Get Up and Bar the Door – A British Ballad

The following is a poem I cam across and found it interesting. What do you think?


It fell about the Martinmas time,

And a gay time it was then,

When our goodwife got puddings to make,

And she ’s boiled them in the pan.

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.”

“My hand is in my hussyfskap,

Goodman, as ye may see;

An it shouldnae be barrd this hundred year,

It ’s no be barrd for me.”

They 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.

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.

“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.

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.

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.”

“But there’s nae water in the house,

And what shall we do than?”

What ails thee at the pudding-broo,

That boils into the pan?”

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?”

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.”


This tale occurs in many versions but almost all (like this one) involve some Scots dialect words. Its origins would appear to be circa 17th Century.


Martinmas — The Mass for Saint Martin 11th November

sae cauld — so cold

hussyfscap — literally house wife’s cap but a modern term would be oven gloves? The whole phrase “My hand is in my hussyfskap” indicates that she is busy with her chores.

“it’s no” — it will not

paction — pact or agreement

ane — one

twa — two

neer a wad — never a word

muckle — much, many or mighty

white pudding — Oatmeal pudding popular in Scotland

black (pudding) — blood pudding

tak aff — take off

pudding-broo — the pudding broth

pudding bree — pudding broth

before my een — in front of my eyes

scad me — scald me



A man and wife are preparing a dinner on a November night and both don’t want to close the door.

They are both stubborn; the woman says that she is busy with her chores and that if her husband really wants the door closed he can do it himself.

This is a humorous ballad of a married couple.

They both are so stubborn that neither of them wants to get up and do something the other has asked of them. Robbers come into their house at midnight and neither of them says a word. One robber grabs a knife and says that he will cut the husbands beard and kiss his wife. The husband finally stands up and asks if they would do such a thing The wife stands, takes three steps and says “Goodman, you’ve spoken the foremost word; Get up and bar the door.” (line 41, pg 197)

This poem shows that the woman is so busy with chores in the house and she stands up to her husband because he just sits there while she is preparing food for them and expects her to do one more thing when he can do it perfectly fine all his own.


Who do like better; the goodman or the goodwife?

Who is more foolish?

What serious point about the stubbornness does the poem make?