Love, Lust, and Ballads

Topics: Ballad, Francis James Child, Stanza, Robin Hood, Ballads / Pages: 16 (3871 words) / Published: Jun 6th, 2007
Love, lust, murder, thievery, incest, death, and betrayal are just some of the intriguing, beautiful, and sometimes disturbing topics of a traditional ballad. A traditional what? A ballad is "…a song that tells a story, or- to take the other point of view – a story told in song. More formally…a short poem, adapted for singing, simple in plot and metrical s structure, divided into stanzas, and characterized by complete impersonality so far as the author or singer is concerned."(Kittredge, Zweig, 3) The songs tend to leave out details and go straight to the heart of the story, even though some ballads, like "The Outlaw Murray and "The Young Tamlane" go on for seventy-five and fifty-six stanzas, respectively. So what's the big deal about some songs that tell of broken hearts, star-crossed lovers and unmerciful murderers? These old, carefully preserved ballads can be said to be the building blocks of music of today and throughout the ages; a "backbone", if you will, that can be seen in the format and rhythms of lyrics and tones in some of today's most popular genres of music, such as rock, punk, and country while also having many ties to the genres historically. It is also possible that songs from this genre might be able to be classified as a type of ballad. There are two main categories of these ballads. They are the border ballads, which are probably more commonly known and studied, and there are the broadside ballads. The broadside ballads were very very popular in the late 1500s and 1600s. They were, "songs with new lyrics put to popular tunes, transmitted by writing rather than orally, and primarily an urban phenomenon."(
The border ballads, however, are thought to be of Scotch-Irish origin, and were found to be passed down orally from one generation in a family to the next. Since the people passing down these "living

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