This ballad begins: 'Near a tree by the margin of a woodland, / Whose green and leafy boughs sweep the ground / With a path leading to it o'er the prairie, / when silence hung her night garb around.' It was to be sung to its original tune. The broadside was priced at one penny and was published by the Poet's Box on Saturday, 7th October 1865. The town of publication has been obscured, but was probably Glasgow.
Various words in 'Belle Brandon' betray the fact that it is a song of American origin. There are references to the 'prairie' and to the arbour, both words that are far less common in Britain than in the United States, and there is also a reference to the 'red man', or Native American. The existence of broadsides like this is an example of how popular culture slowly became more cosmopolitan and broader in its worldview, as improved travel and postal services opened other countries up to Britain.
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.
View Transcription | Download PDF Facsimile
Date of publication:
1865 shelfmark: L.C.1269(154a)
View larger image