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A ballad is a form of verse, often a narrative set to music. Ballads derive from the medieval French ''chanson balladée'' or '' ballade'', which were originally "dance songs". Ballads were particularly characteristic of the popular poetry and song of Britain and Ireland from the later
medieval In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages or medieval period lasted from the 5th to the late 15th century. It began with the fall of the Western Roman Empire and transitioned into the Renaissance and the Age of Discovery. The Middle Ages i ...
period until the 19th century. They were widely used across Europe, and later in Australia, North Africa, North America and South America. Ballads are often 13 lines with an ABABBCBC form, consisting of couplets (two lines) of rhymed verse, each of 14 syllables. Another common form is ABAB or ABCB repeated, in alternating eight and six syllable lines. Many ballads were written and sold as single sheet broadsides. The form was often used by poets and composers from the 18th century onwards to produce lyrical ballads. In the later 19th century, the term took on the meaning of a slow form of popular love song and is often used for any love song, particularly the
sentimental ballad A sentimental ballad is an emotional style of music that often deals with romantic and intimate relationships, and to a lesser extent, loneliness, death, war, drug abuse, politics and religion, usually in a poignant but solemn manner.J. M. Curtis, ...
of pop or rock music, although the term is also associated with the concept of a stylized storytelling song or poem, particularly when used as a title for other media such as a film.


Origins

The ballad derives its name from medieval Scottish dance songs or "ballares" ( L: ''ballare'', to dance), from which 'ballet' is also derived, as did the alternative rival form that became the French ballade. As a narrative song, their theme and function may originate from
Scandinavia Scandinavia, Sami: ''Skadesi-suolu''/''Skađsuâl'' ( ) is a subregion in Northern Europe, with strong historical, cultural, and linguistic ties. In English usage, ''Scandinavia'' can refer to Denmark, Norway and Sweden, sometimes more narr ...

Scandinavia
n and Germanic traditions of storytelling that can be seen in poems such as ''
Beowulf ''Beowulf'' (; ang, Bēowulf ) is an Old English epic poem in the tradition of Germanic heroic legend consisting of 3,182 alliterative lines. It is one of the most important and most often translated works of Old English literature. The date ...

Beowulf
''.J. E. Housman, ''British Popular Ballads'' (1952, London: Ayer Publishing, 1969), p. 15. Musically they were influenced by the Minnelieder of the
Minnesang ''Minnesang'' (, "love song") was a tradition of lyric- and song-writing in Germany that flourished in the Middle High German period. This period of medieval German literature began in the 12th century and continued into the 14th. People who wrot ...
tradition. The earliest example of a recognizable ballad in form in
England England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to its west and Scotland to its north. The Irish Sea lies northwest of England and the Celtic Sea to the southwest. England is separated from continent ...
is "
Judas Judas Iscariot (; he, יהודה איש-קריות ; arc, ܝܗܘܕܐ ܣܟܪܝܘܛܐ; el, Ὶούδας Ὶσκαριώτης; died AD) was a disciple and one of the original Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ. According to all four canonical gos ...
" in a 13th-century
manuscript A manuscript (abbreviated MS for singular and MSS for plural) was, traditionally, any document written by hand – or, once practical typewriters became available, typewritten — as opposed to mechanically printed or reproduced in some indire ...

manuscript
.A. N. Bold, ''The Ballad'' (Routledge, 1979), p. 5.


