The Wind that Shakes the Barley - Music

The poem of Robert Dwyer Joyce—The Wind that Shakes the Barley—has been set to hauntingly beautiful music.  This rendition is performed by Lisa Gerrard.

Born in Glenosheen, County Limerick, Joyce studied at Queen’s College (in Cork). He graduated with honors and became a medical doctor in 1865.

The next year, he emigrated to America where he settled in Boston. That Massachusetts city, at the time, was home to a very large Irish-immigrant population. Many of the people in Boston knew about Dr. Joyce before he arrived since they had read his poems and articles in the Irish press.

After settling in America, Robert Dwyer Joyce continued to write, even while he was a very successful medical doctor. Library Ireland tells us that he published the following works in the US:

  • 1868 - Legends of the Wars in Ireland, consisting of “a number of prose stories, founded on traditions preserved by the peasantry of the northern counties of Ireland.”
  • 1871 - Another volume, of the same type of works, entitled Irish Fireside Tales.
  • 1872 - Ballads of Irish Chivalry, his next work, “includes most of the pieces in his first work, but contains many others of greater power, the results of more careful elaboration and of a more mature judgment.”
  • 1876 - Deirdrè, “the finest and most successful of his poems”—also according to Library Ireland—is “a free poetical version of one of the old romances of Ireland, The Fate of the Children of Usna.

Robert Dwyer Joyce (1830-1883) penned The Wind that Shakes the Barley about the 1798 rebellion in Ireland.  The following are its lyrics:

    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

In 1883, Dr. Joyce returned to Ireland where he died, in Dublin, that same year.

See, also:

Trailer, The Wind That Shakes the Barley

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5183stories and lessons created

Original Release: Oct 07, 2013

Updated Last Revision: Nov 21, 2019

Media Credits

The Wind that Shakes the Barley, from Dead Can Dance - Toward the Within.  Online, via YouTube. Copyright, Dead Can Dance, all rights reserved.  Clip provided here as fair use for educational purposes and to acquaint new listeners/viewers with the work of Dead Can Dance.


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"The Wind that Shakes the Barley - Music" AwesomeStories.com. Oct 07, 2013. Nov 21, 2019.
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