Moment of Verse: John Jacob Niles – “The Ballad of Barberry Ellen”


John Jacob Niles – The Ballad Of Barberry Ellen by The Wounded Jukebox

In Scarlet town where I was born
There was a fair maid dwelling
Made every youth cry well a day
Her name was Barberry Ellen
Twas in the merry month of May
When the green buds they were swelling
Sweet William on his deathbed lay
For the love of Barberry Ellen
He sent his servant to the town
To the place where she was dwelling
Said master bid you come to him
If your name be Barberry Ellen
Then slowly slowly got she up
And slowly went she nigh him
And as she drew the curtains back
Said young man I think you’re a dyin’
Oh yes I’m sick I’m very sick
And never will be better
Until I have the love of one
The love of Barberry Ellen
Oh ken you not
In yonder’s town
In the place where you were dwelling
You gave a health to the ladies all
But you slighted Barberry Ellen
Oh yes I ken
I ken it well
In the place where I was dwelling
I gave a health to the ladies all
But my love to Barberry Ellen
Then lightly she trip down the stair
He trembled like an Aspen
Tis vain tis vain my dear young man
To hold for Barberry Ellen
He turned his pale face to the wall
For death was in him dwelling
Goodbye kind friends and kin folks all
Be kind to Barberry Ellen
As she did pass the wooded fields
She heard his death bell knelling
And every stroke it spoke her name
Hardhearted Barberry Ellen
Her eyes looked east
Her eyes looked west
She saw his pale corpse coming
Oh bearers bearers put him down
That I may look upon him
The more she looked
The more she grieved
Until she burst out crying
Oh bearers bearers take him off
For I am now a dying
Oh mother dear go make my bed
Go make it soft and narrow
Sweet William died for love of me
And I will die for sorrow
Oh father dear go dig my grave
Go dig it deep and narrow
Sweet William died for me today
I will die for him tomorrow
They buried her in the old churchyard
Sweet William’s grave was nigh her
And from his heart grew a red red rose
From her heart a briar
They grew themselves to the old church wall
Twill they couldn’t grow no higher
They grew twill they tied a true lover’s knot
The red rose round the briar.

John Jacob Niles


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  1. #1 by Allison Rizk on May 15, 2011 - 8:03 PM

    cool. as. shit.

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