Ballad form

Ballads were originally written to accompany dances, and so were composed in couplets with refrains in alternate lines. These refrains would have been sung by the dancers in time with the dance."Popular Ballads", ''The Broadview Anthology of British Literature: The Restoration and the Eighteenth Century'', p. 610. Most northern and west European ballads are written in
ballad stanza In poetry, a ballad stanza is a type of a four-line stanza, known as a quatrain, most often found in the folk ballad. The ballad stanza consists of a total of four lines, with the first and third lines written in the iambic tetrameter and the second ...
s or
quatrains A quatrain is a type of stanza, or a complete poem, consisting of four lines. Existing in a variety of forms, the quatrain appears in poems from the poetic traditions of various ancient civilizations including Ancient India, Ancient Greece, Ancien ...
(four-line
stanzas In poetry, a stanza (; from Italian ''stanza'' , "room") is a grouped set of lines within a poem, usually set off from others by a blank line or indentation. Stanzas can have regular rhyme and metrical schemes, though stanzas are not strictly requi ...
) of alternating lines of iambic (an unstressed followed by a stressed syllable)
tetrameterIn poetry, a tetrameter is a line of four metrical feet. The particular foot can vary, as follows: * ''Anapestic tetrameter:'' ** "And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea" (Lord Byron, "The Destruction of Sennacherib") ** "Twas the ni ...
(eight syllables) and iambic
trimeter In poetry, a trimeter (Greek for "three measure") is a metre of three metrical feet per line. Examples: : When here // the spring // we see, : Fresh green // upon // the tree. See also * Anapaest * Dactyl * Tristich * Triadic-line poetry Refere ...
(six syllables), known as
ballad meter#REDIRECT Common metre {{R from other capitalisation ...

ballad meter
. Usually, only the second and fourth line of a quatrain are rhymed (in the scheme a, b, c, b), which has been taken to suggest that, originally, ballads consisted of couplets (two lines) of rhymed verse, each of 14 syllables.D. Head and I. Ousby, ''The Cambridge Guide to Literature in English'' (Cambridge University Press, 2006), p. 66. This can be seen in this stanza from "
Lord Thomas and Fair Annet Lord Thomas and Fair Annet (Child 73, Roudbr>4 (also known as "Lord Thomas and Fair Eleanor") is an English folk ballad. Synopsis Lord Thomas (or Sweet Willie) is in love with Fair Annet, or Annie, or Elinor, but she has little property. He ask ...
": The horse , fair Ann , et rode , upon ,
He amb , led like , the wind , ,
With sil , ver he , was shod , before,
With burn , ing gold , behind , . There is considerable variation on this pattern in almost every respect, including length, number of lines and rhyming scheme, making the strict definition of a ballad extremely difficult. In southern and eastern Europe, and in countries that derive their tradition from them, ballad structure differs significantly, like Spanish ''romanceros'', which are
octosyllabicThe octosyllable or octosyllabic verse is a line of verse with eight syllables. It is equivalent to tetrameter verse in trochees in languages with a stress accent. Its first occurrence is in a 10th-century Old French saint's legend, the ''Vie de Sai ...
and use
consonance In music, consonance and dissonance are categorizations of simultaneous or successive sounds. Within the Western tradition, some listeners associate consonance with sweetness, pleasantness, and acceptability, and dissonance with harshness, unp ...
rather than rhyme. Ballads usually are heavily influenced by the regions in which they originate and use the common dialect of the people.
Scotland Scotland ( sco, Scotland, gd, Alba ) is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Covering the northern third of the island of Great Britain, mainland Scotland has a 96-mile (154 km) border with England to the southeast and is otherwis ...
's ballads in particular, both in theme and language, are strongly characterised by their distinctive tradition, even exhibiting some pre-Christian influences in the inclusion of supernatural elements such as travel to the
Fairy A fairy (also ''fay'', ''fae'', ''fey'', ''fair folk'', or ''faerie'') is a type of mythical being or legendary creature found in the folklore of multiple European cultures (including Celtic, Slavic, German, English, and French folklore), a form ...
Kingdom in the Scots ballad "Tam Lin". The ballads do not have any known author or correct version; instead, having been passed down mainly by oral tradition since the Middle Ages, there are many variations of each. The ballads remained an oral tradition until the increased interest in folk songs in the 18th century led collectors such as Bishop Thomas Percy (1729–1811) to publish volumes of popular ballads. In all traditions most ballads are narrative in nature, with a self-contained story, often concise, and rely on imagery, rather than description, which can be tragic, historical, romantic or comic. Themes concerning rural labourers and their sexuality are common, and there are many ballads based on the Robin Hood legend. Another common feature of ballads is repetition, sometimes of fourth lines in succeeding stanzas, as a
refrain A refrain (from Vulgar Latin ''refringere'', "to repeat", and later from Old French ''refraindre'') is the line or lines that are repeated in music or in poetry — the "chorus" of a song. Poetic fixed forms that feature refrains include the ''vi ...
, sometimes of third and fourth lines of a stanza and sometimes of entire stanzas.


