Poetry - Ballads

  • Today, in honor of National Poetry Month, let's explore ballads. The ballad derives its name from medieval French dance songs or "ballares" (L: ballare, to dance), from which 'ballet' is also derived, as did the alternative rival form that became the French ballade.

    Ballads are sometimes set to music and have a long history in many cultures. A typical ballad consists of stanzas that contain a quatrain or four poetical lines. The meter or rhythm of each line is usually iambic (one unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable) with eight or six syllables in a line. Like any poem, some ballads follow this form and some don't, but almost all ballads are narrative, which means they tell a story.

    Since many ballads were set to music, they have some repeated lines for the chorus. Not all ballads are like this though. The Romantic Movement in the late 18th century saw the ballad becoming quite popular.

    Here, we see the ballad Annabel Lee by Edgar Allan Poe. You can see the story told and the romantic angle of it. In somewhat typical Poe style, it does have a melancholy. Not all ballads are like that one though.

    In Getting Information out of Pa by an anonymous writer, we see a fun ballad style poem. Anyone with kids or who has babysat any will know what this dad was going through in this poem. A bit of it here:

    [quote]
    And why a horse can’t learn to moo,
    And why a cow can’t neigh?
    And do the fairies live on dew,
    And what makes hair grow gray—
    And then my pa got up an’ gee!
    The offul words he said,
    I hadn’t done a things, but he
    Jest sent me off to bed.

    [/blockquote]



    You can write a ballad about anything. Here's one about baseball, A Ballad of Baseball Burdens by Franklin Pierce Adams.

    [quote]
    The burden of hard hitting. Slug away
    Like Honus Wagner or like Tyrus Cobb.
    Else fandom shouteth: “Who said you could play?
    Back to the jasper league, you minor slob!”
    Swat, hit, connect, line out, get on the job.
    Else you shall feel the brunt of fandom’s ire
    Biff, bang it, clout it, hit it on the knob—
    This is the end of every fan’s desire.

    [/blockquote]



    As you can see, any topic can become a ballad. Follow your inspiration and write one if you would like. Be sure to put the hashtag #poetry for it!

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