les in Chorlton 04 Dec 07 - 05:44 AM
Jack Blandiver 04 Dec 07 - 03:59 AM
GUEST,Jim Carroll 04 Dec 07 - 03:25 AM
GUEST,TJ in San Diego 03 Dec 07 - 11:24 AM
Jack Blandiver 03 Dec 07 - 05:00 AM
TheSnail 02 Dec 07 - 10:49 PM
GUEST,Dave 02 Dec 07 - 10:16 PM
Scrump 12 Dec 06 - 04:11 AM
Ruth Archer 12 Dec 06 - 03:20 AM
GUEST,Jason 12 Dec 06 - 03:06 AM
GUEST,Jack Campin 01 Dec 06 - 01:40 PM
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Subject: RE: Meaning of John Barleycorn
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 28 Apr 12 - 12:40 PM

Dave, is your last comment in any way related to the current case of the MI5 Agent found dead in a sports bag?

Best wishes

Les Barleycorn (no relation)


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Subject: RE: Meaning of John Barleycorn
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 28 Apr 12 - 03:12 AM

You waited 7 years to say that ! you should crawl back up your own arse.

Dave H


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Subject: RE: Meaning of John Barleycorn
From: GUEST,bluegreydude4
Date: 28 Apr 12 - 02:27 AM

@rockmusichater....Traffic is only arguably one of the best rock bands of the late 60's - early 70's. The song is a classic and if you don't care, I suggest you shut the hell up and go back to sleep under whatever rock you crawled out from under!


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Subject: RE: Meaning of John Barleycorn
From: Artful Codger
Date: 31 May 11 - 04:17 PM

Much earlier in the thread, parts of the song "John Barleycorn Is a Hero Bold" (aka. "Hey, John Barleycorn") were quoted; it is "John Barleycorn (2)" in the DT. I would warn against using this particular song in examining any deep metaphorical meanings in the John Barleycorn lore because the song was written for the music hall by Joseph Bryan Geoghegan ca. 1859. Although it repackaged previous John Barleycorn material (including from Burns, who himself was probably repackaging), the metaphors in Geoghegan's text are mere imitation.

For more information on that song, see the thread "Tune Req: Hey John Barleycorn":
http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=66785


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Subject: RE: Meaning of John Barleycorn
From: Jack Campin
Date: 30 May 11 - 05:35 PM

Here is the letter I mentioned before.


Niclaus Manuel Deutsch to the Aldermen of Berne
Erlach, 30 October 1526


I offer you my frank and friendly greeting, with assurance of my willing service, in the kindest and best fashion.   Whereafter I give you to know that I am sending you a good companion, known ever as Wine of Erlach, a Person of ancient race, family and extraction, whose Father was taken by his Overlord and Father, and buried alive. Whereupon with the miraculous aid of great and almighty God, this his son, with the help of his provident Mother, was born in the grave and reared in the fear of the Lord, obedient to his Creator, with all propriety and respect, both Father and Child suffering great care, affliction, pain, fear, misery, want and wretchedness. Certain men dug them up roughly with iron tools, striking many hard and merciless blows at them, and in especial the Father, from whom in the last February, March and April months they hacked off every limb, but the true Comforter of all the afflicted restored them to him by the use of his inestimable medicines - new, fruitful, with marrow, veins and all natural flow therein, lively, strong and better than ever before. As now the Son, in the bloom of youth, was reared and sheltered with proper care by Father and Mother, an attack was planned and at last carried out against them, being the cause of cruel pain: namely, that certain women took money and broke off many of their limbs from them, binding those that remained with ropes; so that they were compelled to stand a long while under the open sky, stripped naked, barefooted, the greater part buried in the earth to above the groin. What they suffered there from cold, snow, frost, hail, wind, heat and scorching, I leave you to think for yourselves. My compassion is too great for me to describe all. And whenas they deemed themselves to have escaped from all their misery and to be secure in peace and quiet, then came a sorrowful cloudburst of churlish deeds upon them; for a wondrous mighty procession of horsemen and footmen broke like a sudden storm over fences and walls, with tubs, pails, buckets, vats, and laid hands on them by force, with no previous trial or cross-examination, tore him wantonly from his mother's breast and stole him away. They flung him into a wooden dungeon and cudgelled him with great clubs, by which reason all his private parts were dismembered and shattered.

