Popular Songs and Ballads of the 14th Century





Towards the later part of the 14th century popular song’s particularly traditional ballads had become an important source of popular entertainment. Regarding their origin there are much controversies. Their authorship has remained mostly anonymous, but whether the ballad was composed by minstrel or has the result of communal activity. It is essentially simple and popular.

·They deal with love, local legends and the feats of local heroes, supernatural happenings or religions stories.

·Its tone is impersonal and detached and there is title or none of the composer is personality to be felt.

·The ballad is written in a meter known as – ‘ballad meter’,(four fined stanza with Iambic tetra – meter and trimeter respectively)




Among them the most notable are – Robin Hood Ballad, Chevy Chace. Sir Patrick Spens, Nutbrown paid are worth to mention.


Robin Hood Ballads:-A large number of ballads are composed on the life and adventures of Robin Hood and in the green wood. He fights against the sheriff and lends his helping hand towards the poor and the oppressed. The adventures of Robin Hood have captivated writers for centuries. The earliest accounts have been traced to ballads penned in the 14th century. In the following two centuries, dozens of long poems, ballads, and dramas fleshed out the story and elevated Robin Hood to mythical status. Among the Robin Hood ballads the important ballads are – Robin Hood and Gandeleyn, Robin Hood and the Monk, Robin Hood and the potter etc.


Chevy Chase: - It is one of the oldest and finest epical ballads on the ‘border’ matter. It lets the story of the fight between Percy of Northumberland and Douglas of Scotland. The theme is half history. Addison in “The Spectator” praises this ballad for its Homeric qualities.


Nut brown Maid:-It is a ballad in the strictest term rather a song of love. The story is retuned through a lyrical dialogue of a lady and a gentleman who are engaged in discussion of the charge of inconsistency against women often brought by men.


The nut brown maid, a baron’s daughter loves a man whom she believes to be a squire a law degree. But he is actually a lord. One day he comes to maid and say’s that he has to leave her and to live in a wood an absconder because he has killed man. Finally the lover reveals himself and makes her the lady of his heritage in Westmorland.

Ref: 1. History of English Literature- Albert      
     2. The Concise Cambridge History of English Literature

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