Discuss "Lord Randall" as a traditional ballad.

"Lord Randall" has several characteristics associated with the traditional ballad: both its form and content are in keeping with this genre. The stanzas are four lines each and feature a good deal of repetition, just like a song would, and the subject matter of love and death is also common in ballads.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

To begin, "Lord Randall" is written in regular, four-line stanzas and contains a great deal of repetition; both of these are characteristic of traditional ballads. In addition, the subject matter—which unfolds like a story or narrative—is in keeping with traditional ballads as well. The topic is somewhat sensational in that the text focuses on the death, by murder, of a young lord who has, evidently, been poisoned by his lover. He has been to her house for dinner, and returns home afterward, asking his mother to "mak [his] bed soon" and sharing details that make it clear what has happened. After finishing dinner, Lord Randall allowed his dogs to eat his leftovers, and they all died, so this is a pretty clear indication that the food was poisoned, something the young man seems to realize, as he curses the lover in the final stanza. When asked by his mother, Lord Randall says that he leaves his lover only "hell and fire," as opposed to the lands, money, and house that he leaves to the rest of his family. When Lord Randall asks his mother to make his bed soon, he seems to be using a rather euphemistic metaphor for death. Such is also typical of ballads like this. It's a peaceful image, that of lying down to go to sleep (rather than dying in the painful throes of poisoning).

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial