I have started to write a ballad. I was wondering a few things. Have any of you ever tried to write a ballad? Any tips? Do you like ballads?
What subject are you writing on, Dan?
Whether a ballad is likeable depends entirely on whether it's well composed and whether the story subject is interesting, and on the taste of the reader!
As I understand it, ballads are story-telling verses, which historically were composed for recitation by wandering minstrels who might add musical flourishes. Nowadays we get our poetry mainly from books in private, and there aren't many wandering minstrels, but their heirs can be found at cowboy poetry festivals and suchlike. It's usual for ballads to rhyme. There's a metrical form known as ballad metre involving 7-beat lines, sometimes alternating with shorter, e.g. 5-beat, lines. Sometimes the 7-beat is split into alternating 4-beat and 3-beat lines. The form and content can however vary considerably.
Compare some old Scottish border ballads (findable though Google) with Kipling's ballads (see the Classical Poet List at the top of this page) and the Australian bush ballads of 'Banjo' Paterson (through Google again, see for example 'The Man From Snowy River' and 'The Geebung Polo Club') and (through the Classical Poet List) Tennyson's brilliant 'The Revenge: a Ballad of the Fleet' in which frequent changes of metre (and point of view) evoke the changing sea conditions and flow of events.
Following on from Ian, who mentions Australian bush ballads... you might like to have a look at some of the ballads written by contemporary bush poets here who continue the tradition of travelling around to country shows and telling a great yarn in lyrical verse (and a couple are friends of mine), at:
especially - Ellis Campbell, Brian Beesley and David Campbell (no relation to Ellis)
The 'Old Masters' link at the top of that page will take you to the original bush balladeers like Banjo Paterson.
Dan, I'm not a real fan of ballads, but I agree with what Ian says: If it's well constructed and has a good story line people will enjoy it. Here's a favorite that is much requested by many poetry lovers.
See also 'ballade' (click on the X to vanish the Yahoo annoyance):
These examples don't show it, but (my failing) memory suggests it has to end with an plea to a Prince, or other high person, no?
The Ballad of Jed Clampett doesn't...well sorta, but not really
I think of a ballad telling a story, and having a catchy refrain that becomes more and more meaningful (or acquires different meanings) as the story unfolds.
An example is THE LONG BLACK VEIL, where you don't know who "she" is or why she's veiled until you hear the whole story. PANCHO AND LEFTY is another great one.
The Australian bush ballad is very popular in Oz and the tradition is kept alive by a number of bush poets and balladeers. With the resurgence of performance bush poetry in Australia, many writers are sadly taking the option of writing doggeral and omitting any consistant metrical form and true rhyme in their construction. As they can cleverly perform a piece and allow the story line to carry their efforts. There are some very good ballad writers though and it is our hope that the tradtional Australian bush ballad will survive through their efforts. Drop over to www.bushpoets.go.to and have a browse.
Bush Poetry, Ballads and Yarns.
I did, thanks. What's 'Pat Blue', tea?
Blue is the cattle dog on the home page old mate and he likes a pat, that way he won't bite. Tea is in the billy beside the fire. In a matter of speaking. Hope you enjoyed your browse.
Australian Bush Poet
The Goondiwindi Grey