This ballad has been in our live repertoire since 1996. It's got a little of everything: love, conspiracy, hunting, murder, a ghost story, sibling rivalry and class struggle. We first heard it from a recording by the Pentangle, and we use much the same version of the words and tune. According to Sharp, the story goes back to the Middle Ages and appears to be of European (likely Italian) origin. There's a longer version of it in Bocaccio's Decameron, which inspired a poem by Keats.
In Bruton town there lived a farmer
Who had two sons and one daughter dear.
One told his secrets to no other,
but to his brother this he said,
"I think our servant courts our sister,
I think they have a mind to wed.
I'll put an end to all their courtship,
I'll send him silent to his grave."
A day of hunting was prepared,
Where only bush and briars grew.
And there they did this young man murder,
And in the brake his body threw.
"Now welcome home, my dear young brothers,
Our serving man, is he behind?"
"We've left him where we've been a-hunting,
"We've left him where no man can find."
As she lay dreaming on her pillow,
She thought she saw her own true love;
She dreamt she saw him standing by her,
She saw his coat was red with blood.
"Don't weep for me, my dearest jewel,
Don't weep for me nor care nor pine,
For your two brothers killed me cruel-
In such a place you may me find.
"Rise up, my love, tomorrow morning,
Go straightway to that brake you know,
For there you'll find my body lying,
Where only bush and briars grow."
She went out early in the morning,
And in the garden brake she stood
And there she found her own dear jewel,
All covered o'er in a gore of blood.
She took a kerchief from her pocket,
And wiped his eyes though he was blind.
"Because he was my own true lover,
My own true love and a friend of mine."
Three days and nights she did sit by him,
And her poor heart was filled with woe,
Till cruel hunger crept upon her,
And home she was obliged to go.
from With Teeth
released August 17, 1999
(trad. English) with Final Advance on Reykjavik (Jim Speer)
JD: drums, kettledrum; AK: oboe, whistle, vocal; TR: acoustic guitar, 12-string guitar, cittern, vocal; JS: stick; HZ: violin
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