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Broadside ballad entitled 'Christ's Kirk on the Green'


Verse 1: 'Was never in Scotland heard nor seen / such Dancing nor Deray, / Neither on Falkland on the Green, / nor Peebles at the play; / As was of Wooers as I ween, / at Christs Kirk on a day; / For there came Kittie washen clean, / with her new Gown of Gray, / Full gay that day.' The text beneath the title reads 'Composed (as is supposed) by King James V. Newly Corrected according to the Original Copy'. Many reprints were made of this poem, and all those held by the National Library of Scotland show subtle differences in wording and spelling, reflecting the 'corrections' that were made by publishers according to the standards af their day.

'Christs Kirk on the Green' became one of the most influential poems ever produced in Scotland, but was itself based on a Scots poem from c. 1430-1450, the anonymous 'Peblis [Peebles] to the Play'. The author of 'Christs Kirk', who may have been James I or James V, pays tribute to the earlier poem in his opening verse. Both poems describe a community event that degenerates into a bawdy brawl, and this theme would go on to inspire later famous poems such as 'Leith Races' by Robert Fergusson (1750-1774) and 'Holy Fair' by Robert Burns (1759-1796).

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 date published: 1701-   shelfmark: S.302.b.2(006)
Broadside ballad entitled 'Christ's Kirk on the Green'
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