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What Are Ballad Poems?

Love and romance are commonly the subjects of ballads.
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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 25 August 2014
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Ballad poems are types of poems typically written with a certain lyrical quality to them and usually tell a story. Much like many other types of poetry, there are many different types of rhyme schemes and meters that can be used for ballads. They are often written as quatrains with rhyming between the last words in the second and fourth line of each stanza. Ballad poems can be written about many different subjects and can originate from a number of different countries, including the US and England.

While the term “ballad” has come to be frequently associated with romantic or sentimental music and poetry, there are many different types of ballad poems. The basic structure of these poems can vary quite a bit as well, though it is quite common for them to be written in some type of iambic meter. “Iambic” indicates that it is written with pairs of stressed and unstressed syllables in each line, usually followed by a term that indicates how many of these pairings are in each line. Ballad poems written in “iambic heptameter,” for example, contain seven pairs of stressed and unstressed syllables, while “iambic pentameter” indicates five such pairings.

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Many ballad poems are written to include a lyrical or song-like quality to them, likely due to the origins of such works as spoken poems that could be sung. This is usually achieved through a rhyme scheme that accompanies the meter of the poem. The most common rhyme scheme for ballad poems is a quatrain structure in which the lines of the poem are arranged in groups of four lines per stanza. These quatrains are then typically written with the second and fourth line of each one ending with a word that rhymes. This is often indicated as an “a, b, c, b” scheme in which the end of each line is represented by a letter and matching letters indicating rhyming lines.

The subject matter of ballad poems can depend a great deal on the purpose of the poem and the preferences of the poet. Love and romance are common subjects, as are faith and spirituality or religion. Expressions of beauty in the natural world can also be found in these types of poems. There is even a subcategory of ballad poems known as “murder ballads,” which are poems written about true or fictional murders. These frequently include some form of supernatural justice or punishment against the murderer, though this is more common in murder ballads from the UK than American ballads of this type.

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shell4life
Post 4

@JackWhack – Writing ballad poetry is therapeutic for people in a one-sided relationship or going through a breakup, too. I wrote many of these about my boyfriend, and I can't tell you how gratifying it was to have them published.

Just knowing that other people were reading about my pain made it easier somehow. I didn't have to suffer in silence anymore. It had all been for something.

It is easy to get your emotions and hurt onto paper in the form of a ballad poem. I think that people love reading this style because they can relate to it.

JackWhack
Post 3

I used to write a lot of poetry while I was spiritually lost and searching for meaning. Ballad poems were a great tool for me, and getting my frustration and fears out on paper helped clarify things.

Once I finally discovered peace, I began expressing that in more peaceful ballad poems. While reading them years later, I actually cried, because I remembered how I felt at the time, and I did a great job of expressing that.

I think that ballad poems are best suited for spiritual subjects. You probably wouldn't write one about silly or insignificant things. Couplet poems are better suited for that.

DylanB
Post 2

I like reading old famous ballad poems. I got introduced to these in my literature class, and something about them really appealed to me.

I noticed that Edgar Allan Poe used extra lines and a slightly different rhyme scheme in some of his ballad poems. There were more than four lines, and sometimes, two lines right next to each other would rhyme, instead of the alternating lines rhyming.

I liked this about his poetry. He surely didn't do anything the typical way!

Still, I enjoy reading the more traditionally structured ballad poems, too. Anything that has a rhyme scheme and an interesting subject is great to me.

OeKc05
Post 1

I write a lot of short ballad poems. I guess I prefer this style because I am also a songwriter.

I have been known to turn my ballad poems into songs from time to time. However, most of them were written to be spoken and not sung, and I just don't hear a melody in my head while I am writing them or reading back over them.

Most of my ballad poems are no longer than one page of notebook paper. I'm not into drawing things out, and I can usually say what I need to in just a few stanzas.

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