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Broadside ballad entitled 'The Dreadful Voice of Fire'


This ballad begins: 'The Elements, Earth, Water, Air and Fire, / Make happy Men, or sometime they conspire.' The text preceding this ballad reads: 'Begun at Edinburgh, the 3d of February 1700. ????? Quis, talia fando, / Temperet a Lachrymiss? ????'.

The first reference in this text is to the Darien Scheme established roughly between 1695 and 1700. This was to be Scotland's first colonial exercise, (to the isthmus of Panama) earlier attempts having been blocked by English traders. Scotland was inspired by the thought of increased trade and opportunities and it is thought that over half the Lowland population invested some money in it. However, the scheme proved to be a disastrous washout, with many Scots dying on foreign shores. Most of the rest of this text is a warning against the evils of money, profit and foreign travel.

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: 1700   shelfmark: S.302.b.2(012)
Broadside ballad entitled 'The Dreadful Voice of Fire'
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