‘Ballad’ is a poem, which tells a story.
Ballads are usually written to be sung. It is a poem that has been passed down orally from generation to generation. It is a very much a poem that suits the times as a very popular theme of ballads was and still is, the dishonest lover. ‘Ballad’ is a poet less poem because it has been carried through generations through word of mouth, the author has been lost and is unknown.
At first glance at the poem ‘Cousin Kate’, we do not see the significance of the title, as the protagonist does not mention her own name. Only when we realise the afore mentioned ‘Kate’ is the focus of the protagonists hatred do we understand the titles relevance.Christina Rossetti who was born on December 5th 1830 wrote ‘Cousin Kate’. She was the sister of the famous poet and painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Both brother and sister belonged to the Mid-Victorian movement called the ‘Pre Raphelites’.
The aim of the movement was to recreate poetry and literature in art using the simplicity, colour and symbolism of the medieval age. Throughout this poem we can see Rossetti’s use of colour and symbolism getting across to her readers a clear picture of the protagonist and her deceitful lover. Rossetti’s poems tend to be philosophical, dealing with death, religion, love and its most tragic aspects. In ‘Cousin Kate’ Rossetti expresses her thoughts about the fraudulent side of love.
‘Ballad’ tells the story of a young maid...
who is courted by a shepherd who woos her into having a relationship with him then leaves her alone when she finds she is pregnant with his child who is conceived out of wedlock. The poem is very sombre, it tells a sad, serious tale. It is a dark, suicidal poem. In line 6, the author has used the words ‘frost and snow’, which makes us feel as though the protagonist has been placed in a cold, harsh scene.
This connotation also helps us understand the cold, icy hostility that she must have been receiving from the people who surround her.The mood of this poem makes us feel as though the protagonist is trapped and forced to deal with her dire situation alone. The Line:’When winter nights did darkly prove'(Line 11)sets a trapped, dark, lonely mood to the ballad. In line forty-two, the writer has used the word ‘thorn’ to make us feel the mood of the poem is a painful one.Similarly, the mood of ‘Cousin Kate’ is a woeful one.
The protagonist talks of how she regrets her actions’He lured me to his palace homeWoe’s me to joy thereof'(Lines 9 and 10)As the poem goes on, the protagonist talks of her antagonist. The mood turns from a regretful one to one of hostility and enmity. The poem expresses the protagonist’s feelings of betrayal and continues to suggest that the protagonist is somewhat jealous of Kate (the antagonist).The further we go back in time, the more we see England as truly Christian country. As ballad has been passed down from generation to generation without a trace as to the author o
the year in which it was written we can assume that it was written in a time in which people tend to refer to the Bible more than they do today. In the very first line of ‘Ballad’, the dishonest lover is referred to as a ‘faithless shepherd’.
This biblical reference casts a negative light over the man in this relationship. The religious connotation suggests no belief in God, Christ or honesty. Throughout the poem, the protagonist begs for forgiveness, she wants to be with God rather than live an intimidated life on earth or be placed in hell for her sins.’ My soul with God, my body clay'(Line 20)This line is a metaphor that shows us that the protagonist in the poem simply wants to die.
The protagonist sees what has gone wrong, she knows her mistake, is remorseful and sees death and returning to her Lord as being the only solution to her problems. The author intention is to portray the sheer misery of a ruined woman. She has nothing to be happy for. All she wants is whatever peace may come with death.
In ‘Cousin Kate’ the lines’The neighbours call you good and pureCall me an outcast thing'(Lines 27 and 28)are considered to contain religious connotation. The words ‘good and pure’ suggest cleanliness. The protagonist is explaining how the society in which she lives sees Kate as a shrewd, proper person whereas they see her as and ‘outcast thing’. The word outcast may also be considered religious connotation as during the time of Christ, lepers and prostitutes were considered outcasts. The protagonist has committed the sin of fornication so is considered an outcast in her society. She fears she is not pure in the eyes of God, yet seems to care more about how she is perceived in the eyes of here peers.
The Lack of biblical references suggests a lack of guilt or remorse. The protagonist focuses more on her particular feelings of dislike for Kate for her betrayal, which is not Christian practice. The Christian thought is to turn the other cheek or forgive and forget.Without having studied ‘Ballad’ it is clear that the poem portrays the protagonist’s grievances plainly. She is regretful and remorseful and it is obvious.
In line thirty-three the author talks of how she ‘weeps the past’ and ‘dreads the gloom’. In line 14 she says how she wishes she was ‘a maid again’. She knows she has done wrong and wishes she could take it all back. She now grieves over the birth of her baby whereas more often than not this is a joyous occasion. She also grieves over how the effects of having a baby out of wedlock will affect her life. The antagonist is the shepherd whom she lost her virginity to.
In ‘Ballad’ he is not a main focus. The main focus is, her depression at being left destitute by him, his actions and the baby he has left her with.Contrary to ‘Ballad’, the protagonist in ‘Cousin Kate’ does not grieve over her actions with the man she has slept with. He is a wealthy man of
- English Literature
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