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 E. Aytoun (1813-65)


Aytoun, a descendant of the poet Sir Robert Aytoun (1570-1638), became a professor of belles-lettres at Edinburgh University in 1845, and a sheriff of Orkney in 1852. In Lays of the Scottish Cavaliers (1849), Aytoun the patriot, who wanted to tell ‘a true history of Scotland’, wrote extraordinary sentimental ballads based on the stories of Montrose (James Graham, 5th Earl and 1st Marquess of Montrose, 1612-50), ‘Bonnie Dundee’ (John Graham of Claverhouse, 1st Viscount, 1649?-89) and other Scottish heroes. On the other hand, he is famous for the parodic poems. In A Book of Ballads (1845), published under the pseudonym of Bon Gaultier with Theodore Martin (1816-1909), he made parodies of the traditional ballads and some works of Alfred Tennyson and E. B. Browning with piercing wit and humour. He also wrote Firmilian, a Spasmodic Tragedy (1854), in which he parodied the poems of the Spasmodic School, and built up a sophisticated literary criticism in the form of parody. (M. M.)

1.The Burial-March of Dundee
2.The Execution of Montrose
3.The Heart of the Bruce
4.Little John and the Red Friar
5.The Massacre of the MacPherson
6.The Queen in France