And now that he was become so weak and changed that few could know him for himself, they threw him on a waggon and conveyed him away like a murderer to the wonted place of execution and there he met a miserable death. They laid the virtuous, friendly, joy-giving, beloved friend on a broad plank of wood, a heavy great piece of wood with special advantage and instruments prepared, and and set thereto two men who thrust themselves upon it with their whole strength, crushing and shattering the innocent creature so that neither marrow, sap nor any kind of moisture remained in him, then flung him like the dry core of an apple to the senseless beasts and swine. Whereupon they collected in a barrel the sweat that had poured from him: therefore I send the wretched sufferer to you for shelter. Yet beware lest he play you some prank, as he might freely do, for he is stalwart and cunning, of an impudent, valiant race, a blood-relation and comrade in arms, of the farfamed hero, Hanssen of Vivis. Whatever may have been his sufferings, take heed for yourselves, admit no more than you may surely master; bachelors are adventuresome, strong and petulant. In duty to you I could not conceal these stories and the warning that comes therewith. Herewith I commend you to God. Dated from Erlach, the quarter-day before All Saint's Day, in the XVC and XXVIth Year.

Niclaus Manuel
Yours at all times

Niclaus Manuel, known as Deutsch (1484-1530), the Swiss painter and writer of Carnival plays, who painted the famous 'Dance of Death' at Berne and was at one time a soldier - his monogram was a dagger, with which the foregoing letter is signed - had been appointed overseer of the famous Erlach vineyards. Here he is sending a cask of 'Erlacher' to the Town Council of Berne, of which he had once been a member. The letter is a satire in the spirit of the Reformation, of which Niclaus Manuel was a fervent supporter.


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Subject: RE: Meaning of John Barleycorn
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 30 May 11 - 12:41 PM

Circle of Life? Looks pretty linear as people are born and other people die. Looks rather like death wins over life for us all in the end

L in C#
Still an optimist


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Subject: RE: Meaning of John Barleycorn
From: GUEST
Date: 02 May 11 - 04:05 AM

Jack (from a year ago), That is the version recorded by Denny Bartley / Last Night's fun. I'd wondered where it came from - cheers!


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Subject: RE: Meaning of John Barleycorn
From: GUEST,glyng
Date: 01 May 11 - 03:07 PM

symbolize life's triumph over death


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Subject: RE: Meaning of John Barleycorn
From: GUEST,glyng
Date: 01 May 11 - 01:00 PM

it's about the cycle of agrarian life. birth, death and rebirth. but rebirth only comes with a sacrificial offering. think circle of life


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Subject: RE: Meaning of John Barleycorn
From: GUEST,The Truth
Date: 27 Aug 10 - 01:50 PM

I learnt me own version of the ditty thisa way: One early morn, after an evenin spent drawin lustily from a particularly fine bottlea Scotts Whiskey (AND takin me a gooddeala Guinness too, I'm afeared) I heard music aplayin from somewheres. Most faraway & eerie soundin too, it was. Couldn't figure out the source no matter my tryin. Finally stuck me head 'neath the civvers and got me answer: The tune was aplayin out me arse. But only those verses most describin me own behavior and soundin much like charges read inna courtalaw: Me servin John B worst of all by pissin him against the wall, makin an arse of the strongest man, and all that. Seems John B hisbloodyself was aplayin me a song of comeuppance from inside me own gut and using me arsehole for amplification. Never agin sampled the Man's (John B's tha 'tis) wares--tea only now for this sad bloke. Thus to this'un here the ballad is a warnin of the direst sort. John B indeed "proved the strongest man at last."


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Subject: RE: Meaning of John Barleycorn
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 22 Jul 10 - 09:43 AM

Aren't most good songs, by their very nature, more than the sum of their parts? Some of us see and hear much more or maybe just some features of the song differently because somebody wrote a realy sophisticated song without setting out to include hidden messages?

