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Broadside ballad entitled 'Christ's Kirk on the Green'


Verse 1: 'Was never in Scotland heard or seen, / such dancing and deray; / Neither at Falkland on the green, / nor Peebles at the play, / As was of woers as I ween; / at Christs Kirk on a day: / For there came Kittie washen clean, / with her new Gown of Gray, / Full gay that day' The poem is attributed to James V (1512-42), but the printer's note under the title, 'Newly Corrected according to the Original Copy' indicates that this was one of the many reprints that were made of the poem in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, with the spelling updated to the standard forms of the period.

'Christ's Kirk on the Green' is one of the most popular and influential poems ever to have been produced in Scotland. Its description of a rural fair degenerating into a mass brawl struck a popular chord, and inspired works such as 'Leith Races' by Robert Fergusson and 'The Holy Fair' by Robert Burns. The distinctive 'Christ's Kirk' verse form and boisterous subject matter were derived from an anonymous fifteenth century Scots poem, 'Peblis [Peebles] to the Play', which is acknowledged in the opening verse of 'Christ's Kirk on the Green'.

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 date of publication: 1701   shelfmark: Ry.III.a.10(004)
Broadside ballad entitled 'Christ's Kirk on the Green'
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