Verse 1 begins: 'I have heard the mavis singing / Its love song to the morn'. This sheet was published by James Lindsay of 11 King Street, Glasgow. Included above the title is a clear and detailed image of country girl crossing a stream.
James Lindsay is known to have worked out of 11 King Street between 1860 and 1890, although he operated a printers shop in Glasgow from the 1840s through to 1908. By including a woodcut on the sheet, Lindsay probably hoped to increase its perceived value. Woodcuts, by this later time, were more sophisticated with clear and more lifelike detail. They were, however, still used generically and it would not be surprising to find this illustration on another unrelated sheet. This song was written by two Englishmen probably around 1850. 'Bonny Mary' was Robert Burns's 'Highland Mary' (Mary Campbell, 1763-1786), who died tragically young. It is thought that Burns had asked her to go to Jamaica with him, but she died before the voyage.
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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