This ballad begins: 'What Moonshine or Trade-wind hath blown thee here, / Loadstone of Trade, why did the Skipper Stear / Thy Vessel for to Harbour at this Tree, / And failing down our Coasts cry Helmalee.' Following on from the title, there is some text explaining the motive for writing this ballad, some scribbled notes and a dedication in Latin. Although no publisher is named, the sheet was printed in 1724.
With its allusions to the bible and classical myths, this panegyric humorously employs lofty similes to create a mock-epic dedicated to a man named Robert Cowan. Despite the content provided in the sheet's introduction, unfortunately, the broadside does not offer very much information regarding the fine details behind the situation. However, it appears that Cowan was involved in the shipping trade, and had defrauded his creditors - hence the poem's references to smugglers and pirates. The author appears to draw a parallel between a perilous ocean voyage and Cowan's hazardous trip to the Tron to face his creditors. The ominous mentioning of Captain John Dalgleish, meanwhile, is a darkly humorous reference to the famous Edinburgh lock-man and hangman.
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:
1724 shelfmark: Ry.III.a.10(097)
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