Welcome to The British Literary Ballads Archive, a site dedicated to a unique genre of literary imitations of traditional ballads. The site contains a growing archive of over 700 poems, as well as short biographical sketches of the poets who wrote them.

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William Hamilton of Bangour (1704-54)


Scottish Jacobite poet, born at Bangour, Linlithgowshire. In 1745 Hamilton joined the cause of Prince Charles, and celebrated the Jacobite victory at Prestonpans in verse. After Culloden he hid himself in the Highlands, where he wrote "A Soliloquy wrote in June 1746". Hamilton is chiefly remembered, however, for his celebrated "The Braes of Yarrow", first published in Allan Ramsay's Tea-Table Miscellany in 1723 and included in the second volume of Thomas Percy's Reliques(1765). It stands as a sequel to the well-known border ballad "The Braes o Yarrow" (Child 214). The story in tradition is of a husband (or lover, depending upon the version) losing his life on the banks of the Yarrow in a mortal duel with his wife's (or sweetheart's) family, who strongly oppose their union. Hamilton's poem starts in the aftermath of the duel, exemplifying the general shift from objective narrative to the psychological and subjective perspectives characteristic of the imitation. (M. Y.)

Critical Essays 1    The History of Literary Ballads (2)- "The Braes of Yarrow" as a Touch of Poetry- (in Japanese)
Studies in the Humanities  (59) 1-20. 1995.


1.The Braes of Yarrow