Ballad stanza (ballad meter)

The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms - Ross Murfin 2018

Ballad stanza (ballad meter)

Ballad stanza (ballad meter): A four-line stanza used in the traditional ballad. The ballad stanza is usually characterized by an abcb rhyme scheme, although the rhyme may be approximate (half rhyme) rather than exact (perfect rhyme). The first and third lines typically have four accented syllables whereas the second and fourth lines have three.

The term ballad stanza is sometimes used synonymously with common meter, but common meter tends to be associated with hymns and most often rhymes abab.

EXAMPLES: Scottish poet Robert Burns’s “Ye Flowery Banks” (1792) is written in ballad stanzas:

Yĕ flówĕry bánks ŏ’ bónnı̇̆e Dúnes,

Hŏw cán yĕ blúme săe fáir?

Hŏw ćan yĕ ch́ant, yĕ lі́ttlĕ; bі́rds,

An̆d Í săe fú’° ŏ’ cáre?full

Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” published in Lyrical Ballads (1798), is composed mainly of traditional, four-line ballad stanzas such as the following:

All in a hot and copper sky,

The bloody Sun, at noon,

Right up above the mast did stand,

No bigger than the Moon.