Verse 1: ''Tis now some forty years ago, / A man was in his prime; / And forty years ago to him / His heart was happy, light and free, / Was then a merry time / But time has brought him low; / Still he can with pleasure speak / Of Forty Years ago.' The publication details are printed on this broadside, but a later hand has obscured them.
'Forty Years Ago' is a simple ballad lamenting the lost youth of an old man. The narrative begins in the third person, but in the last verse it switches to the first person and we realise that the narrator has been speaking of himself all along. This is quite a common technique in poetry and fiction. It makes the work suddenly more personal, and should elict greater sympathy for, and empathy with, the narrator.
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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Probable period of publication:
1850-1870 shelfmark: L.C.1269(178b)
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