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Broadsheet ballad titled 'We are Coming, Sister Mary'.

Date: 1790-1870
Overall: 242 x 78 mm, 0.023 kg
Medium: Woodcut and printed text on paper mounted on card
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Broadsheet
Object No: 00031086
Place Manufactured:London

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    Broadsheet ballad titled 'We are Coming, Sister Mary'.
    SignificanceBroadsheets were designed as printed ephemera to be published and distributed rapidly. This also meant they were quickly disposed of with many of them not surviving the test of time. The museum's broadsheet collection is therefore a rare and valuable example of how maritime history was communicated to a wide audience, particularly in the 18th and 19th centuries. They vibrantly illustrate many of the themes and myths surrounding life at sea. Some of them also detail stories about transportation, migration.

    On a stormy night in winter,
    When the winds blew cold and wet,
    I heard some strains of music
    That I never can forget.
    I was sleeping in the cabin
    Where lived Mary, fair and young,
    When a light shone in the window,
    And a band of singers sung, --

    We are coming, sister Mary,
    We are coming by and by;
    Be you ready, sisiter Mary,
    For the time is drawing nigh.

    I tried to call my Mary,
    But my tongue would not obey,
    Till the song so strange had ended,
    And the singers flown away.
    Then I woke her from her slumber,
    And told her everything,
    But I could not guess the meaning
    Of the song I heard them sing.
    We are coming, &c.

    Then the next night came, I heard them,
    And the third night too they sung,
    While I sat beside the pillow
    Of my Mary fair and young.
    As I watched I heard a rustling,
    Like the rustling of a wing;
    And beside my Mary's pillow,
    Very soon I heard them sing---
    We are coming, &c.

    Then again I called my Mary,
    But my sorrow was complete,
    For I found her heart of kindness
    Had ever ceased to beat;
    And now I am very lonely,
    From summer round to spring,
    And I oft, in midnight slumber
    Seem to hear the same ones sing--
    We are coming, &c.

    Broadsides were issued by a number of London publishers for selling by hawkers on the street and were a popular form of entertainment in 18th and 19th century England. By their very nature they are extremely fragile and ephemeral ;as a result they are notably scarce in good condition .
    They were also known as 'roadsheet’, 'broadsheet', ‘stall’, ‘vulgar’ or ‘come all ye’ ballads'. In the 19th century many ballads were written about people emigrating. A large number to escape the difficult economic conditions they faced or to try and make their fortunes to bring home.The ballads reflect a deep love of their home place and in many cases the hero - usually male – is pining for a loved one he had to leave behind.

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