This ballad begins: 'My whittle's lost! yet I dinna ken; / Lat's ripe - lat's ripe my pouch again / Na! I ha'e turn'd ower a that's in'd, / But ne'er a whittle can I find'. 'Whittle' is a Scots word for a sharp knife, and 'ripe' is Scots for 'search'. There are no publication details given on this broadside.
The comic nature of this poem is signified by the use of the word 'lamentation' in the title. Lamentations are generally songs or poems mourning the death or departure of a loved one, and to apply the term to a knife suggests an over-reaction to its loss. The comic melodrama increases throughout the poem, as the narrator first describes searching in vain for the knife and then imagines all sorts of fates for it. The poem culminates in a vision of the knife being unearthed in a peat bog and taken to Edinburgh as an antique, to be displayed proudly with William Wallace's relics.
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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