The Play Of John Barleycorn
- Sower (P)
- Reaper (Ps)
- Carter (P)
- Thresher (P)
- Miller (P)
- Malter (Ps)
- Alewife (Ps}
- And, in the part of The Estimable J. Barleycorn, Esq., Everybody Else.
boffer flail, scythe, pitchfork, flagstone, cauldron of water, a"nut-brown bowl", an urn-shaped "lota bowl" (from a magic store), enough bread and beer for everybody, something to make heat, enough stalks of grain for everybody. Before starting, the lota bowl should be filled with beer.
Awake and hear, my gentle guests,
How three men came out of the west,
That they would never wait nor rest
Their oath was sworn
Until they all had sore oppressed
Now here come I, a sower strong,
Upon my body, it is wrong
That Barleycorn should live so long
And so reknowned.
I'll harrow him where he belongs,
Beneath the ground.
[Sower, Carter and Thresher position everyone in rows, then sit them down (and throw a big sheet or parachute or something over them?).]
And so in Earth Sir John did lie
Unseen by any under sky
Until the Waters from on high
Did wet him there
And so he rose, death to defy
In living Air.
(The sheet is removed.)
[Reaper, Malter and Alewife mist everyone with water from spray bottles and hand each person a stalk of grain.]
Rise up, rise up, Barleycorn,
All that dies shall be reborn.
The Fiery Sun so burned him gold
And in due time Sir John grew old
Indeed, his strength it grew tenfold,
He flourished so.
And all resolved, when they were told,
To work him woe.
My brother failed the task he planned,
So here come I, with scythe in hand,
A reaper fit to clear the land
Of all that grows,
And Barleycorn shall never stand
Against my blows!
[Reaper "cuts" everyone down with the scythe.]
Now here come I to play my part --
My fork is keen to pierce his heart,
And then I'll bind him to my cart
And bear him hence,
Where crabtree sticks shall make him smart
For his offense!
[Carter pokes everyone gently with the pitchfork.]
Indeed you shall not work alone,
For here come I, a thresher known;
My flail shall flay him skin from bone
With goodly speed,
And then beneath the miller's stone
He'll die indeed!
[Thresher walks about and gives everybody a smack with the boffer flail.]
But first I'll make him suffer sore;
Upon my drafty malting floor
I'll make him lie, and furthermore
For our delight,
I'll throw him through my oven door
And roast him right!
[Malter carries the heating source around and gives everyone a dose.]
I am the miller, as they said,
Who Barleycorn may rightly dread.
I'll lay the millstone on his head
And crush him well,
And then he surely will be dead
As all can tell.
[Miller carries the flagstone about and lays it once on everyone's head.]
Now I, the alewife, join the plot:
I'll catch his blood into my pot,
And bones and blood and skin the lot,
I'll boil them fair,
So certainly his death is wrought,
That I do swear.
She walks about with the cauldron and the lota bowl. We'll need a shill or two to start everybody, but the idea is that everyone dips their stalk in the cauldron and shakes water into the bowl.
At this point, Alewife sets the cauldron aside, the nut-brown bowl is brought out and the contents of the lota bowl poured into it -- there's little enough water that, with a dark enough beer, it shouldn't be particularly noticable, and the effect of the emptying and magically refilling vessel is really impressive.
The bowl and the (covered) bread are brought to the center and the players make a circle around them.
[Elton & Leigh Ann perform "Corn that Springeth Green".]
Behold what mystery is there,
For twice do Earth and Water fair,
And twice do Fire and sweet Air,
Transmute Sir John.
Now taste and know as I declare
That he lives on!
Beer and bread are passed around. Leigh Ann sings "Regulus":
Long the Plough in nightly circle
carved its furrow in the sky;
now the Sun will grip the sickle
curved around the Lion's eye.
Mill of heaven, every hour grinding seasons out
as flour high above the harvest plain,
turns in beauty, never slowing as the rigs of corn
are growing tawny as a lion's mane.
And life shall triumph as the barley is cut down,
and the night dissolve inside the cup we pass around.
Ale is flowing and bestowing
wonder and delight on us.
Leo rises and advises
Sol now rules through Regulus.
Ah...Slashed and broken, burned and boiled,
Barley dies four times in all.
Yet is death's dominion foiled
when it's drowned in alcohol.
Barley's blood is joy in measure,
first-fruits are the Lion's treasure,
drunkenness the Lion's price.
Who accepts the Lion's ration
knows full well the pain and passion
in the barley's sacrifice.
And life shall triumph...
Furze is blooming in the meadow
luring bees to their desire;
gold be crowns both sun and furrow,
splendid with the Lion's fire.
We will dance to pipe and tambour,
deep we'll drink in gold and amber, drench our limbs in Eros' brine.
Warm hearts in the Lion's favor
shall the dregs of summer savor heady-sweet as honey wine
And life shall triumph...
Let barley bless both great and small
That all so rise that erst did fall.
Good fortune be to some and all
Now heed the groaning table's call:
This play is done!
copyright ©1995, Leigh Ann Hussey