It was early early in the spring
Slowly slowly as she went down
"A dying man I know I am
"Don't you remember last Saturday night
"Yes I remember last Saturday night
"Now you go up to the foot of my bed
"Now you go down to foot of my bed
He turned his back unto the wall
She turned around for to go home
And every time that bell would toll
She begged his bearers to lay him down
"Oh Father you go dig my grave
They both were buried in the very same grave .
Young Willie was buried in the old church yard
It grew together in a true love's knot
Sources: Child ballad #84; Recorded by Gordon Pinsent for Arc (ACS 5027) in 1968; Taft 39; Peacock 649; Henry 236; Roud 54.
History: The earliest reference to a performance of this ballad was in Samuel Pepys' diary of 1666. It has subsequently endured as the most widely known of the Child ballads.
Text notes: This song has been described as the story of "a spineless lover who gives up the ghost without a struggle, and of his spirited beloved who repents too late" (Bronson 1976: 221). The image of the rose and the briar united over the graves of the couple has become part of its classic appeal.
Tune notes: Newfoundland tunes tend to be rare ones; Peacock collected at least five that are little known in other areas (Peacock 661). A wide range of tunes have been studied in Charles Seeger's "Versions and Variants of the Tunes of Barbara Allen" in Selected Reports in Ethnomusicology (1966), 120-67.
The Child ballads collected in Newfoundland often have rare tunes such as this one. This performance of Barbara Allen is predominantly in 5/4 time (with two measures that are "shortened"). The major (ionian) tune drops unexpectedly to the sixth degree of the scale in the first and third phrases.
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