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Broadsheet featuring the ballads 'Blue-Ey'd Mary' and 'The Poachers'.

Date: c 1850 - c 1870
Overall: 250 x 189 mm, 0.022 kg
Medium: Woodcut engraving and printed text on paper mounted on card.
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Broadsheet
Object No: 00017406
Place Manufactured:London

User Terms

    A broadsheet featuring the ballads 'Blue-Ey'd Mary' and 'The Poachers'.
    'Blue-Ey'd Mary" is a ballad about the rewards of true love, although in this case Mary's virtue is compromised, the sailor returns and marries her. There are a number of variants to this ballad, which is still sung as a folk song, including the length of absence of the sailor and the nature of their earlier encounter.

    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.
    HistoryBLUE-EY'D MARY.

    As I walk'd out one fine morning,
    When flowers they were so ringing,
    I met a fair maid by the way,
    She was so sweetly singing, I kindly did salute the maid,
    She was so brisk and airy,
    She appeared to me like a Venus bright,
    The charming Blue-Ey'd Mary.

    Where are you going, my fair pretty maid,
    This summer morning so early,
    I'm going kind sir to milk my cows,
    And then to mind my dairy;
    Shall I go with you my pretty maid,
    She answered me so sincerely,
    Do just as you please kind sir,
    Reply'd the Blue-Ey'd Mary.

    We were crossing of the fields so green,
    And flowers they were springing,
    Down on a mossy bank we sat,
    And the sky larks sweetly singining,
    Down on a mossy bank we sat,
    No one I'm sure was near me,
    And there I kiss'd the ruby lips,
    Of charming Blue-Ey'd Mary.

    Now you have had your will of me,
    Kind sir pray do not leave me,
    If I should prove with child by you,
    My parents they will slight me,
    Once more I kiss'd her ruby lips.
    Soon as these words she'd spoken,
    I gave to her a diamond ring,
    Take this my love as a token.

    Then I kiss'd her ruby lips,
    I squeez'd hew hand and parted,
    She said kind sir return to me,
    Don't leave me broken hearted.
    He said fair maid I must be gone,
    Our ship will sail so early,
    I'll prove as true as the turtle-dove
    To you my Blu-Ey'd Mary.

    When six long weeks were gone and past,
    No letter came to Mary,
    She often viewed the diamond ring,
    When she was in the dairy.
    She was crossing of the flowery fields,
    One summers morning early,
    A young man stepped up to her,
    And said are you young Mary.

    I have now returned from sea,
    To take your cows and dairy,
    And make you my lawful wife,
    My charming Blue-Ey'd Mary,
    She went with him without delay,
    She forsook her cows and dairy,
    And made her his lawful bride,
    His charming Blue-Ey'd Mary.


    When I was bound apprentice in fam'd Northamptonshire,
    I served my master truly for almost seven year
    Till I took up to poaching, as you shall quickly hear --
    Oh, it's delight of a shiny night in the season of the year.

    As me and my comrades were setting of a snare,
    The game-keeper was watching us --- for him we did not care;
    For we can wrestle, fight my boys, jump over any where,
    For it's my delight of a shiny night, in the season of the year.

    As me and my companions were setting four of five,
    And taking of them up again, we took the hare alive;
    We pooped him into the bag my boys, and through the wood did steer,
    For it's my delight of a shiny night, in the season of the year.

    We threw him over our shoulders and wandered through the town,
    Called in a neighbour's house and sold him for a crown,
    We sold him for a crown my boys, but did not tell you where,
    For it's my delight of a shiny night, in the season of the year.

    Well here's success to poaching, for I do think it fair,
    Bad luck to every game-keeper that would not sell his deer.
    Good luck to every game-keeper that wants to buy a hare,
    For 'tis my delight of a shiny night, in the season of the year.

    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.

    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.

    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 occasionally they 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.

    Related People
    Printer: W S Fortey

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