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A ballad is a story in a song, usually a narrative song or poem. It is a rhythmic saga of a past affair, which may be heroic, romantic or satirical, political (affected by the previous three types mentioned, refers to either glorifying the exploits or causes of a particular leader or group, and is typical of totalitarian political systems), almost inevitably catastrophic, which is related in the third person, usually with foreshortened alternating four- and three-stress lines ('ballad meter') and simple repeating rhymes, and often with a refrain. If it is based on political or religious themes, a ballad may then be a version of a hymn. Ballads should not be confused with the ballade, a 14th and 15th century French verse form.


Broadsheet ballads

Broadsheet ballads (also known as broadside ballads) were cheaply printed and often topical, humorous, even subversive, were hawked in English streets from the 16th century; 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. Some of the collectors also wrote new ballads. Many ballads are referenced in scholarly works by their number in Child's compilation (see the Child Ballads). The American poet Carl Sandburg was influenced by ballads, and published a collection he had assembled as The American Songbag (1927).

The form of a ballad has been imitated in modern poetry— most notably by the Canadian ballads of Robert W. Service, in Kipling's 'Road to Mandalay' or in 'Casey at the Bat.' 'The Ballad of the Bread-man', is Charles Causley's re-telling of the story of the birth of Jesus. Many modern written musical ballads are in the repertory of American folk music.

Murder ballads

A specific subgenre of the broadsheet ballad is the murder ballad. Usually told from the point of view of the killer, murder ballads typically recount the details of the crime — who the victim is, why the murderer decides to kill him or her, how he or she is lured to the murder site and the act itself — followed by the escape and/or capture of the murderer. Often the ballad ends with the murderer in jail or on their way to the gallows, occasionally with a plea for the listener to learn from the evils committed by the speaker.

Border ballads

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 ballads.

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, set to a literary ballad by Goethe (see also Der Zauberlehrling). 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 Fliegender 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. Akilattirattu Ammanai the religious text of Ayyavazhi, which contains more than 15000 lines is the longest ballad form of literary work in the world.

Ballad opera

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 strophs usually alternate between iambic tetrameter and iambic pentameter, though this is not always the case.

Jazz ballad

The jazz ballad is a sentimental narrative adagio akin to a blues song. The regrets of love gone wrong provide the elements of the ballad called a 'torch song.' By extension, any popular song with a slow beat is termed a 'ballad.' In modern music, a song called a ballad is one which tells a story but may not follow any of the other conventions. Many styles of music such as rock, pop, and country label some songs as ballads. See also blues ballad.

Power ballad

See also Power ballad. Not really a ballad at all but a love song performed using rock instruments.

Famous ballads

Ballad- A short narrative poem with stanzas of two or four lines and usually a refrain. The story of a ballad can originate from a wide range of subject matter but most frequently deals with folk-lore or popular legend Epic- a long narrative poem celebrating the adventures and achievements of a hero...epics deal with the traditions, mythical or historical, of a nation. Ode- An Ode is a poem praising and glorifying a person, place or thing. Sonnet- A Sonnet is a poem consisting of 14 lines (iambic pentameter) with a particular rhyming scheme.

  • Traditional
    • Akilattirattu Ammanai
      Ballad of Jesse James
      Ballad of Chevy Chase
      Barbara Allen
      The Battle of New Orleans
      The Battle of Harlaw
      The Battle of Otterburn
      Black is the Color of My True Love's Hair
      The Cruel Brother
      Golden Vanity
      The Great Silkie of Sule Skerry
      The Greensleeves (Greensleeves)
      Henry Martin
      John Barleycorn
      Johnny Has Gone For A Soldier
      Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight
      Lord Randall
      Lovely Joan
      Lyke-Wake Dirge
      Mary Tamlin
      The Mines of Avondale
      "Molly and Tenbrooks" (aka "The Racehorse Song")
      Oh Shenandoah
      Many ballads of Robin Hood
      The Scarborough Fair (Scarborough Fair)
      Sir Patrick Spens
      Tam Lin
      The Three Ravens
      Thomas the Rhymer
      The Gypsie Laddie
      Verner Raven - oldest Scandinavian ballad with music
  • Modern
    • American Pie
      Ballad of the Alamo
      The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins
      Ballad of Davy Crockett
      Ballad of the Green Berets
      The Devil Went Down to Georgia
      Frankie and Johnny
      Frankie Silver
      Going to California
      House of the Rising Sun
      Hotel California
      The Ballad of John and Yoko
      Morning Bell
      Nothing Else Matters,Metallica
      Where Were You? (When The World Stopped Turning)
      Stairway to Heaven
      Taxi Driver
      Tom Dooley
      The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
      The Ballad Of Gerda And Tore

External links

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Music Sound, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.