Poetic Form: Ballad

Rhett Gallagher

What is poetic form?

Poetic form is the "rules" that are followed by certain types of poems. It describes certain aspects of the poem, like rhythm and meter of the poem. It may also refer to they physical structure of the poem, or the patterns within it. A ballad poem is a narrative poem that tells a story.

History of the Ballad Poetic Form

They were first used in Medieval Times, in France, as a way to write songs. In the modern era, they are used as a poem that tells a story for others. In very rare occasions, they are used as songs, but just so slow that it is basically talking with rhythm.

Purpose of Writing a Ballad Poem

Ballads are used many times to inform people of something that has happened, other times, though, they are used to spread news, entertain, or create a "bigger than real life" story.

Characteristics of Ballad Form

Ballad poems are often sung, and are about love, but that does not apply to every single ballad poem. They will always tell a story, but often they are about "better than real world" things. They usually have a refrain that repeats itself at various points throughout the poem.

Example of a Ballad

All the World's a Stage

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

William Shakespeare


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