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Two Young Brethren / The Two Brothers / The Jolly Ploughboys

[ Roud 202 ; Ballad Index BuDa033 , BrMa152 ; VWML HAM/4/22/19 ; Wiltshire Roud 202 ; trad.]

Two Young Brethren is a song from the repertoire of the Copper Family. Both words and music and printed in the The Copper Family Song Book and in Bob Copper's book A Song for Every Season. Bob and John Copper sang Two Young Brethren on their 4 LP set of 1971, A Song for Every Season, and young brethren Ben and Tom Copper and their cousins Mark, Andy and Sean Barratt sang it on their CD Coppersongs 3: The Legacy Continues.

Shirley Collins recorded Two Brethren in 1966 in London as a demo. This recording was included in 2002 on her anthology Within Sound and in 2006 on her CD Snapshots.

The Valley Folk (Jean and Elaine Carruthers, John Dickinson and Steve Heap) sang Two Brethren in 1968 on their LP All Bells in Paradise. This and three other tracks from their album were reissued on the 1996 Topic Records sampler The Season Round.

John Kirkpatrick sang this song as The Jolly Ploughboys in 1971 on his Trailer album Jump at the Sun. He returned to Come All You Jolly Ploughboys in 2017 on his Fledg'ling CD Coat-Tails Flying where he noted:

The kid-in-a-toyshop approach on my first solo LP Jump at the Sun […] now fills me with utmost embarrassment, and I'm rather relieved it has never been reissued on CD. There is a bewildering variety of styles, everything is played way too fast, and the singing is delivered in an excruciatingly immature strangled whine that I undoubtedly thought very cool at the time. Ah, well, we've all got a past.

From time to time I have revisited some of the music on that recording as a grown up, and have often thought about having another go at this concoction, where an additional voice joins in on each verse, now that my singing grieves me slightly less. After the release of Jump at the Sun, a group from The Netherlands called Fungus lifted the arrangement and sang it for a while. If they're tempted to revive it in the wake of this release, they should know that forty-five years on, I find I've had the urge to alter one or two moments in the vocal parts.

The song is reasonably widespread amongst English traditional singers, and is also known as The Ploughboy's Glory, or Two Brethren. I see from my original sleeve notes that this was collected in Dorset by H.E.D. Hammond and published in Folk Songs for Schools. A rummage through the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library's splendid website shows that although the song is normally sung to a major tune, Hammond collected two minor versions, including one that is fairly close to this from Sam Gregory in Beaminster in June 1906. Words adapted slightly from other versions, I admitted in 1972, and added daringly, “tune adapted to fit the harmonies”!

As Graeme Taylor so pithily pointed out during the recording of this track—miserable ploughboys need not apply!

Folly Bridge sang Two Brethren in 1991 on their WildGoose cassette All in the Same Tune. Claire Lloyd commented:

A lovely song from the Copper Family repertoire about the annual cycle of agriculture, from ploughing the ground to celebrating the harvest.

The Wilson Family sang this song as The Jolly Ploughboys in 1991 on The Wilson Family Album.

Dave Weatherall & Martin Hall sang Two Brethren in 1992 on the Fellside anthology of English traditional songs, Voices. Paul Adams commented in the album's liner notes:

A song from the Copper Family of Rottingdean. It is a rustic idyll about a way—and pace—of life which has all but disappeared. The interesting thing about the Coppers is that they sing in harmony—a rarity in the English tradition. Stylistically this version by Dave and Martin is based on the singing of Bob Copper and his cousin, Roy. Based on, because it is no slavish copy, they have evolved their own lines.

Roger Watson sang Two Brethren in 2009 on his WildGoose CD Past and Present. He commented in his liner notes:

A song best known in the version from the Copper Family of Sussex. We live in a time of great abundance … for some.

Jon Boden sang Two Young Brethren as the August 2, 2010 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day. He commented in his blog:

This feels like one of the most genuine of agricultural songs. Many sound like they are consciously sentimentalising the halcyon days of manorial feudalism—which makes you doubt that such an idyll ever really existed. This is more workmanlike and matter of fact about the cycle of the agricultural year, which makes it all the more poignant.

Peter Bellamy used the tune and the second verse of the Coppers' Two Young Brethren in his song Farewell to the Land.

Lyrics

The Copper Family sing Two Young Brethren

Come all jolly ploughmen and help me to sing,
I will sing in the praise of you all,
If a man he don't labour how can he get bread?
I will sing and make merry withal.

It was of two young brethren, two young brethren born,
It was of two young brethren born,
One he was a shepherd and a tender of sheep
The other a planter of corn.

We will rile it, we will tile it through mud and through clay,
We will plough it up deeper and low,
Then after comes the seedsman his corn for to sow
And the harrows to rake it in rows.

There is April, there is May, there is June and July
What a pleasure it is for to see the corn grow.
In August we will reap it, we will cut, sheaf and bind it
And go down with our scythes for to mow.

And after we've reaped it off every sheaf
And have gathered up every ear,
With a drop of good beer, boys, and our hearts full of cheer
We will wish them another good year.

Our barns they are full, our fields they are clear,
Good health to our master and friends.
We will make no more to do but we'll plough and we'll sow
And prepare for the very next year.

The Valley Folk sing Two Brethren

Come all jolly ploughboys and help me to sing,
I will sing in the praise of you all.
If a man he don't labour how shall he get bread?
I will sing and make merry withal.

It is of two young brethren, two young brethren born,
It is of two young brethren born,
And one he was a shepherd and a tender of sheep
And the other a planter of corn.

We will rile it, we will tile it through mud and through clay,
We will plough it up deeper and low.
Then after comes the seedsman with his corn for to sow
And the harrows to rake it in rows.

There is April, there is May, there is June and July;
What a pleasure it is for to see the corn grow.
In August we will reap it we will cut sheaf and bind it
And go down with our scythes for to mow.

And after we've reaped it off every sheaf
And have gathered up every ear,
With a drop of good beer, boys, and our hearts full of cheer
We will wish them another good year.

Our barns they are full, our fields they are clear,
Here's a health to our master and friends.
We will make no more to do but we'll plough and we'll sow
And provide for the very next year.