A song with a story line that is undoubtedly ancient and much used, which Jon here and Bellowhead before (for Matachin) picked up from Maddy Prior & Tim Hart from their Folk Songs Of Old(e) England. Jon says, “I love the sense of antiquity in this song and think there’s a version of the story in Boccacio. I also love the lack of sentimentality and the rawness of the depicted emotions.” Boccacio includes the story as part of his Decameron (Wiki here), where it is known as Isabella And Lorenzo. Keats also reused the story and followed Boccacio, having the poor maiden cut off her dead lovers head and store it in a pot of basil. Hans Sachs, who put it into verse before Keats omits the basil pot/head details and it’s therefore his version that is closest to this song, albeit originally in German. The various titles variants for the song including Bramble Briar, The Jealous Brothers, The Murdered Servantman, The Merchant’s Daughter to name but four, point to this also having a long and varied life in that form. Mainly Norfolk has a very good page on this and you can Wiki further on the song itself here. The town of Bruton in Somerset, which claims this as its own seems steeped in history and is located between Glastonbury and the alleged site of Camelot. Given the wider European echoes of the story, however, any historical connection with an event in the town would seem a little unlikely. Maybe it’s been retro-fitted to suit a local legend.
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