This ballad begins: 'Dark is the night---how dark---no light, no fire, / Cold on the hearth the last faint sparks expire, / Shiv'ring she watches by the cradle side, / For him who pledged her love last year a bride.' It was published by the Poet's Box, in December 1866. The place of publication has been erased but it is just possible to make out that the sheet came from 80 London Street, Glasgow.
It is believed that this song was written by a Dr Coates around 1841. The tune was written by Henry Russell (1812-1900), who also composed 'A Life on the Ocean Wave'. The song is very well-composed, its lyrics show thought and feeling for the poor woman who has to watch her child die while her husband gambles all their money away.
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.
Broadsides, cheap and accessible, were often used as moral forums with 'lessons of life' included in the narrative. Broadside authors tended to see themselves as moral guardians and teachers in society. As such, publishers often disseminated 'educational' texts outlining the social and personal consequences of undisciplined or immoral behaviour.
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Date of publication:
1866 shelfmark: RB.m.143(140)
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