This ballad begins: 'The gloomy night is gath'ring fast, / Loud roars the wild inconstant blast! / Yon mirky cloud is full with rain, / I see it driving o'er the plain. . . '
Judging by the woodcut of a rural worker that accompanies this broadside ballad, these verses might well be referring to the dying of the light for 'the Heaven-taught ploughman', Robert Burns. Certainly, the dark references to the 'gloomy night' and symbolic seasonal change from autumn to winter, hint at impending death. In addition to the Ayrshire setting, this ballad also appears in the middle of a sequence of broadsides dedicated to the immortal memory of Robert Burns. Many broadside ballads such as this one are held in the National Library of Scotland's collection.
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:
1860-1890 shelfmark: L.C.Fol.70(9a)
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