Barbara Allen: About the Song

“Barbara Allen” dates back at least to the 17th century. It was perhaps the most commonly sung of tragic ballads from the British Isles that had been carried to the New World by early European settlers.


Was in the merry month of May
When flowers were a-bloomin’
Sweet William on his deathbed lay
For the love of Barbara Allen

Slowly, slowly she got up
And slowly she went nigh him
And all she said when she got there
“Young man, I think you’re dying”

“O yes I’m sick and very low
And death is on me dwellin’
No better shall I ever be
If I don’t get Barbara Allen”

“Don’t you remember the other day
When you were in the tavern
You toasted all the ladies there
And slighted Barbara Allen”

“O yes, I remember the other day
When we were in the tavern
I toasted all the ladies there
Gave my love to Barbara Allen”

He turned his pale face to the wall
And death was on him dwellin’
” Adieu, adieu, my kind friends all
Be kind to Barbara Allen”

As she was walkin’ through the fields
She heard the deathbells knelling
And every toll they seemed to say
“Hardhearted Barbara Allen”

“O mother, mother, make my bed
O make it long and narrow
Sweet William died for me today
I’ll die for him tomorrow”

They buried Willie in the old churchyard
And Barbara there anigh him
And out of his grave grew a red, red rose
And out of hers a briar

They grew and grew in the old churchyard
Till they couldn’t grow no higher
They lapped and tied in a true love’s knot
The rose ran around the briar