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 M. Synge (1871-1909)

Irish playwright, poet, and prose writer, who contributed to the Irish literary revival and the foundation of Abbey Theatre. Born on 16 April 1871 in Rathfarnham, Co. Dublin, to an Anglo-Irish family of ecclesiastics and landowners. He was sickly and introspective as an infant and remained in poor health throughout his life.

He entered Trinity College, Dublin, in 1888, and learned Gaelic and Hebrew. He also studied piano, flute and violin at Royal Irish Academy of Music, and after graduating from Trinity College, he travelled to Germany, intending to be a professional musician. However, he was highly nervous of public performance and gradually abandoned his ambition for a musical career, tuning to literature. Roaming around continental Europe, he settled in Paris in 1895, and studied French literature at the Sorbonne. While in Paris, he met W. B. Yeats in December 1896, who suggested he go to the Aran Islands to “express a life that has never found expression”, as Yeats put it.

His first visit to the Aran Islands was in 1898. Synge, involved in the simple life of the people, made five annual visits from 1898 to 1902, and spent his time living with local families, learning the colloquial languages and listening to folklore and local history. These experiences were the basis of a prose work, Aran Islands (completed in 1901 and published in 1907), and five plays: In the Shadow of the Glen (Molesworth Hall, October 1903), Riders to the Sea (Molesworth Hall, February 1904), The Well of the Saints (Abbey Theatre, February 1905), The Playboy of the Western World (Abbey Theatre, January 26, 1907), and The Tinker’s Wedding (1907). In these works, Synge vividly describes the reality of rural people struggling with the harsh forces of nature, but at the same time, he adds humour and lyricism to his works with dialogue based on the actual speech of islanders. (N. M.)

2.The ’Mergency Man