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Broadside ballad entitled 'Bonnie Bessie Lee'


Verse 1 begins: 'Bonnie Bessie Lee had a face fu' o' smiles, / And mirth round her ripe lip was aye dancing slee'. There are two woodcuts on this page. The one included above the title depicts a young man and woman in a field with sickles. The other, at the end of the text, is of a fine lady wearing a grim facial expression.

This broadside addresses a common lyrical theme that of the differences between a blithe young girl and her older and wiser self. Bonnie Bessie is described as a slyph-like character radiating smiles and happiness wherever she is. Later, however, when the narrator returns from his travels he finds a more sober and domesticated Bessie, which does not please him. As a result he chooses to remember the younger Bessie.

Broadsides are single sheets of paper, printed on one side, to be read unfolded. They carried public information such as proclamations as well as ballads and news of the day. Cheaply available, they were sold on the streets by pedlars and chapmen. Broadsides offer a valuable insight into many aspects of the society they were published in, and the National Library of Scotland holds over 250,000 of them.

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Probable period of publication: 1860-1890   shelfmark: L.C.Fol.178.A.2(108)
Broadside ballad entitled 'Bonnie Bessie Lee'
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