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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Robert W. Buchanan (1841-1901)


Scottish poet, novelist and critic. Buchanan was educated in Glasgow. In 1860 he came to London, and made a name as a man of letters. He is largely remembered today for 'The Fleshly School of Poetry' in the Contemporary Review (1871), which attacked the Pre-Raphaelite poets, especially their leader, Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-82). Buchanan harshly criticized Rossetti's vulgar, fleshly, and 'too personal' poems. It is said that Buchanan's paper drove Rossetti to attempt suicide. Though the paper has been seen as notoriously malicious, we find his serious attitude towards poetry, too:

"Poetry is perfect human speech, and there archaisms are the mere fiddlededeeing of empty heads and hollow heart . . . . The soul's speech and the heart's speech are clear, simple, natural, and beautiful, and reject the meretricious tricks to which we have drawn attention." [Robert Buchanan, "The Fleshly School of Poetry: Mr. D. G. Rossetti", An Anthology of Pre-Raphaelite Writings, ed. Carolyn Hares-Stryker (Sheffield, 1997) 245] 

The ideal form of poetry for Buchanan corresponds to the essential attraction of the traditional ballad. (M. M.)

1.The Ballad of Judas Iscariot
2.The Ballad of Kiplingson
3.The Ballad of Mary the Mother
4.The Ballad of the Stork
5.The Ballad of the Wayfarer
6.The Battle of Drumliemoor
7.The Green Gnome
8.The Mermaid
9.Phil Blood’s Leap
10.Will o’ the Wisp