I so much enjoyed writing a ballad over at dVerse last week that I decided to make it the theme of this week’s challenge.
What is a Ballad?
The ballad as a poetic form was traditionally a lyrical, narrative poem set to music, and accompanied by dance (the word derives from the Latin ballare, ‘to dance’).
The traditional structure of the ballad in English is a poem formed of quatrains rhymed abcb with the alternating lines of tetrameter (eight syllables, four iambic feet) and trimeter (six syllables, three iambic feet): so-called ‘ballad stanza.’ As an example, here is the opening stanza to Wordsworth’s ‘Strange fits of passion have I known’ from the collection, Lyrical Ballads:
Strange fits of passion have I known:
And I will dare to tell,
But in the Lover’s ear alone,
What once to me befel.
– William Wordsworth, 1800
There are of course, multitudinous variations of this traditional form. Lyrical Ballads as a collection was groundbreaking at the time it was written because it used the ‘a selection of language really used by men’ rather than an elevated an antiquated poetic diction, of which Wordsworth spoke disparagingly. There is indeed a beauty in the simplicity of Wordsworth’s language, and the ways in which he subtly adapts the ballad form in order to tell his story, e.g.:
Three years she grew in sun and shower,
Then Nature said, “A lovelier flower
On earth was never sown;
This Child I to myself will take;
She shall be mine, and I will make
A Lady of my own.
‘Three years she grew,’ 1800
Here the rhyming scheme is aabccb and the metre 2 lines tetrameter followed by one line trimeter.
If all of the above seems a little too technical and restrictive, do not fear: for this challenge, I simply want you to write a poem which tells a story. It should be lyrical, in that it could be set to music and sung. I want you to sing with your words, but I am not insisting upon any strict metrical form or rhyme scheme.
As for the story, let your imagination take you where it will: it could be a dark, Halloween-inspired piece, a love story or a folk tale. The subject is entirely up to you.
How to Enter
There are several ways to enter this challenge:
- Post your entry in the comments section below.
- Make a blog post featuring your ballad, tag ‘EIF Poetry Challenge,’ link back to this challenge and post your link in the comments section below.
- Post your ballad on Instagram and tag @experimentsinfiction
- Tweet your ballad and tag @Experimentsinfc
The deadline for entries is midnight CET on Tuesday, 20 October. This week’s challenge will be judged by last week’s winner, Valdis Stakle. Good luck, and enjoy writing your ballad!
If Wordsworth didn’t provide you with enough inspiration, let’s lead out with Simon and Garfunkel singing traditional Scottish ballad, Barbara Allen, or ‘Barbriallen:’
It sounds technical Ingrid, but I might have a go….
No it doesn’t have to be technical-just tell a story!
Ne’er a girl has yet been born,
could boast that she befel
the curse the maiden born to me
endured and lived to tell.
She was born upon a twilight dark,
when I at first laid eyes
upon this beauty God had made
with His own hands, my prize.
She cried the cry of a newborn babe,
and did smile when she first saw me;
not knowing that I had made a deal
for her birth, to live, and see.
For I was barren as a man,
cursed ne’er to sire a child,
my love did cry, her tears they ran
for the want of a babe so mild.
So, I had stolen away one dreadful night,
gone to the forest deep;
to find what ’twas told,
a man that could give to me
a chance to stop her weep.
I traveled far into the night,
I came upon a place,
“twas lit by fire I could not see,
except for for the piercing face
of a man, so tall, he stood tree high,
a man, with eyes of red;
“You seek to give your wife a child”,
he gazed ‘pon me and said…
I told him that my need was hers,
that she alone ’twas due,
“There’s a price to pay”, he said to me
“Should you wish a child that’s true…
You must pledge to me,
that once you see,
that child born free and good,
Your heart and soul
will abide with me
and forever walk this wood”
I did not think and yielded then
accepted the fate for her
so she could hold my child for’er
and I would watch from afar….
So, when the girl was born and safe
I cried and cried ’til I
began to feel
my heavy arms, become leaden as the sky
of that dread night
when I agreed
to give my life for her
So forever I walk
these woods, a man of grey,
with soulless love but pure.
Hope the tweet also came through ok– let me know if I goofed this up!
It came through fine, thanks for your entry!
It was fun! Thanks for setting up the challenge!
