Verse 1 begins: 'The pig is in the mire, and the cow is on the grass, / And a man without a woman is no better than an ass'. The reader is directed to sing this song to the 'Air - 'Old Zipcoon'. There is a woodcut included above the title which shows a hooded and shawled girl, carrying a basket, walking along a country path.
'Old Zipcoon' or 'Old Zip Coon' seems to have been a name which was used for any tune to which an 'Old Zip Coon' quadrille could be danced. As a result of its generic name, tunes which fitted this timing were probably quite widely and well known. The chorus to this song uses the phrase 'Arrah cushla', which was a popular tag line amongst broadsides. This would have made it easier to remember the song and shows how many ideas were 'shared' amongst authors.
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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