Definition of a Ballad

A Ballad can be defined as,

“A simple narrative poem, often of folk origin, bearing romantic and sentimental character, composed in short stanzas.”

Origin and Etymology

The word “ballad” is originally French. It is derived from late 15c., from Fr. ballade meaning “dancing song”. Traditional ballads were stories and romantic tales set to melody and rhyming and were penned in a style so as to be sung to music.

What is a Ballad Stanza?

It is the four lined stanza (also known as a quatrain). It is commonly used in folk ballad poetry. Normally, only the second and fourth lines rhyme in a Ballad stanza.

The tone of a Ballad is often tragic with the language being simple and impassive, and there is usually a refrain (repeated line or verse) linking up everything together. The verse form is also called ballad metre,  a quatrain (4-line verse)

Examples of Famous Ballad Stanza Poems

La Belle Dame Sans Merci by John Keats is an example of Ballad stanza poetry with four stress and three stress lines.

The Ballad of the Green Berets by Sgt. Barry Sadler
The Ballad of Persse O’Reilly by James Joyce
The Ballad Of A Bachelor by Ellis Parker Butler
Ballad on the American War by Robert Burns

Pop and Rock Ballads

The term ballad is used in modern music to express an “emotional love song”. A rock ballad is a modern song in which the word ballad appears in the title of a song, for example in “The Ballad of John and Yoko” by The Beatles and “The Ballad of Billy the Kid” by Billy Joel.