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Ballads
Parallels in Old and Contemporary Narratives

Ballads
  • Ballads and Ballad Literature [microform... (by )
  • Lyrical Ballads : With Other Poems (by )
  • The Roxburghe Ballads : Volume 7 (by )
  • The Winter's Tale (by )
  • Ballads and Poems (by )
  • Ballads from Manuscripts : Vol. 1 Volume Vol. 1 (by )
  • The English and Scottish Popular Ballads... (by )
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When we consider the ballad, we imagine slick-haired crooners wooing concert attendees as the spotlight shines brightly about their performances. From historic pop sensations like The Beatles and Elvis Presley to more contemporary artists like Whitney Houston and Celine Dion, the ballad transfixes audiences as it bares the souls of the singers, lyricists, and musicians who share them.

Originally, ballads were dance songs, or “ballares” sung or performed in medieval France. Germanic and Scandinavian narrative traditions influenced the musical form, especially the minnesang, or “love song” which flourished during the Middle-High German era. The ballad “Judas,” included in Francis James Child's anthology The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, dates back to the 13th century and exemplifies how different regions and periods merged to create the earliest form of the genre.

In the mid 18th and early 19th centuries, scholars created a schizm concerning the composition of the ballad. The “communalists,” charged by the German scholar Johann Gottfried Herder and the “individualists” who were influenced by Englishman Cecil Sharp, believed that ballad verses were created either conjunctively or by a single author, respectively. The former party maintained that printed ballads, which are more recent and attribute a single author to the work are not actual ballads. The individualists held the view that changes to lyrics corrupted original texts. Today, musical scholars  consider the interchange of written and oral ballads as what creates such timeless verse.

The World Library hosts an array of historical ballads. William Wordsworth’s Lyrical Ballads with other Poems, Ballads and Poems by the Glasgow Ballad Club, The Roxburghe Ballads by J. Woodfall Ebsworth, and of course, the master William Shakespeare, who in The Winter’s Tale  wrote “I love a ballad but even too well; if it be a doleful matter, merrily set down, or a very pleasant thing indeed, and sung lamentably” are examples shaping the contemporary ballads we move and react to today.

By Logan Williams



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