Verse 1: 'Our poets noo are turnin' scarce, / Of that we a' can tell, / Though mony a chap may write a verse / That only suits himsel'. / But though they paint the flowery spring / And bonnie sparkling rill, / They haena got the pith to sing / Wi' Burns and Tannahill.'
This ballad laments the sad fact that the Scottish poets and songwriters living in the unspecified period in which the broadside was published, are not nearly as good as Robert Burns (1759-96) and Robert Tannahill (1774-1810). Clearly, the author regards the dying embers of the Scottish Enlightenment as a golden age for writing in Scotland. Accompanied by five woodcuts, the four verses and the chorus all contain a closing refrain that toasts the immortal memory of Burns and Tannahill. The ballad also celebrates the lowly social status of the two poets, hinting at the fact that a poetic fortune is a different type of currency entirely.
Broadsides are often crudely illustrated with woodcuts - the earliest form of printed illustration, first used in the mid-fifteenth century. Inclusion of an illustration on a broadside increased its perceived value, especially among the illiterate. To keep costs down, publishers would normally reuse their limited stock of generic woodcuts.
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Probable period of publication:
1860-1890 shelfmark: L.C.Fol.70(8b)
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