The wind that shakes the barley

The wind that shakes the barley

The wind that shakes the barley

© 2012 – philip vergeylen – all rights reserved

‘The Wind that Shakes the Barley’ is an Irish ballad, written by the Limerick-born poet Robert Dwyer Joyce. The song is written from the perspective of a doomed young Wexford rebel who is about to sacrifice his relationship with his loved one and plunge into the cauldron of violence associated with the 1798 rebellion in Ireland.

The references to barley in the song derives from the fact that the rebels often carried barley or oats in their pockets as provisions for when on the march.

The song has been covered by many great folk singers and bands, such as The Chieftains, Loreena McKennitt, The Clancy Brothers, The Irish Rovers, Dick Gaughan and Martin Carthy. But you should have a listen to Lisa Gerrard from Dead Can Dance. I have never heard a better performance of this song.

I sat within a valley green
I sat me with my true love
My sad heart strove to choose between
The old love and the new love
The old for her, the new that made
Me think on Ireland dearly
While soft the wind blew down the glade
And shook the golden barley

Twas hard the woeful words to frame
To break the ties that bound us
But harder still to bear the weight
Of foreign chains around us
And so I said, “The mountain glen
I’ll seek at morning early
And join the brave United Men
While soft winds shake the barley”

While sad I kissed away her tears
My fond arms ’round her flinging
The foeman’s shot burst on our ears
From out the wildwood ringing
A bullet pierced my true love’s side
In life’s young spring so early
And on my breast in blood she died
While soft winds shook the barley

I bore her to some mountain stream
And many’s the summer blossom
I placed with branches soft and green
About her gore-stained bosom
I wept and kissed her clay-cold corpse
Then rushed o’er vale and valley
My vengeance on the foe to wreak
While soft winds shook the barley

But blood for blood without remorse
I’ve taken at Oulart Hollow
And laid my true love’s clay-cold corpse
Where I full soon may follow
As ’round her grave I wander drear
Noon, night and morning early
With breaking heart when e’er I hear
The wind that shakes the barley

Philip.

6 thoughts on “The wind that shakes the barley

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