What is a Ballad Poem Definition

Read this article to know about the meaning, characteristics and types of Ballad in English Literature.

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Meaning of Ballad


The word ‘Ballad’ has been derived from French word ‘Ballare’ meaning ‘to dance’. Fundamentally, a ballad is a poem that tells a fairly simple story (narrative). Ballads are often used in songs & have a musical quality in them.

The basic form of ballad is iambic heptameter (seven sets of unstressed & stressed syllables per line), in sets of four with the second & fourth line rhyming. The rhyme scheme of ballad is usually abab or aabb.


i.It is a song that tells a story.

ii. The beginning is often surprising.

iii. Its language is simple.

iv. It concentrates on a single episode.

v. The theme is often tragic & sad.

vi. The story is told through dialogue & action.

vii. It lacks specific detail.

viii.It has a surprising ending.

ix. It includes some sort of repeated lines.

x. It has rarely a moral.

xi. It has 4-line stanzas, first & third lines have four stresses & fourth line has three stresses.

xii. It has an orientation, complication & resolution.

xiii.It can have a question & answer format. One stanza presents the question & the next stanza answers the question.

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a) It includes language that focuses on actions & dialogues.

b) It includes language that indirectly conveys information about the characters, relationships.

c) It is often written in third or first person.

d) It usually has a rhyming pattern of abac, aabb, abbc.

e) It has a regular beat structure.

f) It is often written in complete sentences.

g) In includes language that conveys a particular mood.

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I. Folk Ballads:- Folk ballads were originally composed by anonymous singers & were passed down orally from generation to generation, before they were written down. The English Folk Ballads we read today took their present form probably in 15th century.

II. Literary Ballads:- Literary ballads are composed & written down by known poets usually in the style of folk ballads. Example of Ballad

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