No, dear readers, that’s not directed at you—although, at the current moment in the world’s health, you could easily be forgiven if you thought that it was!

Instead, it’s the title of a well-known Child Ballad—Number 275.  (We occasionally mention these, from the giant collection (305 ballads with variants) by Professor FJ Child, entitled The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, in five volumes, published from 1882-1898—in ten parts.)


And we chose the title because this is a post which actually originally began with a look back at a recent, serious posting, in which we found ourselves in the mines of Moria, in the Chamber of Mazarbul, defending ourselves from an orc attack—

“Heavy feet were heard in the corridor.  Boromir flung himself against the door and heaved it to; he wedged it with broken sword-blades and splinters of wood.  The Company retreated to the other side of the chamber.  But they had no chance to fly yet.  There was a blow on the door that made it quiver; and then it began to grind slowly open, driving back the wedges.  A huge arm and shoulder with a dark skin of greenish scales, was thrust through the widening gap.  Then a great flat, toeless foot was forced through below.  There was a dead silence outside…

There was a crash on the door, followed by crash after crash.  Rams and hammers were beating against it.  It cracked and staggered back, and the opening grew suddenly wide.  Arrows came whistling in, but struck the northern wall, and fell harmlessly to the floor.  There was a horn-blast and a rush of feet, and orcs one after another leaped into the chamber.”  (The Fellowship of the Ring, Book Two, Chapter 5, “The Bridge of Khazad-Dum”)


We wondered, as we read this, whether somewhere in the back of Tolkien’s head there was another scene of people trapped in a room under attack?

In Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped (1886), the hero, David Balfour, is trapped in the cabin of a ship with a Scottish office in the service of France, Alan Breck Stewart.  They are heavily outnumbered, but they have seized the ship’s small supply of weapons and are about to defend themselves from an attack by the ship’s crew.

“It came all of a sudden when it did, with a rush of feet and a roar, and then a shout from Alan, and a sound of blows and some one crying out as if hurt. I looked back over my shoulder, and saw Mr. Shuan in the doorway, crossing blades with Alan.

“That’s him that killed the boy!” I cried.

“Look to your window!” said Alan; and as I turned back to my place, I saw him pass his sword through the mate’s body.

It was none too soon for me to look to my own part; for my head was scarce back at the window, before five men, carrying a spare yard for a battering-ram, ran past me and took post to drive the door in. I had never fired with a pistol in my life, and not often with a gun; far less against a fellow-creature. But it was now or never; and just as they swang the yard, I cried out: “Take that!” and shot into their midst.

I must have hit one of them, for he sang out and gave back a step, and the rest stopped as if a little disconcerted. Before they had time to recover, I sent another ball over their heads; and at my third shot (which went as wide as the second) the whole party threw down the yard and ran for it.

Then I looked round again into the deck-house. The whole place was full of the smoke of my own firing, just as my ears seemed to be burst with the noise of the shots. But there was Alan, standing as before; only now his sword was running blood to the hilt, and himself so swelled with triumph and fallen into so fine an attitude, that he looked to be invincible. Right before him on the floor was Mr. Shuan, on his hands and knees; the blood was pouring from his mouth, and he was sinking slowly lower, with a terrible, white face; and just as I looked, some of those from behind caught hold of him by the heels and dragged him bodily out of the round-house. I believe he died as they were doing it.” (Kidnapped, Chapter X, “The Siege of the Round-House”)


(This is an illustration by NC Wyeth, from his 1913 edition of the story.)


At present, we don’t find ourselves besieged by orcs or sailors, or even by boredom or “cabin fever”—the latter of which always makes us think of Charlie Chaplin in The Gold Rush (1925), when his starving cabin mate begins to imagine him as a giant chicken—


and we hope that, by reading this and our other postings, we can help you to fight off boredom and “cabin fever”, too, if not orcs and sailors.

But what about the ballad?

It’s a simple story.  A farmwife is making puddings


when her husband tells her to get up and bar the door.


She refuses, saying that, as he seems to have the leisure, he should do it.  He refuses and a quarrel breaks out


which only ends when they agree that the next person who speaks will be obliged to do it.  They sit in silence so long that two thieves quietly slip in and proceed to rob the house—and neither husband nor wife says a word.  Finally, when one of the thieves proposes to kiss the wife, the husband loudly objects—thus being the first to speak and his wife then tells him:  “So, you get up and bar the door!”


A silly little song and perhaps just the thing for a such a time, when many of us are stuck indoors.  Here are three versions of the ballad, if you’re not familiar with it:

275A: Get Up and Bar the Door


275A.1  IT fell about the Martinmas time,

And a gay time it was then,

When our goodwife got puddings to make,

And she’s boild them in the pan.

