Verse 1: 'I'm sitting on the stile Mary, / Where we sat side by side, / On a bright! may morning long ago, / When first you were my bride.' This sheet was published by Robert McIntosh of Glasgow but is not dated.
Although this ballad starts off as if it were a lyrical love song written during the Romantic era, the tone soon changes as it reveals itself instead to be a song of mourning. The song is dedicated to a young wife called Mary who, along with her infant child, died from starvation in Ireland. The husband concludes the ballad by promising that, although he is emigrating to a new land, he will never forget his wife or 'Old Ireland'.
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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