I suspect that people in the 18 or 19 C experienced the song in a different way to how we do to day.

Please excuse the appalling prose

L in C


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Subject: RE: Meaning of John Barleycorn
From: mattkeen
Date: 22 Jul 10 - 08:47 AM

You only have to hear it once to know its about more than beer, dont you?

Though it is obviously about beer as well

Its sort of really deep English blues to me
Would have liked to have heard Robert Johnson do it!

Anyway its great and my favourite versions are from Martin Carthy and Chris Wood - admitedly they are related as Chris learnt it from Martin


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Subject: RE: Meaning of John Barleycorn
From: mattkeen
Date: 22 Jul 10 - 08:43 AM

In AA speak John Barleycorn is often a reference to temptation and the devil


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Subject: RE: Meaning of John Barleycorn
From: Jack Campin
Date: 21 Jul 10 - 09:41 AM

I see nothing in Burns's piece that's specific to whisky. If he meant that, I'd have expected an extra verse about the distillation step. There isn't one. Which to me suggest that Burns had beer in mind.


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Subject: RE: Meaning of John Barleycorn
From: GUEST,PlayingWithTraffic
Date: 21 Jul 10 - 09:10 AM

I'm surprised that none have commented that, in fact, barley is not only used for beer but is malted to make some of the finest scotch whiskey. Certainly the Burns poem refers to that over beer.


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Subject: RE: Meaning of John Barleycorn
From: IanC
Date: 17 May 10 - 10:54 AM

Barley


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Subject: RE: Meaning of John Barleycorn
From: MMario
Date: 17 May 10 - 10:35 AM

"John Barleycorn" in AA parlance I believe is just a generic term for Alcohol in general.


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Subject: RE: Meaning of John Barleycorn
From: GUEST,Heather
Date: 17 May 10 - 08:28 AM

Somebody a ways back asked what aa is speaking of when they refer to John barleycorn, and I just would really like to know. Does anyone know? Is it the seductive nature of the drink???


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Subject: RE: Meaning of John Barleycorn
From: GUEST,the ancient eskymo
Date: 12 Apr 10 - 11:28 AM

in all deference to all the "jon barleycorn" musical renditions, i feel that the best version is that of Jethro Tull, off of the "little light music" album...


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Subject: RE: Meaning of John Barleycorn
From: kendall
Date: 05 Apr 10 - 11:31 AM

It's from a recording by Gordon Bok.


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Subject: RE: Meaning of John Barleycorn
From: Jack Campin
Date: 05 Apr 10 - 07:25 AM

GUEST, where is that from? It's rather like George Mackay Brown's:

The Ballad of John Barleycorn, the Ploughman, and the Furrow
George Mackay Brown

As I was ploughing in my field
The hungriest furrow ever torn
Followed my plough and she did cry
"Have you seen my mate John Barleycorn?"

Says I, "Has he got a yellow beard?
Is he always whispering night and morn?
Does he up and dance when the wind is high?"
Says she, "That's my John Barleycorn.

One day they took a cruel knife
(O, I am weary and forlorn!)
They struck him at his golden prayer.
They killed my priest, John Barleycorn.

They laid him on a wooden cart,
Of all his summer glory shorn,
And threshers broke with stick and stave
The shining bones of Barleycorn.

The miller's stone went round and round,
They rolled him underneath with scorn,
The miller filled a hundred sacks
With the crushed pride of Barleycorn.

A baker came by and bought his dust
That was a madman, I'll be sworn.
He burned my hero in a rage
Of twisting flames, John Barleycorn.

A brewer came by and stole his heart
Alas, that ever I was born!
He thrust it in a brimming vat
And drowned my dear John Barleycorn.

And now I travel narrow roads
My hungry feet are dark and worn.
But no one in this winter world
Has seen my dancer Barleycorn".

I took a bannock from my bag.
Lord, how her empty mouth did yawn!
Says I, "Your starving days are done,
For here's your lost John Barleycorn".

I took a bottle from my pouch,
I poured out whisky in a horn.
Says I, "Put by your grief, for here
Is the merry blood of Barleycorn".

