Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Ballad: Major Features of Ballad Poetry

Ballad is a short narrative poem that tells the tale of a local battle or war or event and local heroic through rustic or unsophisticated or dialectal form of language. Ballad was originally created, performed and preserved orally through generations. In fact, Ballad is originally meant to be sung and the story of a local heroic in a local battle, that a Ballad portrays, is revealed through the song.

Ballad poetry does not tell a grand story of national significance or great heroic deeds, unlike Epic poetry. Rather, Ballad portrays the local heroics of local battles or events or local incidents which have less national importance compared to the Epic heroics. Generally, a Ballad consists of 40-50 lines, but sometimes, it can be as short as 12 lines. Ballad poetry does not have long narration of the events as the length of Ballad is very short compared to Epic. So, in a Ballad, actions happen rapidly and events unfold in flashes. That means, Ballad is fast-paced in terms of its narration.

Initially, Ballads were composed in local dialect or folk form by the illiterate poets, but over time, many great, educated poets also wrote Ballad. Ballad reflects history, fairy tales and myths that are some of the common subject matter of Ballad. This form of poetry is very close to folk tales. As Ballad was originally composed orally, in most of the cases, Ballads are anonymous. Ancient Ballads were preserved or passes through generations, but the name of the creator of a Ballad was lost over time. So, it is assumed that many Ballads were also lost in this process as the Ballads were not written initially.

In Ballad, line or lines are repeated very often in the course of the poem and these repeating line or lines are called ‘Refrain’. Refrain mainly acts as an aid to the memory of the readers. Refrains are given in all stanzas. For example, in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “Water, water, everywhere” is used as a refrain. Ballad is very old traditional form of poetry which remains popular till today. During Romantic age, many famous poets imitated the form of folk Ballad.


  1. Thanks for this info on Balla. I am helping my son analyze the John Keat's BALLAD La Belle Dam Sans Merci and this post on Ballad was extremely useful

  2. Anonymous2:34 AM

    thanks. i am writing an essay on John Keats' La Belle Dame sans Merci and this has been really helpfull. thankyou!!!

  3. thanks, I am comparing The Charge of the Light Brigade to Anthem for Doomed Youth. I used the rhythm to link to the fast paced action.

  4. Anonymous2:06 PM

    thanx . i need to do an essay on rime of the ancient mariner. the info was rly helpful

  5. Anonymous5:10 PM

    why do we still write in ballad form?

  6. Anonymous7:40 PM


  7. Anonymous10:49 PM


  8. Chloe2:07 AM

    thnxa a lot....this kinda helped inwat makes a typical ballad...and my analysis of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's " The Rime of the Ancient Mariner"

  9. Anonymous6:19 PM

    thanks, i like doodle...

  10. Anonymous3:55 PM

    Cheers help alot in my poetry analyses :)

  11. Anonymous12:06 AM

    i ask for the feathers not this get it for me please

  12. Anonymous12:06 AM

    i still need help

  13. Anonymous2:03 PM

    Thanks, we are studying the lady of shalott and the highwayman... It really helped

  14. Anonymous6:47 PM

    thnx helpful as i am analyzing the poem the ballad of father peter gilligan by W.B yeats