A ballad is a poem usually set to music; thus, it often is a story told in a song. Any myth 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.

Broadside ballads

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.

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 late 18th century, though there are precedents for this kind of literary attraction to ballad in earlier literature, such as the 15th century pastourelle "Robene and Makyne". Literary ballads may be set to music. Schubert's "Der Erlkönig" and The Hostage, set 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

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

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 delivered with power often using rock instruments.

Famous ballads


*Akilattirattu Ammanai
*Ballad of Chevy Chase
*Ballad of Jesse James
*Ballad of Keawaiki
*Barbara Allen (song)
*Fields of Athenry
*Golden Vanity
*Henry Martin
*John Barleycorn
*Johnny Has Gone For A Soldier
*La Belle Dame Sans Merci
*Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight
*Lord Randall
*Lord Willoughby
*Lovely Joan
*The Luck of Edenhall
*Lyke-Wake Dirge
*The Man From Snowy River
*Many ballads of Robin Hood
*Mary Hamilton
*Mary Tamlin
*Me and You
*Molly and Tenbrooks (aka "The Racehorse Song")
*Oh Shenandoah
*The Rising of the Moon
*Rocky Road to Dublin
*Scarborough Fair
*Sir Patrick Spens
*Tam Lin
*The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
*The Ballad of Mulan
*The Ballad of Reading Gaol
*The Ballad of Sal Villanueva
*The Battle of Harlaw
*The Battle of New Orleans
*The Battle of Otterburn
*The Colour of his Hair
*The Cruel Brother
*The Great Silkie of Sule Skerry
*The Gypsy Laddie
*The Highwayman
*The Hostage
*The Mines of Avondale
*The Three Ravens
*Thomas the Rhymer
*Vadakkan Pattukal
*Verner Raven - oldest Scandinavian ballad with music


*Washed Away
*Wind of Change
*I Must Be Dreaming
*The Ecstasy of Gold
*Ballad of a Dead Soldier
*Ballad of the Alamo
*Ballad of the Beaconsfield Miners
*Ballad of Buckethead
*Ballad of Davy Crockett
*Ballad of a Dead Soldier
*Ballad of the Green Berets
*Ballad of a Thin Man
*Ballad of Pretty Boy Floyd
*Bohemian Rhapsody
*Carry On Wayward Son
*Dust in the Wind
*Every Rose Has Its Thorn
*Fade to Black
*Frankie and Johnny
*Frankie Silver
*Hotel California
*Infinite Dreams
*It Must Have Been Love
*I Remember You
*Joe Hill
*Listening to Freddie Mercury
*Love Song (Tesla)
*Me And Bobby McGee
*More than Words
*Nothing Else Matters
*November Rain
*Sweet Child o' Mine
*Ode to Billie Joe
*On Top of Spaghetti
*Piano Man
*Save Me (Queen song)
*She's Leaving Home
*Sleeping Sun
*Space Oddity
*Spread Your Wings
*Stairway to Heaven
*Something To Believe In
*Dazed and Confused
*Still Loving You
*The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins
*The Ballad of Curtis Lowe
*The Ballad Of Gerda And Tore
*The Ballad of Gilligan's Isle
*The Ballad of John and Yoko
*The Ballad of Mack the Knife
*The Ballad Of Moon Dog Mayne
*The Ballad of The Sneak
*The Devil Went Down to Georgia
*The Unforgiven
*The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
*Tom's Diner
*Trapped in the Closet
*Two Out of Three Ain't Bad
*Uneasy Rider
*Welcome Home (Sanitarium)
*Where the Wild Roses Grow

See also

* List of Irish ballads
* List of folk song collections
* Francis James Child
* Graves, Alfred Perceval

External links

* [ The Bodleian Library Ballad Collection: view facsimiles of printed ballads]
* [ The Traditional Ballad Index]
* [ Murder Ballads]
* [ English and some German ballads]
* [ Folk Music, Child Ballads, Popular Songs In American History, Sea Shanties etc.]
* [ Black-letter Broadside Ballads Of The years 1595-1639 From The Collection Of Samuel Pepys]
* [ Smithsonian Global Sound: The Music of Poetry] - audio samples of poems, hymns and songs in ballad meter.
* [ Velle Espeland, ...all for his maiden fair: The Scandinavian ballads]
* [ The Oxford Book of Ballads, colplete 1910 book by Arthur Quiller-Couch]
* [ page about ballads]
* [ page about ballads]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Ballad — Bal lad, n. [OE. balade, OF. balade, F. ballade, fr. Pr. ballada a dancing song, fr. ballare to dance; cf. It. ballata. See 2d {Ball}, n., and {Ballet}.] A popular kind of narrative poem, adapted for recitation or singing; as, the ballad of Chevy …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Ballad — Bal lad, v. i. To make or sing ballads. [Obs.] [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Ballad — Bal lad, v. t. To make mention of in ballads. [Obs.] [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • ballad — англ. [бэ/лэд] ballade [бэла/д] 1) баллада 2) в эстрад. музыке и джазе медленная пьеса с темой в 32 такта …   Словарь иностранных музыкальных терминов

  • ballad — (n.) late 15c., from Fr. ballade dancing song (13c.), from O.Prov. ballada (poem for a) dance, from balar to dance, from L.L. ballare to dance (see BALL (Cf. ball) (n.2)) …   Etymology dictionary

  • ballad — [n] narrative song carol, chant, ditty, serenade; concept 595 …   New thesaurus

  • ballad — ► NOUN 1) a poem or song telling a popular story. 2) a slow sentimental or romantic song. DERIVATIVES balladeer noun balladry noun. ORIGIN Provençal balada dance, song to dance to , from Latin ballare to dance …   English terms dictionary

  • ballad — [bal′əd] n. [ME balad < OFr ballade, dancing song < OProv ballada, (poem for a) dance < balar, to dance < LL ballare: see BALL2] 1. a romantic or sentimental song with the same melody for each stanza 2. a song or poem that tells a… …   English World dictionary

  • ballad — balladic /beuh lad ik/, adj. balladlike, adj. /bal euhd/, n. 1. any light, simple song, esp. one of sentimental or romantic character, having two or more stanzas all sung to the same melody. 2. a simple narrative poem of folk origin, composed in… …   Universalium

  • Ballad — «Хор» Баллада …   Википедия

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