Wind that shakes the barley


I sat within a valley green, sat there with my true love
And my fond heart strove to choose between the old love and the new love
The old for her, the new that made me think on Ireland dearly
While soft the wind blew down the glade and shook the golden barley

’twas hard the mournful words to frame to break the ties that bound us
Ah, but harder still to bear the shame of foreign chains around us
And so I said, ‘The mountain glen, I’ll seek at morning early
And join the brave united men’ while soft wind shook the barley

’twas sad I kissed away her tears, her arms around me clinging
When to my ears, that fateful shot come out the wildwood ringing
The bullet pierced my true love’s breast in life’s young spring so early
And there upon my breast she died while soft wind shook the barley

I bore her to some mountain stream and many’s the summer blossom
I placed with branches soft and green about her gore-stained bosom
I wept and kissed her clay-cold corpse, then rushed o’er vale and valley
My vengeance on the foe to wreak while soft wind shook the barley

’twas blood for blood without remorse, I took at Oulart Hollow
I placed my true love’s clay-cold corpse where mine full soon may follow
Around her grave I wondered drear, noon, night and morning early
With aching heart when e’er I hear the wind that shakes the barley



‘The Wind that Shakes the Barley’ – title of Ken Loach’s tragic Civil War film has its roots much further back in Robert Dwyer Joyce’s view of the 1798 rising as seen though the eyes of a young Wexford rebel. Reference to barley in Joyce’s poem derive from the fact that rebels often carried barley or oats in their pockets as provisions for when on the march. This also gave rise to the rebels being called ‘croppy boys’. Slain rebels were thrown into mass graves, or ‘croppy holes’ over which barley or oats were later grown, symbolizing the regenerative nature of Irish resistance to British rule.

Robert Dwyer Joyce (1830-1883) was a Limerick-born poet and professor of English literature.

Song Clip



Song Themes

1798 Rebellion