The Gleeman

Notes on Barbara Allen



Barbara Allen is #84 in the Child cannon (Bonny Barbara Allen).

Kidson has three and a bit variants to this tune (the "bit" is an alternative termination to this tune). This variant was "noted down from Mr. Holgate, is from the singing of an English girl in Ghent, some forty years ago".

Kidson only gives one verse for the text (which is the one with the air). His reason is that the song "is so well known and so easily accessible that it is perhaps not worth while to reproduce the entire words, which are for this setting as in Percy." By "Percy" I assume he means Percy's Reliques. The Reliques are indeed the source of the text provided.

However, the first verse from Percy does not match the first verse from Kidson! Despite this, as the words seem to fit the melody,  I have felt able to marry the two together. Percy's words are "Given, with some corrections, from an old black-letter copy, intitled, "Barbara Allen's cruelty, or the young man's tragedy.""

Some warning. I have the Sixth Edition of the Reliques. I do not know how these differ from the earlier editions, or whether anyone (apart from Percy) has made amendments. It needs to be noted that Child(1882-1898)CPB, vol II, p277, acknowledges the Percy version (along with others) above his variant #84B. The words in Child are slightly different again. Child, it should be noted, references the First Edition of the Reliques. (1765, vol III, p125).

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