This ballad begins: 'ALLAN Water's wide and deep, / and my dear Anny's very bonny; / Wides the Straith that lyes above't / if't were mine I'de give it all for Anny.' The text preceding it reads: 'ALLAN WATER: / OR, A / LOVER / IN/ CAPTIVITY: / A NEW SONG: / Sung with a pleasant New Air.'
There are various tunes honoured with 'Allan Water' but the earliest recorded version dates to 1692. Tradition stipulates that the name is derived from the river at Strathallan, Perthshire. The words to this tune also vary from record, but most of them share the theme of Anny's virtues. There are other more factual texts in the National Library of Scotland's collection, which also reveal eighteenth- and nineteenth-century attitudes towards love and courtship.
Early ballads were dramatic or humorous narrative songs derived from folk culture that predated printing. Originally perpetuated by word of mouth, many ballads survive because they were recorded on broadsides. Musical notation was rarely printed, as tunes were usually established favourites. The term 'ballad' eventually applied more broadly to any kind of topical or popular verse.
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