Главная страница «Первого сентября»Главная страница журнала «Английский язык»Содержание №7/2010

Народные баллады в английской поэзии

continued from No. 4


The ballad is a folk poem which flourished in the late Middle Ages. It was originally a dance song, handed down orally from generation to generation.

A ballad is a songlike poem that tells a story, often one dealing with adventure or romance. Most ballads have the following characteristics:

1. four- or six-line stanzas;

2. rhyme;

3. simple language;

4. dramatic action.

Many ballads employ the repetition of a refrain. Some make use of incremental repetition, in which a refrain is varied slightly each time it appears.

A traditional ballad is

– a dramatic (often tragic) story told in verse;

– arranged in a series of four line stanzas;

– a mixture of dialogue and narration;

– concentration on a few essential details of plot;

– full of considerable repetition;

– told in simple, graphic and concrete language.

A ballad stanza is a four- or six-line stanza from used in folk ballads and in literary imitations of folk ballads. In a typical four-line ballad stanza, the first and third lines each have four stresses; and the second and fourth lines each have three stresses and also rhyme. Thus the usual rhyme scheme is abcb, although some ballads follow the scheme abab. This is a typical six-line ballad stanza:

When Robin Hood and Little John,
Down a down, a down, a down.
Went o’er yon bank of broom,
Said Robin Hood bold to Little John,
We have shot for many a pound.
Hey down a down a down a down!

The British Isles have a rich tradition of folk ballads – songs that originated among illiterate people and were passed from singer to singer by word of mouth.

A folk ballad usually presents a single dramatic episode. It is told impersonally, through action and dialogue, with very little characterization, description, or motivation. The story seems to be very simple and direct, yet because it often begins in the middle, lacks transitions, and skips over incidents without explanation; it can convey an air of mystery. Ballads deal with many subjects: adventure, love, jealousy, heroism, disaster, revenge. A few folk ballads are humorous.

Most ballads have quatrains, or four-line stanzas, in which the second and fourth lines rhyme. Often, but not always, there are eight syllables in the first and third lines and six syllables in the second and fourth lines. Ballads frequently have a refrain – a regularly repeated phrase or line at the end of a stanza, or sometimes a whole separate stanza. The general effect is musical, as you would expect in poems meant to be sung.

As you read the folk ballads, think about some of the unanswered questions that the story in each ballad raises.

Most popular music has a brief life span. Songs from a few years ago tend to sound dated and sentimental to listeners today. Yet folk ballads have been sung for centuries and in some places are still performed to appreciative audiences. Why? What is it that can make a song so enduring?

Таинственный и трагический “Лорд Рэндал” – прекрасный повод для обсуждения. После первого прочтения уместно сделать краткое изложение: вот что произошло. Не всем это удается, но совместными усилиями можно разобраться, кто кого отравил.


“O where have you been, Lord Randal my son?
And where have you been, my handsome young man?”
“I have been at the greenwood, mother, make my bed soon,
For I’m wearied with: hunting and fain would lie down.”

“An’ who met ye there, – Lord Randal my son?
An’ who met you there, my handsome young man?”
“O I met with my true-love; mother, make my bed soon.
For I’m wearied with hunting and fain would lie down.”

“And what did she give you, Lord Randal my son?
And what did she give you, my handsome young man?”
“Eels fried in a pan; mother, make my bed soon,
For I’m wearied with: hunting and fain would lie down.”

“And who got your leavings, Lord Randal my son?
And who got your leavings, my handsome young man?”
“My hawks and my hounds; mother, make my bed soon.
For I’m wearied with: hunting and fain would lie down.”

“And what became of them. Lord Randal my son?
And what became of them, my handsome young man?”
“They stretched their legs out an’ died; mother, make my bed soon,
For I’m wearied with: hunting and fain would lie down.”

“O I fear you are poisoned, Lord Randal my son,
I fear you are poisoned, my handsome young man.”
“O yes, I am poisoned; mother, make my bed soon,
For I’m sick at the heart and fain would lie down.”

“What did you leave to your mother, Lord Randal my son?
What did you leave to your mother, my handsome young man?”
“Four and twenty milk cows; mother, make my bed soon,
For I’m sick at the heart and fain wad lie down.”

“What did you leave to your sister, Lord Randal my son?
What did you leave to your sister, my handsome young man?”
“My gold and my silver; mother, make my bed soon.
For I’m sick at the heart and fain would lie down.”

“What did you leave to your brother, Lord Randal my son?
What did you leave to your brother, my handsome young man?”
“My houses and my lands; mother, make my bed soon,
For I’m sick at the heart and fain would lie down.”

“What did you leave to your true-love, Lord Randal my son?
What did you leave to your true-love, my handsome young man?”
“I leave her hell and fire; mother, make my bed soon,
For I’m sick at the heart and fain would lie down.”

Answer the questions:

1. Who is speaking to whom?

2. What is the story-line?

3. What are we told about the setting?

– place (indoors, out; country, town; etc.)

– time (time of day, season, etc.)

4. What are we told about the characters?

– private relations

– conflict preceding the action

5. Consider the way the story is told. Does it have anything in common with fiction or drama?

Lord Randal is typical of the ballad form in some aspects: its tragic theme, its use of refrain, its language. However, it is not typical in two respects: metre and rhyme.

