minstrel: Tom O'Bedlam

Heather Rose Jones hrjones at uclink.berkeley.edu
Sun Feb 9 12:11:59 PST 1997


On Sun, 9 Feb 1997 mn13189 at WCUVAX1.WCU.EDU wrote:
> On Fri, 7 Feb 1997, Heather Rose Jones wrote:
> > > Does anyone else feel this way?  Tangwystl, can you document the meter?
> > 
> > As I note above, late-period English meters aren't my strong point. With
> > the exception of the line-internal rhyme in the third line, it's a basic
> > ballad meter. If you take the ballad meter as:
> > 	- four lines
> > 	- 2 & 4 obligatorily rhyme; 1 & 3 _may_ rhyme
> > 	- 1 & 3 have four main stresses
> > 	- 2 & 4 may have either three or four main stresses
> > 	- may have chorus or refrain of other meter
> > Then there are copious examples of this type of lyric in Middle English
> 
> Actually, whern you are referring to late period (16th cent.) English
> balladry, you aren't referring to any specific meter.  In the preceding
> centuries, a "ballad" was a verse form with a very specific meter.  And, I
> suppose, as late as the 16th century a ballad may have had specific meter
> in certain courtly circles.  But by and large , by this time the word
> "ballad" meant (to the majority of the public) a song, usually a low-brow
> sort of song.  The kind of thing that "sophisticated society" in the 16ht
> cent. would have scoffed at, but the public liked enough to purchase
> readily on broadsides.  No specific meter was used by this time.

As might be plain from the description I gave above, the meter commonly
called "ballad meter" is more a matter of family resemblences than of
strict rules. But it's a useful description for all that. The "ballad
meter" is clearly identifiable and distinguishable from the similarly
loosely-defined "carol meter". And the reason that the ballad meter is so
called is because it is what was used for the vast majority of verses
known as ballads -- including the broadside ballads. A matter o
description, rather than prescription. Don't confuse the "ballad" with the
"ballade" as technical terms. The ballade _was_ a very precise meter used
by courtly poets.

I think if you go back and look at that body of "low-brow" 16th century
material known as ballads, that it is possible to speak of a certain
metrical unity in a meaningful and useful way.

Tangwystyl verch Morgant Glasvryn


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