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Broadsheet with four ballads, 'The Pilot' , 'Tipitywitchet', 'I'd rather be Excus'd' and 'The Martial Trumpet'.

Date: 1813 - 1838
Overall: 243 x 158 mm, 0.015 kg
Medium: Woodcut engraving and printed text on paper mounted on card.
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Broadsheet
Object No: 00017377
Place Manufactured:London

User Terms

    A broadsheet featuring four ballads titled 'The Pilot', 'Tipitywitchet', 'I'd Rather Be Excus'd' and 'The Martial Trumpet'.
    The sheet is published by James Catnach, Monmouth Court, Seven Dials.
    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 and migration.
    HistoryThe Pilot.

    When lightnings pierce the pitchy sky,
    And o'er the ocean's bosom fly,
    While roaring waves each other whelm
    The hardy pilot takes the helm ;
    He puts to sea resolved to save,
    Or perish in the briny wave.

    The signal of distress he hears,
    And to the foundering vessel steers,
    He loudly hails the exhausted crew,
    Who cheer'd by him their toils renew ;
    And bless the pilot bound to save,
    Or perish in the briny wave.

    They work the pump with double force,
    He calmy points the helmsman' course,
    His steady orders all obey,
    And now the vessel's on her way ;
    Pursue the pilot bent to save, / Or perish in the briny wave.

    With anxious care the course they keep, / She struggling rides th angry deep, / In smoother water then she sails, / The crew huzza, then warmly hail, / he hardy pilot sent to save, / Or perish in the briny wave.


    This very morning handy, / My malady was such, / I in my tea took brandy, / And took a drop too much. / (Hiccups) Tol de rol.

    But stop, I musn't mag hard, / My head aches --- if you please, / One pinch of Irish blackguard, / I'll take to give me ease. / (Sneezes) Tol de rol.

    Now I'm quite drowsy growing, / For this very morn / I rose while cock was crowing, / Excuse me if I yawn. (yawns) Tol de tol.

    I'm not in cue for frolic, / Can't up my spirits keep, / Love's a windy cholic, / Tis that makes me weep. / (Cries) Tol de rol.

    I'm not in mood for crying, / Care's a silly calf ; / If to get fat you're trying, / The only way's too laugh. / (Laughs) Tol de rol.

    I'd Rather Be Excus'd.

    RETURNING from the fair one eve, / Across yon verdant plain, / Young Harry said he'd see me home, / A tight and comely swain. / He begg'd I would a fairing take, / And would not be refus'd ; / Then ask'd a kiss, I blush'd and cry'd / I'd rather b excus'd.

    You're coy, said he, my pretty maid, / I mean no harm, I swer ; / Lonf time I have in secret sigh'd, / Eor you my charming fair ; / But if my tenderness offend, / And if my love's refus'd, / I'll leave you - - - what, alone? cry'd I, I'd rather be excus'd.

    He press'd my hand, and on, we walk'd, / He warmly urg'd his suit ; / But still to all he said I was / Most obstinately mute. / At length, got home ; he anry cry'd, / My fondness is abus'd ; / Then die a maid - - - indeed said I, / I'd rather be excus'd.

    The Martial Trumpet.

    SOFTLY sound the marital trumpet, / Now the din of war is o'er ; / Peace, fair maid, prepares a banquet, / Laurell'd heros pant no more.

    A calm retreat where myrtles twine, / With mossy rose, and sweet woodbine / Shall recompense your toil and care, / You've sheath'd the sword, now guard the fair.

    Broadsheets or broadsides, as they were also known, were originally used to communicate official or royal decrees. They were printed on one side of paper and became a popular medium of communication between the 16th and 19th centuries in Europe, particularly Britain. They were able to be printed quickly and cheaply and were widely distributed in public spaces including churches, taverns and town squares. Their function expanded as they became used as a medium to galvanise political debate, hold public meetings and advertise products or cultural events.

    The cheap nature of the broadside and its wide accessibility meant that its intended audience were often literate individuals but from varying social standings. The illiterate may have also had access to this literature as many of the ballads were designed to be read aloud. In 'Popular Culture in Seventeenth-Century England', Peter Burke notes that the golden age of the broadside ballad, between 1600 and 1700, saw ballads produced at a penny each which was the same price for admission to the theatre.

    The ballads also covered a wide range of subject matter such as witchcraft, epic war battles, murder and maritime themes and events. They were suitably dramatic and often entertaining, but as James Sharpe notes, also in 'Popular Culture in Seventeenth-Century England', some of them were designed as elaborate cautionary tales for those contemplating a life of crime.

    The broadside ballads in the museum's collection were issued by a range of London printers and publishers for sale on the streets by hawkers. They convey, often comically, stories about love, death, shipwrecks, convicts and pirates. Each ballad communicates a sense that these stories were designed to be read aloud for all to enjoy, whether it was at the local tavern or a private residence.
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