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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John Keats (1795-1821)


English Romantic poet, born the son of a hostler in London, in 1795. He was separated from his parents by death when he was a child. This made it impossible for him to receive a college education, unlike his close friends Shelley and Byron, who were blue bloods. He absorbed himself in translating the Aeneid and reading, especially Edmund Spenser, and he published his first volume, Poems, in 1817. Four years later, in 1821, he died from tuberculosis at the age of 25.

He wrote his long narrative poem Endymion (1818) based on Greek mythology, but this was severely criticized by the critics of that time. At the same time, he composed a fragment called Hyperion. His masterpieces, six Odes including “Ode to a Nightingale” and “To Autumn”, and ballads and narrative poems, were all created in 1818, known as the Great Year. These works were collected in his second volume, Lamia, Isabella, The Eve of St Agnes, and Other Poems (1820).

 Keats’s literary ballad “La Belle Dame sans Merci” is based on a motif from a traditional ballad “Thomas Rymer” and a romance Tomas off Ersseldoune (?1410). The story begins with unexpected questions by a narrator, which is a distinctive method in the traditional ballad. However, Keats’s literary ballad differs in that he shows a division between the knight’s living psychological world in his agony and his dormant physical world. (M. I.)

1.La Belle Dame sans Merci
2.Song (“The stranger lighted from his steed”)
3.Meg Merrilies
4.Robin Hood