The Ballade (Ten-Line Stanza)


Basic features & history of the verse form:
Number of lines 35
Structure / divisions Three ten-line stanzas followed by an envoi of five lines
Rhyme scheme ababbccdcD / ababbccdcD / ababbccdcD
Envoi: ccdcD
Meter Usually iambic tetrameter or iambic pentameter
Refrain line or lines Yes — refrain lines are designated by D; these lines rhyme with d lines
Time / place of origin Late 13th / early 14th-century France (envoi was added only in the late 14th century)
Medieval / Renaissance poets
  associated with this form
Francois Villon
Examples written in English
  by or before —
19th century (Swinburne - original works and translations of Villon)


An example of a ballade (ten-line stanza):

Ballade des Pendus (Ballade of the Hanged)
by Francois Villon (c. 1431-?)
Translated by Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909)

      1  (a)  Men, brother men, that after us yet live,
      2  (b)  Let not your hearts too hard against us be;
      3  (a)  For if some pity of us poor men ye give,
      4  (b)  The sooner God shall take of you pity.
      5  (b)  Here are we five or six strung up, you see,
      6  (c)  And here the flesh that all too well we fed
      7  (c)  Bit by bit eaten and rotten, rent and shred,
      8  (d)  And we the bones grow dust and ash withal;
      9  (c)  Let no man laugh at us discomforted,
    10  (D)  But pray to God that he forgive us all.
    11  (a)  If we call on you, brothers, to forgive,
    12  (b)  Ye should not hold our prayer in scorn, though we
    13  (a)  Were slain by law; ye know that all alive
    14  (b)  Have not wit alway to walk righteously;
    15  (b)  Make therefore intercession heartily
    16  (c)  With him that of a virgin's womb was bred,
    17  (c)  That his grace be not as a dry well-head
    18  (d)  For us, not let hell's thunder on us fall;
    19  (c)  We are dead, let no man harry or vex us dead,
    20  (D)  But pray to God that he forgive us all.
    21  (a)  The rain has washed and laundered us all five,
    22  (b)  And the sun dried and blackened; yea, perdie,
    23  (a)  Ravens and pies with beaks that rend and rive
    24  (b)  Have dug our eyes out, and plucked off for fee
    25  (b)  Our beards and eyebrows; never are we free,
    26  (c)  Not once, to rest; but here and there still sped,
    27  (c)  Drive at is wild will by the wind's change led,
    28  (d)  More pecked of birds than fruits on garden wall;
    29  (c)  Men, for God's love, let no gibe here be said,
    30  (D)  But pray to God that he forgive us all.
    31  (c)  Prince Jesus, that of all art lord and head,
    32  (c)  Keep us, that hell be not our bitter bed;
    33  (d)  We have nought to do in such a master's hall.
    34  (c)  Be not ye therefore of our fellowhead,
    35  (D)  But pray to God that he forgive us all.


A Brief Guide to Some Medieval and Renaissance Verse Forms

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Table and its contents copyright 2004 by Jennifer M. Tom    ( Jennifer Monroe Franson )