Composition

Scholars of ballads have been divided into "communalists", such as
Johann Gottfried Herder Johann Gottfried (after 1802, von) Herder (; ; 25 August 174418 December 1803) was a German philosopher, theologian, poet, and literary critic. He is associated with the Enlightenment, ''Sturm und Drang'', and Weimar Classicism. Biography Born i ...

Johann Gottfried Herder
(1744–1803) and the
Brothers Grimm The Brothers Grimm (' or ', ), Jacob Ludwig Karl Grimm (1785–1863) and Wilhelm Carl Grimm (1786–1859), were Hessian academics, philologists, cultural researchers, lexicographers and authors who together collected and published folklore during ...
, who argue that ballads are originally communal compositions, and "individualists" such as
Cecil Sharp Cecil James Sharp (22 November 1859 – 23 June 1924) was an English-born musician and composer who was a key leader of the folk-song revival in England as a collector, archivist, teacher and promotor. He gathered thousands of tunes both from rur ...
, who assert that there was one single original author. Communalists tend to see more recent, particularly printed, broadside ballads of known authorship as a debased form of the genre, while individualists see variants as corruptions of an original text. More recently scholars have pointed to the interchange of oral and written forms of the ballad.T. A. Green, ''Folklore: An Encyclopedia of Beliefs, Customs, Tales, Music, and Art'' (ABC-CLIO, 1997), p. 353.


Transmission

The transmission of ballads comprises a key stage in their re-composition. In romantic terms this process is often dramatized as a narrative of degeneration away from the pure 'folk memory' or 'immemorial tradition'. In the introduction to ''
Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border ''Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border'' is an anthology of Border ballads, together with some from north-east Scotland and a few modern literary ballads, edited by Walter Scott. It was first published in 1802, but was expanded in several later ed ...
'' (1802) the romantic poet and historical novelist
Walter Scott Sir Walter Scott, 1st Baronet (15 August 1771 – 21 September 1832) was a Scottish historical novelist, poet, playwright, and historian. Many of his works remain classics of both English-language literature and Scottish literature. Famous titl ...

Walter Scott
argued a need to 'remove obvious corruptions' in order to attempt to restore a supposed original. For Scott, the process of multiple recitations 'incurs the risk of impertinent interpolations from the conceit of one rehearser, unintelligible blunders from the stupidity of another, and omissions equally to be regretted, from the want of memory of a third.' Similarly, John Robert Moore noted 'a natural tendency to oblivescence'.


Classification

European Ballads have been generally classified into three major groups: traditional, broadside and literary. In America a distinction is drawn between ballads that are versions of European, particularly British and Irish songs, and 'Native American ballads', developed without reference to earlier songs. A further development was the evolution of the blues ballad, which mixed the genre with Afro-American music. For the late 19th century the music publishing industry found a market for what are often termed sentimental ballads, and these are the origin of the modern use of the term 'ballad' to mean a slow love song.


Traditional ballads

The traditional, classical or popular (meaning of the people) ballad has been seen as beginning with the wandering
minstrels A minstrel was a medieval European entertainer. Originally describing any type of entertainer such as a musician, juggler, acrobat, singer or fool, the term later, from the sixteenth century, came to mean a specialist entertainer who sang songs ...
of late medieval Europe. From the end of the 15th century there are printed ballads that suggest a rich tradition of popular music. A reference in
William Langland William is a popular given name of an old Germanic origin.Hanks, Hardcastle and Hodges, ''Oxford Dictionary of First Names'', Oxford University Press, 2nd edition, , p. 276. It became very popular in the English language after the Norman conquest ...
's ''
Piers Plowman , showing drolleries on the right margin and a ploughman at the bottom ''Piers Plowman'' (written 1370–90) or ''Visio Willelmi de Petro Ploughman'' (''William's Vision of Piers Plowman'') is a Middle English allegorical narrative poem by Wil ...

