Verse 1: 'Once I was happy, but now I'm forlorn, / Like an old coat that is tattered and torn, / Left on this wide world to fret and to mourn, / Betrayed by a maid in her teens. / The girl that I loved she was handsome, / I tried all I knew her to please, / But I could not please her one quarter so well / As that man upon the trapeze.' Priced at one penny, this broadside could be purchased from the Poet's Box, Glasgow. It is dated 'Saturday, July 11, 1874'.
Also known as 'Man on the Flying Trapeze', this light-hearted song is a young man's lament over the betrayal of his sweetheart as she disappears into the arms of a trapeze artist. Captivated by his physique and expertise on the trapeze, 'His movements were graceful, all girls he could please', the young woman elopes with him one night. The song ends with the young man spying 'A bill in red letters, which did my heart gall, / That she was appearing with him.' It has been suggested that this song was written about the trapeze artist, Jules Leotard, who in the 1860s performed in London wearing the costume that now bears his name.
The Poet?s Box in Glasgow operated from 1849 to 1911. Matthew Leitch was the proprietor at 6 St. Andrew Lane?s, a narrow street on the south side of Gallowgate, from 1850 to 1858. His son William Munsie Leitch worked at the same address from 1859 to 1865 and at varous addresses in London Street until 1911. Many of the broadsides published by the Glasgow Poet?s Box were dated and some carried advertisements, not just for printed items but also for shoe blacking and ?soap for lovers?! Like the other ?boxes? in Dundee and Edinburgh, the Glasgow one sold love songs, sea shanties, parodies and dialogues. It is not clear what the connection between the different Poet?s Boxes were. They almost certainly sold each other?s sheets. It is known that John Sanderson in Edinburgh often wrote to the Leitches in Glasgow for songs and that later his brother Charles obtained copies of songs from the Dundee Poet?s Box. There was also a Poet?s Box in Belfast from 1846 to 1856 at the address of the printer James Moore, and one in Paisley in the early 1850s owned by William Anderson.
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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Date of publication:
1874 shelfmark: L.C.Fol.70(124a)
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