Glossary

Term: Ballad


Description

Strictly, a ballad is a form of poetry that alternates lines of four and three beats, often in quatrains, rhymed abab, and often telling a story - the anonymous poem 'Sir Patrick Spens' and Wordsworth's "A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal" demonstrate this well. The alternating sequence of four and three stresses is sometimes called common measure, especially when used for hymns. It is an appropriate name, as it is a very common form, with examples found from medieval lyrics to contemporary birthday cards, and is often the form used on TV when the scriptwriters want a character to have written a poem.

Within the Archive, Brian Patten's use of the form in 'Geography Lesson' echoes John Masefield's sea ballads, making the teacher's failure to explore the seas more poignant; Robert Minhinnick's 'Yellow Palm', the only strongly-rhymed poem in his reading, uses the form's familiarity to temper the political anger that it contains. It is also a form that can survive the bending of its rules, as in the case of Causley's 'Miller's End' - this has tetrametric lines throughout, but retains the flavour, the forward motion of the form. However, Sebastian Barker's poem 'The Articles of Prayer', while it does use the ballad metre, is lacking a narrative and would therefore not normally be called a ballad.

How to use this term

Is the wholly trimeter rhythm of 'The Ride', by Richard Wilbur, enough to stop this poem from being a ballad, even though it meets the other characteristics?

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Related Poems

Choosing a Name

Holy The Heart On Which We Hang Our Hope

Reading Stevens in the Bath

Translation Workshop: Grit and Blood

A Rose for Janet

A Subaltern's Love Song

For This

Geography Lesson

Miller's End

The Ride

The Yellow Palm

Ode to Didcot Power Station

Ave Atque Vale

Prelude to a New Fin-de-Siècle

Painting of a Bedroom with Cats

For Me

The Ice-Cream Man

Coming Home

Walking Wounded

Four Morbid Songs - an extract

Machines

Piano

Belfast Confetti

The Boneyard Rap

Corpse

Song of the Death-Watch Beetle

Urban Lyric

Enemies

Fundamentals

Ted Hughes is Elvis Presley

Between Hovers

For Meg

Sonnet for Dick

Don't Ask Me, Love, for That First Love

Marigolds

Sigma

On Going Deaf

The Living End

Life Is a Walk Across a Field

The Texas Swing Boys' Dadaist Manifesto

Mayflies

The Mulberry Tree

The Romans in Britain

Timothy Winters

Variation on an Old Rhyme

Granny Is

Holy The Heart On Which We Hang Our Hope

A Refusal to Mourn the Death, by Fire, of a Child in London

Bloodlines - an extract

Don't Ask Me, Love, for That First Love

The Lost Woman

Hypnopaedia

Sea Wind

Shantung

You Were Wearing Blue

You're Beautiful

Cracks

What Is Poetry

Ghazal

Razor

Strugnell's Haiku

A Removal from Terry Street

Ruins of a Great House

Simple Poem

A Supermarket in California

In praise of vodka

Leaving the Tate

Seashell

The Elwood Organic Fruit and Vegetable Shop

A Rose for Janet

Art Class

The Moon Upoon the Waters

Bluebottle

Dad

Mum [Polly Peters]

Waterslain: Diz, Shuck, Beachcomber

Three Limericks

A Given Grace

Belfast Confetti

Fox

Simple Poem

The Yellow Palm

Catmint Tea

Dad

Life Is a Walk Across a Field

The Elwood Organic Fruit and Vegetable Shop

Time

Veteran

Nine to Five

The Annals of Sheer

The Grain of Things

A Minute's Silence

Half-light

Simple Poem

America

At the Grave of Asa Benveniste

Ode to Didcot Power Station

Bats' Ultrasound

On the Ning Nang Nong

The Charge of the Heavy Brigade - an extract

Sniper

For Me

Strugnell's Haiku

The Passionate Pupil Declaring Love

Don't Ask Me, Love, for That First Love

Geography Lesson

Sonnet for Dick

Thief

Fundamentals

Monologue in the Valley of the Kings

Preston North End

Self Employed

Siren Song

Strugnell's Haiku

For John Clare

In The Colonie (an extract: 34)

Use Your Rains

Apologia pro vita sua

In Paris with You

Lord Neptune

The Uncut Stone

You're Beautiful

At the British War Cemetery, Bayeux

Marriage - an extract

Oxygen

Perfection Isn't Like A Perfect Story

Preston North End

The River

Well, Francis, Where's the Sun?

Bloodlines - an extract

Crapshoot

Jessica Learned to Kiss

Dreaming in the Shanghai Restaurant

Incident on a Holiday

The Conjuror

Two Lorries

Fork

Machines

Slow Reader

Thief

Catmint Tea

My Mammogram

Overblown Roses

Sonnet

Sonnet for Dick

The Happy Grass

Window

Hyena

Leaving the Tate

Prayer Before Birth

Reading Leaves

Parliament Hill Fields

The Articles of Prayer

The Lake Isle of Innisfree

Considering the Snail

Incident on a Holiday

A Refusal to Mourn the Death, by Fire, of a Child in London

Beyond Decoration

For This

A Barred Owl

A blade of grass

The Happy Grass

The Master of the Cast Shadow - an extract from the sequence Consequences

Missing Dates

Villanelle for the Middle of the Way

Daljit Nagra

Term 1

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