This old English poet was, according to Wood, a younger son of Richard Barnes, Bishop of Durham, and "a Yorkshireman born," about 1570. At seventeen years of age he became a student in Brazenose College, Oxford; but leaving the University without a degree, he accompanied the Earl of Essex in a military capacity into France, where he remained until 1594. According to the contemporary authority of Nash, the honesty as well as the courage of Barnes, admitted of dispute; for he is accused not only of running away from the enemy, but of stealing "a nobleman's steward's chayne at his lord's installing at Windsore." His works consisted of numerous Sonnets, Madrigals, and other pieces, including "The Devil's Charter," a tragedy containing the life and death of Pope Alexander VI. He is supposed to have died at Coventry about 1644. His poems are extremely rare; the following lines from the "Parthenophel and Parthenophe," of Barnes, are given with a brief account of that work, in Beloe's "Anecdotes of Literature."
Ah! sweet Content, where is thy mylde abode?
Is it with shepheards and light haired swaynes
Which sing upon the donnes, and pype abroade,
Tending their flockes, and calleth unto playnes?
Ah! sweet Content, where dost thou safely rest?
In heaven with angels, which the prayses sing
Of him that made, and rules, at his behest,
The minds and parts of every living thing?
Ah! sweet Content, where doth thy harbour hold?
Is it in churches with religious men
Which please the goddes with prayers manifold,
And in their studies meditate it then?
Whether thou dost in heaven or earth appeare,
Be where thou wilt, thou wilt not harbour here.