BALLAD: In common parlance, song hits, folk music, and folktales or any song that tells a story are loosely called ballads. In more exact literary terminology, a ballad is a narrative poem consisting of quatrains of iambic tetrameter alternating with iambic trimeter. Common traits of the ballad are that (a) the beginning is often abrupt, (b) the story is told through dialogue and action (c) the language is simple or "folksy," (d) the theme is often tragic--though comic ballads do exist, and (e) the ballad contains a refrain repeated several times. One of the most important anthologies of ballads is F. J. Child's The English and Scottish Popular Ballads. Famous medieval and Renaissance examples include "Chevy Chase," "The Elfin Knights," "Lord Randal," and "The Demon Lover." A number of Robin Hood ballads also exist. More recent ballads from the 18th century and the Scottish borderlands include "Sir Patrick Spens," "Tam Lin," and "Thomas the Rhymer." See also ballade and common measure.
BALLADE: A French verse form consisting most often of three eight-line stanzas having the same rhyme pattern, followed by a four-line envoy. In a typical ballade, the last lines of each stanza and of the envoy are the same. Among the most famous ballades are Chaucer's "Ballade of Good Advice" and Rossetti's translation of François Villon's "Ballade of Dead Ladies," which asks in each stanza and in the envoy, "Mais ou sont les nieges d'antan?" ("But where are the snows of yesteryear?") The ballade first rose to prominence in the 14th and 15th centuries, popularized by French poets like Guillaume de Machaut and Eustache Deschampes. It was perfected in the 16th century by François Villon, but it later fell into disrepute when 17th century poets like Moliere and Boileau mocked its conventions. See envoy, ballad.
BALLAD MEASURE: Traditionally, ballad measure consists of a four-line stanza or a quatrain containing alternating four-stress and three-stress lines with anABCB or ABABrhyme scheme. Works written in ballad measure often include such quatrains. As an example, the opening stanza to "Earl Brand" illustrates the pattern. Note also the bits of Scottishdialect in phrases such as "hae" for haveand "awa" foraway.
Rise up, rise up, my seven brave sons,And dress in your armour so bright;
Earl Douglas will hae Lady Margaret awa
Before that it be light.
BALLAD OPERA: An eighteenth-century comic drama featuring lyrics set to existing popular tunes. The term originated to describe John Gay's The Beggar's Opera of 1728.