|Share page||Visit Us On FB|
40 An Introduction to Folk Music in the United States
interesting. By definition, a ballad is a narrative song with from five to twenty or more stanzas. Various kinds of poetic meter occur, but the most common kind, ballad meter, is an iambic stanza of four lines, alternating lines of four and three feet..The following stanza from "Sir Hugh" is typical:'
As I walked^out one holiday Some drops of rain did fall. And all the scholars in that school Were out a-playing ball.
Many ballads have refrains, some of which have little to do with the rest of the story, such as the refrain in "The Two Sisters":
There lived an old lord in the North country (Refrain) Bow down, bow down.
There lived an old lord in the North country (Refrain) Bow down to me.
There lived an old lord in the North country
And he had daughters one, two, three. (Refrain) 111 be true to my love if my love will be true to me.
It is possible that ballads once served as accompaniment to dancing, as they still do in parts of Scandinavia and particularly in the Faroe Islands. If so, the refrain of "The Two Sisters" is perhaps a remnant of that practice; and "bow down" could be explained as refemng to dance.
The stories of the ballads are often tragic, the most famous ones dealing with murder and death; but there are comic and even humorous ones, too. Examples of tragic ballads are "Barbara Allen," the most widespread in America, and "Lord Thomas and Fair Elinor," in which a young man marries a rich girl instead of his sweetheart. He invites his sweetheart to his wedding, but she insults the bride, who kills her, whereupon the groom kills both the bride and himself. In "The Two Sisters," a girl drowns her sister because of jealousy over a suitor. In "Edwin in the Lowlands," a tavern-keeper murders a guest for his money; but the victim turns out to be his prospective son-in-law. In "The Golden Vanity," the cabin-boy of a ship sinks an enemy vessel