A narrative song, originally chiefly of popular origin. Ballads fall into types according to subject and include the domestic tragedy, concerning a murder or family feud; the historical ballad, dealing with historical events; the outlaw ballad, celebrating a popular rebel against established law, such as Robin Hood or Jesse James; the Scottish coronach, or lament ballad; and the folkloric ballad. Among early ballads, coronach and historical ballads and those involving romance elements were usually composed by minstrels attached to noblemen's courts and were written with a sense of literary values and for a definite audience. The other types were popular products transmitted by oral tradition and had much charm but little artistic finish. In the U.S., many folk ballads are survivals or variants of the old English ballads. However, there are a number of indigenous types, dealing with such subjects as occupational pursuits ( Casey Jones ), blacks and other national or ethnic groups ( John Henry ), various sections of the country, famous battles, and actual or legendary heroes.
English and Scottish ballads dating from the 14th to the 16th century are to be found in Percy's Reliques of Ancient English Poetry and James Francis Child 's English and Scottish Popular Ballads (1857 - 58). Many literary ballads have been written by later poets; among them may be mentioned Campbell's
Lord Ullin's Daughter, Rossetti's Sister Helen, and Stephen Vincent Benet 's Ballad of William Sycamore (1923).