Piers Plowman
'' indicates that ballads about
Robin Hood Robin Hood is a legendary heroic outlaw originally depicted in English folklore and subsequently featured in literature and film. According to legend, he was a highly skilled archer and swordsman. In some versions of the legend, he is depicted ...
were being sung from at least the late 14th century and the oldest detailed material is collection of Robin Hood ballads printed about 1495.B. Sweers, ''Electric Folk: The Changing Face of English Traditional Music'' (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), p. 45. Early collections of English ballads were made by
Samuel Pepys Samuel Pepys ( ; 23 February 1633 – 26 May 1703) was an administrator of the navy of England and Member of Parliament who is most famous for the diary he kept for a decade while still a relatively young man. Pepys had no maritime experience, ...

Samuel Pepys
(1633–1703) and in the
Roxburghe Ballads In 1847 John Payne Collier (1789–1883) printed ''A Book of Roxburghe Ballads''. It consisted of 1,341 broadside ballads from the seventeenth century, mostly English, originally collected by Robert Harley, 1st Earl of Oxford and Mortimer (1661 ...
collected by Robert Harley, (1661–1724), which paralleled the work in Scotland by
Walter Scott Sir Walter Scott, 1st Baronet (15 August 1771 – 21 September 1832) was a Scottish historical novelist, poet, playwright, and historian. Many of his works remain classics of both English-language literature and Scottish literature. Famous titl ...

Walter Scott
and
Robert Burns The name Robert is an ancient Germanic given name, from Proto-Germanic "fame" and "bright" (Hrōþiberhtaz). Compare Old Dutch ''Robrecht'' and Old High German ''Hrodebert'' (a compound of ''Hruod'' (Old Norse: Hróðr) "fame, glory, honour ...

Robert Burns
. Inspired by his reading as a teenager of ''
Reliques of Ancient English Poetry 200px, Title page of the third edition of ''Reliques of Ancient English Poetry'' (1775). The ''Reliques of Ancient English Poetry'' (sometimes known as ''Reliques of Ancient Poetry'' or simply Percy's ''Reliques'') is a collection of ballads and popu ...
'' by
Thomas PercyThomas Percy may refer to: *Thomas Percy, 1st Earl of Worcester (1343–1403), English medieval nobleman *Thomas Percy (Pilgrimage of Grace) (1504–1537), executed as a leader of the Pilgrimage of Grace *Thomas Percy (fl. 1563), MP for Plympton Erl ...
, Scott began collecting ballads while he attended Edinburgh University in the 1790s. He published his research from 1802 to 1803 in a three-volume work, ''
Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border ''Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border'' is an anthology of Border ballads, together with some from north-east Scotland and a few modern literary ballads, edited by Walter Scott. It was first published in 1802, but was expanded in several later ed ...
''. Burns collaborated with James Johnson on the multi-volume ''
Scots Musical Museum The ''Scots Musical Museum'' was an influential collection of traditional folk music of Scotland published in 1797. While it was not the first collection of Scottish folk songs and music, the six volumes with 100 songs in each collected many pieces, ...
'', a miscellany of folk songs and poetry with original work by Burns. Around the same time, he worked with George Thompson on '' A Select Collection of Original Scottish Airs for the Voice''. Both Northern English and Southern Scots shared in the identified tradition of
Border ballads Border ballads are a group of songs in the long tradition of balladry collected from the Anglo-Scottish border. Like all traditional ballads, they were traditionally sung unaccompanied. There may be a repeating motif, but there is no "chorus" as i ...
, particularly evinced by the cross-border narrative in versions of "
The Ballad of Chevy Chase "The Ballad of Chevy Chase" is an English ballad, catalogued as Child Ballad 162 (Roud 223Sehere/ref>). There are two extant ballads under this title, both of which narrate the same story. As ballads existed within oral tradition before being writt ...
" sometimes associated with the Lancashire-born sixteenth-century minstrel Richard Sheale.D. Gregory, '"The Songs of the People for Me": The Victorian Rediscovery of Lancashire Vernacular Song', ''Canadian Folk Music/Musique folklorique canadienne'', 40 (2006), pp. 12-21. It has been suggested that the increasing interest in traditional popular ballads during the eighteenth century was prompted by social issues such as the enclosure movement as many of the ballads deal with themes concerning rural laborers. James Davey has suggested that the common themes of sailing and naval battles may also have prompted the use (at least in England) of popular ballads as naval recruitment tools. Key work on the traditional ballad was undertaken in the late 19th century in Denmark by
Svend Grundtvig Svend Hersleb Grundtvig (9 September 1824, Copenhagen – 14 July 1883, Frederiksberg) was a Danish literary historian and ethnographer. He was one of the first systematic collectors of Danish traditional music, and he was especially interested in ...
and for England and Scotland by the Harvard professor
Francis James Child Francis James Child (February 1, 1825 – September 11, 1896) was an American scholar, educator, and folklorist, best known today for his collection of English and Scottish ballads now known as the Child Ballads. Child was Boylston professor of rhe ...
. They attempted to record and classify all the known ballads and variants in their chosen regions. Since Child died before writing a commentary on his work it is uncertain exactly how and why he differentiated the 305 ballads printed that would be published as ''
The English and Scottish Popular Ballads The Child Ballads are 305 traditional ballads from England and Scotland, and their American variants, anthologized by Francis James Child during the second half of the 19th century. Their lyrics and Child's studies of them were published as ''Th ...
''. There have been many different and contradictory attempts to classify traditional ballads by theme, but commonly identified types are the religious, supernatural, tragic, love ballads, historic, legendary and humorous. The traditional form and content of the ballad were modified to form the basis for twenty-three bawdy pornographic ballads that appeared in the underground Victorian magazine '' The Pearl'', which ran for eighteen issues between 1879 and 1880. Unlike the traditional ballad, these obscene ballads aggressively mocked sentimental nostalgia and local lore.