275A.2  The wind sae cauld blew south and north,

And blew into the floor;

Quoth our goodman to our goodwife,

‘Gae out and bar the door.’

275A.3  hand is in my hussyfskap,

Goodman, as ye may see;

An it shoud nae be barrd this hundred year,

It’s no be barrd for me.’

275A.4  y made a paction tween them twa,

They made it firm and sure,

That the first word whaeer shoud speak,

Shoud rise and bar the door.

275A.5  Then by there came two gentlemen,

At twelve o clock at night,

And they could neither see house nor hall,

Nor coal nor candle-light.

275A.6  ‘Now whether is this a rich man’s house,

Or whether is it a poor?’

But neer a word wad ane o them speak,

For barring of the door.

275A.7  And first they ate the white puddings,

And then they ate the black;

Tho muckle thought the goodwife to hersel,

Yet neer a word she spake.

275A.8  Then said the one unto the other,

‘Here, man, tak ye my knife;

Do ye tak aff the auld man’s beard,

And I’ll kiss the goodwife.’

275A.9  ‘But there’s nae water in the house,

And what shall we do than?’

‘What ails ye at the pudding-broo,

That boils into the pan?’

275A.10 O up then started our goodman,

An angry man was he:

‘Will ye kiss my wife before my een,

And scad me wi pudding-bree?’

275A.11 Then up and started our goodwife,

Gied three skips on the floor:

‘Goodman, you’ve spoken the foremost word,

Get up and bar the door.’



275B: Get Up and Bar the Door


275B.1  THERE leeved a wee man at the fit o yon hill,

John Blunt it was his name, O

And he selld liquor and ale o the best,

And bears a wondrous fame. O

Tal lara ta lilt, tal lare a lilt,

Tal lara ta lilt, tal lara

275B.2  The wind it blew frae north to south,

It blew into the floor;

Says auld John Blunt to Janet the wife,

Ye maun rise up and bar the door.

275B.3  ‘My hans are in my husseyskep,

I canna weel get them free,

And if ye dinna bar it yersel

It’ll never be barred by me.’

275B.4  They made it up atween them twa,

They made it unco sure,

That the ane that spoke the foremost word

Was to rise and bar the door.

275B.5  There was twa travellers travelling late,

Was travelling cross the muir,

And they cam unto wee John Blunt’s,

Just by the light o the door.

275B.6  ‘O whether is this a rich man’s house,

Or whether is it a puir?’

But never a word would the auld bodies speak,

For the barring o the door.

275B.7  First they bad good een to them,

And syne they bad good morrow;

But never a word would the auld bodies speak,

For the barring o the door, O.

275B.8  First they ate the white puddin,

And syne they ate the black,

And aye the auld wife said to hersel,

May the deil slip down wi that!

275B.9  And next they drank o the liquor sea strong,

And syne they drank o the yill:

‘And since we hae got a house o our ain

I’m sure we may tak our fill.’

275B.10 It’s says the ane unto the ither,

Here, man, tak ye my knife,

An ye’ll scrape aff the auld man’s beard,

While I kiss the gudewife.

275B.11 ‘Ye hae eaten my meat, ye hae drucken my drink,

Ye’d make my auld wife a whore!’

‘John Blunt, ye hae spoken the foremost word,

Ye maun rise up and bar the door.’



275C: Get Up and Bar the Door


275C.1  THERE livd a man in yonder glen,

And John Blunt was his name; O

He maks gude maut and he brews gude ale,

And he bears a wondrous fame. O

275C.2  The wind blew in the hallan ae night,

Fu snell out oer the moor;

‘Rise up, rise up, auld Luckie,’ he says,

‘Rise up, and bar the door.’

275C.3  They made a paction tween them twa,

They made it firm and sure,

Whaeer sud speak the foremost word

Should rise and bar the door.

275C.4  Three travellers that had tint their gate,

As thro the hills they foor,

They airted by the line o light

Fu straught to Johnie Blunt’s door.

275C.5  They haurld auld Luckie out o her bed

And laid her on the floor,

But never a word auld Luckie wad say,

For barrin o the door.

275C.6  ‘Ye’ve eaten my bread, ye hae druken my ale,

And ye’ll mak my auld wife a whore!’

‘A ha, Johnie Blunt! ye hae spoke the first word,

Get up and bar the door.’



Thanks, as ever, for reading, stay well, and know that, barring (yep, a bad pun) unforeseen circumstances,






In case you don’t have your own copy of Kidnapped, here’s a LINK to an early American edition:

A great read for all of us stay-at-homes!