16th century Scots version of Sir John Barleycorn from the Bannatyne MS (I am indebted to W. Bruce Olson for bringing my attention to this)


Quhy sowld not allane honorit be
Quhen he wes yung and cled in grene
Haifand his air abowt his Ene
Baith men an wemem did him mene
quhen he grew on yon hilis he
quhy sowld not allane honorit be

His fostir faider of the toun
To vissy Allane he maid him boun
he saw him lyane allace in swoun
For falt of help and lyk to de
quhy sowld not allane honorit be

Thay saw his heid begin to ryse
Syne for ane nvreiss thay send belyse
quha brocht wt hir fyfty and fyve
Of men of war full prevely
Quhy sowld not allane honorit be

Thay ruschit furt lyk hellis rukis
And every ane of thame had hukis
Thay cawt him schortly in the clukis
Syne band him in ane creddill of tre
Quhy sowld not allane honorit be

They brot him invart in the land
Syne every freynd maid him his band
quhill thay micht owdir gang or stand
nevir ane fute fra him to sle! Quhy etc.

The grittest cowart in this land
ffra he wt allane entir in band
Thot he may nowdir gang nor stand
That fowrty sall not gar him sle
Quhy sowld not allane honorit be

Sr allanis hewmond is ane cop
Wt ane sege feddir in his top
ffra hand till hand so dois he hop
Quhill sum may nowdir speiki nor se
Quhy sold not allane honorit be

In yule quhen ilk man singis his carrell
gud allane lyis in to ane barrell
quhen he is thair he dowtis no parrell
To cum on him be land or se Quhy etc.

Yit was thair nevir sa gay a gallane
Fra he meit wt our maistir ser allane
Bot gif he hald him by the hallane
bak wart on the shue fallis he Quhy etc.

My maistir allane grew so stark
quhill he maid mony cunning clerk
Vpoun thair faiss he settis his mark
A blud reid noiss besyd thair E Quhy etc.

My maistir allane I may sair curss
He levis no money in my purss
At his command I mon deburss
moir nor the twa pairt of my fe Quhy etc.

And last of allane to conclude
he is bening courtass and gude
And sevris ws of our daly fvde
An thr wt liberalitie. Q. etc.

ffinis q allane matsonis suddartis


W. Bruce Olson on the Ballad of Sir John Barleycorn

'English versions abound, for 17th century ones see the broadside index items ZN282, ZN546, ZN1759, and the song in Thomas Robbins chapbook 'The Arraignment and Inditing of Sir John Barleycorn, Knight", ZN3428. Robert Burns slightly reworked a traditional version and gave it in his Poems, 1787. Traditional versions are many, but some do not take the song to the point where John Barlycorn arises and starts laying the drinkers low. '