This ballad begins: 'GIN ye meet a bonny Lassie, Gie her a Kiss and let her gae, / But if she be a dirty Hussy, / fy gar rub her o're wi' Strae.' The text preceding it reads: 'An Excellent SONG / INTITULED / Fy gar rub her o're wi Strae. Italian Canzone (of seven hundred Years standing) imitated in braid Scots'.
Although there is no music included on this sheet, the tune is named. It would have been well-known by its name, no doubt, amongst a large population of illiterate people who lived in the oral tradition. Two illustrative woodcuts have been included along the top of the sheet to improve the attraction of the piece. These woodcuts were expensive to produce and so were often of a generic topic so they could be reused.
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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