Verse 1: 'This battle was fought not long ago, / Being in the kitchen there below - / To tell you the truth how came the fray, / The broom stood in the dishcloth's way.' This song was to be sung to an 'Original' tune and could be bought for one penny. It was published by the Poet's Box in Glasgow, from a manuscript 'kindly handed to the Poet by Mr Thomas Gallacher'. The 'Poet', in this context, was the proprietor of the Poet's Box.
This bizarre comic ballad brings the contents of a kitchen to life and describes them engaging in a fierce battle. The song's ironic punchline is that the broom and the dishcloth, which began the fight, have to clean up the kitchen the following morning. This subject matter certainly does not follow any established ballad conventions, and it is likely the song was written to entertain children. Structurally it is simple, written in four-line verses mainly composed of two pairs of rhyming couplets.
The Poet?s Box in Glasgow operated from 1849 to 1911. Matthew Leitch was the proprietor at 6 St. Andrew Lane?s, a narrow street on the south side of Gallowgate, from 1850 to 1858. His son William Munsie Leitch worked at the same address from 1859 to 1865 and at varous addresses in London Street until 1911. Many of the broadsides published by the Glasgow Poet?s Box were dated and some carried advertisements, not just for printed items but also for shoe blacking and ?soap for lovers?! Like the other ?boxes? in Dundee and Edinburgh, the Glasgow one sold love songs, sea shanties, parodies and dialogues. It is not clear what the connection between the different Poet?s Boxes were. They almost certainly sold each other?s sheets. It is known that John Sanderson in Edinburgh often wrote to the Leitches in Glasgow for songs and that later his brother Charles obtained copies of songs from the Dundee Poet?s Box. There was also a Poet?s Box in Belfast from 1846 to 1856 at the address of the printer James Moore, and one in Paisley in the early 1850s owned by William Anderson.
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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