Broadsides

Broadside ballads (also known as 'broadsheet', 'stall', 'vulgar' or 'come all ye' ballads) were a product of the development of cheap print in the 16th century. They were generally printed on one side of a medium to large sheet of poor quality paper. In the first half of the 17th century, they were printed in black-letter or gothic type and included multiple, eye-catching illustrations, a popular tune title, as well as an alluring poem. By the 18th century, they were printed in white letter or roman type and often without much decoration (as well as tune title). These later sheets could include many individual songs, which would be cut apart and sold individually as "slip songs." Alternatively, they might be folded to make small cheap books or "chapbooks" which often drew on ballad stories. They were produced in huge numbers, with over 400,000 being sold in England annually by the 1660s. Tessa Watt estimates the number of copies sold may have been in the millions. Many were sold by travelling
chapmenA chapman (plural ''chapmen'') was an itinerant dealer or hawker in early modern Britain. Etymology Old English ''céapmann'' was the regular term for "dealer, seller", cognate with the Dutch ''koopman'' with the same meaning. Old English ''céap'' ...
in city streets or at fairs. The subject matter varied from what has been defined as the traditional ballad, although many traditional ballads were printed as broadsides. Among the topics were love, marriage, religion, drinking-songs, legends, and early journalism, which included disasters, political events and signs, wonders and prodigies.


Literary ballads

Literary or lyrical ballads grew out of an increasing interest in the ballad form among social elites and intellectuals, particularly in the
Romantic movement Romanticism (also known as the Romantic era) was an artistic, literary, musical, and intellectual movement that originated in Europe towards the end of the 18th century, and in most areas was at its peak in the approximate period from 1800 to 1 ...
from the later 18th century. Respected literary figures
Robert Burns The name Robert is an ancient Germanic given name, from Proto-Germanic "fame" and "bright" (Hrōþiberhtaz). Compare Old Dutch ''Robrecht'' and Old High German ''Hrodebert'' (a compound of ''Hruod'' (Old Norse: Hróðr) "fame, glory, honour ...

Robert Burns
and
Walter Scott Sir Walter Scott, 1st Baronet (15 August 1771 – 21 September 1832) was a Scottish historical novelist, poet, playwright, and historian. Many of his works remain classics of both English-language literature and Scottish literature. Famous titl ...

Walter Scott
in Scotland collected and wrote their own ballads. Similarly in England
William Wordsworth William Wordsworth (7 April 177023 April 1850) was an English Romantic poet who, with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, helped to launch the Romantic Age in English literature with their joint publication ''Lyrical Ballads'' (1798). Wordsworth's ''ma ...

