Verse 1: 'She's gentle as the zephyr, / That sips of every sweet; / She's fairer than the lily / In nature's soft retreat. / Her eyes are like the crystle brook, / As bright and clear to see; / her lips outshine the scarlet flower / Of bonnie Ellerslie.' This song was to be sung to a tune named 'The Scarlet Flower'. The name and location of the published have been obscured on the broadside.
'Ellerslie' is an old spelling of the Scots village of Elderslie, Renfrewshire, which is best known as the birthplace of William Wallace. William Wordsworth referred to Wallace leaving his surname as his legacy, to be found all over Scotland like a 'wild flower'. Wallace has also been called 'Flower of Scotland' in the more modern song of that name by the Corries. Thus, although it might seem unusual, the poet here appears to be comparing his love's beauty not only literally to the beauty of a flower, but also in some way, to Scotland's warrior hero.
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 period of publication:
1870-1890 shelfmark: L.C.1269(162b)
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