Poetry 101: Kinds Of Poems: The Ballad

Poetry 101: Kinds Of Poems: The Ballad


If you love to write poetry or you want to learn more about it, read this post. We continue our poetry 101 series and discuss the ballad.

What Is A Ballad?

According to Google a ballad is, “a poem or song narrating a story in short stanzas. Traditional ballads are typically of unknown authorship, having been passed on orally from one generation to the next”.

But I like this definition from Poets.org more: “A typical ballad is a plot-driven song, with one or more characters hurriedly unfurling events leading to a dramatic conclusion.”

Most of us associate ballads with music and below is an example of a song by The Crash Test Dummies called ‘The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead’. There are of course many more examples of ballads in music. Ballads were part of our oral tradition of storytelling and were often set to song.

The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead by The Crash Test Dummies 

Let's begin

Peter Pumpkinhead came to town
Spreading wisdom and cash around
Fed the starving and housed the poor
Showed the Vatican what gold's for

But he made too many enemies
Of the people who would keep us on our knees
Hooray for Peter Pumpkin
Who'll pray for Peter Pumpkinhead?
Oh my!

Peter Pumpkinhead fooled them all
Emptied churches and shopping malls
When he spoke, it would raise the roof
Peter Pumpkinhead told the truth

But he made too many enemies
Of the people who would keep us on our knees
Hooray for Peter Pumpkin
Who'll pray for Peter Pumpkinhead?
Oh my!

Peter Pumpkinhead put to shame
Governments who would slur his name
Plots and sex scandals failed outright
Peter merely said
Any kind of love is alright

But he made too many enemies
Of the people who would keep us on our knees
Hooray for Peter Pumpkin
Who'll pray for Peter Pumpkinhead?

Peter Pumpkinhead was too good
Had him nailed to a chunk of wood
He died grinning on live TV
Hanging there he looked a lot like you
And an awful lot like me!

But he made too many enemies
Of the people who would keep us on our knees
Hooray for Peter Pumpkin
Who'll pray for Peter Pumpkinhead?

Hooray for Peter Pumpkin
Who'll pray for Peter Pumpkin
Hooray for Peter Pumpkinhead
Oh my oh my oh!
Don't it make you want to cry, oh

Source: LyricFind
Songwriters: Andy Partridge
The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead lyrics © BMG Rights Management

How To Write A Ballad

  1. It mostly makes use of quatrains.
  2. It has a flexible rhyme scheme.
  3. It tells a story.
  4. Uses lots of emotions and ‘showing’, instead of ‘telling’

And here is a ridiculously long ballad by Oscar Wilde if you have the time: The Ballad of Reading Gaol

I hope you give the Ballad a try, who knows your poem might win a Grammy.

P.S. If you are taking part in the 12 Poems Challenge, join the group on Facebook: 12 Poems in 12 Months

 by Mia Botha

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