Examples of Ballads in Geographic Poetry


Poetry has constantly used music as a way to evoke powerful emotions in its readers, and ballads are no exception. These songs tell stories of love, tragedy, and adventure, often in a narrative form with a well-defined structure. While many ballads focus on personal tales, there are also examples of ballads in geographic poetry that tell stories of places and landscapes. Let’s explore some of these examples and see how ballads can capture the essence of a location.

One famous example of a ballad in geographic poetry is John Keats’ “On the Sea.” This poem takes the reader on a journey across the vast expanse of the sea, capturing its moods and power. The opening lines, “It keeps eternal whisperings around/Desolate shores, and with its mighty swell/Gluts twice ten thousand caverns,” immediately set the tone for the ballad and transport the reader to the sea. Keats continues to paint a vivid picture of the sea, with descriptions of “icy caverns” and “wreaths of sea-blooms” that evoke a sense of wonder and awe.

Similarly, Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is a classic ballad that is centered around a geographic setting – the sea. This epic poem tells the story of a sailor’s journey through the treacherous waters of the Antarctic. The poem is filled with descriptive imagery that brings the reader into the freezing cold and chaotic world of the sea. The lines “The ice did split with a thunder-fit” and “Water, water, everywhere, /Nor any drop to drink” perfectly capture the harsh and unforgiving environment of the ocean.

Another example of a ballad in geographic poetry is William Blake’s “London.” While this poem may not be a conventional ballad, it follows a similar structure and tells a story of the city of London. Blake’s use of repetition in the lines “I wander through each chartered street/ Near where the chartered Thames does flow” adds a musical quality to the poem, making it feel like a ballad. The poem also has a strong sense of place, with vivid descriptions of the pollution and poverty in London during the Industrial Revolution.

In the realm of American literature, Walt Whitman’s “Song of the Open Road” is a ballad that paints a picture of the vastness and diversity of the American landscape. Whitman celebrates the open road and the many places it can take us, from “forests of the night” to “happy autumn-fields.” His use of repetition and parallel structure in lines like “Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road” and “henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune” creates a musical rhythm that adds to the ballad’s overall effect.

Lastly, Sara Teasdale’s “The City” is a ballad that captures the contrast between the urban and natural landscape. The poem’s opening lines, “I am so very tired of beauty, I wish I could just die / And let the cities go to hell for all they care or try,” immediately sets up the dichotomy between the beauty of nature and the harshness of the city. Teasdale’s descriptions of the city – “the red and hungry sky” and “dull stars with little souls” – are juxtaposed with the images of nature – “the poppy and the pansy / And the snapping dragon-fly.”

In conclusion, ballads have proven to be a powerful form of poetry to depict the essence of a location. Whether it’s the sea, the city, or the open road, ballads have the ability to transport readers to a specific place and evoke strong emotions. Through vivid imagery, repetition, and structured storytelling, these ballads in geographic poetry bring to life the beauty, chaos, and complexity of different landscapes.