The modern literary ballad has its origin in the narrative. Part of an oral tradition whose style
according to the Encyclopaedia Britannica "crystallized in the Europe of the late middle ages".
A musical form. Often derided for its simplicity it is difficult to imagine how western culture would have evolved without its influence.
The travelling minstrel or balladeer was not just an entertainer, but a bearer of tidings. A wordsmith, he could fashion his own truth. Every half decent war or social movement left its songs. As a public record, however skewed, they have left a more lasting impression than anything the historians would have us believe. Songs of a lost love or a grievance are as popular now as they ever were.
The literary ballad though is not favoured today. Nor is traditional verse. Poetry needed to go somewhere to reflect the contemporary. It managed it. The modern prose poem manages to throw reflections at what it once played upon. The air of conversation maybe, but nobody's listening.
Photograph: A view/Carbane East
Loughcrew Co. Meath.