A page from the "Poetry through the Ages" exhibit...

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The ballad’s 4-3-4-3 line beat in matching quatrains has become the most familiar spoken-word and recorded poetic form of modern times.

Much of today’s literary and musical culture grows out of the ballad. Every day, we hear ballads on our radios, iPods and MP3 players, and as a backdrop for commercials. Over the past half century, rock and country music have given the ballad a format that appeals to baby boomers and Generations X, Y and Z – all of whom were exposed to the plot-driven poetry from grammar school through college.

music we listen to everyday
Ballads are the basis for much of the music we listen to everyday.
Rhyme: Traditionally, the second and fourth lines rhyme in each quatrain
Structure: Varied, but most often a series of quatrains, quintets, or sestets
Measure/Beat: Iambic tetrameter and iambic pentameter on alternating lines
Common Themes: Love, tragedy, religion, politics, triumph, loss
Other Notes:
  • The most common poetic form used in modern popular music; also the most prevalent poetic form written in European cultures in the past seven centuries
  • A storytelling poem: setting the scene (first quatrains), developing the story (middle quatrains), bringing the story to resolution (final quatrain)
  • Written rhythmically, from the heart