This ballad begins: 'Many a night, from the silent deck, / Have I gaz'd on the stars above, / And I've looked abroad o'er the tranquil sea / Till my heart was filled with love. / Thinking of home, and the dear ones there, Till I felt the tear-drops flow; / Breathing in slience a fervent pray'r / For the friends of long ago.' It was to be sung to an 'Original' tune, was priced at one penny, and was published on Saturday, 25th September 1869 by the Poet's Box in Glasgow.
The theme of lovers separated was a common one in the ballad tradition from the earliest days. Often the ballad would be narrated by a young woman left at home while her lover pursued some romantic or heroic vocation, perhaps as a soldier, a sailor, or a traveller. This later song offers a less common perspective, being narrated by the traveller rather than the lover left at home, but it is still a touching evocation of loneliness, as the narrator describes looking at the stars from the deck of his ship and dreaming of his family and his sweetheart.
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:
1869 shelfmark: L.C.1269(155b)
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