Bramble Briar, The (The Merchant's Daughter; In Bruton Town) [Laws M32]

DESCRIPTION: A girl wishes to marry a man her family disapproves of. Her brothers take the lad hunting and kill him. They claim to have lost him, but he appears to his lover in a dream and reveals the truth. Accused by their sister, the two brothers are forced to flee
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: before 1845 (broadside, Bodleian Harding B 11(3995)); 1856 (Thompson-APioneerSongster) [see the note quoting Steve Gardham, below, which would make the broadside a different ballad]
KEYWORDS: homicide brother love accusation dream
FOUND IN: US(Ap,MA,MW,Ro,SE,So) Britain(England(Lond,South)) Canada(Mar)
REFERENCES (30 citations):
Laws M32, The Bramble Briar (The Merchant's Daughter; In Bruton Town)"
Belden-BalladsSongsCollectedByMissourFolkloreSociety, pp. 109-111, "The Bramble Briar" (2 texts)
Randolph 100, "The Jealous Brothers" (1 text, 1 tune)
High-OldOldFolkSongs, p. 34, "Two Lovers Sat Sparking" (1 text)
Eddy-BalladsAndSongsFromOhio 27, "The Bramble Brier" (1 text, 1 tune)
Brown/Belden/Hudson-FrankCBrownCollectionNCFolklore2 62, "The Bramble Brier" (2 texts)
Brown/Schinhan-FrankCBrownCollectionNCFolklore4 62, "The Bramble Briar" (1 text plus an excerpt, 2 tunes)
Moore/Moore-BalladsAndFolkSongsOfTheSouthwest 68, "The Bramble Briar" (1 text, 1 tune)
Owens-TexasFolkSongs-1ed, pp. 83-84, "Late One Sunday Evening" (1 text, 1 tune)
Owens-TexasFolkSongs-2ed, pp. 48-49, "Late One Sunday Evening" (1 text, 1 tune)
Hubbard-BalladsAndSongsFromUtah, #21, "The Branbury Briars" (1 text, 1 tune)
Brewster-BalladsAndSongsOfIndiana 32, "The Bramble Briar" (1 text plus a mention of 1 more, 1 tune)
Gardner/Chickering-BalladsAndSongsOfSouthernMichigan 11, "The Apprentice Boy" (1 text)
Leach-TheBalladBook, pp. 705-707, "In Brunton Town" (1 text)
Sharp-EnglishFolkSongsFromSouthernAppalachians 48, "In Seaport Town" (9 texts, 9 tunes)
Sharp-OneHundredEnglishFolksongs 2, "Bruton Town" (1 text, 1 tune)
VaughanWilliams/Lloyd-PenguinBookOfEnglishFolkSongs, pp. 24-25, "The Bramble Briar" (1 text, 1 tune)
Reeves-TheEverlastingCircle 37, "A Famous Farmer" (1 text)
Williams-Wiltshire-WSRO Ox 270, "Farmer's Daughter and Her Servant Man" (1 text)
Palmer-EnglishCountrySongbook, #59, "It's of a Farmer" (1 text, 1 tune)
Pound-AmericanBalladsAndSongs, 22, pp. 53-54, "The Bamboo Briars"; pp. 54-58, "The Apprentice Boy" (2 texts)
Cox-FolkSongsSouth 88, "The Bramble Briar" (2 texts)
Cox/Hercog/Halpert/Boswell-WVirginia-A, #16, pp. 70-72, "The Merchant's Daughter" (1 text, probably composite, 1 tune)
Bush-FSofCentralWestVirginiaVol3, pp. 89-90, "The Jealous Brothers"; pp. 90-91, "The Jealous Brothers II" (2 texts, 1 tune; the third text, "The Constant Farmer's Son," is probably "The Constant Farmer's Son"[Laws M33])
Burton/Manning-EastTennesseeStateCollectionVol2, pp. 69-70, "The Two Jealous Brothers" (1 text, 1 tune, filed by the editors as "The Constant Farmer's Son" [Laws M33], an attribution accepted by Roud, but most of the lyrics seem more typical of this song)
MacColl/Seeger-TravellersSongsFromEnglandAndScotland 20, "Brake of Briars" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
Thompson-APioneerSongster 22, "The Bridgewater Merchant" (1 text)
Darling-NewAmericanSongster, pp. 119-120, "In Zepo Town" (1 text)
ADDITIONAL: Bob Stewart, _Where Is Saint George? Pagan Imagery in English Folksong_, revised edition, Blandford, 1988, pp. 48-49, "In Bruton Town" (1 text, 1 tune)

ST LM32 (Full)
Roud #18
Logan English, "Bruton Town" (on LEnglish01)
Louis Killen, "The Bramble Briar" (on ESFB2)
Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger, "The Bramble Briar" (on ENMacCollSeeger02)
Lisha Shelton, "In Zepo Town (In Seaport Town)" (onOldLove, DarkHoll)

Bodleian, Harding B 11(3995), "The Merchant's Daughter and Constant Farmer's Son" ("It's of a merchnt's [sic] daughter in London town did dwell"), J. Pitts (London), 1819-1844; also Johnson Ballads 1223, Firth c.18(183), Harding B 16(148a)[some words illegible], Johnson Ballads 1947, Harding B 11(2402), "The Merchant's Daughter and Constant Farmer's Son"
cf. "The Constant Farmer's Son" [Laws M33]
The Bamboo Briers
The Bomberry Briar
NOTES [366 words]: Boccaccio includes the story, hence my "14th century" date. It's also listed by Hans Sachs in the 16th century. Sachs' was in verse form, whereas Boccaccio's was prose. I'm tempted to list Sachs' version. -PJS
H. M. Belden wrote an article on the relationships of these texts, "Boccaccio, Hans Sachs, and The Bramble Briar," published in Publications of the Modern Language Association of America in 1918.
The Boccaccio story involved is the fifth story of the fourth day, the Tale of Isabetta and Lorenzo. Keats would in turn make this into a poem, "Isabella, or the Pot of Basil." It should be noted, however, that the Boccaccio version is fuller than the song. The beginning is the same, with the young couple falling in love and the brothers murdering their sister's swain, after which she finds the body. But the sequel in the Decameron is macabre: She takes her lover's head and hides it in a pot of basil. The brothers steal the pot and bury it. I would not categorically deny the link between the Italian story and the English, but the English tale is noticeably more natural.
Stewart suggests that the second half of the tale, of the girl preserving the head but not the body, is a link to the tale of the decapitated Celtic hero Bran, which became an oracle. Of course, this doesn't explain how the head came into the Italian version of the tale but not the British. - RBW
Logan English learned this piece from a young Kentucky woman practicing it with a dulcimer on the sidelines of a folk festival... and concluded from textual evidence that she'd learned it from Cecil Sharp's book. Tradition, twentieth century style. - PJS
For a discussion of this ballad, and the importance to the researcher of the Thompson-APioneerSongster text see Steve Gardham's MusTrad article Dungheap 21, "The Bridgewater Merchant," available at (accessed August 12, 2012). Steve makes a point in passing that "the later period broadside ballad, much reprinted, which tells the same story The Merchant's Daughter and the Constant Farmer's Son was quite likely based on our ballad, but has no phrasing in common and must be considered a separate ballad." - BS
Last updated in version 6.0
File: LM32

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