Verse 1 begins: 'Now you married women all, / Your attention I do call, / And a good advice ill give you I am thinking, / For the husband I have got'. The woodcut at the top of the sheet depicts a well-dressed couple standing in a leafy clearing. They appear to have fallen out, however, as their bodies are stiff and turned away from one another.
This poem, unusually for broadside literature, reveals the horrors of alcoholism. The fact that Biddy, the wife, is beaten, their children starve and most of their possessions have been sold is all clearly delineated in the text. No censure of Barney for this behaviour or a real solution to the problem is presented though. It is also implicit in the text that there is no avenue of refuge or escape for Barney's family in their society. Biddy's rather novel attempt at a solution is to sew her husband into his bed sheets, when he falls asleep drunk. As a result Barney was reformed!
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:
1850-1870 shelfmark: RB.m.168(001)
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