In more exact literary terminology, a ballad is a narrative poem consisting of quatrains of iambic tetrameter alternating with iambic trimeter.

Common traits of the ballad are that (a) the beginning is often abrupt, (b) the story is told through dialogue and action (c) the language is simple or "folksy," (d) the theme is often tragic--though comic ballads do exist, and (e) the ballad contains a refrain repeated several times. Famous medieval and Renaissance examples include "Chevy Chase," "The Elfin Knights," "Lord Randal," and "The Demon Lover." A number of Robin Hood ballads also exist.

In the legends, Balder's mother and he dream that he will die.

Shocked, the rest of the gods, animals, and inanimate objects all take vows not to harm Balder--with the exception of two beings--the evil god Loki and the lowly mistletoe plant, which was still too young to make legally-binding vows.

BACHIC FOOT: A three-syllable foot of poetry consisting of a light stress followed by two heavy stresses.

This verse pattern was not unknown in Greek verse, but is fairly rare in English verse.

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An example of a phrase that corresponds in meter to the Bachic foot is "BAD QUARTO: In the jargon of Shakespearean scholars, a "bad quarto" is a copy of the play that a disloyal actor would recreate from memory and then submit for publication in a rival publishing house without the consent of the author.

These bad quartos are often grossly inaccurate, but may contain useful stage directions not included in the original.

They were responsible for celebrating national events such as heroic actions and victories.