BALLADS Originally derived from an Old French word meaning “dancing song” FOLK BALLADS Author is of unknown origin Originally meant to be sung Of the common or illiterate people English-Scottish border LITERARY BALLADS Known authors Studied imitation and replica of the folk ballad Tend to contain more elevated language and diction The intellectual or purposefully “artful” form ELEMENTS OF A BALLAD Narrative poem Focus on a single, dramatic event Told impersonally through action and dialogue May start in the middle of the event Leaves out key parts Almost never in first person (but always exceptions) ELEMENTS OF A BALLAD Quatrains (4-line stanzas) Second and fourth lines usually rhyme (abcb) Often first and third lines have 8 syllables and second and fourth have 6 syllables (not a hard and fast must have) Generally follow iambic pentameter Ballad Stanza: rigidly adheres to the above traits. ELEMENTS OF A BALLAD Refrain Repetition Line at end of stanza Entire repeated stanza Strong, simple beat Refrain May be: Incremental: (most often) words slightly altered end of each stanza, help to advance the action Internal: repeated lines within each stanza Terminal: repeated after each stanza ELEMENTS OF A BALLAD May find the use of any poetic device/figurative language to help establish effect: Metaphor, rhyme, alliteration, rhythm, hyperbole, simile, etc. BALLAD THEMES Usually relate to tragedy or violence Unhappy love affairs Domestic tragedy Family feuds Murder Popular Outlaws (Robin Hood) Historical Events Heroes ELEMENTS OF A BALLAD √ For each of the ballads you read you should compare it to the elements of a ballad. Does it contain all the elements listed? (identify each element and its effect) If not, where does it vary? Why might it have the variation? What effect/difference does it make? OLD TEXTBOOK “Sir Patrick Spens” (p. 105) “The Twa Corbies” (p. 110) “Sir Patrick Spens” Historical ballad Warrior-Mariner Hero Beloved by all (except enemies!) “Sir Patrick Spens” Questions What is the theme and how does it reflect the medieval ages? How does this ballad conform to the standards of a ballad? Where is there foreshadowing? Identify lines with incremental repetition. Is Sir Patrick Spens in a “no win” situation? Explain. Compare the language between the two versions. Identify five words whose spellings have changed. “The Twa Corbies” Questions What view of human life and death does the ballad present? How is it a reflection of the time period? A ballad traditionally had no introduction. This ballad is an exception. What motive might its author have had? What effect would be lost if the incident were described by a human speaker rather than a conversation between two ravens? In an English version of the poem, a “lady full of woe” is discovers the body, buries him, and dies before evening. Which ending do you think you’d prefer? Why? “Barbara Allan”: The Dead-Bell “the passing bell” “the soul-bell” “the death bell” Rung by clergy when a parishioner died Announcement and request for prayers Superstition: kept away evil spirits “Barbara Allan”: Discuss The name Barbara Allan is repeated in nearly every quatrain. In what way does this repetition serve the song? Sample Answer The name generally appears at the end of a line, where it rhymes with another word. The name Barbara Allan also contain internal repetition, which has the onomatopoetic effect of a bell. The repetition of the name has an incantatory quality which adds to the ballad’s feeling of doom and helps to build suspense. “Barbara Allan”: DEBATE Is Sir John Graeme spineless and gives up on Barbara Allan too easily? Yes or no? Why or why not? “Get Up and Bar the Door” Many ballads and songs contain slant rhyme, or two words that sound similar but don’t quite rhyme. What conclusions can be drawn about changes in the English language based on the slant rhymes of “then/pan” (lines 2,4) and “black/spake” (26, 28)? Sample Answer Chances are that the words in at least some of the pairs both had the same vowel sounds hundreds of years ago, and did not become distinct, separate sounds until later. “Get Up and Bar the Door”: Satire Is this a satire? If so what does it satirize? What does it suggest about marriage? After listening questions Are your reactions different after hearing the ballads? Explain. How important was characterization to the success of the ballads? Critique: Which ballad told the most interesting story? Explain. “Robin Hood and the Three Squires” Discussion Agenda 1. 2. 3. Lines 1-72. Many songs contain a repeated line or lines with catchy nonsense words. Identify in the ballad. What purpose do these lines serve in this ballad? Lines 73-116. Restate Robin Hood’s greeting to the sheriff. How is his greeting verbal irony? Is the dramatic irony in the scene effective? Explain. Explain the author’s purpose in this ballad? Who is the intended audience? 4. What is the narrator’s tone toward Robin Hood? Toward the sheriff? 5. What does the ballad suggest about the social system of Robin Hood’s day? What assumptions did the audience probably make about the sheriff and Robin Hood based on their knowledge of the social system? 6. What conclusions can you draw form the ballad about technology, poverty, religion and old age in medieval days?