This ballad begins: 'You married men, I pray, come listen to my lay, / I will tell you the truth if I can; / You will by what I say, if attention you pay, / That a woman is the plague of a man.' It was published by James Lindsay of 9 King Street, Glasgow, and probably sold for a penny.
In this comic ballad, women are accused in the most disparaging of terms of being the relentless tormentors of man. Although the author redeems himself slighty in the final verse, by suggesting that 'There is nothing through life like a good-tempered wife', all in all he presents a pretty damning portrait of womankind. Women were often vilified in the street literature of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Whilst much of it was presented in a humorous tone, it does highlight the prejudicial and negative attitudes towards women that pervaded society at this time.
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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