Эта баллада – находка для работы в классе, ведь это диалог, разговор матери с сыном, – это как будто сценка из драматической пьесы, и учащиеся очень выразительно читают её по ролям, постепенно усиливая напряжение, приближаясь к мучительной развязке в последних строках: умирающий собирает последние силы, чтобы выплеснуть свою ненависть к отравительнице и послать ей страшные проклятия. Когда уже насладились чтением, начинаем гадать: что же могло стать причиной убийства? Ревность? Поруганная честь? Вот тут оказываются очень кстати модальные глаголы с перфектным инфинитивом, иначе не выразить догадку. “He might have hurt her first”; “He may have been unfaithful to her”; “She may have fallen out of love”; “She may have fallen with love with somebody else.” “She must have really hated him”. Несчастный отравленный лорд Рэндел умирает так долго и мучительно, что невозможно не пожалеть его от всего сердца, что дети и делают.

У этой баллады существует и мелодия, так что в поющих группах можно и спеть.

Комические бытовые баллады – неизменный повод для радостного смеха.

Вот знаменитый спор двух супругов “Кто кого переупрямит”.


It fell about the Martinmas time,
And a gay time it was then,
When our goodwife got puddings to make,
And she’s boiled them in the pan.

The wind so cold blew south and north,
And blew into the floor;
Quoth our goodman to our goodwife.
“Go out and bar the door.”

“My hand is in my housework
Goodman, as you may see;
If it should not be barred this hundred year,
It’s not be barred for me.”

They made a pact between them two,
They made it firm and sure,
That the first word whoever should speak,
Should rise and bar the door.

Then by there came two gentlemen,
At twelve o’clock at night,
And they could neither see house nor hall,
Nor coal nor candle-light.

“Now whether is this a rich man’s house,
Or whether is it a poor?”
But never a word would one of them speak,
For barring of the door.

And first they ate the white puddings,
And then they ate the black;
Much thought the goodwife to herself,
Yet never a word she spake.

They said the one unto the other,
“Here, man, take my knife;
Do you take off the old man’s beard,
And I’ll kiss the goodwife.”

“But there’s no water in the house,
And what shall we do then?
“You can take some o’the pudding-broth,
That boils into the pan.”

O up then started our Goodman,
An angry man was he:
“Will you kiss my wife before my eyes,
And scald me with pudding-bree?”

Then up and started our goodwife,
Gave three skips on the floor:
“Goodman, you’ve spoken the word first,
Get up and bar the door.”

Весь текст не поддался модернизации, поэтому вот несколько пояснений.

quoth = said; spake = spoke; pudding-broth, pudding-bree – water in which something has been broiled

Эту балладу легко разыграть в классе – четыре персонажа, плюс автор. Без сковородки можно обойтись, а вот маленький ножик из белой пластмассы, которым пришелец собирается брить хозяина, вызывает бурную реакцию.

Перевод Н. Голя довольно точен, и его можно использовать для сравнения. Как всегда, дети охотно находят расхождения между оригиналом и переводом, что помогает более глубокому постижению как самого содержания, так и трудностей, с которыми сталкивается любой переводчик.


Однажды под Мартынов день,
Как водится везде,
Хозяйка пудинги пекла
В большой сковороде.

Ноябрьский ветер дул тогда,
Как дует и теперь;
Озябший муж сказал жене:
“Закрой-ка, что ли, дверь!”

“На мне уборка и стряпня,
Уже ни рук, ни сил!
Тебе приспичило закрыть –
Вот ты бы и закрыл!”

Поспорив, дали муж с женой
Себе такой зарок:
Кто скажет слово – должен встать
И двери на крючок.

Два джентльмена той порой
Поодаль шли в ночи,
И видят дом, а в доме том
Ни звука, ни свечи.

“Что это – замок иль шалаш?
Бедняк живёт иль знать?”
Молчит жена, и муж молчит,
Чтоб дверь не закрывать.

Решили гости пудинг съесть
И закусить вторым;
Немало слов, но про себя,
Жена сказала им.

“Возьми мой нож”, – промолвил гость.
“Займись-ка мужней бородой,
А я займусь женой”.

“Да как же мне его побрить,
Раз в доме нет воды?”
“А чем тебе, приятель, плох
Жир со сковороды?”

Вот тут поднялся грозный муж
И прокричал в ответ:
“С женой шутить – куда ни шло,
Но жир – уж это нет!”

Услышав мужние слова,
Хозяйка, верь, не верь,
Открыла рот и говорит:
“Закрыл бы, что ли, дверь!”

Детям может быть знакомо и стихотворение С. Маршака “Старуха, дверь закрой”. Маршак многое поменял как в деталях, так и в разрешении спора – у него побеждает старик. Но его не стоит судить строго, ведь сюжет, лежащий в основе баллады, относится к так называемым “бродячим сюжетам”. Параллельные ситуации обнаруживаются в арабском, турецком и итальянском фольклоре.

Так, знакомясь с английскими балладами, мы приоткрываем связи и с мировыми культурами.

Далее последует разговор о литературных, авторских балладах.

Illustrations from www.fromoldbooks.org; farm3.static.flickr.com

Ольга Свенцицкая ,
гимназия № 1567, Москва