This ballad begins: 'In the city of Exeter there lived a Squire, / And he had a daughter most beautiful and fair, / And she lov'd a shepherd below her degree, / Which caused her ruin and sad misery.' It was published by James Lindsay of Glasgow, and probably sold for one penny.
This song touches on one of the most common themes found in the traditional folk ballad, that of tragic love. The unfortunate shepherdess of the title laments the murder of her young lover, the shepherd, at the hands of her father. As he is lying bleeding, he pledges his small flock to her with the promise that 'They'l be your companions thro' hail wind and snow'. His dying words prove to be true and despite the eventual death of her estranged father and the promise of a rather large inheritance, the young woman relinquishes her birthright and vows to wander the hills 'till death ends the strife, / Lamenting my shepherd all the days of my life'.
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:
1860-1880 shelfmark: L.C.Fol.178.A.2(069)
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