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Broadside ballad entitled 'Cats' Eyes'


This ballad begins: 'Come listen to me while I sing, / Of misery I've had my share; / Till fortune took me under her wing, / And my troubles all vanished like air.' A note below the title states that this ballad should be sung to the air, 'The Night before Larry was Stretch'd', and that 'Copies of this humorous song can only be had at the Poet's Box' (probably Glasgow). This sheet was published on Saturday 28th August, 1858.

This amusing ballad tells the picaresque tale of a woman who loses her sight and, thanks to the intervention of a quack doctor caled Dr Snigum, ends up acquiring the eyesight of a cat. Verging on the supernatural at times, this surreal ballad describes the humorous escapades that occur as a result of her viewing life with a cat's eyesight. In short, this ballad is the perfect illustration of the proverbial "shaggy dog's tale" - or rather a "shaggy cat's tale".
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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Date of publication: 1858   shelfmark: L.C.1269(170b)
Broadside ballad entitled 'Cats' Eyes'
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