Verse > Harvard Classics > Robert Burns > Poems and Songs
Robert Burns (1759–1796).  Poems and Songs.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
26. John Barleycorn: A Ballad
THERE was three kings into the east,
  Three kings both great and high,
And they hae sworn a solemn oath
  John Barleycorn should die.
They took a plough and plough’d him down,        5
  Put clods upon his head,
And they hae sworn a solemn oath
  John Barleycorn was dead.
But the cheerful Spring came kindly on,
  And show’rs began to fall;        10
John Barleycorn got up again,
  And sore surpris’d them all.
The sultry suns of Summer came,
  And he grew thick and strong;
His head weel arm’d wi’ pointed spears,        15
  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.        20
His colour sicken’d more and more,
  He faded into age;
And then his enemies began
  To show their deadly rage.
They’ve taen a weapon, long and sharp,        25
  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;        30
They hung him up before the storm,
  And turned him o’er and o’er.
They filled up a darksome pit
  With water to the brim;
They heaved in John Barleycorn,        35
  There let him sink or swim.
They laid him out upon the floor,
  To work him farther woe;
And still, as signs of life appear’d,
  They toss’d him to and fro.        40
They wasted, o’er a scorching flame,
  The marrow of his bones;
But a miller us’d him worst of all,
  For he crush’d him between two stones.
And they hae taen his very heart’s blood,        45
  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;        50
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,        55
  Tho’ 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!        60


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