Grand-Dad's Poetry

Grand-Dad’s Poetry
My grandfather wrote “poetry” or at least he wrote lines that rhyme. In fact, he wrote loads of it and might have intended someday to publish it because he carefully typed it all on an old manual typewriter. In my opinion, it’s terrible stuff, although some of it appears to be autobiographical. But most of it is not worth reading.
I always wondered why he wasted his time like this, but then I learned about “slip ballads.” In the nineteenth century following the Civil War, thousands of these ballads were printed, one ballad at a time on a single sheet of paper. They were hawked on city streets by kids wanting to earn money, or they were handed out at camp meetings and the like. Civil War veterans, badly wounded and unable to ever work again, sold them on city streets to passer-bys. They earned a little money that way.
Slip ballads were especially popular following the Civil War because a melancholy settled across the nation and these forms of “entertainment” reflected the feelings of many. They could be horribly depressing, or they could be a lame attempt at humor, as were many of my grandfather’s attempts.
When I think more about all this, I realized that was the type of poetry my grandfather always heard. He was born in 1871, before the wounds of the War healed. Most households at the time had suffered horrible losses, and it was a long time before grief and shock turned into less acute sad memories and eventually stories repeated in history books. My grandfather, as it happens, was a by-product of the Civil War. Strange to think I learned more about him through slip ballads.

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