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Poetry Guide: Ballade

The ballade was a verse form consisting of three (sometimes five) stanzas, each with the same metre, rhyme scheme and last line, with a shorter concluding stanza (an envoi). (The ballade should not be confused with the ballad.)

The ballade is particularly associated with French poetry of the 14th and 15th centuries. One of the most notable writers of ballades was François Villon; Geoffrey Chaucer also wrote in the form. It was revived in the 19th century by English-language poets including Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Algernon Charles Swinburne.

Also in the 19th century, the title was given by Frederic Chopin to four important, large-scale piano pieces (opus numbers 23, 38, 47 and 52), the first significant application of the term to instrumental music. A number of other composers subsequently used the title for piano pieces, including Johannes Brahms (the third of his Klavierstücke opus 118, and the set of four opus 10), Edvard Grieg (opus 24, a set of variations), Franz Liszt (who wrote two) and Gabriel Fauré (opus 19, later arranged for piano and orchestra). Ballades for instruments other than the piano have also been written.