A ballad is a form of verse, often a narrative set to music. Ballads derive from the medieval French chanson balladée or ballade, which were originally "dance songs". Ballads were particularly characteristic of the popular poetry and song of Britain and Ireland from the Late Middle Ages until the 19th century. They were widely used across Europe, and later in Australia, North Africa, North America and South America.
While ballads have no prescribed structure and may vary in their number of lines and stanzas, many ballads employ quatrains with ABCB or ABAB rhyme schemes, the key being a rhymed second and fourth line. Contrary to a popular conception, it is rare if not unheard-of for a ballad to contain exactly 13 lines. Additionally, couplets rarely appear in ballads.
Many ballads were written and sold as single-sheet broadsides. The form was often used by poets and composers from the 18th century onwards to produce lyrical ballads. In the later 19th century, the term took on the m