Author: John A. Lomax
Source: The Journal of American Folk-lore, VOL.XXVIII.–JANUARY-MARCH, 1915. -No. CVII.
“A BALLAD has been defined by Professor Kittredge as a story told in song, or a song that tells a story. This general definition of a ballad has been made more specific by various limitations. For instance, it is said that a genuine ballad has no one author; that, instead, some community or some group of people is its author. It is therefore the expression of no one mind: it is the product of the folk. Furthermore, the ballad has no date. No one knows just when the most treasured of the English and Scottish ballads were composed. For generations before Percy made his first collection of them- and no one knows just how many generations- they were handed down by word of mouth, as is the Masonic Ritual. A ballad, finally, is impersonal in tone; that is, it is the expression of no individual opinion. It might have been written by any one. A ballad, then, is a story in song, written no one knows when, no one knows where, no one knows by whom, and perhaps, some may think, no one knows “for why.” Notwithstanding, as the spontaneous poetic expression of the primitive emotions of a people, ballads always have had and always will have the power to move mankind.”
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