This ballad begins: 'Maxwelton braes are bonnie, / Where early fa's the dew, / 'Twas there that Annie Laurie, / Gie'd me her promise true.' It was published by James Lindsay of 9 King Street, Glasgow, and includes a woodcut illustration of a small house situated in a clearing. 'Annie Laurie' was a popular song, and James Lindsay is known to have published it on several different occasions.
Throughout the years there has been some doubt over the origins of this well-loved song. Whilst some believe it to be the work of William Douglas of Fingland, it has been suggested that it was written by Allen Cunningham. The well-known tune that is associated with the song was written in the nineteenth century by Lady John Scott (Alicia Ann Spottiswood) - who is also said to have adapted the words.
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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