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Broadside ballad entitled 'Poor Nancy Young'


This ballad begins: 'Dark and dismal is this night, / Ah! when will morning come? / Ah! where's my lover gone to-night? / And left me all alone?' This ballad was sung to the tune of 'Alice Gray'.

The composer of this ballad, John Young, combined his writing with publishing and working as a Professor of Poetry in St Andrews - presumably at the university. Seemingly written in March 1852, the ballad aims to win our sympathy for poor Nancy Young, who has been abandoned by the husband that she loves so much. The tone of the ballad (as reflected in the song's imagery) is very much one of abandonment and hopelessness, with Nancy seeking the bliss of death. Interestingly, an emotional footnote at the bottom of the sheet reveals that the ballad is dedicated to 'all the Friends of the Poor'.

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 of publication: 1852   shelfmark: L.C.Fol.70(137b)
Broadside ballad entitled 'Poor Nancy Young'
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