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 Davidson (1857-1909)


 
Scottish poet, dramatist and journalist. Born on 11 April 1857 at Barrhead, Renfrewshire, as the son of a minister of the Evangelical Union. Davidson spent his boyhood in Glasgow and Greenock where he witnessed the wasted industrial towns and the exploited workers, which, like his struggle with Christianity, gave him a lifelong inspiration for poetry. After being given a brief education at the Highlander's Academy in Greenock, he worked for Walker's sugar company. He returned to the Academy as a pupil-teacher between 1872 and 1876. Although he entered the University of Edinburgh in 1876, he spent most of his time walking on Arthur's Seat, and did not complete the course. He started writing ballads at the age of 12, joined the Glasgow Ballad Club when he was a pupil-teacher in Glasgow, and joined the Rhymers' Club after he was settled in London in 1889. He published a number of collections of poems, including In a Music-Hall and Other Poems (1891), Fleet Street Eclogues (1893), and Ballads and Songs (1894), which enjoyed a wide popular success. After Ballads and Songs he started writing several Testaments, but his popularity declined. He struggled with severe poverty and rejection from his audience. In May 1907 he moved to Penzance, Cornwall. One day he failed to come home from his walking, and his body was found at the seashore after five months had passed. (H. N.)

1.A Ballad of a Coward
2.A Ballad of a Nun
3.A Ballad of a Poet Born
4.A Ballad of a Workman
5.A Ballad of an Artist’s Wife
6.A Ballad of Euthanasia
7.A Ballad of Heaven
8.A Ballad of Hell
9.A Ballad of Tannhäuser
10.A Runnable Stag
11.Thirty Bob a Week
12.Thomas the Rhymer