Balladry in Motion

Author:Tucker, Herbert, AS-English-Eng Lit OpsUniversity of Virginia

The mythic fancy that minstrels wandered, and the bibliographic fact that versions of their oral ballads migrated to print in strikingly different variants, run proxy for each other as analogous expressions of a modern ambivalence over the ballad form. This analogy is also played out prosodically, in the great freedom with which ballads permute, even as they observe, metrical conventions that identify them. Analysis of examples from Percy’s Reliques and Chatterton’s Rowley forgeries sets the terms for a survey of versification effects in their Romantic heirs. Coleridge’s “Ancient Mariner” excels in the somatic rendition of uncanny physicalities. Wordsworth’s Lyrical Ballads bring comparable verse phenomena indoors, to render disjunctions between the object world and its subjective reception. Keats in “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” and Shelley in Hellas submit these Romantic developments to a skeptical inquiry that raises the stakes of iterative balladry to a cultural level: ideological reproduction on one hand, revolutionary reversion on the other.

ballad, prosody, Romantic
Source Citation:

The Wordsworth Circle volume 52 number 1

University of Virginia
Published Date:
January 2021