“Kiss me out of the bearded barley”

Sometime in the past year or two, I was listening to the Sixpence None the Richer song “Kiss Me,” and got curious about the line “Kiss me, out of the bearded barley”; I wasn’t sure what it meant.

I poked around online to find out more; I think that all I found was the annotation on genius.com, which notes that bearded barley is a “wheat-like plant which has overgrown and its ready for harvest.”

But just now, I was skimming a 1936 Dylan Thomas story, “The School for Witches,” and came across a paragraph in which the satanic witch girls are doing some sort of a ceremony, I think, led by the doctor’s daughter:

Now say, said the doctor’s daughter, Rise up out of the bearded barley. Rise out of the green grass asleep in Mr. Griffith’s dingle. […] The devil kisses me, said the girl cold in the centre of the kitchen. Kiss me out of the bearded barley. Kiss me out of the bearded barley. The girls giggled in a circle. Swive me out of the green grass. Swive me out of the green grass. Can I put on my clothes now? said the young witch, after encountering the invisible evil.

So I did some further poking around, and found a couple of articles that variously claim that Sixpence wrote the song after reading a Dylan Thomas poem or a Dylan Thomas story. So I thought they must have gotten it from this story.

Especially because the next line in the song is “Nightly, beside the green, green grass,” which seems like it could be a bowdlerized version of the abovequoted Thomas line “Swive me out of the green grass”; or possibly the line in the song could have been written by someone who doesn’t know that the verb to swive refers to having sex.

But now I’m wondering whether the “bearded barley” line also appears in a Thomas poem (as well as in this story), because this story is full of satanic witch stuff, and I gather that Sixpence is an explicitly Christian band, so I wouldn’t have expected them to quote from this particular story.

3 Responses to ““Kiss me out of the bearded barley””

  1. Andrina Westerdale

    Thanks for this interesting piece. Song lyrics can be endlessly fascinating

  2. janeyzusak

    I absolutely love this song! The bearded barley line was stuck in my head, so I started wondering what it meant exactly. Thank you for sharing this. Now I’m interested in reading The School for Witches lol

  3. Jeff Paris

    There’s nothing ambiguous about “kiss me out of the bearded barley.”
    Lovers are walking on a moonlight night through a field of Barley and out onto green grass, going to or coming from a dance.
    it describes an exquisite moment of connection not unlike “when the stars turn blue” by the Coors.


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