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Broadside ballad entitled 'The Merry Bagpipes'


This ballad begins: 'A Shepherd sat him under a Thorn, / he pull'd out his Pipe and began for to play, / It was on a Mid Summers day in the morn, / for honour of that Holy day.' The text preceding it reads: 'Or, the Pleasant Pastime betwixt a Jolly Shepherd and a Country Damsel, on a Mid-Summer-Day, in the Morning. / To the tune of March Boys, &c. Licensed according to Order.'

The use of the word licence in the introduction to this ballad is quite interesting. Licences were usually only issued where tax payments were due, such as on newspapers, and broadsides were untaxed. Often 'licence' is used to mean entered in the Stationers' Registry. This gave publishers some measure of copyright protection. On a further note, this statement was sometimes included even when the text had not been registered, as a measure of low-cost protection.

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(060)
Broadside ballad entitled 'The Merry Bagpipes'
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