Traditional Ballad for Mountain Dulcimer: “Barbara Allen”

  • Ted
  • November 30, 2016
  • 0

by Ralph Lee Smith with Madeline MacNeil

This ballad has origins in the British Isles. The version here was collected by Cecil Sharp and published in his 19312 book, English Folk-Songs from the Southern Appalachians. The arrangement here is from the singing of Loraine Wyman. The music of Lorraine, and Josephine McGill, is presented in Mel Bay Publications’ MB98423, Folk Songs of Old Kentucky – Two Song Catchers in the Kentucky Mountains 1914 and 1916, selected and arranged by Ralph Lee Smith with Madeline MacNeil.

Loraine Wyman as pictured in May 1917 issue of Vogue magazine.

He sent his servant to the town
To the place where she was dwelling
Saying, “Love, there is a call for you
If your name is Barbara Allen.”   She was very slowly getting up
And very slowly going,
The only words she said to him
“Young man, I think you’re dying.”  “Don’t you remember the other day
When you were in town a-drinking,
You drank a health to the ladies ’round
And slighted Barbara Allen?”


“O yes, I remember the other day
When I was in town a-drinking,
I drank a health to the ladies ’round,
But my love to Barbara Allen.”


He turned his pale face to the wall
And death was in him dwelling; .
‘Adieu, adieu, to my friends all,
Be kind to Barbara Allen.”

When she got in two miles of town,
She heard the death bells ringing;
They rang so clear, as if to say
“Hard-hearted Barbara Allen!” “O Mother, Mother, make my bed
O make it soft and narrow.
Sweet William died for me today
And I will die tomorrow.  “O Father, Father, dig my grave
O dig it deep and narrow,
Sweet William died for love of me
And I will die in sorrow.”


Sweet William lies in the old church yard,
Barbara Allen lies in the choir:
Out of his heart grew a red, red rose,
And out of hers a brier.


They grew and grew to the old church tower
‘Til they could grow no higher;
They grew and they tied in a true love’s knot
The rose wrapped ’round the brier.

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