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Analysis of Barbara Allan

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Riley Fillius

on 7 May 2014

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Transcript of Analysis of Barbara Allan

Defining Phrases
The theme of this poem is unrequited love and guilt. Sir John Graeme falls in love with Barbara Allan and then when she denies him his love and life leaves him. She is consumed by guilt by not being able to see past his one mistake and decides to give her life in sacrifice, feeling it her duty to her lost love for being so unreasonable.
Ballad Poetry
Figurative Language
The personification of death in lines 22 and 28 evoke the image of dying as a tangible force over the two lovers
Repeated words and phrases, at least one per stanza, is included to add emphasis to the topic it is discussing and also to add to the sing song integrity of the ballad.
Local Scottish dialect is included because it was part of the oral tradition, and when passed down throughout generations that is how the people spoke it.
Riley Fillius
Analysis of Barbara Allan

He turned his face unto the wall,
And death was with him dealing:
“Adieu, adieu, my dear friends all,
And be kind to Barbara Allan.


And slowly, slowly raise she up, 25
And slowly, slowly left him,
And sighing said, she could not stay,
Since death of life had reft him.


She had not gane a mile but twa,
When she heard the dead-bell ringing, 30
And every jow that the dead-bell geid,
It cried, “Woe to Barbara Allan!”


“O mother, mother, make my bed!
O make it saft and narrow!
Since my love died for me to-day, 35
I’ll die for him to-morrow.”


They buried her in the old churchyard,
And Sir John’s grave was nigh her.
And from his heart grew a red, red rose,
And from her heart a brier. 40


They grew to the top o’ the old church wall,
Till they could grow no higher,
Until they tied a true love’s knot—
The red rose and the brier.
It was in and about the Martinmas time,
When the green leaves were a-falling,
That Sir John Graeme, in the West Country,
Fell in love with Barbara Allan.


He sent his man down through the town, 5
To the place where she was dwelling:
“O haste and come to my master dear,
Gin ye be Barbara Allan.”


O hooly, hooly rose she up,
To the place where he was lying, 10
And when she drew the curtain by:
“Young man, I think you’re dying.”


“O it’s I’m sick, and very, very sick,
And ‘tis a’ for Barbara Allan.”
“O the better for me ye s’ never be, 15
Though your heart’s blood were a-spilling.


“O dinna ye mind, young man,” said she,
“When ye was in the tavern a drinking,
That ye made the healths gae round and round,
And slighted Barbara Allan?” 20


He turned his face unto the wall,
And death was with him dealing:
“Adieu, adieu, my dear friends all,
And be kind to Barbara Allan.
Meant to be recited or sung.
Topics included Unrequited love, religion, tragedy, and crime.
Usually in quatrains
Tells a story
Background Information
Anonomously written in 14th or 15th century in Scotland
Was passed on as part of the oral tradition in English to pass on valuable lessons.
On November 11 Sir John Graeme fell in love with Barbara Allan. He sent his servant to her house to call her to his house. She slowly gets up and goes to him, where she coolly points out that he is on his deathbed. He agrees and points out he is dying for her love. She reminds him of that one time he was in the tavern, drunk, and he "slights" her, causing her embarrassment. He turns his head in shame and declares that his friends to be kind to Barbara even though she rejected him. After she hears of his passing so soon after her visit, she tells her mother to prepare her deathbed. They are buried together in a churchyard. A red rose sprouts from his grave while a briar grows from hers, eventually growing and intertwining.
Martinmas—St. Martin’s Day on November 11
Full transcript