The Wind That Shakes the Barley (song)

The Wind That Shakes the Barley (song)

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. Its title was borrowed for the Ken Loach film which won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2006.


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. 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.


: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 glen: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:A full man 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

* [ Lyrics and guitar chords]

Cover versions

The song has been covered by many artists including The Chieftains, The Dubliners, The Celtic Rogues, Dolores Keane, Dead Can Dance (sung by Lisa Gerrard), Solas, The Clancy Brothers, Dick Gaughan, Orthodox Celts, Amanda Palmer, Fire + Ice, The Irish Rovers, Glow, Gallery, McKeever's Crossing, Sarah Jezebel Deva and Martin Carthy.

A poem by the same name was published by Katharine Tynan.

It was featured in the 2006 Irish award winning film The Wind That Shakes the Barley during the scene of a wake. An arragement for SATB choir by Laurie A. Betts was published by Walton Music Publications in 2008.

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