Ballad Poems

Ballads developed from 14th and 15th-century minstrelsy. The minstrel, a traveling performer, could be a musician, acrobat, singer, or any other type of entertainer. As the decades and centuries progressed, the word “minstrel” narrowed to mean someone who sang songs. However, the connection to the ballad is evident when one considers that minstrels usually performed songs that told stories of mythical people, history, and folk customs to the commoners within an area.

The Romantic period saw a massive revival in the ballad form as poets began to appreciate poetry written for the masses – and not just the super-elite aristocrats.

Ballads, usually have thirteen lines with varying rhyme schemes, and often have frequent rhyme. This rhyming makes the poem more musical and memorable. Plus, as folk songs, ballads are usually suitable lyrics for dance tunes.

So, whether you’re in the mood for a legendary tale, a story about a historical event, or the legend of a mythical hero, these best ballads of all time will not disappoint.


by Edna St. Vincent Millay

‘Tavern’ by Edna St. Vincent Millay is a beautiful, short poem that speaks to one person’s desire to take care of others. 

The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver

by Edna St. Vincent Millay

‘The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver’ by Edna St. Vincent Millay depicts the lengths mothers will go to in order to protect their children. The speaker recalls watching his mother sacrifice herself for him when he was a young boy, weaving an enormous pile of clothing with a harp. 

The Broken Chain

by Ron Tranmer

‘The Broken Chain’ by Ron Tranmer explores the feelings of grief that a family suffers when one of their much-loved members passed away. The poet uses the metaphor of a broken chain to describe their loss.

The Brook

by Alfred Lord Tennyson

‘The Brook’ was written in 1886, not long before the poet died in 1892. The poem explores themes of mortality/eternity

The Constant Lover

by John Suckling

‘The Constant Lover’ by Sir John Suckling presents an interesting view of love. It’s told from the perspective of a man who has recently fallen for a new woman.

The Forsaken Merman

by Matthew Arnold

‘The Forsaken Merman’ by Matthew Arnold is a melancholy poem in which the speaker, a merman, grieves the loss of his human wife. He’s left alone with their children without the woman he loves.

The Highwayman

by Alfred Noyes

‘The Highwayman’ was first published in August of 1906 in Blackwood’s Magazine. It was included the following year in Forty Singing

The Mushroom is the Elf of Plants-

by Emily Dickinson

‘The Mushroom is the Elf of Plants-’ by Emily Dickinson depicts the mushroom, its fleeting life, and personifies it alongside Nature. 

The Mushroom is the Elf of Plants -

At Evening, it is not

At Morning, in a Truffled Hut

It stop opon a Spot

The Past is such a Curious Creature

by Emily Dickinson

‘The past is such a Curious creature’ by Emily Dickinson focuses on the past, and personifies it as a female character. The poet’s speaker puts the feeling of one’s past into a few simple, relatable words.

The past is such a curious creature,

To look her in the face

A transport may reward us,

Or a disgrace.

The Road

by Nancy Fotheringham Cato

‘The Road’ is simultaneously a thrilling car journey at night and a deeply personal mediation on time, humanity and the natural world.

The Soul has Bandaged Moments

by Emily Dickinson

‘The Soul has Bandaged Moments’ by Emily Dickinson is a powerful poem that explores the human soul. It uses personification skillfully to describe the “Soul” and “Fear.”

The Soul has Bandaged moments -

When too appalled to stir -

She feels some ghastly

Fright come up And stop to look at her -

The Summer of Lost Rachel

by Seamus Heaney

‘The Summer of Lost Rachel’ by Seamus Heaney was written after the death of the poet’s young niece. The poem uses nine quatrains with a ballad rhyme scheme. 

The View From Halfway Down (Bojack Horseman)

by Undefined Poet

‘The View From Halfway Down’ is a short poem included in an episode of Bojack Horseman. It provides readers with a unique insight into the mind of someone who is moments from his death and experiences an intense regret for his choice to end his life.

There came a Day—at Summer’s full

by Emily Dickinson

‘There came a Day—at Summer’s full’ by Emily Dickinson depicts two lovers in a tricky situation that keeps them apart. But, they know they’ll be reunited in the next life. 

There came a Day—at Summer's full,

Entirely for me— I thought that such—

were for the Saints—

Where Resurrections—be—

There came a Wind like a Bugle

by Emily Dickinson

‘There came a Wind like a Bugle –’ by Emily Dickinson depicts the incredible power of the natural world. She describes a day when a storm nearly destroyed a series of homes. 

There came a wind like a bugle;

It quivered through the grass,

And a green chill upon the heat

So ominous did pass

Void in Law

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

‘Void in Law’ by Elizabeth Barrett Browning depicts the scuffle many Victorian women endured after getting married. The woman has been left alone with no real resources by a husband who prefers to spend time with his mistress.

Waiting at the Door (Dog Poem)

by Undefined Poet

‘Waiting at the Door’ is a poem told from the perspective of a loving dog addressing its still living owner. The dog reassures the owner that they will be together again in the future. 

What mystery pervades a well!

by Emily Dickinson

‘What mystery pervades a well!’ by Emily Dickinson describe limits to ones knowledge no matter how much time they spend of the natural world.

What mystery pervades a well!

That water lives so far –

A neighbor from another world

Residing in a jar

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