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The Stonecutter Boy / The Bricklayer's Dream

[ Roud 971 ; Ballad Index DTstoneb ; Bodleian Roud 971 ; Wiltshire 971 ; trad.]

The Stonecutter Boy is a variant of The Bricklayer's Dream as collected from Daniel Wigg of Preston Candover, Alresford, Hampshire in July 1907 by George B. Gardiner and published by Frank Purslow in his book Marrow Bones.

Anne Briggs sang The Stonecutter Boy in 1966 on the Topic theme album The Bird in the Bush: Traditional Erotic Songs. As all of her four songs on this album it was reissued on her two compilations Classic Anne Briggs and A Collection. A.L. Lloyd commented in the original recording's sleeve notes:

Seemingly local to the South of England, this song, without wasting a word on description, sets us in a dreamy landscape on a golden summer evening when the quarrymen are drifting home with the powder of stone-dust on their clothes. Cecil Sharp noted a version but never printed it; perhaps because, to polite people of his day, the idea of girls actually enjoying sexual intercourse was offensive. Too good for the working classes?

Lloyd himself recorded The Stonecutter Boy in the same year for his own album The Best of A.L. Lloyd. He commented in his album's sleeve notes:

A love-song from the stone-quarry of the English south. Without wasting a word on description it sets us in a dreamy landscape on a golden summer evening when the men drift home from work with the powder of quarry-dust on them. A young fellow meets a girl and both are delighted with their chance encounter. The song has not appeared in print, I believe.

Jim ‘Brick’ Harber sang Bricklayer Bold at The Plough, Three Bridges, Sussex on February 10, 1960 to Brian Matthews. This recording was included in 2001 on the Musical Traditions anthology of songs from 1960 Sussex country pubs, Just Another Saturday Night. Rod Stradling commented in the accompanying booklet.

It has often been said that songs need to be relevant to both the listener and the singer for communication to take place effectively—usually as an argument against bothering to sing these old songs at all in today's modern world. I think this is usually nonsense … it suggests I can get nothing from performances of songs from countries where English is not spoken, for a start!

It also presupposes that the text of a song is the primary source of its meaning. But any singer will tell you that a particular song will demand that you sing it, just for the sake of a single phrase, or a turn in the melody. You will sing it countless times, over decades, because of the way it makes you feel when you do. And if it does, and if you do, you can be damned sure that it communicates to anyone who's paying proper attention. Your job as its singer is to ensure that people do pay it proper attention—that's where the singers' craft comes in.

A Bricklayer Bold doesn't have much in the way of a story, nor is it of particular literary merit, but it certainly means something to Brick Harber—and he sings it as if it were the most awesome of Child ballads. He demands your attention in a way I've seldom heard from a relatively little-known English singer. An absolutely brilliant performance. He was dead within three months of this recording.

It is essentially the same song that was famously recorded by Anne Briggs as The Stone-Cutter's Boy, though the title is more usually associated with bricks in some way. Roud has only seven examples, all from printed sources—Cecil Sharp collected it twice in Gloucestershire and Somerset.

George Townshend of Lewes, Sussex, sang The Young Brickmaker in 1960-64 to Brian Matthews. This recording was included in 2000 and 2012 on his Musical Traditions anthology Come, Hand to Me the Glass.

Jon Boden sang The Stonecutter Boy as the July 21, 2010 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day. He noted in the blog:

One of the nice things with the oral tradition is the way stories get whittled down to their simplest forms. This is a small but perfectly formed saucy, little ballad.

Matt Quinn learned A Bricklayer Bold from the singing of Jim ‘Brick’ Harber and recorded it for his 2017 CD The Brighton Line. He commented:

This lesser-known version of The Stonecutter Boy describes a seduction technique that should not be used in this day and age.

Lyrics

Jim ‘Brick’ Harber sings A Bricklayer Bold

A young brick layer bold coming home from his work,
A young damsel appeared in his sight.
Oh he says, “My pretty maid, stop one moment or two,
I will tell you what I dreamed of last night,
I will tell you what I dreamed of last night.”

Oh she made a full stop and thus she replied,
“Those dreams are all feeble, I know.
I'm a-going for my cow and I cannot stop now,
So I pray thee, young man, let me go …”

So they both did set down underneath the green oak
Where the leaves they looks pleasant and green.
And what we did there, oh I never will declay-re
But I had the contents of my dreams …”

So they both started on the cow for to fetch
And so nimble-ly tripped over the plains.
“Oh,” she said, “my Jimmy, sweet, the next time that we does meet
We'll repeat those dreams over again …”

George Townshend sings The Young Brickmaker

Oh were just returning home from work
So nimble I tripped over the plane
There he met a pretty maid
And, “Stay one moment or two
Then I'll tell you, then I'll tell you
What I dreamt of last night.”

They both well agreed and sat underneath the oak
The leaves they were charming and green.
Oh, it's what they did do there,
Oh I never will declare.
But he told her, but he told her
What he dreamt of last night.

Anne Briggs sings The Stonecutter Boy

It's of a brisk stonecutter boy returning from his work,
A pretty girl appeared on his side.
He said, “My dearest dear,
If you rest a moment here,
I'll tell you what I dreamed about last night, last night,
I'll tell you what I dreamed about last night.”

It was under an oak that they sat themselves down.
And this young girl she gave a little scream.
And what they done I'll miss,
I'll leave you all to guess.
But it seems she got the content of his dream, of his dream,
It seems she got the content of his dream.

Well, this young girl, she then arose and she smoothed down her clothes.
So nimbly she stood on the plain.
She said, “My dearest sweet,
Next time that we meet,
I hope you tell me that dream over again, over again,
I hope you tell me that dream over again.”

A.L. Lloyd sings The Stonecutter Boy

It's of a brisk stonecutter boy returning from his work,
A young girl she appeared on his side.
And he said, “My dearest dear,
If you rest a moment here,
I'll tell you what I dreamed about last night, last night,
I'll tell you what I dreamed about last night.”

It was under an oak that they sat themselves down.
And this young girl soon gave a little scream.
And what they done I'll miss,
Well I'll leave you all to guess.
But she surely had the content of his dream, of his dream,
She surely had the content of his dream.

This young girl she arose and she smoothed down her clothes.
And so nimble there she stepped on the plain.
And she said, “My dearest sweet,
Well the next time that we meet,
I hope you'll tell that dream over again, over again,
I hope you'll tell that dream over again.”