This ballad begins: 'The moon had climbed the highest hill, / That rises o'er the source of Dee; / And from the eastern summit shed / Her silvery light on tower and tree'. A woodcut of a young woman holding aloft a birdcage whilst being looked at by an unusually large cat (or strangely shaped dog) decorates the top of the sheet. The sheet was published by James Lindsay of 11 King Street, Glasgow.
The lyrics for this ballad were written in 1772 by John Lowe. Lowe was tutor to the McGhie family, and wrote the song for Mary, one of the daughters. She had been engaged to a surgeon named Alexander (Sandy) Miller who was lost at sea. Lowe ended up in America, working first as tutor for George Washington's brother's family, then running an academy in Virginia. He later became an Anglican minister.
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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