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A ballad is a narrative poem, usually set to music; thus, it often is a story told in a song. Any story form may be told as a ballad, such as historical accounts or fairy tales in verse form. It usually has foreshortened, alternating four-stress lines ("ballad meter") and simple repeating rhymes, often with a refrain.

If it is based on a political or religious theme, a ballad may be a hymn. It should not be confused with the ballade, a 14th and 15th century French verse form.


Traditional poetic form

Image:Faroe stamp 390 the ballad of the harp.jpg
Stamp illustrating the Faroese ballad "The Ballad of the Harp"
  1. Normally a short narrative arranged into four line stanzas with a memorable meter.
  2. Typical ballad meter is a first and third line with four stresses (iambic tetrameter) and then a second and fourth line with three stresses (iambic trimeter).
  3. The rhyme scheme is typically abab or abcb.
  4. Often uses colloquialisms to enhance the story telling (and sometimes to alter the rhyme scheme).
  5. A Ballad is usually meant to be sung or recited in musical or poetic form.

Broadsheet ballads

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Template:See also Broadsheet ballads (also known as broadside ballads) were cheaply printed and hawked in English streets from the sixteenth century. They were often topical, humorous, and even subversive; the legends of Robin Hood and the pranks of Puck were disseminated through broadsheet ballads.

New ballads were written about current events like fires, the birth of monstrous animals, and so forth, giving particulars of names and places. Satirical ballads and Royalist ballads contributed to 17th century political discourse. In a sense, these ballads were antecedents of the modern newspaper.

Thomas Percy, Robert Harley, Francis James Child, Sir Walter Scott and James Hogg were early collectors and publishers of ballads from the oral tradition, broadsheets and previous anthologies. Percy's publication of Reliques of Ancient Poetry and Harley's collections, such as The Bagford Ballads, were of great import in beginning the study of ballads.

Border ballads

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Border ballads are a subgenre of folk ballads collected in the area along the Anglo-Scottish border, especially those concerned with border reivers and outlaws, or with historical events in the Borders.

Notable historical ballads include "The Battle of Otterburn" and "The Hunting of Cheviot" or "The Ballad of Chevy Chase".

Outlaw ballads include "Johnnie Armstrong", "Kinmont Willie", and "Jock o' the Side".

Other types of ballads (including fairy ballads like "Thomas the Rhymer") are often included in the category of border ballad.

Literary ballads

Literary ballads are those composed and written formally. The form, with its connotations of simple folkloric authenticity, became popular with the rise of Romanticism in the later 18th century. Literary ballads may then be set to music, as Schubert's Der Erlkönig and The Hostage, set to a literary ballads by Goethe (see also Der Zauberlehrling) and Schiller. In Romantic opera a ballad set into the musical texture may emphasize or play against the theatrical moment. Atmospheric ballads in operas were initiated in Weber's Der Freischütz and include Senta's ballad in Wagner's Der fliegende Holländer, or the 'old song' 'Salce' Desdemona sings in Verdi's Otello. Compare the stanza-like structure and narrative atmosphere of the musical Ballades for solo piano of Chopin or Brahms.

Ballad opera

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A particularly English form, the ballad opera, has as its most famous example John Gay's The Beggar's Opera, which inspired the 20th-century cabaret operas of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill (q.v.). Ballad strophes usually alternate between iambic tetrameter and iambic pentameter, though this is not always the case.

Popular song

Main articles: Ballad (music), and [[{{{2}}}]], and [[{{{3}}}]], and [[{{{4}}}]], and [[{{{5}}}]]

In the 20th Century, "ballad" took on the meaning of a popular song "especially of a romantic or sentimental nature" (American Heritage Dictionary). Casting directors often divide songs into two categories: "ballads" (slower or sentimental songs) and "up" tunes (faster or happier songs). A power ballad is a love song performed using rock instruments.

Famous ballads




Traditional definition

Some of these also qualify under the pop definition.

Popular definition

Thousands of songs could be listed here. The few following may represent the variety.

See also


External links

cs:Balada cy:Baled da:Ballade de:Ballade es:Balada eo:Balado fr:Ballade he:בלדה hu:Ballada nl:Ballade ja:バラッド no:Ballade ps:Ballada pl:Ballada pt:Balada ro:Baladă ru:Баллада sk:Balada sl:Balada fi:Balladi sv:Ballad uk:Балада

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