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Broadside ballad entitled 'Tragedy of Sir James the Rose'


Verse 1: 'Of all the Scottish northern chiefs, / Of high and mightty name, / The bravest was Sir James the Rose, / A knight of meikle fame.' This ballad was published on 23rd January 1869 by the Poet's Box, London Street, Glasgow, priced one penny.

Although this ballad was published in 1869, it has the hallmarks of the older oral folk ballad tradition. Combat between a handsome young knight and a corrupt old lord was a recurring theme, and the tragic ending, where the young man sacrifices himself for love, was also quite common. The verse form of this ballad, with four-stress and three-stress lines alternating and second and fourth lines rhyming, was the most frequently-used form in Scotland, and was known as 'common measure'.
The Poet?s Box in Glasgow operated from 1849 to 1911. Matthew Leitch was the proprietor at 6 St. Andrew Lane?s, a narrow street on the south side of Gallowgate, from 1850 to 1858. His son William Munsie Leitch worked at the same address from 1859 to 1865 and at varous addresses in London Street until 1911. Many of the broadsides published by the Glasgow Poet?s Box were dated and some carried advertisements, not just for printed items but also for shoe blacking and ?soap for lovers?! Like the other ?boxes? in Dundee and Edinburgh, the Glasgow one sold love songs, sea shanties, parodies and dialogues. It is not clear what the connection between the different Poet?s Boxes were. They almost certainly sold each other?s sheets. It is known that John Sanderson in Edinburgh often wrote to the Leitches in Glasgow for songs and that later his brother Charles obtained copies of songs from the Dundee Poet?s Box. There was also a Poet?s Box in Belfast from 1846 to 1856 at the address of the printer James Moore, and one in Paisley in the early 1850s owned by William Anderson.

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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Date published: 1869   shelfmark: L.C.Fol.70(50)
Broadside ballad entitled 'Tragedy of Sir James the Rose'
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