A Bilbo Ballad at the Pony

Eowynmaiar, Frodosmiss, Lothithil, Old Poop of Backwater, Primula, Tinidril

Introductory post:

For those who are interested, I would like to propose we have a taste of ballads for April.
Ballads are poems that tell a story (a form of narrative poetry). They are often used in songs and have a very musical quality to them.

The basic form for ballads is iambic heptameter, though in reality the majority of ballads written do not meet this standard. This means seven sets of unstressed-stressed syllables, or iambs, per line in sets of four lines, with the second and fourth lines rhyming. This is the 'official standard,' but you do not have to follow it to enjoy the form and play with it. (indeed, many famous ballads to not meet it) Feel free to experiment, but remember - the idea is it should have a smooth, song-like sound if you were to speak it aloud.

A couple examples -

The glory of evening was spread through the west;
--On the slope of a mountain I stood,
While the joy that precedes the calm season of rest
Rang loud through the meadow and wood.


It is an ancient Mariner,
And he stoppeth one of three:
"By thy long grey beard and thy glittering eye
"Now wherefore stoppest me?

Notice how "three" and "me" in that paragraph rhyme? This rhyming pattern, called ABCB, is continued throughout the poem. "A" stands for one line ending, "B" for another, and "C" for another still. Because there are 2 "B"'s, they are the two lines that rhyme. Note also, that Coleridge's Mariner does not stay with the iambic heptameter - it's a goal, not a concrete rule.

Now - write us four lines then, and make two of them rhyme - you can do it!

- Primula
* Afternote - The following ballad was assembled April, '05 with each person being encouraged to respond with a stanza of their own.

The Ballad of Bilbo's Tale-Telling

Old Bilbo he sat, beside his oaken desk,
And scratched a spid'ry line of colored ink;
He couldn't help but wonder at word and rhyme,
What all the other hobbits sometimes think.

Yet it mattered not what they thought or did,
His old weathered hand would still fly
Across the leather-bound, white parchment pages,
His long storied verses to ply.

All the things he could write of, things he had seen!
Why, the world was filled with tales to spin -
And the ones that had happened were 'venturous enough,
That his imagined ones could barely fit in.

Of names and faces and friends he's seen,
Down the creamy borders of the text he wrote.
He could not resist embellishment
But was loyal to record any quote.

His wit and audacity could tackle a tale
With which even elves have trouble.
Were he not so esteemed and loved by his host
His portion of scorn would be double!

And what an embellishment awaited this page,
Oh what a tall tale to stretch!
Only six dwarves? Nay, he'd make it thirteen,
Singlehanded he'd that dragon catch.


Descriptions poured forth from his excited hand,
Like water pouring forth from a vase.
The glistening gold, the treasure so grand,
Ugh, the dragon's foul breath in his face!

Did it matter if it were a robin or thrush?
Did it matter, the gold-mountain's size?
After all, who from here had been watching to see,
Or had tallied the weight of his prize?

But there was one who watched with concern
And worried suspicions unsaid,
Whose gray-mantled shoulders were bent and bowed
'Neath the growing weight of his dread.

Gandalf knew, with a heavy heart,
What had to be done with the Ring.
And Bilbo, his friend, must be confronted,
About the evil to which he did cling.

Bilbo clung to his quill and rapidly wrote,
Chuckling to himself as we went,
For a hero he'd make of his own humble self,
And a bumbling to Gandalf he lent.

'Twas the hobbit's propensity to garnish the truth
that most alarmed the gruff wizard.
This behavior, so unlike his usual demeanor,
Stood out like a tree in the dessert.


"It's mine!" Bilbo yelled, "Mine! Mine! Mine!"
"It's my own and I think I shall keep it!"
"This thing came to me, it's my precious, I say!"
"And you'll do very well not to gleep it!"

hehe ... Ok, so maybe those aren't the exact words, but I couldn't help it.

Alarm turned to fear, and fear to horror,
"Now he's truly gone mad!
I must find a way to convince the old fellow
To give up this treasure he's had!"

The hobbit he clung to his ink-spatter'd quill,
And his ink-pot most firmly he clutched,
He sat on the book though he doubted his weight,
Would protect it from Gandalf o'er much.

But Gandalf reached out with a withered old hand
Thats strength was amazing to see
And he took hold of old Bilbo by the scruff of his neck
And lifted him ere one two three.

"Now, now, my dear hobbit," the wizard intoned,
"I've not come to steal your journal.
But I do insist that you edit the prose
to sound less self-serving and vernal!"

Bilbo he squirmed, and twisted in vain,
Like a bug that's been caught 'neath a cup,
"But it's my story, Gandalf - I'll write as I like;
There's some truth there, it's not all made up...!"


"I really don't care if two dwarves or ten
Come knocking upon your door,
But you'd better remove that bit about me
If you don't want to crash to the floor!"

Bilbo glowered and managed to look quite puffed up,
Though he dangled clear up by his shelf,
And his dignity bruised brought a hobbity huff,
"You just want all this tale for yourself!"

Had Bilbo taken time to think
Before making his allegations,
He'd see Gandalf has stories of his own,
Having lived for generations.

The Grey Wizard glowered and began to shout,
"Bilbo Baggins! Remove those cheap tricks!"
But he somewhat relented and gentled his roar,
Lest the hobbit (all quiv'ring) be sick.

"Bilbo, dear hobbit," now trying a new tact,
"I do think I could be of some service.
Though the thought of helping to edit that tome
makes me more than just a bit nervous!"

The hobbit was lowered back onto his seat,
Grateful to escape with such ease,
For in truth he remembered the flashes of fire
This wizard could make if he pleased.

And so did Bilbo spend his last days
Of retirement from his adventures:
Turning out reams of ponderous prose,
And that without further censures!