Verse 1: 'Here is some lines about the times; / That cannot fail to please ye, / And if it don't, it can't be help'd, / But I don't wish to tease ye; / Go where ye will, by day or night, / The town or country through, / The people cry - I wonder what / They ever mean to do.' This publisher of the broadside is identified as 'Muir', who is probably John Muir of Glasgow.
'John Bull and the Taxes!' is a ballad protesting at tax-payers' money being used to pay for the wedding of Queen Victoria to Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha in 1840. This was a particularly sensitive time, with feelings in Britain running high over the 'corn laws', which are also referred to in the poem. The corn laws prevented the duty-free import of foreign wheat until domestic prices reached a minimum price. During the crop failure and trade depression of 1839-42, the hardship caused by the laws was especially pronounced.
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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