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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Vernon Watkins (1906-67)



Welsh poet, born in Maesteg, Wales, of Welsh-speaking parents. Educated at Magdalene College, Cambridge. Watkins spent most of his life in Swansea as a bank clerk. Although he had many battles with bank branch managers who wanted to promote him, he was interested only in having enough time to work on poetry. Watkins was a life-long friend of Dylan Thomas (1914-53), and the only person from whom Thomas took advice on writing poetry. Watkins edited and published Dylan Thomas: Letters to Vernon Watkins (1957).
Watkins' first book of poetry was Ballad of the Mori Lwyd and Other Poems (1941). The title poem is a long ballad based on Welsh folklore and mythology. Albert B. Friedman comments about Watkins' technical adaptation of traditional rhyme to modern poetry that 'Poems in ballad measure are everywhere in modern verse, but they are often complicated in rime scheme, rhythm, and arrangement beyond folk or vulgar usage. In Vernon Watkins' magical playlet "Ballad of the Mari Lwyd" the traditional rime scheme is varied with cross-rime and even more intricate systems as a means of differentiating the dramatic voices ….' [Albert B. Friedman, The Ballad Revival: Studies in the Influence of Popular on Sophisticated Poetry (Chicago, 1961) 342] (H. N.)

1.Ballad of Crawley Woods
2.Ballad of Culver’s Hole
3.Ballad of Hunt’s Bay
4.Ballad of the Equinox
5.Ballad of the Mari Lwyd
6.Ballad of the Rough Sea
7.Ballad of the Three Coins
8.Ballad of the Trial of Sodom
9.Ballad of the Two Tapsters
10.The Ballad of the Mermaid of Zennor