Ballads used to be a major part of oral tradition as a way of entertainment and to recount fascinating stories. It was later on in medieval times that ballads started to become a written literary tradition. Ballads were mostly written like poems with a rhyming scheme and central theme that went along with the music. They can be thought of as lyrical poems or plot-driven songs. These types of poems worked best with a sense of emotional urgency and tragedy that ended with a dramatic conclusion. Ballads typically infused themes of romance, tragedy, or any other spectrum of emotions that have the ability to add a dramatic flair.
Ballads first started around the 12-13th century in Europe. They comprise four-line stanzas called quatrains. Ballads can be written in any number of ways and can be incredibly diverse with different rhyme schemes. They showed a rapid rise in popularity in the medieval Europe due to their ability to move hearts and sway emotions across a large audience. In fact, one of the most popular and longest poems is a lyrical ballad known as The Rime of the Ancient Marine, which tells the experience of a sailor who has returned from a long sea voyage.