She ate, she drank, she laughed, she danced,
And home with me she did return,
By candle-light in my ingle-nook
She wept no more for Barleycorn.


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Subject: RE: Meaning of John Barleycorn
From: GUEST
Date: 05 Apr 10 - 07:07 AM

...I took a bannock from my pouch
Oh how her hungry mouth did yawn
By candle light in my old straw bed
She wept no more for Barley Corn.


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Subject: RE: Meaning of John Barleycorn
From: Jack Campin
Date: 04 Apr 10 - 07:14 PM

If GUEST has an Anglo-Saxon source for it, let's see it. I don't believe there is one.

There is an early source for the John Barleycorn story that puts a different spin on it. It's a letter from a Flemish painter of the 16th century, reprinted in Letters of the Great Artists (ed Richard Friedenthal, 2 volumes, Random House 1963), written to accompany a gift of some wine (I think to the city fathers, who he was trying to bribe to get a commission).

The two differences are (a) he tells the story about grapes rather than grain and (b) the genre he is parodying is Protestant martyrology.

I don't have access to the book at the moment but the letter is about two pages long and easy to locate.


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Subject: RE: Meaning of John Barleycorn
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 04 Apr 10 - 06:58 PM

probably written during the time when the English were still known as the Anglo-Saxons, before Christianity came there

Good Lord. Have you got any evidence that the song goes back that far?


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Subject: RE: Meaning of John Barleycorn
From: Bounty Hound
Date: 04 Apr 10 - 06:50 PM

Goodness me, we are getting complicated! The song simply runs throught the process of sewing, growing and harvesting the grain, and then the process of turning it into beer! Some versions leave it at that, and some have a warning as to the effect of over indulgence.

Simples!


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Subject: RE: Meaning of John Barleycorn
From: GUEST
Date: 04 Apr 10 - 06:38 PM

The original JB was a old english folksong, probably written during the time when the English were still known as the Anglo-Saxons, before Christianity came there. There may in fact be a connection to a Anglo-Saxon pagan entity called Beowa, who's name is Anglo-Saxon for "barley", so JB may have been about the pagan cycle of bith, life, death, and rebirth.


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Subject: RE: Meaning of John Barleycorn
From: GUEST
Date: 13 Feb 10 - 06:35 AM

i dont know


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Subject: RE: Meaning of John Barleycorn
From: GUEST
Date: 15 Dec 09 - 06:56 AM

So far as I heard, John Barleycorn was the fictive name for the illegal brewed alcohol during prohibition time.


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Subject: RE: Meaning of John Barleycorn
From: GUEST,squeezeboxhp on laptop
Date: 10 Mar 09 - 06:08 PM

the Bradshaw Mummers are performing the new play this year based on the song John Barleycorn and will perform it at Chester festival and Warwick among other venues this year. miss it at your peril.


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Subject: RE: Meaning of John Barleycorn
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 10 Mar 09 - 01:16 PM

Actually you did quote it last year; but in one of the other 'John Barleycorn' threads:  John Barleycorn and Farmers Boy?

It first appeared here a couple of years back, with a short discussion, in thread  Folklore: Odd Minstrel Song = John Barleycorn (?)


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Subject: RE: Meaning of John Barleycorn
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 10 Mar 09 - 03:26 AM

I intended to put this version up first time round - thanks for the reminder.
Jim Carroll

JIM JAWBONE
TUNE. "Yankee Doodle was a gentleman."

Jim Jawbone was a color'd man,
Ob de true negro blood, sa,
In old Virginny he did grow,
Among de 'bacca buds, sa.
His fader cum from Alabam,
His moder cum from Guinea,
Dey suckled little Jawbone wid
De leaf ob ole Virginny.

Chorus:
Success to de tobacco leaf,
An' to de Jawbone Grinny,
Sing may dey raise for our relief,
De plant ob ole Virginny.


