Bards Irish Fiddle Tunebook Supplement/The Wind That Shakes the Barley

"The Wind That Shakes the Barley" is an Irish ballad written by Robert Dwyer Joyce (1836–1883), a Limerick-born poet and professor of English literature. The song is written from the perspective of a doomed young Wexford rebel who is about to sacrifice his relationship with his loved one and plunge into the cauldron of violence associated with the 1798 rebellion in Ireland.[1] The references to barley in the song derive from the fact that the rebels often carried barley oats in their pockets as provisions for when on the march. This gave rise to the post-rebellion phenomenon of barley growing and marking the "croppy-holes," mass unmarked graves which slain rebels were thrown into, symbolising the regenerative nature of Irish resistance to British rule.[citation needed]

The song is no. 2994 in the Roud Folk Song Index.

The song's title was borrowed for the Ken Loach's 2006 film of the same name, which features the song in one scene.[2]


I sat within a valley green
I sat me with my true love
My sad 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 woeful words to frame
To break the ties that bound us
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 bold United Men
While soft winds shake the barley"
While sad I kissed away her tears
My fond arms 'round her flinging
The foeman's shot burst on our ears
From out the wildwood ringing
A bullet pierced my true love's side
In life's young spring so early
And on my breast in blood she died
While soft winds 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 winds shook the barley
But blood for blood without remorse
I've taken at Oulart Hollow
And laid my true love's clay-cold corpse
Where I full soon may follow
As 'round her grave I wander drear
Noon, night and morning early
With breaking heart when e'er I hear
The wind that shakes the barley

Cover versionsEdit

The song has been covered by many artists including The Chieftains, Loreena McKennitt, The Dubliners, Dolores Keane, Dead Can Dance (sung by Lisa Gerrard), Altan, Solas, The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, Dick Gaughan, Orthodox Celts, Amanda Palmer, Fire + Ice, The Irish Rovers, Sarah Jezebel Deva, Martin Carthy, Declan de Barra and Belfast Food.

Other uses of the nameEdit

  • Seán Keating chose the title for his eponymously named 1941 painting.[3]
  • A poem by the same name was published by Katharine Tynan.
  • This is also the name of a fast Irish reel.[4]
  • The Wind That Shakes the Barley, novel by James Barke about the Scots poet Robert Burns published in 1946, first of a quintet of novels on the subject.


  1. "Princess Grace Irish Library (Monaco)".,RD/life.htm. Retrieved 2009-06-11. 
  2. The Wind That Shakes the Barley at IMDB
  3. Éimear O’Connor at Whyte's Gallary
  4. The Session