Verse 1: 'Out in the cold world, out in the street, / Asking a penny of each one I meet, / Shoeless I wander about through the day, / Wearing my young life in sorrow away; / No one to help me, no one to bless, / No one to pity me, none to caress; / Fatherless, motherless, sadly I roam, / A child of misfortune, I'm driven from home.'
This ballad is not dated, but judging from its story - of a child left homeless and hungry by a mother's death and father's alcoholism - it is most likely to be from the mid-nineteenth century. In this period crusading movements against alcohol and private philanthropy towards children's charities increased dramatically. The huge success of Dickens novels like 'Oliver Twist' suggests the appetite the middle and upper classes had for tales of poverty and hardship, and the era spawned many lesser imitators and writers with similar concerns.
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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Probable period of publication:
1850-1880 shelfmark: L.C.Fol.70(82b)
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