Dey cradled in tobacco stalks,
Dis blooming infant black, sa;
An' long before he larnt to talk,
He squealed de name of "bacca."
Soon as young Jim fus' larnt to creep,
Dey missed an' thought him killed, sa,
But dey found him in de field asleep,
Upon a bacca hill, sa,

Chorus

As Jim growed up, de more he show
His vegetable breed, sa;
His 'plexion from the de sable crow,
Turned like de yallar weed, sa;
His limbs growed so jist like de plant,
When cutting time come round, sa,
He took 'em for tobacco stalks,
An' cut'mself clar down, sa.

Chorus

So poor Jim Jawbone had to die,
All by dis sad slipstake, sa,
He hung him up wid stalks to dry,
Upon de 'bacca brake, sa;
Dis pipe I cut out ob de bone,
Dat growed out ob his shin, sa,
An' de more I smoke de 'bacca out,
De more keeps coming in, sa,

From Christy's Panorama Songster, 1852


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Subject: RE: Meaning of John Barleycorn
From: GUEST,TampaSteve
Date: 09 Mar 09 - 06:58 PM

A great song and lyrics nonetheless!


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Subject: RE: Meaning of John Barleycorn
From: GUEST,JohnChop
Date: 07 Dec 07 - 12:46 PM

Regarding Guest Dave's post on 12/2, the term "John Barleycorn must die" dates back to the 1600's. With barley and corn being the two major grains alcohol was made from, the term arose when you woke up with a hangover (probably not what they called it back then) and cursed the drink you had the night before.

However, the folk song and this thread make it very clear that the lyrics describe the harvest cycle. The grain must be put in the ground (die) to ready for the next cycle.


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Subject: RE: Meaning of John Barleycorn
From: GUEST,JC
Date: 05 Dec 07 - 02:23 PM

PMB
I think the mystical bit is mainly an American academic thing; Phillips Barry appears to have been the main culprit in his note to 'The Lakes of Col Finn' in The New Green Mountain Songster (Yale 1939), but I have encountered it elsewhere.
Agree with you entirely about it being a straightforward drowning ballad; in fact one version is referenced to an actual location in Northern Ireland (think this is in Sam Henry's 'Songs of The People').
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Meaning of John Barleycorn
From: mattkeen
Date: 05 Dec 07 - 08:16 AM

According to Chris Wood, Martin Carthy refers to "John Barleycorn" as the "the passion of the corn"

Seems pretty good to me, as does the fact that it holds other meanings other than being just about beer/drinking.


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Subject: RE: Meaning of John Barleycorn
From: GUEST,PMB
Date: 05 Dec 07 - 03:36 AM

I've never heard any Coolfinn with mermaids or magic islands, and I can't find it in DT/ forum.... any links? It's always seemed a straightforward case of drowning through reckless behaviour, plus a clairvoyant dream.


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Subject: RE: Meaning of John Barleycorn
From: GUEST,Jim Carroll
Date: 05 Dec 07 - 03:08 AM

Sedayne,
"I'd really like to hear that, Jim."
If you're serious, put up your address and I'll send you a copy - sorry; never got round to solving my membership problem so I can't mail you off-line
Jim Carroll
    Or I can relay it to Jim if you e-mail me.
    Joe Offer joe@mudcat.org


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Subject: RE: Meaning of John Barleycorn
From: Herga Kitty
Date: 04 Dec 07 - 05:13 PM

Roger Jenkens sang the Songwainers' version as their encore at Haddenham festival on Saturday - to the tune of "We plough the fields and scatter".

"Come put your wine into glasses, put your cider into old tin cans
Put Barleycorn in the nut brown bowl, for he's proved the strongest man".

Peter Woods gave a presentation on John Barleycorn songs at the last English National Folk Festival at Sutton Bonington a couple of years ago, after which I sent him Howard Kaplan's version of Professor Barleycorn

Kitty


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Subject: RE: Meaning of John Barleycorn
From: theleveller
Date: 04 Dec 07 - 08:50 AM

I don't know if there is an element of 'fashion' amongst folk performers or whether it's just coincidence, but John Barleycorn has been on three CDs I've bought recently - Van Eyken, Chris Wood and Imagined Village. Then I went to see Oysterband at Pocklington Arts Centre the week before last and they did a version.


