Ballad hang low Me he sought through
Ballad – Love The poem, Ballad, looks to view love in a very negative and cynical way, as this seems to be a classic tale of a man who manipulates a woman. The poem starts off with a ‘faithless shepherd’ who ‘courted’ a young girl. At this point, we are not made aware of the girl’s name.Slightly later, in the opening stanza, we are told about how the shepherd ‘stole away’ her ‘liberty when my poor heart was strange to men’, and she clarifies this again on the next line, once again by saying ‘He came and smiled and stole it then’, we begin to get a feel that the poet is trying to convey how powerful love can be, as the shepherd manipulates the girl, who simply agrees to everything the shepherd desires.Later in the poem, we see evidence that the girl could be pregnant, as she says “When my apron would hang low me he sought through frost and snow when it puckered up with shame and I sought him, he never came”, this stanza is incredibly significant in the way that we have two scenarios that juxtapose each other. Again, this stanza is showing the power of love, and what the girl had done just for love.
We get a sense that she is pregnant, as the poet uses a metaphor to convey the height of the apron.The only possible explanation for the inclusion of such a metaphor is that she is pregnant, alternatively this could be suggesting she gained lots of weight, although that is irrelevant, and is unlikely. In that same stanza, there are two more lines that tell the reader that the man may have ‘used’ the girl, and left her. “When my apron would hang low Me he sought through frost and snow When it puckered up with shame And I sought him, he never came” the alternate lines of that quotation tell us that the man only cared about her when she wasn’t pregnant; when she was, he abandons her.This may suggest that the girl might be feeling confused in this situation, therefore, this stanza conveys how powerful her love was, and how cynical the shepherd’s love was, this also starts to convey the complexity of the emotion, love. The next stanza once again conveys a similar situation, as well as similar feelings. “When summer brought no fears to fright he came to guard me every night When winter nights did darkly prove none came to guard me or love”, this quotation conveys feelings of loneliness, fright, and sorrow in the way that she might be feeling, after what she’s done.
Also, the two parts of the quotation are juxtaposing one another, which is showing the reader the contrast. This is suggesting that the man manipulated her, whilst she loved him, and they were both happy at one point, in the metaphorical point, summer. This is conveying the complexity, and power of love, as well as seeing love to be quite cynical and negative in the way that people only get hurt by love.
The next stanza, about the girl making a wish, may be symbolic of the girl regretting getting pregnant, because if the link between the word, ‘maid’, and the apron quotation from earlier which was suggesting pregnancy. “I wish, I wish – but it’s in vain I wish I wish I was a maid again”, this quotation suggests that she regrets becoming pregnant as she want to be maid again, ‘maid’ suggesting, not pregnant. This creates a sense of regret when the girl thought it was a good idea to fall in love with the shepherd. Again, this adds a lot of complexity to her life.In the next stanza, it’s quite clear that she regrets her decision, as the opening line for that stanza I’d “I wish my babe had ne’er been born”, this is clearly showing the girl’s regret, as she had a baby with a shepherd whom he met for the first time, but she fell in love with him, which is why it is relatively justified. The quotation “I’ve made it’s pillow on a thorn”, suggests that she’s had a baby in a very delicate situation, the father abandoned her, and she really regrets it. This stanza is relatively significant as it’s repeated as the last stanza with minor changes.
Later on, we see the woman complaining about how the shepherd did not keep his promise when it came to the beds that he offered her to stay in. She says that he promised her ‘beds as fine as silk’, but instead, he left her ‘to want a bed of clay’. This tells us that the man is trying to do everything in power, including deceit, by lying to the girl, and making her want to be with him, although, as it says later in the stanza ‘but he when won my heart astray, left me to want a bed of clay’, which tells us that he lied.This shows what love can compel a person to do, in this case, lie. Later in the poem, the poet writes, “When thou without a friend shalt be weeping on a stranger’s knee”, which suggests to the reader, that if the mother dies, her son will be alone, without a father, and without friends, because at the time, not having a father was a disgraceful thing, and no one would be his friend. Now the woman is shifting over to love for her child, instead of weeping the past by loving the shepherd.
Something incredibly significant, is in the second stanza, and counting that stanzas, nine stanzas later, the significant stanza which contained the quotation “I’ve made it’s pillow on a thorn”, is repeated, but I’m a slightly different way, “I’ve made thy pillow on a thorn”, which suggests to us that each stanza could represent a month, and in the last stanza, nine stanzas away from where we know she is pregnant, we see the part about where she begins to care about people other than herself, this is another person who has yet to be disclosed to the reader.The structure used, could be significant in the way that a baby takes nine months after the baby is conceived till it is born, nine stanzas away from what we believe as the baby being conceived, we see the mother caring for her baby as well, as suggested by the phrase ‘Our souls with God, our bodies clay’, the word ‘our’ suggests she is caring for her baby as well. This could suggest that the poet made the most significant part of the poem about her child, which once again, shows the power of love.