Ballad in Genearal

Posted: July 21, 2006 in Literature
Tags: ,

A ballad is a narrative, rhythmic saga of a past affair, which may be heroic, romantic or satirical, 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.

The origin of the word suggested something that could be danced to. Ballads are most often folk poetry in a musical format, passed along orally from generation to generation, set to conventional tunes and usually sung by a solo voice, the hearers joining in the refrain. Until written, the content evolves and changes over time, unlike a more literary poem. Unlike more traditional poetry, ballads do not use a large amount of

explanation. The narrative is usually simple, clear and easy to read. Emotion is usually kept to a minimum, and the motives of characters are rarely probed in any great detail. Dialogue is kept to an economical level, but frequently used to empower the language.

Five of the characteristics of a ballad are: – A ballad tells a story – A ballad focuses on actions and dialogue rather than characteristics and narration. – A ballad has a simple metrical structure and sentence structure. – A ballad is sung to a modal melody. – A ballad is of oral tradition, passed down by word of mouth. Therefore, it undergoes changes and is of anonymous authorship.

Repetition and refrains are also used in many ballads. This is a strong resemblance to many forms of traditional music. Many traditional ballads have themes related to the supernatural, and occasionally ballads contain a moral dimension to them, usually expressed in a final verse.

We can distinguish three main types of ballads: the folk ballad, the broadside ballad, and the literary ballad. Folk ballads have certain common characteristics. The story, which often begins abruptly and moves rapidly, is told as an impersonal narrative, primarily through dialogue and action. The theme is often tragic and the events sensational (though there are also a number of comic ballads). A ballad typically deals with a single episode, with minimal imagery or background information, and little attempt to develop character. Many ballads also have refrains or use the technique of incremental repetition, a rhetorical device in which the same phrase is repeated with progressive variations over the course of the poem. Ballad poets drew their material from community life, from local and national history, and from legends and folklore. Their tales are usually of adventure, war, love, death, violence, betrayal, and the supernatural. In places where the folk ballad remains as a living tradition, the bards not only recite ballads handed down through countless generations, but also compose new ballads along the familiar narrative pattern, though dealing with recent events. The folk ballads of the British Isles are often composed in a traditional pattern known as the ballad stanza or ballad meter. The ballad stanza is a quatrain rhyming abcb, and alternating four-stress and three-stress lines. Many English hymns follow a very similar pattern, called common meter, which differs from the ballad stanza only in its rhyme scheme (abab, rather than abcb). Both A. E. Housman and Emily Dickinson wrote many of their poems in common meter. Some well known traditional folk ballads include “The Wife of Ushers Well”, “Chevy Cahse” and “Sir Patrick Spens”

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Copyright ©2007 Arun Chullikkal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

  1. Mobile Blog says:

    Truly a very useful piece of information and the writing style is amazing!!!

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