A Ballad

By Robert Burns (1759-1796)

There were three kings into the east,
Three kings both great and high,
And they had sworn a solemn oath
John Barleycorn should die.
They took a plough and plough'd him down,
Put clods upon his head;
And they had sworn a solemn oath
John Barleycorn was dead.
But the cheerful spring came kindly on,
And showers began to fall;
John Barleycorn got up again,
And sore surprised them all.
The sultry suns of summer came,
And he grew thick and strong;
His head well arm'd wi' pointed spears,
That no one should him wrong.
The sober autumn enter'd mild,
When he grew wan and pale;


His bending joints and drooping head
Show'd he' began to fail.
His colour sicken'd more and more
He faded into age.
And then his enemies began
To show their deadly rage.
They've ta'en a weapon long and sharp,
And cut him by the knee;
Then tied him fast upon a cart,
Like a rogue for forgerie.
They laid him down upon his back,
And cudgell'd him full sore;
They hung him up before the storm,
And turn'd him o'er and o'er.
They filled up a darksome pit
With water to the brim;
They heaved in John Barleycorn,
There let him sink or swim.
They laid him out upon the floor,
To work him further woe;
And still as signs of life appear'd,
They toss'd him to and fro.
They wasted o'er a scorching flame
The marrow of his bones;
But a miller used him worst of all -
He crushed him 'tween two stones,
And they ha'e ta'en his very heart's blood,
And drank it round and round,
And still the more and more they drank,
Their joy did more abound.
John Barleycorn was a hero bold,
Of noble enterprise;
For if you do but taste his blood,
'Twill make your courage rise,
'Twill make a man forget his woe;
'Twill heighten all his joy;
"Twill make the widow's heart to sing,
Though the tear were in her eye.
Then let us toast John Barleycorn,
Each man a glass in hand,
And may his great posterity
Ne'er fail in old Scotland!




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