This ballad begins: 'Twas near the banks of bonny Tweed, / And in a flowery dell, / A rustic cottage reared its head, / The traveller knew it well; / For there a little lassie dwelt, / As fair as beauty's queen - / Not one so rare, not one so fair / As pretty Rosaline.' It was to be sung to an 'Original' tune, and was published on Saturday, 23rd December 1871 by the Poet's Box in Glasgow, priced one penny.
This tragic little song encompasses themes that were popular in the ballad tradition from the early, pre-printing days. The fall from innocence of a young woman was a common subject. The 'cruel lord' who is Rosaline's undoing in this ballad is also a familiar stock figure from the oral tradition. An Edenic pastoral setting into which evil is introduced features here and recurs in other ballads: nature is sometimes presented as evidence of God's goodness, sometimes as wild and arbitrary, and sometimes as both within the one song.
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:
1871 shelfmark: L.C.1269(153a)
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