Verse 1: 'Come all ye jolly shepherds, / That whistle through the glen, / I'll tell you o' a secret / What is the greatest bliss / That the tongue o' man can name? / 'Tis to woo a bonnie lassie / When the kye come hame.' The name of the publisher is not included and the sheet is not dated. 'Kye' means 'cows'.
In the writer's desire to show that earning the love of a good woman is the best possession that a man can attain in life, this broadside ballad contrasts the wonders of nature with worldly riches, to show that love triumphs over everything else. The author of this ballad was James Hogg (also known as the Ettrick Shepherd) who lived from 1770 to 1835. It was first published as 'The sweetest thing the best thing' in Hogg's novel The three perils of man (London, 1822) and then revised as 'When the kye come hame' with music in Blackwood's Magazine in May 1823. Further revisions were made in 1831.It has been reprinted numerous times in collected editions of Hogg's works and also in other works.
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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