1. The poem "John Barleycorn" is written in the form of a ballad. A ballad is a short narrative poem with both lyric and epic elements. Ballads were originally sung by bards or minstrels. The origin of the word is the Latin ballare which means 'to dance. The form of the ballad varies. Burns's ballads are generally folk songs arranged by the poet in this form of poetic art. "John Barleycorn" is a ballad consisting of fifteen stanzas of four lines each. The length of the lines varies. The odd lines (the first, the third) are eight syllable lines; the even lines (the second, the fourth) are six syllable lines. This alteration of lines is typical of the ballad form. This ballad is written in iambic metre, i. e. the even syllables are stressed; the odd - unstressed.
2. "John Barleycorn" is a poetic description of how Scotch whisky is made: the planting of the barley, the harvesting, the threshing, the making of malt, the crushing of the malt and distillation.
Burns undoubtedly meant it as an allegory. John Barleycorn evidently represents the Scottish people, their undying strength in resisting subjugation. It illustrates the joyous and rebellious spirit of Scottish folklore. The depiction of the spirit is built on a stylistic device called personification; barleycorn is represented as a human being. This personification is very skilfully carried out by the poet. John Barleycorn is a human being, 'a hero bold,' a people's hero whose freedom-loving spirit the three kings united to crush.
3. The poem is written in the national English language, but we find in it some peculiarities of dialectal pronunciation and word usage typical of the Scottish dialect. They are still used in the spoken language in Scotland. Thus, the word have in unstressed position was pronounced ha'e [hæ] the preposition with in Scotch is pronounced without the final th, as in wi' pointed spears.
The preposition into in the first line of the poem is also a dialectal word meaning in. In Old and Middle English the prepositions into and in were used indiscriminately. Since the 14th century into in the meaning of in is used only in Scottish.
In the 16th century there was a tendency to leave out i in it in colloquial speech, as in: on't, in't, for't, etc. This omission of i in it is still found in the Scottish dialect. In English poetical language we
very frequently find such omission, e. g. 'tis instead of it is, 'twill instead of it will.
The preposition between was formerly composed of two words: the Old English prefix be- in the meaning of at or near and tween from the Old English word twēჳen in the meaning of two. The form tween is used now only in poetry.
4. It was noted in Unit 5 that there are a number of words or their forms in the vocabulary of Modern English which are called poetic. As most of them are archaic, they are not used in ordinary colloquial or literary English of the present day and are preserved in the vocabulary for special stylistic purposes, mainly in poetry.
Thus in the text of the poem we find the words ta'en, o'er, ne'er. These are contracted forms of the words taken, over, never. It is interesting to note that these contracted forms in the 16th, 17th and even at the beginning of the 18th century belonged to the ordinary spoken language. In the word taken the k had been dropped before alveolar consonants, but later it was reintroduced on the analogy of the other forms of the verb to take.
In the line 'And cudgell'd him full sore' full is an archaic adverb still used in the Scottish dialect. The meaning is very. The word is now considered poetic.
5. As you already know the ending -ed in the Past Tense and Past Participle of regular verbs is pronounced as a separate syllable [id] only after the dental t or d, as in lasted, needed. In other cases it is pronounced either [d] if the ending -ed follows a voiced consonant or a vowel as in surprised, armed, ploughed, or [t] if the ending -ed follows a voiceless consonant as in tossed, crushed. However, in poetry the ending -ed is frequently pronounced as a separate syllable [id] not only after t or d. In that case a special graphical indication may be used on the letter e, as in filléd, heavéd.
This pronunciation of the ending -ed, caused by the requirements of the metre, has called forth the necessity of pointing out the regular pronunciation of -ed after voiced consonants and vowels. This is generally done by the (') which is placed instead of the letter e, as in plough'd, enter'd, turn'd and others.
6. The adverb sore is archaic (poetic). In the sentence 'And sore surprised them all' it means to a great extent, very much. It always carries an additional shade of meaning - to a painful or distressing degree. That is the meaning the word has in the line quoted. (Compare it with the Russian archaic word зело).
7. In poetry the form of the adjective is sometimes used instead of the adverb; for example, in the text of the poem the word mild in the sentence 'The somber autumn enter'd mild' is used instead of the word mildly.
8. The combination of the verb to come and the postpositive on has various meanings. The most general meaning is to advance. In
the sentence 'But the cheerful spring came kindly on? the combination came on means continued to advance.
9. In the sentence 'That no one should him wrong' the pronoun him is placed between the auxiliary verb should and the verb wrong. This word order is not typical of the English language, nor is it typical of the Scottish dialect. It was evidently done by the poet for the sake of rhyme.
10. In the sentence ' 'Twill make the widow's heart to sing' the Complex Object containing an infinitive with the particle to after the verb to make is archaic. In modern English, in Complex Objects that follow the verb to make the Infinitive is used without to. In the Scottish dialect the archaic form still survives.
11. The word wan, the original of which is the Anglo-Saxon word wann (dark, gloomy), is now used mostly as a poetic word.
The meaning of this word is faded or sickly. This is the meaning of the adjective in the sentence 'When he grew wan and pale'.
12. The suffix -en added to adjectives as in darken, deepen, widen and to nouns as in lengthen, strengthen, frighten forms verbs with the meaning implied in the stem. Thus, to sicken means to become sick; to heighten - to make higher, greater in. degree.
13. 'Faded into age'. In this phrase the preposition into introduces the result brought a6out by the action of fading. This is rather a frequent use of the preposition, e. g. She grew into a good-looking girl.
14. The word darksome is composed of the adjective dark and the suffix -some. This, like the above-mentioned suffix -en, is not productive, i. e., new words are not formed with the help of this suffix. But it has survived in such words as tiresome, troublesome, wholesome and a few other words. The word darksome is poetic. In ordinary English the adjective dark is used.
15. In the line 'For if you do but taste his blood' the word but means only and is used here together with the verb do as an emphasizing particle of the verb to taste.
It is frequently used in colloquial English in this function, e. g. if you but know - if you only knew.
16. 'And may his great posterity ne'er fail in old Scotland!' The combination of may + Infinitive is used in exclamatory sentences to express a wish. This form is rather archaic. It is used mainly iri poetry or in certain special cases: in oaths, or in solemn speech, etc, e. g. May he live a hundred years! May you be happy!