Verse 1 begins: 'As I walkt out one morning, adored as I did pass, / On the banks of Inverary I met a bonny lass'. It was published by Batchelar of Long Alley, probably in London. The woodcut at the top of the sheet is supposed to look like a coat of arms, which would have imbued the sheet with a perceived air of authority.
Meeting a lovely girl on the banks of a river is a fairly common plot amongst Scottish ballads. Yet the romantic, idyllic and peaceful nature of the plot would probably have had widespread and enduring appeal. The theme of chaste and virtuous behaviour is also common amongst broadsides and there is a real fear of innocent women becoming the victims of seduction. Broadsides were often used as moral forums with 'lessons of life' included in the narrative. Broadside authors also tended to see themselves as moral guardians and teachers in society.
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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