What is a Ballad

Ballads were mainly written by British and Irish poets and it is a very popular poetry for them.  These ballads were slowly spread to Europe, Australia, America and North Africa.  From 18th century onwards, ballads became popular.  During 19th century, these ballads spread too many countries and the form also changed.  Slow popular love songs were also developed during the period and slowly popular powerful rocking ballads were also developed. Actually the term “Ballad” was taken from the word “Ballares”.  Slowly the term ballet replaced Ballares. Likewise Ballade came in to existence.  Actually the word has its origin from French as French dance songs were called as Ballares.

European ballads were written in the form of stanzas with four lines content in it.   The ballad meter has eight and six syllables respectively in the four lines.  The second and fourth line has their significance in which they will be rhymed together.  But generally ballads are in two lines rhymed and rhythmic verse with 14 syllables in it. From country to country, number of lines, iambic meter, rhyming styles and syllables change accordingly.  There exists lot of variation in every respect of their length, scheme and ballad style. Some may be difficult and some may be easy.  Particularly Spanish people like to have octosyllabic consonance rather than rhyming.

Generally ballads should have the nature of recitation. People used to recite such ballads while doing their common core works.  They will be narrative in nature with imagery, self contained story.  Description will be very less in such ballads.  Mainly ballads were written on tragic, historical, romantic or comic subjects.  Repetition of words in the ballads make them more popular and at the end of the tongue.  Many scholars who write the ballads are classified in to two categories.  One is communalists and another is individualists.  Writers who follow the style of German scholar Johann Gottfried Herder are communalists.  Writers who follow the style of English collector Cecil Sharp are individualists.  Communalist’s works will be debased forms of genres.  The words used by the individualists will be totally different from that of communalists.  In these days, there exists a great interchange of oral and written forms of ballads.

Ballads are classified in to three categories.  First is traditional, second is literary and third is broadside.   In America itself, there is a lot of difference between the ballads of European origin and of British and Irish songs.  Thus Native American Ballads developed without the inference of earlier songs.  Later ballads on sentimental themes and love songs are also developed in America.


Thus ballads have their fame over all the countries.  Simply to say they are the poems to tell a story.  Truly they can be said as narrative poetry.  Musical quality is more than in the ordinary songs. The basic form of all ballads is iambic heptameter which was easy to recite.