Step by step guide on how to write a ballad poem


A ballad poem is a form of poetry that has been around for centuries. It is often used to tell a story through song, and is characterized by its simple, repetitive structure and its use of rhyme and meter. If you're interested in writing a ballad poem of your own, here is a step-by-step guide to help you get started:

Step 1: Choose a topic or story

The first step in writing a ballad poem is to choose a topic or story that you want to tell. This can be anything from a personal experience to a fictional story. The key is to make sure that the story is interesting and engaging to your audience.

Step 2: Decide on the rhyme scheme

One of the defining features of a ballad poem is its use of rhyme. There are a number of different rhyme schemes that you can use, but one of the most common is ABAB. In this scheme, the first and third lines of each stanza rhyme, as do the second and fourth lines.

If you are like me, "ABAB" can just seem like a foreign language until it is written out and explained in more detail. It basically means that all A's rhyme and all B's rhyme, like this:

A = I wish I could fly
B = I wish you could too
A = I do not know why
B = And neither do you

(Both A endings rhyme: fly / why)
(Both B endings rhyme: too / you)

Step 3: Choose a meter

The meter (basically meaning each line should sound in sync and not out of place, your poem should be easy to read slow and fast) of a ballad poem refers to the rhythm and pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables. The most common meter for a ballad poem is iambic tetrameter, which means that each line has four sets of stressed and unstressed syllables.

Let me see if I can make this easier to understand by reusing the first poem. I will use a plus sign "+" to show you how the words are broken up to create an even drum-like rhythm:

I + wish + I + could + fly
I + wish + you + could + too
I + do + not + know + why
And + nei + ther + do + you

Did you note how each line is broken into 5 distinct stressed syllables. This is where I find poetry gets a little confusing because a ballad is supposed to have stressed and unstressed syllables, however, you could argue that my little ballad only has 5 stressed syllables with none unstressed. Personally, I feel poetry is meant to be bent to the shape you want to convey. So don't be put off writing poetry if you think that a line does not quite fit the rules, just write! Get it out of you and let others be the judge of how the poem comes across.

Step 4: Write the first stanza

Once you have your topic, rhyme scheme, and meter, it's time to start writing. Begin by writing the first stanza (a group of lines forming the basic recurring metrical unit in a poem; a verse) of your ballad poem. This should introduce the main characters and set the scene for the story.

Step 5: Continue writing stanzas

After you have written the first stanza, continue writing additional stanzas that tell the story. Remember to use the same rhyme scheme and meter for each stanza to maintain consistency throughout the poem.

Step 6: Add a refrain

A refrain is a repeated line or phrase that is used throughout the poem. It can help to reinforce the theme of the poem and make it more memorable. Consider adding a refrain to your ballad poem that is repeated at the end of each stanza.

At this point I must admit that, the poem I have used so far, is not a perfect example of a ballad poem. I will add a great example at the end. A true ballad should be longer and tell a story. I hope, though, my small ballad-like poem does help get some of the points across easily. I hope you don't mind and it has helped and not confused you. My poem doesn't really have a refrain other than the repeated use of the word "wish" which I used to create a "whooshing" sound to evoke the thought you are flying and the air is whooshing past your ears, however, I did not add this refrain to the end, instead I used it at the beginning - and once again this is where I think that some of the framework / rules around certain poem types can be bent a little to help your poem sound the best it can and get its message across (again if in doubt, just write it out!).

Just for fun, let's see if I can stretch out the poem and add a repeatable refrain to tie it all together and tell a story.


I wish I could fly
I wish you could too
I do not know why
I suppose, neither do you

Oh my oh my, how I wish we could fly

I wish I could soar
I wish you could too
Together we'd roar
Flying high, me and you

Oh my oh my, how I wish we could fly

I wish I could kiss
I wish you could too
Together we'd be in bliss
Forever we'd remain true

Oh my oh my, how I wish we could fly

But my heart could not fly
Whilst I could not forgive
I do not know why
You chose not to live.

One minute you were there
The next you were not
For weeks I would stare
For weeks I would rot

For years your suicide felt so negative
To change that I knew I had to forgive
God gave me a hand that's when I asked why
My heart smiled when I heard, remember, in heaven angels can fly!

Step 7: Edit and revise

Once you have finished writing your ballad poem, it's important to take the time to edit and revise it. Look for ways to improve the flow of the poem, adjust the meter or rhyme scheme if needed, and make sure that the story is clear and engaging.

Step 8: Share your poem

Finally, once you are happy with your ballad poem, it's time to share it with others. Consider sharing it with friends and family, posting it online, or even submitting it to a literary journal or poetry contest.

Writing a ballad poem can be a fun and rewarding experience. By following these steps and putting in the time and effort, you can create a poem that tells a powerful story and captures the imagination of your audience.

And finally, forget my poem, here is a lengthier, famous ballad poem (note it does not follow the simple ABAB but uses ABAAB in the first verse and ABAAAAB for the second...etc), written by Edgar Allan Poe:

The ring is on my hand,
And the wreath is on my brow;
Satin and jewels grand
Are all at my command,
And I am happy now.

And my lord he loves me well;
But, when first he breathed his vow,
I felt my bosom swell-
For the words rang as a knell,
And the voice seemed his who fell
In the battle down the dell,

And who is happy now.

But he spoke to re-assure me,
And he kissed my pallid brow,
While a reverie came o'er me,
And to the church-yard bore me,
And I sighed to him before me,
Thinking him dead D'Elormie,
"Oh, I am happy now!"

And thus the words were spoken,
And this the plighted vow,
And, though my faith be broken,
And, though my heart be broken,
Here is a ring, as token
That I am happy now!

Would God I could awaken!
For I dream I know not how!
And my soul is sorely shaken
Lest an evil step be taken,-
Lest the dead who is forsaken
May not be happy now.

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