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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Goals of the Project

The British Literary Ballads Archive has accumulated 742 literary ballads by 143 poets of the last 300 years, with an Introduction ("What is the Literary Ballad?") and short biographical Headnotes for each poet. The year noted at the end of each piece tells when it was first written or published.

The traditional ballad enjoyed a revival in the eighteenth century in Britain, galvanized by Bishop Thomas Percy's Reliques of Ancient English Poetry (1765) and other ballad collections before and after, which gave poets access to a heritage previously unavailable to most of them. Since then ballads have been collected by succeeding generations and have always attracted poets. Indeed, almost every major poet since the eighteenth century has left some literary ballads inspired by the tradition.

Francis James Child's The English and Scottish Popular Ballads (1882-98) is an exhaustive collection, to which we refer as the most reliable canon of the traditional ballad, but we do not have any comprehensive selection of literary ballads of the past three centuries.

Our Archive should be of great assistance to those who are interested in ballad imitations written by sophisticated poets.