Get Up and Bar the Door

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Illustration by Alexander George Fraser of Get Up and Bar the Door

Get Up and Bar the Door is a medieval Scots ballad about a battle of wills between a husband and wife. It is Child ballad 275. According to Child, it was first published by David Herd.[1]

Synopsis[edit]

Illustration by Arthur Rackham of
Get Up and Bar the Door

The song begins with the wife busy in her cooking and other chores. As the wind picks up, the husband tells her to close and bar the door. They make a pact that the next person who speaks must bar the door, and the door remains open. At midnight two thieves enter the house and eat the puddings that the wife has just made. The husband and wife watch them, but still neither speaks out of stubborn pride. Amazed, one of the thieves proposes to molest the wife. Finally, the husband shouts "Ye’ve eaten my bread, ye hae druken my ale, and ye’ll mak my auld wife a whore!" The wife, having won the pact, tells the husband to bar the door.

In some versions, the husband is named as Johnie Blunt of Crawford Moor.[2] Child notes that the song was used by Prince Hoare to provide one of the principal scenes in his musical entertainment, No Song, No Supper, performed at Drury Lane in 1790.

Among many things, this folk ballad talks about the sense of lasting competition in a relationship. The man tries to maintain his power but the woman refuses because she does not want to be treated like a doormat; each is too stubborn to do something that will benefit both. The ballad makes the point that being stubborn can be carried to ludicrous lengths, since by being stubborn they lost their Martinmas puddings and left their persons and household open to crime.[original research?]

Recordings[edit]

  • Martin Carthy - Shearwater (as "John Blunt")
  • Ewan MacColl sang it on "The English and Scottish Popular Ballads (The Child Ballads) Volume I" (1956)
  • Maddy Prior and June Tabor sang a very pretty version on "No More to the Dance" as "The Barring o' the Door" (1988)

References[edit]

  1. ^ Herd, David (1732-1810): Ancient and modern Scottish songs, heroic ballads etc.
  2. ^ Child Vol. VIII p.125

External links[edit]