“Three Grains of Corn”


"Give me three grains of corn, mother, only three grains of corn, 'Twill keep this little life I have Till the coming of the morn." The dying singer asks what Ireland has done to deserve death by famine and neglect, and notes that others are starving too


Scarborough speculates, "Perhaps the American pioneer's affection for [this] song is the remembrance of the famine among the early settlers in New England, when starvation was held off as long as possible by the rationing of food, the giving of three frains of corn as each person's daily supply."

New England did face famine several times in its early existence. But this sounds strangely symbolic.

The authorship of this is slightly uncertain, due probably more to transcription errors than anything else. Hazel Felleman's _The Best Loved Poems of the American People_ attributes the words to Amelia Blandford Edwards. But broadside LOCSheet sm1848 431920 lists "words by Mrs A.M. Edmond, Music by O.R. Gross." - (RBW, BS)

Historical references

  • 1848 - First of several Irish potato blights. Although the blights did not mean that there was no food in Ireland, prices shot up to the point that many could not afford it. Many died in the famines, and others fled to America


  • LOCSheet, sm1848 431920, "Give Me Three Grains of Corn, Mother", Oliver Ditson (Boston), 1848 (tune)


  1. Sandburg, p. 41, "Give Me Three Grains of Corn, Mother" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Hudson 56, pp. 172-173, "Three Grains of Corn" (1 text)
  3. Scarborough-SongCatcher, pp. 360-363, "Give Me Three Grains of Corn, Mother" (2 texts; 1 tune on p. 454)
  5. Roud #4492
  6. BI, San041


Author: Words: Amelia Blandford Edwards?
Earliest date: 1848 (broadside, LOCSheet sm1848 431920)
Found in: US(MW)