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Subject: RE: Meaning of John Barleycorn
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 04 Dec 07 - 05:44 AM

Do people search for older or more obscure meanings as a reaction to established religion and its power, now diminished, to organise daily life and the passage of seasons?


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Subject: RE: Meaning of John Barleycorn
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 04 Dec 07 - 03:59 AM

I'd really like to hear that, Jim.


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Subject: RE: Meaning of John Barleycorn
From: GUEST,Jim Carroll
Date: 04 Dec 07 - 03:25 AM

There is a tendency to read all kind of mystical significance into some of the older songs - if it was ever there it has been irretrievably lost; pity.
We recorded a nice version from an elderly farmer in the west of Ireland, the last verse of which sums up all the indignities John Barlycorn (in this case The Barley Grain) has to undergo, then finally ends up being 'pissed against the wall' - nicely down-to-earth, so to speak.
For real flights of fancy, try following up The Lake of Coolfinn, with its magic islands and mermaids.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Meaning of John Barleycorn
From: GUEST,TJ in San Diego
Date: 03 Dec 07 - 11:24 AM

In matters of historical context, I happily defer to my British friends. However, the term "John Barleycorn" was also used in the U.S., along with phrases such as "Who struck (hit) John?," "Demon Rum" and "Old Reliable," among many others, as a pseudonym for hard liquor - especially cheap or bad booze, which was prevalent on the frontier in the late 19th century and during Prohibition.


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Subject: RE: Meaning of John Barleycorn
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 03 Dec 07 - 05:00 AM

Could it be that John Barleycorn is Roman Catholic theology couched in symbolic language owing to the persecutions subsequent to the Reformation?

Otherwise for a plethora of persectives on John Barleycorn check out John Barleycorn Reborn .


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Subject: RE: Meaning of John Barleycorn
From: TheSnail
Date: 02 Dec 07 - 10:49 PM

What worries me is, who were the three men from/into the east/west? what do they symbolise?


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Subject: RE: Meaning of John Barleycorn
From: GUEST,Dave
Date: 02 Dec 07 - 10:16 PM

Well, Almost a year with no follow up. Listened to Traffic's version tonight and wanted to know why JB must die. Thought maybe he insulted a king or queen and ended up in this thread. Quite intrigued by the "nut brown bowl" thing.... perhaps that what's nut brown ale is named after?


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Subject: RE: Meaning of John Barleycorn
From: Scrump
Date: 12 Dec 06 - 04:11 AM

The song is simply a clever or witty tale detailing the stages of growing barley for making alcohol.

Its a personification. Its not all that deep. Just entertaining.


Give that man a cigar... or maybe a beer would be more appropriate :-)

That's exactly what I've always thought too.


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Subject: RE: Meaning of John Barleycorn
From: Ruth Archer
Date: 12 Dec 06 - 03:20 AM

My ex-mother-in-law was at school with Steve Winwood, but unfortunately she never gleaned whether his "arrangement" of John Barleycorn was about pot or not, because they were 5 at the time and he tried to kiss her but then wet himself. She never talked to him after that.

Only saying.


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Subject: RE: Meaning of John Barleycorn
From: GUEST,Jason
Date: 12 Dec 06 - 03:06 AM

Amazing that this thread is seven years old and only very few have even a clue.

The song is simply a clever or witty tale detailing the stages of growing barley for making alcohol.

Its a personification. Its not all that deep. Just entertaining.

The Traffic song is great too.


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Subject: RE: Meaning of John Barleycorn
From: GUEST,Jack Campin
Date: 01 Dec 06 - 01:40 PM

I have recently been playing with a Middle Eastern music group, and last week one of us came up with a song in Persian to words by Rumi. The poet says that he is so drunk (with divine love) that if someone were to grow wheat on his grave and try to bake bread from it, the bread would turn to alcohol which would not only intoxicate anyone who ate it, the oven itself would get drunk and dance.

Which sounds like it has to have been derived from some version of John Barleycorn current in
mediaeval Persian/Anatolian culture.

There are quite a lot of just-pre-Islamic songs about drink in Arabic, anyone know them and know if there's a John Barleycorn in there?


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