This ballad begins: 'IN green Caledonia there ne'er were twa lovers, / Sae enraptured and happy in each ither's arms ; / As Burns the sweet bard, and his dear Highland Mary.' Included at the top of the sheet is a small illustration of a lyre surrounded by foliage and musical notation.
This ballad celebrates the very real and deep love that existed between Robert Burns (1759-96) and Mary Campbell (1763-86), also known as Highland Mary. At least two of Burns's compositions are said to have been inspired by her, 'Highland Mary' and 'The Highland Lassie, O'. Tragically, Mary's life was cut short in 1786 when she died of a fever, which some sources suggest was the result of a problematic pregnancy. Burns appears to have been deeply affected by her death, and for years after made frequent references to her in his correspondence - even after his marriage to Jean Armour.
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:
1830-1850 shelfmark: RB.m.168(082)
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