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Broadside ballad entitled 'Afloat on the Ocean'


Verse 1: 'Afloat on the ocean, my days gaily fly; / No monarch on earth is more happy than I; / Like a bright, brilliant star my trim bark seems to me, / As sparkling in glory, she skims o'er the sea. / The wave is my kingdom, all bend to my will, / And fate seems ambitious my hopes to fulfil.' This broadside was priced at one penny and was published on Saturday, 19th September 1857 by the Poet's Box. The town of publication has been obscured, but was probably Glasgow.

Ballads about or narrated by travellers, sailors and soldiers were very commonplace on broadsides. Their popularity probably stemmed from the romantic connotations of exploration and seeing new worlds, especially in circumstances where there was an element of danger. In the nineteenth century, when this broadside was published, the opportunities for people to travel were far fewer, and much more difficult, than today.
The Poet?s Box in Glasgow operated from 1849 to 1911. Matthew Leitch was the proprietor at 6 St. Andrew Lane?s, a narrow street on the south side of Gallowgate, from 1850 to 1858. His son William Munsie Leitch worked at the same address from 1859 to 1865 and at varous addresses in London Street until 1911. Many of the broadsides published by the Glasgow Poet?s Box were dated and some carried advertisements, not just for printed items but also for shoe blacking and ?soap for lovers?! Like the other ?boxes? in Dundee and Edinburgh, the Glasgow one sold love songs, sea shanties, parodies and dialogues. It is not clear what the connection between the different Poet?s Boxes were. They almost certainly sold each other?s sheets. It is known that John Sanderson in Edinburgh often wrote to the Leitches in Glasgow for songs and that later his brother Charles obtained copies of songs from the Dundee Poet?s Box. There was also a Poet?s Box in Belfast from 1846 to 1856 at the address of the printer James Moore, and one in Paisley in the early 1850s owned by William Anderson.
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: 1857   shelfmark: L.C.1269(154b)
Broadside ballad entitled 'Afloat on the Ocean'
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