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Broadside ballad entitled 'Mother's Magpie'


Verse 1: 'HE. One day while working at the plough, / Fal, lal, &c. / I felt just here I can't tell how, / Fal, lal, &c. / I turned my head round, just to see / who 'twas I heard, when there stood thee, / Like Venus com'd out of the Sea. / Fal, lal, &c.' This ballad was to be sung to the tune 'Blue Tailed Fly'.

This song is structured as a flirtatious dialogue between a young farmer, Honest John, and a pretty young woman, Nan. Nan plays off John's proposal against another she has received from a rich squire, and tells John that a magpie has flattered her about the squire's attentions. In Britain the magpie is traditionally rumoured to have Satanic qualities, so this is a bad omen. Eventually, in increasingly short and frantic exchanges, John convinces Nan to marry him instead. At the climax to the song, both turn to the audience to tell them to ensure that honesty and love conquer the devil and jealousy.

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(92a)
Broadside ballad entitled 'Mother's Magpie'
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