Verse 1 begins: 'LONG absent in the wars I've been, / For her whom I love best, / Returned once more to my native shore, / Love sweet then fill'd my breast'. The text before this reads: 'Printed by T. Birt. 10 Great St Andrews Street wholesale and retail, Seven Dials, London. Country Orders punctually attended to.'
One of Birt's sales points is that people in the countryside can rely on a quick service - perhaps suggestive of Londoners' attitude to their hinterland. It is also curious to note that this extension of Burns's reputation was being sold in London. Presumably the poem refers to Jean Armour, Burns's wife after a long informal relationship. Unfortunately, the high ideals expressed in this poem were typical of this relationship and Burns is never known to have fought in a war.
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:
1820-1845 shelfmark: RB.m.168(009)
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