William Wordsworth
and
Samuel Taylor Coleridge Samuel Taylor Coleridge (; 21 October 177225 July 1834) was an English poet, literary critic, philosopher and theologian who, with his friend William Wordsworth, was a founder of the Romantic Movement in England and a member of the Lake Poets ...
produced a collection of ''
Lyrical Ballads ''Lyrical Ballads, with a Few Other Poems'' is a collection of poems by William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, first published in 1798 and generally considered to have marked the beginning of the English Romantic movement in literature. ...

Lyrical Ballads
'' in 1798 that included Coleridge's ''
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" (originally "The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere") is the longest major poem by the English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, written in 1797–98 and published in 1798 in the first edition of ''Lyrical Ballads''. So ...
''. Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Keats were attracted to the simple and natural style of these folk ballads and tried to imitate it. At the same time in Germany
Goethe Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (28 August 1749 – 22 March 1832) was a German poet, playwright, novelist, scientist, statesman, theatre director, critic, and amateur artist. His works include: four novels; epic and lyric poetry; prose and verse dra ...
cooperated with
Schiller Johann Christoph Friedrich (von) Schiller (, short: ; 10 November 17599 May 1805) was a German poet, philosopher, physician, historian, and playwright. During the last seventeen years of his life (1788–1805), Schiller developed a productive, i ...
on a series of ballads, some of which were later set to music by
Schubert Franz Peter Schubert (; 31 January 179719 November 1828) was an Austrian composer of the late Classical and early Romantic eras. Despite his short lifetime, Schubert left behind a vast oeuvre, including more than 600 secular vocal works (mainl ...

Schubert
. Later important examples of the poetic form included Rudyard Kipling's "
Barrack-Room Ballads The Barrack-Room Ballads are a series of songs and poems by Rudyard Kipling, dealing with the late-Victorian British Army and mostly written in a vernacular dialect. The series contains some of Kipling's most well-known work, including the poems "Gu ...
" (1892-6) and
Oscar Wilde Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde (16 October 185430 November 1900) was an Irish poet and playwright. After writing in different forms throughout the 1880s, the early 1890s saw him become one of the most popular playwrights in London. He is ...
's ''
The Ballad of Reading Gaol#REDIRECT The Ballad of Reading Gaol {{R from other capitalisation ...
'' (1897).


Ballad operas

In the 18th century ballad operas developed as a form of
English English usually refers to: * English language * English people English may also refer to: Peoples, culture, and language * ''English'', an adjective for something of, from, or related to England ** English national identity, an identity and ...
stage entertainment Stage Entertainment is an international operating live entertainment company, a subsidiary of Advance Publications. The company was founded in 1998 by Joop van den Ende in Amsterdam. History The Netherlands / Corporate The root of the company lay ...
, partly in opposition to the Italian domination of the London operatic scene. It consisted of racy and often
satirical Satire is a genre of the visual, literary, and performing arts, usually in the form of fiction and less frequently non-fiction, in which vices, follies, abuses and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, with the intent of shaming individuals, ...
spoken (English) dialogue, interspersed with songs that are deliberately kept very short to minimize disruptions to the flow of the story. Rather than the more aristocratic themes and music of the Italian opera, the ballad operas were set to the music of popular folk songs and dealt with lower-class characters. Subject matter involved the lower, often criminal, orders, and typically showed a suspension (or inversion) of the high moral values of the Italian opera of the period. The first, most important and successful was ''
The Beggar's Opera ''The Beggar's Opera'' is a ballad opera in three acts written in 1728 by John Gay with music arranged by Johann Christoph Pepusch. It is one of the watershed plays in Augustan drama and is the only example of the once thriving genre of satiric ...
'' of 1728, with a libretto by
John Gay John Gay (30 June 1685 – 4 December 1732) was an English poet and dramatist and member of the Scriblerus Club. He is best remembered for ''The Beggar's Opera'' (1728), a ballad opera. The characters, including Captain Macheath and Polly Peachu ...
and music arranged by John Christopher Pepusch, both of whom probably influenced by
Paris Paris () is the capital and most populous city of France, with an estimated population of 2,175,601 residents as of 2018, in an area of more than . Since the 17th century, Paris has been one of Europe's major centres of finance, diplomacy, co ...
ian vaudeville and the burlesques and musical plays of
Thomas d'Urfey Thomas D'Urfey (a.k.a. Tom Durfey; 165326 February 1723) was an English writer and wit. He composed plays, songs, and poetry, in addition to writing jokes. He was an important innovator and contributor in the evolution of the Ballad opera. Life D' ...
(1653–1723), a number of whose collected ballads they used in their work. Gay produced further works in this style, including a sequel under the title ''Polly''.
Henry Fielding Henry Fielding (22 April 1707 – 8 October 1754) was an English novelist and dramatist known for his earthy humour and satire. His comic novel ''Tom Jones'' is still widely appreciated. He and Samuel Richardson are seen as founders of the tradi ...

