The Ballad | Definition, Characteristics and Examples

Read this article to know what is Ballad in Literature.

The word ‘Ballad’ has been derived from the French word ‘Ballare’ meaning ‘to dance’. Fundamentally, “a ballad is a poem that tells a fairly simple story” (narrative). Thus a story is what a ballad trying to convey Ballads are often used in songs & have a musical quality in them.

  • How Many Stanzas in a Ballad?

Ballad Stanza, the most famous type of ballad has four stanzas. The basic form of the ballad is iambic heptameter (seven sets of unstressed & stressed syllables per line), in sets of four with the second & fourth line rhyming. The rhyme scheme of the ballad is usually abab or aabb.

  • 13 Characteristics of a Ballad

    • It is a song that tells a story.
    • The beginning is often surprising.
    • Its language is simple.
    • It concentrates on a single episode.
    • The theme is often tragic & sad.
    • The story is told through dialogue & action.
    • It lacks specific detail.
    • It has a surprising ending.
    • It includes some sort of repeated lines.
    • It has rarely moral.
    • It has 4-line stanzas, the first & third lines have four stresses & fourth line has three stresses.
    • It has an orientation, complication & resolution.
    • It can have a question & answer format. One stanza presents the question & the next stanza answers the question.

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  • Language in Ballad

    • It includes language that focuses on actions & dialogues.
    • It includes language that indirectly conveys information about the characters, relationships.
    • It is often written in third or first person.
    • Generally, abac, aabb, abbc is ballad rhyme scheme.
    • It has a regular beat structure.
    • It is often written in complete sentences.
    • It includes language that conveys a particular mood.
  • 2 Types of Ballad

    • Folk Ballads

Folk ballads were originally composed by anonymous singers & were passed down orally from generation to generation before they were written down. The English Folk Ballads we read today took their present form probably in the 15th century.

    • Literary Ballads

Literary Ballads are the imitation of the ballad. The difference between the traditional ballad & the literary ballad is that the authors of Traditional Ballads are unknown whereas Literary ballads are composed & written down by known poets usually in the style of folk ballads.

  • Famous Ballad Poems

    • La Belle Dame Sans Merci by John Keats
    • Lyrical Ballads by William Wordsworth
    • The Ancient Mariner by ST Coleridge