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Broadside ballad entitled 'Bird of the Wilderness (The Skylark)'


This ballad begins: 'Bird of the wilderness, / Blithesome and cumberless, / Sweet is thy matin o'er moorland and lea! / Emblem of happiness, / Blest is thy dwelling-place, / Oh, to abide in the desert with thee.' A note below the title states that 'Copies of this extremely popular song can only be had in the Poet's Box', (probably Glasgow) and that the ballad should be sing to an original tune. The sheet was published on the Saturday morning of August 18th, 1868.

This ballad celebrates the joys of the skylark - a bird that has come to symbolise freedom, ardour, joy, youth and happiness. In addition to symbolising these concepts, the skylark is also a symbol of the praying Christ, as he rises into heaven after blessing his disciples. The religious language and imagery employed in this ballad suggests that, on this occasion, the skylark is being used for its religious associations. A note below the title advertises the many services that the Poet's Box can offer its customers, while a list at the bottom of the sheet catalogues other ballads that are available for purchase.
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: 1868   shelfmark: L.C.1269(176b)
Broadside ballad entitled 'Bird of the Wilderness (The Skylark)'
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