“The Bramble Briar (The Merchant's Daughter; In Bruton Town)”


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

Supplemental text

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

          *** A ***

The Two Cruel Brothers

From the singing of the Gant Family, Library of Congress Archive of American
Folksong #648B. Collected by John and Alan Lomax, Austin, TX, 1936 .
Transcribed by Lyle Lofgren.

One night a couple, they sat courting,
Two brothers chanced to overhear;
Saying, "This courtship, it must be ended,
We'll force him headlong to his grave."

Her brothers rose early the very next morning,
A game of hunting for to go;
And of this man they both insisted
That along with them that he must go.

They rambled over the hills and mountains
And to many a place where they were unknown,
Until they came to a lonesome valley
And there they left him dead alone.

And when her brothers had return-ed
Their sister inquired for the chosen man;
"We've lost him in our game of hunting,
We lost him in a foreign land."

The sister rose early the very next morning
She dressed herself to go away;
Her brothers asked her where she's going,
Not a word to them that she would say.

She rambled over the hills and mountains
And to many a place where she were unknown,
Until she came to the lonesome valley
And there she found him dead alone.

His red rosy cheeks, they were all faded;
His lips were salt as any brine;
She kissed him over and over, crying,
Says, "my darling bosom friend of mine."

And when the sister had return-ed
Her brothers asked her where she'd been;
"O, hush your tongues, you deceitful villians,*
For the one you killed, you both shall hang."

And so her brothers were arrested,
And forced across the rousing sea;
There come a storm and the wind did drown them,
Their bloody grave lies in the deep.

* pronounced "vill-yuns."


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. - 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

Cross references


  • 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)" (on OldLove)


  1. Laws M32, The Bramble Briar (The Merchant's Daughter; In Bruton Town)"
  2. Belden, pp. 109-111, "The Bramble Briar" (2 texts)
  3. Randolph 100, "The Jealous Brothers" (1 text, 1 tune)
  4. Eddy 27, "The Bramble Brier" (1 text, 1 tune)
  5. BrownII 62, "The Bramble Brier" (2 texts)
  6. Brewster 32, "The Bramble Briar" (1 text plus a mention of 1 more, 1 tune)
  7. Gardner/Chickering 11, "The Apprentice Boy" (1 text)
  8. Leach, pp. 705-707, "In Brunton Town" (1 text)
  9. SharpAp 48, "In Seaport Town" (9 texts, 9 tunes)
  10. Sharp-100E 2, "Bruton Town" (1 text, 1 tune)
  11. Vaughan Williams/Lloyd, pp. 24-25, "The Bramble Briar" (1 text, 1 tune)
  12. LPound-ABS, 22, pp. 53-54, "The Bamboo Briars"; pp. 54-58, "The Apprentice Boy" (2 texts)
  13. JHCox 88, "The Bramble Briar" (2 texts)
  14. JHCoxIIA, #16, pp. 70-72, "The Merchant's Daughter" (1 text, probably composite, 1 tune)
  15. MacSeegTrav 20, "Brake of Briars" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
  16. Darling-NAS, pp. 119-120, "In Zepo Town" (1 text)
  18. ST LM32 (Full)
  19. Roud #18
  20. BI, LM32


Alternate titles: “The Bamboo Briers”; “The Bomberry Briar”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1904
Found in: US(Ap,MW,SE,So) Britain(England(South)) Canada(Mar)