Round the Clock in Iphone’s Grip of Force. (20 quatrain – phew! – ballad in fact/fantasy)
At 12 o’clock the I-phone came
A saviour and messiah
The world through now the ether talked
Instead of the copper wire
It spread itself around the world
Apple smiled and waited
In just twelve quick hours that went along
The world was saturated
“I want it, I want it” swept round the world
The I-phone was prize in the race
While Apple got richer the world it got poorer
They forgot how to talk face to face
As the world became glued to their I-phones
The movement it became so profound
That the world it forget to watch what was happening
Became blind to what went on all around
The pollies left at 1 o’clock
With I-phones as a perk
They left the world to run itself
It did, just like clockwork
At 2 o’clock the union said,
It’s time to make a whack,
They got together one and all
And made the clocks go back
And so they did. Grandfather. Fob. Town Hall et al.
What of those not in the union you may ask?…..
At 3 o’clock the prostitutes
We’re going off the lay
The world’s all I-phoned out on us
There’s no-one to play in the hay
At 4 o’clock the uprights said
(Like traffic lights e.g.)
We’d like to try and stand on heads
While no-one else can see
At 5 o’clock the rain it thought
I wonder what it’s like
To fall up to the sky instead
Of coming down as usual?…..
So it did. And it felt good thought the rain….
When horizontals saw the uprights
At their 4 o’clock display
They said now why can’t we join in
And point the other way?
At seven o’clock the cars did want
To stand on their two back wheels
If humans can stand up on two legs
We want to know how it feels
At 8 o’clock the clocks did stop
To rest their hands and springs
‘Cause working backwards for a clock’s
A pretty tiring thing
At 9 o’clock all bikes and trikes
Took off their sprockety chains
And free-wheeled all around the land
Without their chainy pains
At 10 o’clock giant flames rose up
The world stayed Iphone wooed
While houses burned and burned and burned
The world stayed Iphone glued
The sun it did a burn-out
(Temporarily of course)
To make the stupid world wake up
To Iphone’s grip of force
Electric turbine’s effort
Electric turbines joined with sun’s
Desire to get refrain
From all the worldly Iphone users
Charging up again
At 11 o’clock around the world
Electric turbines did
Stop and try a non-spin spot
No power on the grid
The Iphone batteries soon ran out
Their users weeped and wailed
What ever are we going to do?
Everything has failed
The sun and turbines they did think
The world’s now OK, let’s see
The sun came out, the turbines spun
They thought things would be rosy
Because the world got Iphone glued
They all knew how to walk, yes
But when they emerged from their Iphone haze
They’d forgotten how to talk
So endeth my ballad of 20 quatrains……phew!
Still working on a melody line to accompany the lute…..
🤣🤣🤣 it’s an epic! I have an iPhone because it was given to me but I never did understand ‘iPhone fever’
It’s interesting how this ‘epic’ developed three years ago when I wrote it.. I remember reading something about the rain thinking it would be rather fun to fall up instead of down. The thought made by the writer, sorry the rain, I still remember from 3 years ago (‘So it did. And it felt good thought the rain…’). This sparked an idea. What if all the other things wanted to do crazy different things also? To do this everyone in the world would have to be oblivious to what’s going on around them. Answer? Addiction to watching Iphones. Perfect.
There are messages for us in this. Do something crazy and different. Break boundaries. Be like the rain, (‘So it did. And it felt good thought the rain…’).
There is also the obvious message. Addiction to phones causes a loss in our ability to communicate face to face
I think this link should work Ingrid. Not sure
Beat ya by one quatrain Hobbo. I win. Yay!…….
The battle of the Epic Ballads! Thank God Bon Jovi’s not on board yet…
My epic’s more epic than yours. Nah nah. OK you mighta won the Battle of Britain but one quatrain more makes my epic just that titbit epicier. Yay! ….
Was Bon Jovi in the Battle of Britain?
Nah – he didn’t want to get his hair mussed…
One quatrain eh
You’ve got all the lingo
But it’s a poetry challenge
Not a game of bingo😂😂
You’ve got all the ho ho
The lingo, the bingo
But what about, Hobbo
Her Maj Liz, by jingo ?
What’s she got to to with it?
This is like one of those hip-hop freestyle battles, only in quatrain form 😂
Yo ho hip hop
Sunscreen slap slop
Quo ho quatrain
You got no brain
Who wrote this garble?……
Give it a hip hop beat. Rocket to number one.. Guaranteed…..
Not garble. Divine insight. Let’s go yo ho …..
Yes, it did thanks: nice potted history 🤣 thanks for your entry!