Poetic Form: Ballade
PostedFebruary 21, 2014
The ballade was one of the principal forms of music and poetry in fourteenth- and fifteenth-century France. Not to be confused with the ballad, the ballade contains three main stanzas, each with the same rhyme scheme, plus a shorter concluding stanza, or envoi. All four stanzas have identical final refrain lines. The tone of the ballade was often solemn and formal, with elaborate symbolism and classical references.
One of the most influential writers of early ballades was François Villon. He used the exacting form and limited rhyme scheme to create intense compositions about poverty and the frailty of life. Inspired by debauchery and vagrancy of his criminal life, his work often included scathing attacks on the wealthy and declarations about injustice.
In English, ballades were written by Geoffrey Chaucer in the fourteenth-century, and revived by Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Algernon Charles Swinburne in the nineteenth-century. Aside from adaptations of Villon composed by Ezra Pound, there are few modern examples of the ballade and it is most often reserved for light verse.