A First Series of Hymns and Songs/Descriptive Songs/John Barleycorn

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For other versions of this work, see John Barleycorn (Burns).

24. John Barleycorn.

There went three kings into the east,
Three kings both great and high;
And they have sworn a solemn oath,
John Barleycorn shall die.

They took a plough and plough'd him down,
Put clods upon his head;
And they have 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 with pointed spears,
That no one should him wrong.

The soher autumn enter'd mild,
And he grew wan and pale;
His bending joints and drooping head
Shew'd he began to fail.

His colour sicken'd more and more,
He faded into age;
And then his enemies began
To shew their deadly rage.

They took a weapon strong and sharp,
And cut him by the knee;
Then tied him fast upon a cart,
Like a rogue for forgery.

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 fill'd up then a darksome pit
With water to the brim,
And heav'd in poor John Barleycorn,
To 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 the miller used him worst of all,
For he crush'd him between two stones.

And they have strain'd his very heart's blood,
And drank it round and round,
And still the more and more they drank,
Their joy did more abound.

So, neighbours all, make sad lament.
And sorely weep and mourn,
For now you've heard the doleful end
Of bold John Barleycorn.

Burns