> Folk Music > Songs > All Among the Barley / The Ripe and Bearded Barley

All Among the Barley / The Ripe and Bearded Barley

[ Roud 1283 ; Ballad Index BdAAtBar ; Bodleian Roud 1283 ; Wiltshire Roud 1283 ; trad.]

Alfred Williams collected The Ripe and Bearded Barley from farm hand Henry Sirman of Stanton Harcourt, and printed it in 1923 in his book Folk-Songs of the Upper Thames.

Walter Pardon of Knapton, Norfolk, sang it with the more common title All Among the Barley on August 2, 1978 to Mike Yates. This recording was included in 2000 on his Musical Traditions anthology Put a Bit of Powder on It, Father. Rod Stradling and Mike Yates commented in the album's booklet:

This is the only instance, according to Roud, of this song being recorded in the tradition, and he only knows of it being collected once elsewhere—by Alfred Williams from Henry [Sirman] of Stanton Harcourt in Oxfordshire … although Henry Burstow included the title in his repertoire list. The remainder of his 14 instances are all from broadsides or books.

Johnny Collins sang All Among the Barley on his 1982 Traditional Sound album Free & Easy; it was also included in 1998 on his anthology The Best of the Early Years. He commented:

This is from Alfred Williams, Folk-Songs of the Upper Thames, [and] is set to a superbly singable tune by Mike Gabriel of Cheltenham. I got it from Maureen ‘Mo’ Marshall.

Kate Locksley sang All Amongst the Barley in 2016 on The Night Watch's eponymous EP The Night Watch. They commented on their website:

We learned this song from the LP Joke and Push About the Pitcher by The Galley. Unfortunately, our copy of the record is long since lost, and we haven't been able to determine where the words or this tune came from, although the all-knowing internet suggests the words were written by Elizabeth Stirling, a nineteenth century English composer who studied at Oxford but, being a woman, was not awarded a degree.

Lyrics

Henry Sirman sings The Ripe and Bearded Barley

Come out, 'tis now September, the hunters' moon's begun,
And through the wheaten stubble we hear the frequent gun;
The leaves are turning yellow, and fading into red,
While the ripe and bearded barley is hanging down its head.

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
All among the barley, who would not be blithe,
While the ripe and bearded barley is smiling on the scythe.

The wheat is like a rich man, it's sleek and well-to-do;
The oats are like a pack of girls, they're thin and dancing too;
The rye is like a miser, both sulky, lean and small,
Whilst the ripe and bearded barley is the monarch of them all.

The spring is like a young maid that does not know her mind,
The summer is a tyrant of most ungracious kind;
The autumn is an old friend that pleases all he can,
And brings the bearded barley to glad the heart of man.

Walter Pardon sings All Among the Barley

Come out, 'tis now September, the hunters' moon's begun,
And through the wheaten stubble is heard the frequent gun;
The leaves are paling yellow, and kindling into red,
And the free and golden barley is hanging down its head.

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
All among the barley, oh who would not be blithe
When the free and happy barley is smiling on the scythe.

The spring she is an old maid and does not know her mind,
The summer is a tyrant of most outrageous kind.
The autumn is an old friend and does the best he can
To bring the golden barley to cheer the heart of man.

The wheat is like a rich man, all sleek and well-to-do;
The oats are like a pack of girls, laughing and dancing too;
The rye is like a miser, all sulky, lean and small
And the free and golden barley is monarch of them all.

Acknowledgements and Links

Thank you very much to Chris Wildridge for correcting Henry Sirman's name and for pointing me to the Wiltshire Community History website.

See also the Mudcat Café threads Lyr Req: All Among the Barley and Origins: All Among the Barley (Elizabeth Stirling).