Technically speaking, the ballad can be defined as a form of popular verse, usually narrative and employing a very direct and simple metrical pattern: stanzas of four lines rhyming abcb or abab. Ballads originally belonged to the same tradition as folk-songs: they were poetry composed by common people to be sung. This musical origin of the ballad is testified by its name, which comes from the Old French balade, though in later times most ballads have been recited.
The ballad’s musical quality has been taken up again in Canada, Australia and in the United States in the past hundred years or so, with many ballads recording the lives of pioneers and outlaws. Below you will find a fairly recent American example, in which the ballad’s traditional themes of mystery and strange events are combined with the modern sense of feeling lost and, at the same time, the desire to roam endlessly.