Henry Fielding
,
Colley Cibber Colley Cibber (6 November 1671 – 11 December 1757) was an English actor-manager, playwright and Poet Laureate. His colourful memoir ''Apology for the Life of Colley Cibber'' (1740) describes his life in a personal, anecdotal and even rambling s ...

Colley Cibber
, Arne, Dibdin, Arnold, Shield, Jackson of Exeter, Hook and many others produced ballad operas that enjoyed great popularity. Ballad opera was attempted in America and Prussia. Later it moved into a more pastoral form, like Isaac Bickerstaffe's ''Love in a Village'' (1763) and Shield's ''Rosina'' (1781), using more original music that imitated, rather than reproduced, existing ballads. Although the form declined in popularity towards the end of the 18th century its influence can be seen in light operas like that of Gilbert and Sullivan's early works like ''
The Sorcerer ''The Sorcerer'' is a two-act comic opera, with a libretto by W. S. Gilbert and music by Arthur Sullivan. It was the British duo's third operatic collaboration. The plot of ''The Sorcerer'' is based on a Christmas story, ''An Elixir of Love'' ...
'' as well as in the modern musical. In the 20th century, one of the most influential plays,
Kurt Weill Kurt Julian Weill (March 2, 1900April 3, 1950) was a German (later American) composer, active from the 1920s in his native country, and in his later years in the United States. He was a leading composer for the stage who was best known for his ...
and Bertolt Brecht's (1928) ''
The Threepenny Opera ''The Threepenny Opera'' (') is a "play with music" by Bertolt Brecht, adapted from a translation by Elisabeth Hauptmann of John Gay's 18th-century English ballad opera, ''The Beggar's Opera'', and four ballads by François Villon, with music by ...
'' was a reworking of ''The Beggar's Opera'', setting a similar story with the same characters, and containing much of the same satirical bite, but only using one tune from the original. The term ballad opera has also been used to describe musicals using folk music, such as ''The Martins and the Coys'' in 1944, and Peter Bellamy's ''The Transports'' in 1977. The satiric elements of ballad opera can be seen in some modern musicals such as ''
Chicago (''City in a Garden''); I Will , image_map = , map_caption = Interactive maps of Chicago , coordinates = , coordinates_footnotes = , subdivision_type = Country , subdivisio ...
'' and ''
Cabaret Cabaret is a form of theatrical entertainment featuring music, song, dance, recitation, or drama. It is mainly distinguished by the performance venue, which might be a pub, a casino, a hotel, a restaurant, or a nightclub with a stage for performan ...
''.


Beyond Europe


American ballads

Some 300 ballads sung in North America have been identified as having origins in Scottish traditional or broadside ballads.N. Cohen, ''Folk Music: a Regional Exploration'' (Greenwood, 2005), pp. 14-29. Examples include '
The Streets of Laredo "Streets of Laredo" (Laws B01, Roud 23650), also known as the "Cowboy's Lament", is a famous American cowboy ballad in which a dying cowboy tells his story to another cowboy. Members of the Western Writers of America chose it as one of the Top 100 ...
', which was found in Britain and Ireland as 'The Unfortunate Rake'; however, a further 400 have been identified as originating in America, including among the best known, '
The Ballad of Davy Crockett "The Ballad of Davy Crockett" is a song with music by George Bruns and lyrics by Thomas W. Blackburn. It was introduced on ABC's television series ''Disneyland'', in the premiere episode of October 27, 1954. Fess Parker is shown performing the son ...
' and '
Jesse James Jesse Woodson James (September 5, 1847April 3, 1882) was an American outlaw, bank and train robber, guerrilla, and leader of the James–Younger Gang. Raised in the "Little Dixie" area of western Missouri, James and his family maintained strong ...
'. They became an increasing area of interest for scholars in the 19th century and most were recorded or catalogued by George Malcolm Laws, although some have since been found to have British origins and additional songs have since been collected. They are usually considered closest in form to British broadside ballads and in terms of style are largely indistinguishable, however, they demonstrate a particular concern with occupations, journalistic style and often lack the ribaldry of British broadside ballads.


