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Broadside ballad entitled 'Death and the Lady'


Verse 1 'DEATH?Fair lady, lay your costly robes aside, / No longer may you glory in your pride; / Take leave of all your carnal vain delight, / I'm come to summons you away tonight.' The poem is prefaced by stern quotes from the bible that include 'She that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth' (Timothy, verse 6) and 'Tremble, ye women that are at ease' (Isaiah).

This ballad is structured as a dialogue between Death and a woman, and is clearly intended for moral instruction. The implication is that the woman has led an extravagant, sinful life, and death has caught her before she has had the chance to reflect and pursue a more Christian lifestyle. The fact that this heavy-handed lesson is aimed specifically at women illustrates the Calvinist, paternalistic, sometimes misogynistic moral codes that prevailed in Scottish society of the time.

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 period of publication: 1880-1900   shelfmark: L.C.Fol.70(52)
Broadside ballad entitled 'Death and the Lady'
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