Friday, November 11, 2011

It was in and about the Martinmas time...

Barbara Allen Kneeling in Sorrow by Edwin Austin Abbey

A happy Martinmas to you all.  That is, today is Saint Martin of Tours' feast day. This day always brings to mind a traditional Scottish ballad I learned in high school (text below courtesy of  the useful Bartleby.com.)

Bonny Barbara Allan
IT was in and about the Martinmas time,
  When the green leaves were a falling,
That Sir John Græme, in the West Country,
  Fell in love with Barbara Allan.
He sent his man down through the town,        5
  To the place where she was dwelling:
“O haste and come to my master dear,
  Gin ye be Barbara Allan.”
O hooly, hooly rose she up,
  To the place where he was lying,        10
And when she drew the curtain by,
  “Young man, I think you’re dying.”
“O it’s I’m sick, and very, very sick,
  And ’tis a’ for Barbara Allan:”
“O the better for me ye’s never be,        15
  Tho your heart’s blood were a spilling.
“O dinna ye mind, young man,” said she,
  “When ye was in the tavern a drinking,
That ye made the healths gae round and round,
  And slighted Barbara Allan?”        20
He turned his face unto the wall,
  And death was with him dealing:
“Adieu, adieu, my dear friends all,
  And be kind to Barbara Allan.”
And slowly, slowly raise she up,        25
  And slowly, slowly left him,
And sighing said, she coud not stay,
  Since death of life had reft him.
She had not gane a mile but twa,
  When she heard the dead-bell ringing,        30
And every jow that the dead-bell gied,
  It cry’d, Woe to Barbara Allan!
“O mother, mother, make my bed!
  O make it saft and narrow!
Since my love died for me to-day,        35
  I’ll die for him to-morrow.”



Of course, there are different versions of the ballad, with different lovers in different times of the year, such as in this video. (And it inspired even more, such as this song by Johnny Cash, with blog-relevant lyrics!) 



I'll close today with the first picture I ever saw of Martin of Tours.  (Thanks, Mrs. Lewis and the DMA!)  In this depiction, one can easily imagine him as lover before he became a churchman.

St. Martin and the Beggar, El Greco, 1597/9

2 comments:

  1. Ah, Barbara Allen! Do you know this Martinmas ballad?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EbdTHqlZMZI

    http://www.bartleby.com/101/378.html

    It fell about the Martinmass,
    When nights are lang and mirk,
    The carlin wife’s three sons came hame,
    And their hats were o the birk.

    It neither grew in syke nor ditch,
    Nor yet in ony sheugh;
    But at the gates of Paradise,
    That birk grew fair eneugh.


    So spooky - truly weird, in the old sense of the word.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Haunting. Thanks, Clerk! This one was new to me.

    ReplyDelete