B

bacchius - An ancient poetry form with a metrical foot consisting of one short syllable followed by two long syllables ( ( , , ).

ballad - A simple narrative poem which is often sung. In ancient times minstrels would write ballads for the court or house to which they were attached. Using several stock melodies the minstrel would sing the song as an entertainment, often using the names of people in the household or court. Ballads are distinguished by being written in ballad metre and often have a repeated refrain. (See also ballad metre, short syllable, long syllable, calypso, literary ballad)

ballad metre - Usually the structure in which a ballad is written consists of alternating lines of iambic tetrameter and iambic trimeter with rhymes falling on the second and fourth lines of each four line stanza, and this is known as ballad metre. As in:

  • Ben bat|tle was| a sol|dier bold/ And used| to war’s| alarms;/ But a can|non ball| took off |his legs/So he| laid down| his arms.
  • (See also tetrameter, trimeter)

    ballade - (buh-LARD) A poetic form of three stanzas each of seven or eight lines, with no more than three repeating rhymes, each stanza followed by a repeated refrain and a final envoi which repeats the rhymes of the last four lines of the stanzas. Typically a ballade consists of three eight-line stanzas of the ababbcbC pattern, the capital representing the refrain; these are normally followed by a four-line envoi, rhyming bcbc. However there is considerable variety. Chaucer’s ballade for instance has three seven-line stanzas of the type ababbcC and no envoi. (See also stanza, envoi)

    bard - A title bestowed on an ancient poet, or minstrel. Now usually associated with William Shakespeare who is known as The Bard Of Avon.

    bathos - (BAY-thos) An anticlimax, often the result of overblown language used in describing something commonplace. It also often indicates a descent into sentimentality and, unlike anticlimax, is never intentional. (See also pathos, anticlimax)

    beginning rhyme - Rhyme occurring at the beginning of lines, rarely used. Example; "Stone in the sunlight garden/ droning of bees and house flies/ calls me back from childhood/ walls of wisteria tumbling." (The Beginning Is the End - Nicholas Hancock)

    biography - The life story of a person written by another person. (See also autobiography)

    blank verse - A system of poetry which relies on a metrical pattern rather than a rhyme. The form is usually iambic pentameter. Blank verse should not be confused with free verse as it is written to a formal structure but lacking an end-line rhyme. (See also iambic pentameter, free verse)

    bombast - Inflated and grandiloquent language as in "Jove, viewing me in arms, looks pale and wan/ Fearing my power should pull him from his throne." (Tamburlaine The Great, Christopher Marlow)

    bouts-rimés - (boo-ree-MAY) Popular 18th century pastime, which involved players being given a list of rhyming words and making up a poem from them.

    bowdlerise - (BOUGH-dluh-rise) The term comes from Dr Thomas Bowdler’s The Family Shakespeare in which passages offensive to the nineteenth century prudish ear were expurgated.

    Breton lay - Originally this is the name given in Britain to the French form called a lai. It was later shortened to lay and became synonymous with a narrative song or poem. (See also lai)

    broadside ballad - A simple ballad often with a moralistic or religious flavour, which was printed on one side of a single sheet and sold by street vendors in the 16th and 17th centuries for a penny. It was often seen as a way of extorting money.

    broken rhyme - A rare but sometimes effective way of finding a rhyme by dividing a word at a line break. For example the word freedom could be divided after free, with dom starting the next line, allowing a rhyme to be found for free.

    bucolic - A descriptive word for a poem dealing with a pastoral subject.

    burden - The theme of a book or poem. (See also theme, motif)

    burlesque - To ridicule a subject or person by using exaggeration. (See also lampoon, satire)

    Burns Stanza - A six-line stanza with the rhyming pattern aaa4b2a4b2, (the superscripts indicate the number of iambic feet). Named after the poet who developed the form.