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 Blake (1757-1827)


English poet, painter, and printmaker, born in London to a middle-class family. Blake was the third of seven children, and never attended school, being educated at home by his mother. In 1772 he became apprenticed to engraver James Basire for the term of seven years. His experiences copying images from the Gothic churches in London in those days contributed to the formation of his artistic style and ideas. Blake's first collection of poems, Poetical Sketches, was published in 1783. He published his own engraved book of poems, Songs of Innocence, in 1789, exemplary of the early stages of his highly mystic vision, and Songs of Experience followed it in 1794.

W. H. Stevenson, editor of Blake's poems, refers to the Gothic elements in his literary ballads:

This poem ["Fair Elenor"] and Gwin embody the full Gothic strain deriving from the ballads and Walpole's The Castle of Otranto, at this time fashionable and becoming more and more popular. This poem has all the classical Gothic elements (later to be used e.g. by Coleridge in Christabel and Keats in Isabella) — midnight, a fair maiden, a castle, vault, a horrific bloody head, ghostly voices, and a macabre ending. [Blake: The Complete Poems, ed. W. H. Stevenson (London, 1971) 6]

Balladic Gothicism in the Romantic poets is an important subject which requires more systematic discussion for the history of literary balladry.   (M. Y.)

1.The Chimney Sweeper (Innocence, 1789)
2.The Chimney-sweeper (Experience, 1794)
3.Fair Elenor
4.The Grey Monk
5.Gwin, King of Norway
6.The Mental Traveller
7.A Poison Tree
8.William Bond