Thursday, 12 March 2015

Writing a Ballade (Non-musical)

By THLaird Colyne Stewart, AS 49 (2015)

Along with the rondeau and the virelai, the ballade is one of the formes fixes. Between the late 13th and the 15th centuries, ballades were often set to music.

The ballade is a verse form usually consisting of three 8-line stanzas, each with a consistent meter and a particular rhyme scheme. The last line in the stanza is a refrain. The stanzas are often followed by a 4-line envoi (concluding stanza), usually addressed to a prince. The rhyme scheme is usually ababbcbC ababbcbC ababbcbC bcbC (the capital C being the refrain).

When writing my ballade one of the first things I did was settle on a meter. I went with iambic octosyllabic lines. I then wrote the refrain. I was dedicating this ballade to Duchess Adrielle Kerrec, so I wanted something that summed her up for me:

The heart, the soul, of Ealdormere.

In the first stanza I wrote about her service

So bright the deeds of northern maid,
The duchess bold her works well done,

as well as her well earned reputation for shenanigans and skill at the game of Tablero

Who with the cups has often played,
And ‘gainst her foes has always won,
Well known her mirth, her sense of fun,
Who with the folk can oft endear,
And cares about most everyone,

and ended with the refrain line. In the second stanza I switched focus to look at her former position as Baroness of Septentria

On noble ground her feet have laid,
Her realm the lands Septentrian,

as well as her martial activities (both fighting and equestrian)

Protected by her lance and blade,
In battle fought in rain and sun,
In which she made the foemen run,
Or catch them up upon her spear,
As trophies of the melees won,

ending again with the refrain line. In the third stanza I switched focus again, this time to her skills n the arts and sciences

Well many are the things she’s made,
The tunics sewn, the thread she’s spun,
And taught her students in the glade,
And yet her work is just begun,
As Laurel and as Pelican;
Her words on scrolls are sweet to hear;
Her skills so vast, second to none,

again ending with the refrain line.

For the envoi, I made a plea to unnamed princes to listen to my praise of someone who I find truly inspiring

So princes listen to your son,
And turn to me your gracious ear,
As praise I give to worthy one,
The heart, the soul, of Ealdormere.

In the end, the poem looked like this:

So bright the deeds of northern maid,
The duchess bold her works well done,
Who with the cups has often played,
And ‘gainst her foes has always won,
Well known her mirth, her sense of fun,
Who with the folk can oft endear,
And cares about most everyone,
The heart, the soul, of Ealdormere.

On noble ground her feet have laid,
Her realm the lands Septentrian,
Protected by her lance and blade,
In battle fought in rain and sun,
In which she made the foemen run,
Or catch them up upon her spear,
As trophies of the melees won,
The heart, the soul, of Ealdormere.

Well many are the things she’s made,
The tunics sewn, the thread she’s spun,
And taught her students in the glade,
And yet her work is just begun,
As Laurel and as Pelican;
Her words on scrolls are sweet to hear;
Her skills so vast, second to none,
The heart, the soul, of Ealdormere.

So princes listen to your son,
And turn to me your gracious ear,
As praise I give to worthy one,
The heart, the soul, of Ealdormere.

Sources

Baldick, Chris. The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms. Oxford University Press, New York, 1990.

Cushman, Stephen, ed. Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, 4th edition. Princeton University Press, New Jersey, 2012.

Fischer, Todd H. C. “Medieval Poetic Forms, Genres and Devices,” 2015.

Harmon, William and C. Hugh Holman. A Handbook to Literature, Seventh Edition. Prentice Hall, New Jersey, 1996.

Hirsch, Edward. A Poet’s Glossary. Houghton Mifflin Publishing, New York, 2014.

Kupier, Kathleen, ed. Mirriam Webster’s Encyclopedia of Literature. Mirriam Webster, Springfield, Massachusetts, 1995.

Kupier, Kathleen, ed. Poetry and Drama: Literary Terms and Concepts. Britannica Educational Publishing, New York, 2012.

Myers, Jack and Don Wukasch. Dictionary of Poetic Terms. University of North Texas, Denton, Texas, 2003.

Preminger, Alex, ed. Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics. Princeton University Press, New Jersey, 1974.


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