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John Barleycorn

A traditional folk song (or several) with many variations in the lyrics. It is a very good example of a ballad form, telling the story of barley from seed to beer.

Here is a fairly common version:

There were three men came out of the west
Their fortunes for to try
And these three men made a solemn vow
John Barleycorn must die
They've ploughed, they've sown
They've harrowed him in, threw clods upon his head
And these three men made a solemn vow
John Barleycorn was dead

They've let him lie for a very long time
Till the rains from heaven did fall
And little Sir John sprung up his head
And so amazed them all
They've let him stand till midsummer's day
Till he looked both pale and wan
And little Sir John grew a long, long beard
And so become a man

They've hired men with the scythes so sharp
To cut him off at the knee
They've rolled him and tied him by the way
Serving him most barbarously
They've hired men with their sharp pitchforks
Who've pricked him to the heart
And the loader, he has served him worse than that
For he's bound him to the cart

They've wheeled him around and around the field
Till they came unto a barn
And there they made a solemn oath
On poor John Barleycorn
They've hired men with the crab-tree sticks
To cut him skin from bone
And the miller, he has served him worse than that
For he's ground him between two stones

And little Sir John and the nut brown bowl
And his brandy in the glass
And little Sir John and the nut brown bowl
Proved the strongest man at last
The huntsman he can't hunt the fox
Nor so loudly to blow his horn
And the tinker he can't mend kettle nor pots
Without a little Barleycorn