The Ballade (Eight-Line Stanza)


Basic features & history of the verse form:
Number of lines 28
Structure / divisions Three eight-line stanzas followed by an envoi of four lines
Rhyme scheme ababbcbC / ababbcbC / ababbcbC
Envoi: bcbC
Meter Usually iambic tetrameter or iambic pentameter
Refrain line or lines Yes — refrain lines are designated by C; these lines rhyme with c 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 —
15th century (unknown author of poem found in Ms. Arundel 26)


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

Balade Coulourd and Reuersid
by an unknown 15th-century poet

      1  (a)  Honour and beaute, vertue and gentilnesse,
      2  (b)  Noblesse and bounte of great valure,
      3  (a)  fygure playsant with coulour and fressheness
      4  (b)  Witnesse prudent, with connyng and norture,
      5  (b)  Humblesse with contynaunce demure,
      6  (c)  Plente of this have ye, lo souuerayn,
      7  (b)  Expresse soo youe fourmyd hath nature,
      8  (C)  Pyte savyng, ye want no thyng certayne.
      9  (a)  Creature noon hath more goodlynesse
    10  (b)  Goodenesse grete, so wred yow hath vre
    11  (a)  feture and shap of faire lucresse,
    12  (b)  Mekeness of Tesbe, as voide of all rigure,
    13  (b)  frendelyness of mede, port of geynure,
    14  (c)  Pennolope of hestis, true and playne,
    15  (b)  Alcesse of Bounte lo, thus ar ye sure,
    16  (C) Pite savyng, ye want no thyng certayne.
    17  (a)  Endure me doth, lo, payne and hevynesse,
    18  (b)  Distresse and thought with trouble and Langour,
    19  (a)  Vusure stondying of socour and Relesse;
    20  (b)  Maistres and lady, trustyng you of cure,
    21  (b)  Witnesse of God, I gre myn aduenture,
    22  (c)  Parde is falle me what joy or what payne.
    23  (b)  Gladness or woo, thus I you ensure,
    24  (C)  Pytte savying ye want no thyng certeyn.
    25  (b)  Prynce[sse] I you beseche this rude meture
    26  (c)  Ye not disdayne, behold with eyen tweyn,
    27  (b)  Witnesse though I doo in this scripture,
    28  (C)  Pite Savyng ye want no thyng certeyne.


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 )