‘Young Johnny a-selling’

Bonfield Block-Printers

‘Young Johnny a-selling’
  • £145.00

This image emerged from the well-loved Somerset folk song, ‘Green Broom’. It tells of a poor boy called Johnny - son of a needle furze-cutter - who is ordered to arise, ‘unbutton his eyes’ and ‘away to the woods for green broom’. Having cut enough broom to sell, young Johnny goes to market where he’s watched by a ‘fair lady’ in ‘her window so high’. She is love-struck by the lad, and sends her maid to fetch him in. As Johnny enters the lady’s room, she implores : ‘Will you marry a lady in bloom, in bloom?’ to which he consents.

Printed in Carbon black linseed-based ink on Somerset ‘Antique’ 285gsm paper. Limited to an edition of 50. Numbered and signed in pencil by the artist, Cameron Short. Dimensions - Width: 28cm Height: 38cm

The story behind the ‘Songs of Somerset’ prints - This collection of block prints (originally conceived for the linings of our ‘Song Coats’) celebrates the exploits of song-hunter Cecil J Sharp in 1903. Over the course of a few years, Sharp roamed Somerset on his humble bicycle, amassing more than 1,600 songs from 350 singers. His quest took the form of exploration. A diary entry reads:

‘Folk-song takes refuge in the poor cottages and outlying hamlets. It harbours in the heathen kingdoms and the wilder parts. It is a treasure to be sought and found in nooks and corners...’

Sharp understood that these songs wove generations together, and bestowed on folk a sense of identity and belonging. They were among the most intimate possessions of the poor. He wrote:

They come out very shyly, late at night, and are heard when the gentry have gone to bed, when the barrack-room has exhausted its Music-Hall menu.’

Sharp’s objective was preservation, and he recorded both lyrics and melodies expertly - his only tools a pencil and a well-trained ear. Many of the songs tell fanciful and peculiar stories - some dark, some light - providing us, the artists, with an abundance of rich imagery to interpret. We conceived and carved around twenty new blocks, the fruit of which you have before you. 

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