The ballad stanza is a quatrain (a four-line stanza) with a usual rhyme scheme of a-b-x-b. (meaning that only the second and fourth lines rhyme). It is usually written in common meter or measure: alternating lines of iambic tetrameter and iambic trimeter, with the two lines of trimeter rhyming. Ballad stanzas can also use long meter (all iambic tetrameter) or short meter (all iambic trimeter).
Variations include rhyming the first and third lines as well, and using internal rhyme (of the second and fourth foot) in those lines. (See examples). Ballad meter can be loose iambic (meaning that extra syllables in a line are allowed). Assonance, consonance, and near-rhymes can be used instead of perfect rhymes.
"O where have you been my long, long love?"
This long seven years and more?"
"O I'm come to seek my former vows
Ye granted me before."
— The Daemon Lover.
Lord Thomas and Fair Annet
Sate a'day on a hill;
When night was come and sun was set,
They had not talkt their fill.
— Lord Thomas and Fair Annet.
- All in a hot and copper sky!
- The bloody Sun, at noon,
- Right up above the mast did stand,
- No bigger than the Moon.
- Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, lines 111 – 114
The longer first and third lines are rarely rhymed, although at times poets may use internal rhyme in these lines.
It was about Yule, when the wind blew cool,
And the round tables began,
O there is come to our king's court
Many a well-favored man.
— Young Waters.
- In mist or cloud, on mast or shroud,
- It perched for vespers nine;
- Whiles all the night, through fog-smoke white,
- Glimmered the white Moon-shine.
- Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, lines 75 – 78