The basic form for ballads is iambic heptameter (seven sets of unstressed, stressed sylables per line), in sets of four, with the second and fourth lines rhyming. This is the standard, but we do not require you to follow it rigidly in the poetry you submit to us, especially since very few people use or even know the standard! Feel free to experiment, but remember, it should have a smooth, song-like sound when you speak it aloud.
Here is an example:
I'll tell a tale, a thrilling tale of love beyond compare
I knew a lad not long ago more gorgeous than any I've seen.
And in his eyes I found my self a'falling in love with the swain.
Oh, the glorious fellow I met by the ocean with eyes of deep-sea green!
He was a rugged sailor man with eyes of deep-sea green,
And I a maid, a tavern maid! Whose living was serving beer.
So with a kiss and with a wave, off on his boat he sailed
And left me on the dock, the theif! Without my heart, oh dear!
And with a heart that's lost at sea, I go on living still.
I still am now still serving beer in that tavern by the sea.
And though the pay check's still the same, the money won't go as far
For now I feed not just myself, but my little one and me!
So let that be a lesson, dear, and keep your heart safely hid.
I gave mine to a sailing thief with gorgeous eyes of green.
Save yours for a sweeter lad who makes the land his home.
Ah me! If only I'd never met that sailor by the sea!
-- Lonnie Adrift
Notice how "seen" and "green" in the first paragraph rhyme? This rhyming pattern, called abcb, is continued throughout the poem. "a" stands for one line ending, "b" for another, and "c" for another still. Because there are 2 "b"'s, they are the two lines that rhyme. Note also, that it does not stay strictly to the iambic heptameter, this only fits if you speed up and blend some of the words, which also adds to the flow of it.
We encourage you to try your own, and good luck!
Please send us some of your finished ballads!
Back to our list of poetry forms.
There are several other ballad related sites:
Lyrical Ballads by William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Medieval Songs and Ballads
This page maintained by Alice Vo Edwards and Angeline Tiamson.
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