Blues ballads

The blues ballad has been seen as a fusion of Anglo-American and Afro-American styles of music from the 19th century. Blues ballads tend to deal with active protagonists, often anti-heroes, resisting adversity and authority, but frequently lacking a strong narrative and emphasising character instead. They were often accompanied by banjo and guitar which followed the blues musical format. The most famous blues ballads include those about John Henry (folklore), John Henry and Casey Jones.


Bush ballads

The ballad was taken to Australia by early settlers from Britain and Ireland and gained particular foothold in the rural outback. The rhyming songs, poems and tales written in the form of ballads often relate to the itinerant and rebellious spirit of Australia in The Bush, and the authors and performers are often referred to as bush bards.Kerry O'Brien December 10, 2003 7:30 Report
abc.net.au
The 19th century was the golden age of bush ballads. Several collectors have catalogued the songs including John Meredith (folklorist), John Meredith whose recording in the 1950s became the basis of the collection in the National Library of Australia. The songs tell personal stories of life in the wide open country of Australia. Typical subjects include mining, raising and droving cattle, sheep shearing, wanderings, war stories, the 1891 Australian shearers' strike, class conflicts between the landless working class and the Squatting (pastoral), squatters (landowners), and outlaws such as Ned Kelly, as well as love interests and more modern fare such as Truck driver, trucking. The most famous bush ballad is "Waltzing Matilda", which has been called "the unofficial national anthem of Australia".Who'll come a waltzing Matilda with me?"
The National Library of Australia, retrieved 14 March 2008.


Sentimental ballads

Sentimental ballads, sometimes called "tear-jerkers" or "drawing-room ballads" owing to their popularity with the middle classes, had their origins in the early "Tin Pan Alley" music industry of the later 19th century. They were generally sentimental, narrative, strophic songs published separately or as part of an opera (descendants perhaps of broadside (music), broadside ballads, but with sheet music, printed music, and usually newly composed). Such songs include "Little Rosewood Casket" (1870), "After the Ball (song), After the Ball" (1892) and "Danny Boy". The association with sentimentality led to the term "ballad" being used for slow love songs from the 1950s onwards. Modern variations include "jazz ballads", "pop ballads", "rock ballads", "R&B ballads" and "power ballads".N. Cohen, ''Folk Music: a Regional Exploration'' (Greenwood, 2005), p. 297.


See also

* Corrido and Narcocorrido * Alfred Perceval Graves, Graves, Alfred Perceval * List of the Child Ballads * List of folk song collections * List of Irish ballads * List of rock ballads * Murder ballad * Roud Folk Song Index * Song structure (popular music) * Torch song * Vaar


Notes


References and further reading

* Dugaw, Dianne. ''Deep Play: John Gay and the Invention of Modernity''. Newark, Del.: University of Delaware Press, 2001. Print. * * Randel, Don (1986). ''The New Harvard Dictionary of Music''. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. . * * Winton, Calhoun. ''John Gay and the London Theatre''. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1993. Print. * * Marcello Sorce Keller, "Sul castel di mirabel: Life of a Ballad in Oral Tradition and Choral Practice", Ethnomusicology, XXX(1986), no. 3, 449- 469.


External links


The British Literary Ballads Archive


* [http://ebba.english.ucsb.edu The English Broadside Ballad Archive: searchable database of ballad images, citations, and recordings]
Welsh Ballads resource guide




* [https://web.archive.org/web/20070426114919/http://www.smithsonianglobalsound.org/archives_05.aspx Smithsonian Global Sound: The Music of Poetry]—audio samples of poems, hymns and songs in ballad meter.
The Oxford Book of Ballads, complete 1910 book by Arthur Quiller-Couch

English Broadside Ballad Archive
an archive of images and recordings of over 4,000 pre-1700 broadside ballads * {{Authority control Ballads, Folk music Folk poetry Poetic form