Ballade  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The ballade ( not to be confused with the ballad) is a verse form typically consisting of three eight-line stanzas, each with a consistent metre and a particular rhyme scheme. The last line in the stanza is a refrain, and the stanzas are followed by a four-line concluding stanza (an envoi) usually addressed to a prince. The rhyme scheme is therefore usually 'ababbcbC ababbcbC ababbcbC bcbC', where the capital 'C' is a refrain.

The ballade is particularly associated with French poetry of the 14th and 15th centuries. One of the most notable writers of ballades was François Villon. In Edmund Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac (play), it is a ballade that Cyrano composes impromptu during a duel.

The many different rhyming words that are needed (the 'b' rhyme needs at least fourteen words) makes the form more difficult for English than for French poets. Geoffrey Chaucer wrote in the form. It was revived in the 19th century by English-language poets including Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Algernon Charles Swinburne. Other notable English-language ballade writers are Andrew Lang and G. K. Chesterton (below). A humorous example is Wendy Cope's 'Proverbial Ballade'.

A Ballade of Theatricals by G. K. Chesterton (1912)

Though all the critics' canons grow—
Far seedier than the actors' own—
Although the cottage-door's too low—
Although the fairy's twenty stone—
Although, just like the telephone,
She comes by wire and not by wings,
Though all the mechanism's known—
Believe me, there are real things.
Yes, real people— even so—
Even in a theatre, truth is known,
Though the agnostic will not know,
And though the gnostic will not own,
There is a thing called skin and bone,
And many a man that struts and sings
Has been as stony-broke as stone…
Believe me, there are real things
There is an hour when all men go;
An hour when man is all alone.
When idle minstrels in a row
Went down with all the bugles blown—
When brass and hymn and drum went down,
Down in death's throat with thunderings—
Ah, though the unreal things have grown,
Believe me, there are real things.
Prince, though your hair is not your own
And half your face held on by strings,
And if you sat, you'd smash your throne—
Believe me, there are real things.

Variations

There are many variations to the ballade, and it is in many ways similar to the ode and chant royal. There are instances of a double ballade and double-refrain ballade. Some ballades have five stanzas; a ballade supreme has ten-line stanzas rhyming ababbccdcD, with the envoi ccdcD or ccdccD. An example is Ballade des Pendus by François Villon.

A seven-line ballade, or ballade royal, consists of four stanzas of rhyme royal, all using the same three rhymes, all ending in a refrain, without acvcn envoi.



Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Ballade" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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